The Beats Studio Headphone employs a full time active noise cancelling feature, accessible through a switch on the housing. Again, noise cancelling is normally not desirable if you’re looking for a pure Hi-Fi experience, but given the target consumers of these headphones, it’s a nice feature to have. What’s regrettable is that the headphones don’t work unless you turn on the switch, meaning you can’t use the headphones without having the active noise cancelling on. I think this is an impractical design decision.
Please keep in mind that the Beats Studio headphones were made for the mass market and not the audiophile crowd, so I will try to review its sound quality from that perspective. My first impression was that this is a good sounding headphone. Before I put on the Beats, I was listening to the Sennheiser HD25-1, one of the most neutral and detailed portable cans. Of course the Beats wasn’t as neutral as the HD25-1, but it definitely wasn’t a bad sounding headphone. As a matter of fact, the neutral HD25-1 may sound flat to the average listener, while the Beats has an air that makes it sounds “hi-fi” to the average joe.
Surprise, surprise! The Beats Studio headphones is definitely not a bassy headphone. It has a nice round bass with good impact when played with some Black Eyed Peas, but I really wouldn’t call it bassy. The bass is nice and just right, it doesn’t overpower the other frequencies, and it is not muddy. The sound is refined and smooth, not in a Grado HF2 kind smooth, rather an Audio-Technica ESW-9 kind of smooth. The refinement and the nice punch in the bass gives a pleasant listening experience.
The presentation is fairly laid back, definitely in-sync with the entire RnB attitude. The treble is boosted a little, to give excitement and sparkle in the music. It also helps to make RnB vocals sound more intimate. This kind of treble boost is always good for the mainstream listeners, because a neutral headphone often sounds dull and boring to the untrained ears. However, to the discerning listener, the treble boost may become an annoyance, like a small bump in the frequency curve. This reminds me of the comparison between the Westone 3 and the UM3x, where the W3 is more consumer oriented, and it also have a treble boost as oppossed to the neutral UM3x.
Overall, the Beats Studio headphones have a very enjoyable sound that is easy to appreciate by the average consumer. It definitely is not an audiophile headphone, and it never tried to do so. If you feed it complex classical music, the Beats simply cannot handle them. However, it does a great job playing mainstream genres such as Pop, RnB, and Hip Hop. Add that to a great looking design that you can actually wear on the street while not looking weird, active noise cancelling, and its superb comfort, the Beats will definitely please a lot of people.