Beats Solo3 Wireless review: Beats popular on-ear wireless headphone gains best-in-class battery life

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The Good The Beats Solo3 Wireless is a well-built wireless headphone that sounds good in both wireless and wired modes and is relatively comfortable to wear for an on-ear headphone. Its battery life is best-in-class (40 hours) and has a remote control built-in to the right earcup that's easy to operate by feel. The new W1 chip makes it supersimple to pair with Apple devices.

The Bad It's expensive, and doesn't sound quite as good as other wireless headphones that cost $300.

The Bottom Line Beats has taken the same headphone that so many people know and love and improved its battery life dramatically, but the price is still too high.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 6

Beats' Solo3 Wireless on-ear Bluetooth headphone ($300/£250/AU$400) looks nearly identical to the Beats Solo 2 Wireless because -- on the outside at least -- Beats hasn't updated its design. The big change is on the inside: The Solo3 uses Apple's new W1 custom Bluetooth chip, which improves battery life drastically and makes pairing the headphone with Apple devices dead simple.

The headphone works just fine with Android and other Bluetooth-enabled devices and the battery life rating is the same for iOS and Android -- a whopping 40 hours. That's a huge jump over the 12 hours that the Beats Solo2 Wireless ($10 at eBay) is rated at and this has the best battery life of any Bluetooth headphone I've tested so far (I used it for a week without recharging). It also features Beats' Fast Fuel feature, which gives you 3 hours of battery life from a 5-minute charge.

The Solo3 Wireless in silver.

Sarah Tew/CNET

However, unlike the new BeatsX, which uses a Lightning cable for charging, this model sticks with a Micro-USB charging cable.

On the plus side, my wireless connection using the headphone was rock-solid and the W1 chip makes it easy to switch between Apple devices you've paired the headphones to. Overall, the headphone performs very well, and I've always liked its compact size and how it folds up to fit into a relatively small carrying case (yes, that carrying case is included).

For better or worse, Beats hasn't upgraded the sound. The Solo3 Wireless sounds very good for an on-ear Bluetooth headphone and will appeal to bass lovers who prefer a sound profile that accentuates the bass but manages to avoid being too boomy. However, it doesn't sound quite as clean as Beats' more balanced Studio Wireless over-ear model, which has come down in price and I find more comfortable (the Beats Solo3 Wireless ($136 at Walmart) offers a very snug fit -- the headphones do stay securely on your head, even while running -- they end up pressing down on your ears somewhat firmly).

This is a headphone that's designed to be worn outdoors, and the extra bass did come in handy when I was walking the streets of New York and was competing with a lot of ambient noise, including the subway when I went underground. The headphones passively seal out a good amount of sound, but some ambient noise does leak in and the extra bass doesn't sound as accentuated outside (you really hear it in quiet rooms, however) and the headphones comes across as a little more balanced.

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