Monster Beats Studio
I know that the Beats Studio headphone hasn’t been getting a good rep within the serious headphone enthusiasts community. Primarily, I think that we, unlike the average joe, has negative reservations against the Monster and Dr. Dre branding. When I reviewed the Beats Studio last year, my impression was quite positive. It wasn’t a bass monster as we sometimes accused it to be. It had a warm, smooth, and relaxed sound with plenty of bass and good detail. If those description was applied to a typical “enthusiast” headphone brand like “Audio Technica” or “Beyerdynamic”, then we probably would rush out to get this warm and smooth sounding headphone with good detail and bass body. The comfort factor is very high too, and actually much better than many of the serious “enthusiast” headphones.
Anyway, the fact that it had good potential intrigued me to throw it in this comparison. Let’s see how the Beats Studio actually does in a group of “audiophile” headphones.
The Beats Studio headphone has a permanent noise cancelling feature that requires you to turn on a knob on the headphone before any sound will come out of the drivers. This means that there is no way to listen to the headphone without turning on the active noise cancelling. For the general consumer walking to Best Buy or the Apple Store, that may sound like a big convenient feature. But for people like us, the first thing that comes to mind is signal degradation. Not to mention that the Beats Studio headphone requires battery power to listen to at all times. A nice feature for some, a big hassle for others.
The fit and the ergonomics of the Beats Studio headphone is excellent. I like how they were able to design a cup that is small enough to be used portably, yet the pads still remain big enough to totally cover my ears circumaurally. The build quality and finish is also first class, and even better than the Audio Technica ESW-9 with the wood housing and beating all the other DJ headphones in terms of build quality. It may not be as tough to abuse as the HD25-1, but so is the ESW-9 and the Beyer T50p. And there is no denying that the Beats Studio looks very cool when you wear it on the road.
When I compared the sound of the Beats Studio to the other headphones in this comparison, I actually don’t notice the supposed “degradation” caused by the active noise cancelling, even using a high end source and amp like the Grace m902. After all, these headphones are still quite far from “Reference Class”, and in this price bracket, sound signatures, tonal balance and other factors like price and comfort matters more than ultimate signal purity.
The sound signature of the Beats Studio is warm and relaxed, and it reminds me a lot of the Sennheiser house sound that’s present in Sennheiser’s audiophile headphones. It’s a sound signature that’s easy to like, and that blend well with the majority of RnB, Smooth Jazz, and Pop music.
Quite often, the problem with “technical” cans or “detailed” cans is that they lack low end body. Not so with the Beats Studio. There is plenty of bass presence here, but not really excessive or deserving the slogan “bass monster”. The bass is the least controlled among all the other headphones in this comparison (with the M-50 being second in line), so I won’t be recommending this for listeners of fast Electronica or Hard Rock, but for Instrumentals, Pop, I don’t think that the bass is a problem. They do make the sound quite pleasing, as long as you’re willing to ignore the slightly boomy-ness.
The treble area is actually quite good. In the midst of the warm presentation, I can hear plenty of treble detail going on. The mid and upper treble is has some artifacts, and it may be caused by the active noise cancelling circuitry, or the slight treble peak on that area, or both. It’s quite noticeable when you’re comparing it side by side with the very smooth ATH M-50, but with no point of comparison, most of us will probably live happily without ever feeling bothered by it. I can’t say much about the midrange, because I feel that it may be the slight boomy-ness in the bass that’s creating an illusion of a full midrange. When I compared it to the ATH M-50, I noticed that the midrange on the Beats is not as full as it is on the M-50.
Overall, the Beats is actually a good sounding headphone with very musical properties. Now, the $349 price tag may be a bit steep, and there is little defense for that. If you don’t mind the bigger size of the ATH M-50, I would recommend it over the Beats Studios for just about any music. And indeed the ATH M-50 represent one of the best deal in headphones today.