Beats Solo Pro vs Solo 3: Neither, here’s Why…

by wanderingted

and The Greatest Song Team

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Summary and Rating: Beats Solo Pro vs Solo 3

Beats Solo Pro

Beats Solo Pro Headphones, Black

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Beats Solo 3 (Solo3 Wireless)

beats solo 3 wireless red

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Beats Solo Pro

Our Rating3.8 (out of five)

Beats Solo 3

Our Rating2.5 (out of five)

Pros – Beats Solo Pro

  • Competitive battery life
  • Decent sound for on-ear headphones
  • Instant pairing with H1 chip
  • Quality build

Pros – Beats Solo 3

  • Light and Portable
  • Intuitive controls
  • Fast pairing with IOS and Android devices
  • Support Spatial Audio

Cons – Beats Solo Pro

  • Pricey for what you get
  • No support for higher quality Bluetooth Codecs
  • No auto-pause when removed
  • No USB-C (lighting connector)
  • No fast pairing with Android devices
  • No support for Spatial Audio
  • Discontinued

Cons – Beats Solo 3

  • No ANC
  • Muddy, bloated bass
  • Terrible treble range
  • Poor Build Quality
  • Poor imaging
  • No USB-C (Micro-USB!)
  • No support for high-quality Bluetooth Codecs

Bottom Line:

The Solo Pro, solid over-ear headphones, are the better of the two. That said, neither of these headphones hold up to the competition. The AirPods Max, Sony WH-1000XM5, and Sony WH-CH720N all outclass these models.

Introducing the Beats Solo Pro and Solo3 Wireless

The Beats Solo Pro and Beats Solo 3 (aka Beats Solo3 Wireless) have nearly identical dimensions and a similar on-ear design. Both boast the conveniences of Apple Products, including quality assurance, Apple Store assistance, and quick pairing with IOS devices.

The Solo Pros were the first headphones developed by Beats and Apple after the merger of the companies. They have an H1 chip, (the same as AirPods), ANC (active noise canceling), and a premium build.

Beats Solo Pro Headphones, Black
Beats Solo Pro in black (the model we reviewed)

The Beats Solo3 Wireless are Beats budget offering for those after an on-ear design. They are nearly identical to the old Beats Solo 2 with the addition of the older Apple W1 chip.

Beats Solo 3 Wireless Headphones, Red
Beats Solo3 Wireless in Red (the model we reviewed)

Despite having better hardware and better sound, Apple has discontinued the Solo Pro model and kept the Solo 3 on the market. At the time of this review, the Solo Pro are still widely available at most retailers.

Both models remain very popular and are often compared. For this review, we got our hands on both models and tested them thoroughly side-by-side. See here for all of our headphone reviews and here for all of our audio gear reviews and features.

Alternatives to the Beats Solo Pro and Solo 3

Sony WH-1000XM5

Some of the most popular ANC Headphones for a reason. Tied for best noise canceling (with AirPods Max), very good sound.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones

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Airpods Max

Very good tuning and overall sound, best noise canceling (along with XM5) and very comfortable with perks for Apple users like quick pairing and Spatial Audio.

Apple AirPods Max (white)

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Sony WH-CH720N

Budget ANC headphones with a higher quality build and better sound than the Solo 3.

Sony WH CH720N headphones

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Sound

Winner: Solo Pro

Out of the box, the frequency response of the Beats Solo Pro is far better than the Solo 3. The Solo Pro are not going to give you an audiophile-level experience on the level of headphones like the Focal Bathys but they give an okay, bass-heavy performance for on-ear headphones.  

The response of the Solo 3, on the other hand, is all over the place.  

Beats Solo Pro vs Solo 3, Frequency Response Diagram

Beats Solo Pro vs Beats Solo 3, Frequency Response Diagram
Measured on a MiniDSP EARS rig. Connected with Bluetooth, average.

Bass

Like most Beats headphones, both of these models are bass-heavy.  

The Beats Solo Pro have a more forgivable bass profile. As you can see in the frequency response chart, the bass emphasis of the Solo Pro is in the sub-bass region, with a lower output in the more audible bass region, between 100 – 250 Hz.  

This means that 808 kicks and sub-bass grooves are felt, but the bass region doesn’t create too much auditory masking in the midrange.

In contrast, the Beats Solo 3 have less sub-bass groove but then massive output from 100-250 Hz, creating a muddy bass and generally poor tuning across all frequencies.  

Mids

The midrange of the Solo Pro has an overall pleasing drive with much more clarity than the Solo 3 headphones. They are boosted in the 1-2 kHz range, which makes vocals and brass instruments come forward. This makes them sound a little thinner than I would like. But on the whole, the Solo Pro are pleasing across the midrange.

The Solo 3 suffer from bass bleed, so the lower mids are generally stuffy and unclear. Vocals in the upper mids are passable, especially in hip-hop and dance genres.  

Highs

Both models have a massive dip in frequency response around 4 kHz, most likely to take the edge off and not sound too ‘shouty’. Unfortunately, as a result, this dip makes the upper mids on both models sound distant and unnatural.

Treble clarity is less of a problem with the Beats Solo Pro. In fact, cymbals and hi-hats have much more brilliance on the Solo Pro than the Solo 3.  

Soundstage and Imaging

Neither model is going to blow you away with a spacious soundstage. That said, the Solo Pro offer a slightly less congested, center-focussed experience.

In our tests, the imaging on the Solo Pro was much more consistent panning from the left to right channels. On the other hand, as you pan the imaging on the Solo 3 from left to right, you get hard cuts from Left to Left Center to Center without much subtlety. 

Spatial Audio

Spatial Audio is Apple’s digital surround. The technology envelops the user in 360 audio keeping the source audio origin points in a fixed position. For example, if the singer sounds like she’s in front of you, when you turn around, she will sound like she’s behind you.

This requires supporting hardware to function properly. The Beats Solo 3 will work with Spatial Audio but the Solo Pro will not.

Other headphones that support spatial audio include: AirPods Pro (1st or 2nd generation), AirPods Max, AirPods (3rd generation), Beats Fit Pro, and Beats Studio Pro.

Noise Canceling

Winner: Solo Pro

Solo Pro

The Beats Solo Pro headphones use a hybrid ANC technique which employs the advantages of microphones picking up ambient noise outside and inside the earcup.  

Because the Solo Pros are on-ear design, the seal on the ears is leaky and inconsistent, leading to a weaker ANC experience. In other words, the noise will still reach your eardrums where the seal is not tight on the ear.  

Overall, the Beats Solo Pro do a better job with the higher frequencies than the low rumble. 

Compared to the Sony WH-1000XM5 or the AirPods Max (both models tied for the best noise canceling on the current market), the Beats Solo Pro is about half as good when it comes to ANC performance.

Solo3 Wireless

On the other hand, the Beats Solo 3 do not have any active noise canceling. In addition, despite the relatively strong clamp force of the headset, the passive noise isolation offered by the on-ear design of these headphones is weak. Considering competitively priced models, the Beats Solo 3 falls way behind in this area.  

Build Quality and Comfort

Winner: Solo Pro

As you might expect based on their price, the build quality of the Solo Pro far exceeds that of the Solo 3. They look similar in the pictures, but when you touch them, the Solo Pro feels more premium to the touch. 

The padding on the earcups of the Solo Pro is more luxurious as is the pleather. This is also the case with the headband material (which looks as if it will quickly collect dirt and show signs of wear on the Solo 3) and the metal hinges.

On-ear design offers marginal advantages in terms of portability usually at the cost of comfort and noise reduction.

Both the Solo Pro and Solo 3 sit with their cushions pressing against the ears and will cover most ears completely. Both models lack the ability to swivel in other directions, making them not so great for bigger heads.  

The headphones are exactly the same size but the Solo Pro have a little more heft. (The Solo Pro weigh in at 267 g, the Solo 3 at 215 g))  

The headphones are available in a rainbow of colors. The Solo Pro is more subtle with its taupe, black, cream, and blue offerings. The Solo 3 come in matte black, glossy white, silver, rose gold, and red. 

Battery Life

Winner: Draw

Solo Pro
Beats claim a 22-hour battery life with noise canceling turned on. The Solo Pro notably lacks a power button. They automatically turn on and connect to your device when unfolded.

In our tests, we were able to get 22 hours and 8 minutes of play out of these with ANC turned on, so I would say those specs are quite accurate.  

Beats claim you can get 40 hours of battery life out of these with ANC off. A fast charge with a lightning cable gets you about 18 minutes of play per minute charged. A full charge takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to full.

Solo3 Wireless

Beats advertise the fantastic battery life of the Solo3 at around 40 hours. Indeed, testing the Solo 3, we were able to get 41 hours of play out of them before the battery died. And a five-minute charge gets you 3 hours of playback.

In reality, with no ANC, the Solo 3 should last a lot longer. Headphones demand about half the power to operate without noise canceling.

The Solo 3 lack an auto-on/off feature, so the battery drains if you forget to switch them off.  

Apple offer a battery replacement service for both models. At the time of this review, Apple estimates that it would cost $79 USD to replace the battery of both the Solo Pro and Solo 3 using their service.

Connectivity

Winner: Solo 3

The Beats Solo Pro and Solo3 Wireless both highlight Apple’s commitment to seamless connectivity with their integration of advanced chips for effortless pairing with Apple devices. 

Beats Solo Pro Connecting to iPad
Instant Pairing dialogue appears on IOS devices when powering up either the Solo Pro or Solo 3

The Solo Pro is equipped with the H1 chip, mirroring the technology found in AirPods and Powerbeats Pro, facilitating instant pairing with iPhones upon unfolding. 
However, with the Solo Pro, Android users must manually pair through Bluetooth settings. That said, the Solo Pro will automatically reconnect to previously paired devices.

As noted earlier, the Solo Pro lacks a 3.5mm input on the Solo Pro aligns with Apple’s broader strategy to phase out the headphone jack, pushing users towards wireless connectivity. 

In contrast, the Solo3 Wireless, surprisingly has a 3.5mm mini-jack, making them a rare breed among Beats headphones. 

As far as wireless connectivity goes, both models use Bluetooth 5.0. Neither of these headphones supports Bluetooth Multipoint, so you’ll have to manually switch if you’re using several devices.

The Solo 3, despite using the older W1 chip, provide a slightly better user experience for Android users. In addition to quick pairing with iOS devices, through a recent update, quick pairing to Android is now possible.

Annoyingly, both models do not use USB-C for charging. The Solo Pro use a Lightning connector and the Solo 3 a micro-USB cable.  

Controls

Winner: Draw

The controls for both headphones work as you would expect with a few extra features. You’ll find the main controls for the Beats Solo Pro on the right earcup, with the ANC button on the left. The Solo 3 controls are on the left earcup.  

We have outlined the controls of each model in the table below:

Beats Solo Pro and Solo 3, Earcup Controls

Beats Solo ProBeats Solo 3
Single PressPause/Play, Answer/End CallPause/Play, Answer/End Call
Press and HoldActivate Voice AssistantActivate Voice Assistant, reject call
Double PressSkip ForwardSkip Forward
Double Press and Hold—-Fast Forward
Triple PressSkip BackSkip Back
Triple Press and Hold—-Rewind
Up/DownVolume Up/DownVolume Up/Down
Special ControlsToggle ANC modes on Left Earcup

Used with Apple devices, you won’t need separate software to control the headphones from your device. On both iOS and MacOS, you’ll find the ANC controls in the Action Center for the Solo Pro.

The Beats App works with both devices. It offers firmware updates and the ‘Find My’ function for Android users.  

Taking Calls

Winner: Draw

As you can hear in our tests below, the call quality of both models is okay. Overall, we found the microphone performance of both models to be on par with most competitive models.

Beats Solo Pro Mic Test, Normal Conditions

Beats Solo 3 Mic Test, Normal Conditions

Beats Solo Pro Test, Windy Conditions

Beats Solo 3 Mic Test, Windy Conditions

Price and Overall Value

Since the Beats Solo Pro were discontinued, the price has dropped considerably. For those who seek the conveniences of being in the Apple ecosystem but also find AirPods Max prohibitively expensive, the Beats Solo are a decent over-ear option.

That said, for the nearly the same price you can get much better sound and excellent ANC with the Sony WH-1000XM5 or the Sennheiser Momentum 4. (See here for our comparison of these two headphones)

Held up to the competition, the Beats Solo 3 (Solo3 Wireless) are not worth the money. The Sony WH-CH720N offer better value, sound, and ANC.

Beats Solo Pro

Beats Solo Pro Headphones, Black

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Beats Solo 3 (Solo3 Wireless)

beats solo 3 wireless red

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