Current testing methodology is v1.2
September 21, 2018
5 x 6.75 x 9.8 in
Priced at an eye-watering $400, Beats Pro was the top-of-the-line pair of headphones in Beats by Dre’s once highly popular and incredibly divisive catalog.
Despite having gone through the wringer from both external competition and internal turmoils, Beats has come out the other side matured and ultimately obscured in the market that it had helped to create.
In this retrospective review, we’ll be looking back on the Beats Pro and see how it would hold up against the headphones of today, 10 years after its original release.
A masterpiece of marketing that made headphones mainstream.
Released 10 years ago, the Beats Pro was a bestseller and widely used by the biggest names in music.
Originally priced at $400, these headphones are mediocre. The sound quality is passable, to say the least, but it doesn’t match up with its price tag and you can get far better sound for a lot less.
Looking back, the Beats Pro didn’t really live up to its hype but it did spawn competitors and paved the way for other brands to create something more impressive.
- Headphone Type: Closed-back on-ear headphones
- Driver Type: Single 40mm dynamic driver
- Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 115 dB / mW
- Impedance: 16 ohms
- Connector: 3.5mm gold-plated right-angle connector
What’s in the Box?
- Beats Pro headphones
- 1 x 1.2m cable with remote and mic
- 1 x 2m coiled cable
- 6.3mm screw-on adapter
- Carrying pouch
- Cleaning cloth
Stuff I like
- Convincing unboxing experience
- Powerful bass response
- Tough aluminum build
- Swiveling earcups
- Gets loud on any device
Stuff I like less
- Suffocated midrange
- Feels heavy on the head
- Not that durable
Where to get it
Comparable products to consider
Nothing gives “the sound of the studio” quite like the very headphones used in actual studios—the ATH-M50x is one of them.
A sign of the times for both Beats and their customers, the Solo Pro is a more-than-worthy successor that carries the “Pro” moniker with a lot more respect.
Overview and History
The year is 2013, and Beats by Dre has shaken the headphone world to its core. Its disruption has created an entirely new market segment that more established headphone makers are now scrambling to enter.
The Beats Pro, initially released in 2011, sat on Beats’ top shelf and was worn by names like will.i.am, Lil Wayne, Skrillex, and even Dr. Dre himself through his limited-edition Detox version.
But everything about this—the carefully crafted myth of these headphones and the brand behind it—is all just that: a myth. In the same way that Supa Hot Fire isn’t a rapper, Beats by Dre has achieved all it has while not being an actual headphone company.
Sure, they may be *in the business* of selling headphones, earphones, and Bluetooth speakers, but the now-Apple-owned brand was always just a marketing company once you peeled back all of its layers.
Heck, even their story never actually granted or justified the reputation they said they had.
To get you up to speed, the story goes like this: rapper and producer Dr. Dre wanted to make money and was looking into launching shoe collaborations at first, but was talked by Jimmy Iovine (of Interscope Records fame) into making headphones instead.
Along the way, they partnered with the infamous maker of overpriced cables Monster to come up with the first models, only to later cheat them out of a big payout through some corporate shenanigans that involved Beats being bought out by Apple in 2014, where it now stands to this day.
All that Beats by Dre had was Iovine’s broad connections and the company’s abysmally deep pockets that were only boosted further once it was taken under Apple’s wing.
Before we get into the review proper, I feel like I should lay down my bona fides first. The short of it is that I have a bit of a history with the Beats Pro.
The long of it is that the Beats Pro is the very first expensive pair of headphones I heard some 10 years ago and it set me down the very slippery slope into the headphone hobby.
The rose tint of the glasses that depicted my first experience with these headphones has long faded away. That said, I still wanted to own a pair since then, if only to pay tribute to the headphones that started it all for me.
And that was exactly what happened a couple of years ago when I grabbed this NOS (new old stock) example for about $100. The thing was even still sealed.
With that out of the way, what is it like to open and own a decade-old headphone?
The price of a product is usually the first thing that sets the customer’s expectations. This is especially true for a pair of headphones that ask you for $400.
Beats, however, had the benefit of defining the consumer headphone market at the time; and as such, it was easier to overlook the cheap plastic mold holding the headphones on the inside as well as the protein leather-coated carrying pouch that crumbles in my hands.
For the most part, though, the unboxing experience of the Beats Pro still felt quite fancy and upmarket, especially with the way the box folds open and shut.
You also get two whole cables—a shorter, slimmer one with a mic and a remote and the thick, coiled one that’s exclusive to the Beats Pro.
One of the big physical selling points of the Beats Pro was its build quality.
With a frame made out of steel and aluminum, these headphones were solid enough to cause injury if you threw them at someone hard enough.
That doesn’t mean they were all that durable, though.
Even though they made the frame out of metal, the adjustment mechanism for the headband is made of two plastic pieces per side that, for some reason, can break loose and sustain damage simply because they were used out of alignment.
This is a pretty serious design flaw that’s conveniently hidden under the leather headband wrap so most people can’t see the problem. This also happens to be foreshadowing for later.
Everything else that you see and interact with on the Beats Pro isn’t that bad.
The metal frame that we’ve talked about is about as durable as it can get, and the swiveling mechanism that lets the headphones collapse into a smaller size is built quite well.
Fit and Comfort
Whoever on the marketing team wrote that the Beats Pro had “heavily padded ear cups” deserves a smack on the head because that’s not what you’re getting with them.
Now, I don’t really mind the rather sparse padding too much—the memory foam that they used on the ear pads does feel kind of plush.
The real problem I have with their comfort is more a matter of their weight and weight distance. According to the spec sheet, the Beats Pro is supposed to be about 450 grams. That’s not actually all that heavy.
Yet the Beats Pro feels heavy because of its bad weight distribution. Despite looking like over-ear headphones, they are indeed on-ear, which means the points of contact are on your head and your pinnae.
And in just about all cases, the pressure on your pinnae builds up faster than it would on your head, regardless of how heavy the headphones actually are. That’s why the 450-gram Beats Pro hurts after about 30 minutes while the 695-gram Audeze LCD-4 can feel fine even after 2 hours.
You may have noticed that some of the photos in this review show the headphones with black ear pads and headbands. This is because I bought aftermarket replacements as the original white pleather was cracking and peeling (as is inevitable for 10-year-old headphones).
What about the Beats Pro’s sound is there to be said that hasn’t already been implied by the brand name it’s attached to?
They’re bad in that they’re horribly overpriced. For most people, that’s as satisfying a description as you can get.
But if we try to look beyond the surface-level analysis, we’ll find there’s a bit more nuance to this thing that we massively overpaid for.
All Beats headphones up until the Solo 2 came out around 2016 were known for being obnoxiously bassy, and the Beats Pro is no exception.
Its thump is undeniably powerful, which makes it fun for the hip-hop and EDM genres it was always endorsed for—songs like Skrillex and Noisia’s “My Existence” and Geoxor’s “Ephemeral”.
But beyond that, there isn’t a lot of praise I can give to it from an audiophile standpoint. Heck, even as a bass head, the Beats Pro’s low end has too much bloat that bleeds into the midrange.
It smothers the rest of the music like you’re standing at the open doorway of a club—you can still hear some midrange and treble go through, but it’s nowhere near as clear as it is when you’re actually in the club with a direct line of hearing to the speakers.
That bass bleeds I mentioned most strongly affect the midrange, giving it a very warm and heavy tilt that makes it sound quite muddy.
And that’s before I mention how deeply it’s recessed. Songs like REZZ’ “Someone Else” are quite heavy on the bass, but Grabbitz’s vocals and synths should otherwise still be quite audible in the mix. Not so with the Beats Pro—its low end just kinda overwhelms everything.
More midrange-focused music doesn’t help it much, either; even H.E.R.’s vocals in “Carried Away”, which normally sound sweet and silky, are given a thick, soupy quality by the Beats Pro.
To sum things up, the treble on the Beats Pro tries its best.
Throughout the songs we’ve used as examples, the low end of these headphones constantly overwhelms the rest of the sound, almost as if the bass is physically preventing the other frequencies from ringing out on the drivers.
The treble of this supposed-to-be-V-shaped sound signature is also hammered by this bass onslaught, yet still has enough quantity left to be at least audible.
The soundstage of the Beats Pro is surprisingly decent, in the sense that it’s not as small as I expected.
Ignoring their quirks with sound balance, the Beats Pro handles the immersive quality of songs like “JFLA” by Sally quite well.
Of course, there’s still the issue of her vocals thrown too far back, but we’ve already covered that.
Ten years on, the Beats Pro—and the brand name it’s attached to—has had a divisive legacy.
On one hand, it was the laughingstock of the audiophile community as it is a mediocre pair of headphones with a price tag so exorbitant that anyone who buys it deserves to be laughed at.
But as with the title I gave for this retrospective, we have to give credit where credit is due.
The Beats Pro was once one of the most recognizable headphones in the western world – a marketing masterpiece that had them on the heads of everyone from Diplo and Still Woozy and Lebron James to Richard Sherman.
Whatever thoughts you might have of the brand, there’s no denying that Beats changed the headphone market forever. It was the first major push from any company to lift mainstream listeners from their cheap white earbuds, and it worked.
Today, Beats is nowhere near as prominent as it used to be, and that’s fine. It has created a new market segment for more competent brands to actually compete in.
And it’s left behind a legacy of modern music loves that actually cared about sound quality—myself included.
Freelance writer, part-time streamer, full-time disappointment. Got into headphones too early in life and now knows too much about them.
This post was last updated on 2023-03-28 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.