Cases And Accessories

Beats Solo 4 review: upgrades keep this fan favorite current

Beats Solo 4

MSRP $200.00

“They’re the same Beats Solo you know, but with a slew of modern upgrades.”


  • Light and comfy
  • Sleek design
  • Clear and detailed sound
  • USB-C lossless, hi-res audio
  • Spatial audio with head tracking


  • Not for glasses wearers
  • No ANC or Bluetooth Multipoint
  • No EQ adjustments
  • Boosted high frequencies

The Beats Solo headphones have been the brand’s bestselling product since their debut in 2009. With that kind of history (and popularity), you want to think very carefully about how you introduce a new generation. In other words, if it ain’t broke …

So it’s no real surprise that the recently launched Beats Solo 4 are a gentle evolution of the Solo3 Wireless, and not a raucous revolution. The shape, the design, the controls — even the price — all remain untouched. And yet, there are just enough enhancements here to keep Beats Solo fans from wandering, even if there are still plenty of other wireless headphones that offer more for the money. After spending a few days with the Solo 4, here’s what I think you should know.

Beats Solo 4 Review | Fresh New Features, So-So Sound

What’s new?

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The fourth-gen Beats Solo wireless headphones improve over their predecessors with:

  • Longer battery life (50 hours versus 40 hours)
  • Improved foam and structure on the earpads
  • Improved 40mm driver that is designed to reduce distortion
  • Personalized spatial audio support with head tracking (iOS only)
  • Android support including Google Fast Pair and a dedicated Android app with Find My Device
  • Hands-free voice assistant access (Siri only)
  • USB-C charging
  • USB-C audio, with lossless and hi-res audio support
  • Digital MEMS mics (versus analog mics)
  • A dedicated 3.5mm analog cable

On-ear, on brand

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It’s tempting to hit up Amazon or Best Buy and look at all of the wireless headphones around the Solo 4’s $200 price as a starting point for comparisons. If you do, you’ll find plenty to choose from. You’ll also notice they’re packed with features that don’t show up on the Solo 4’s spec list, like active noise cancellation (ANC), Bluetooth Multipoint, wear sensors, and wireless hi-res audio.

But look a little closer and you’ll also see that the majority of these cans are over-ear. And that’s where the Beats Solo 4, with their on-ear design, are an outlier — and in more ways than one.

For some people, on-ears make sense. They tend to be lighter than over-ears, which can reduce the fatigue of wearing headphones, and their smaller size makes them easier to pack. But lately, the on-ear category has taken a hit in terms of high-end choices. Most brands treat on-ears as budget choices, with designs and colors that don’t do much to inspire. The Beats Solo 4, by contrast, share the same slick design as their more expensive Beats Studio Pro siblings, giving on-ear fans a set of cans that don’t make them feel like second-class citizens. (For more, see our full Beats Studio 4 versus Beat Studio Pro comparison.)

  • 1.
    The hinge on the Beats Solo 4 …
  • 2.
    … and on the Studio Pro.

The Solo 4, which launched in black, blue, and pink, have lost some of the Solo3’s blingy polished accents. And, sadly, the five-LED battery life indicator is also no more. But that big “b” logo remains, giving the Beats faithful exactly what they want — brand recognition.

The one downside of Beats’ decision to keep the Solo 4 consistent with the Solo3 from a design perspective is that they’re not especially robust. The thin plastic shells that are used everywhere have been prone to cracking, and I have concerns about the folding hinges, which aren’t as sturdily built as those of the Studio Pro. (See above for comparative photos.)

Glasses? Think twice

  • 1.
    Great without glasses.
  • 2.
    But not very comfy when wearing a set.

Beats headphones have always been some of the comfiest cans around, and the Solo 4 are no exception. The headband has a wide contact area that does a great job of distributing pressure, and the clamping force is excellent — the only way these puppies will move is if you violently shake your head.

Still, it’s that same great clamping force combined with the Solo 4’s on-ear design that will have you howling for mercy within 20 minutes if you wear glasses.

It’s not Beats’ fault. This is just the price you pay for headphones that push on your ears instead of your head.

Thanks for the cables

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Inside the package — which is entirely recyclable — you’ll find a carrying case that looks a lot like a toiletry kit. (It’s the same design from the Studio Pro.) It contains the Solo 4 and two cables: a USB-C-to-USB-C for charging and digital audio and a 3.5mm analog cable.

On any other set of cans, that analog cable would barely be worth mentioning, but since Beats failed to provide one with the Solo3, it’s a noteworthy change.

As happy as I am to see Beats include that cable, I just have to ask, why doesn’t it have an inline mic and control buttons? If its purpose is to let you keep getting the most out of your Solo 4, even when there’s no power, shouldn’t you be able to make calls and control volume/playback? Maybe I’m asking too much. But maybe that’s what happens when you ask folks to pay $200.

Clicky controls

If you like big, easy-to-use controls, it’s hard to, ahem, beat the Solo 4. As with previous Beats models, the left earcup’s “b” button does a variety of tasks, from play/pause and track skipping to call answer/end. It will even mute your mics while on a call (the call controls can be customized in iOS or the Beats app for Android). Meanwhile, the ring around the “b” can be pressed above or below for volume changes.

They’re a bit noisy when pressed, but I can live with that — especially since you can use them with gloved hands (leave it to a Canadian to care about that).

Energetic sound

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Originally, the Beats brand was synonymous with a bass-forward sound signature — one that complemented the style of music created by its famous co-founder, Dr. Dre. But the Beats sound has evolved over time, and each new Beats product has its own distinct tuning.

For the Solo 4, it’s an EQ that heavily favors higher frequencies.

To be clear, there’s very good representation of lows and mids, too. It’s just that the highs get a greater amount of energy. The clarity is superb — Beats nailed this with the Studio Pro, and I’m glad it shows up on the Solo 4, too. But the combination of that clarity and the boosted highs can be overwhelming. At times (especially when listening at volume levels north of 70%), a harshness can creep in, making cymbals and some vocals uncomfortable.

It’s an uneven problem. On tracks like bad guy by Billie Eilish, or virtually any Hans Zimmer composition where bass notes set the tone, the Solo 4 perform flawlessly, with lots of detail (especially when listening via USB-C or the analog connection). But take a ride through the mids and highs of Fleetwood Mac’s classic Rumours album, and you may find it’s a different story entirely.

Typically, I’d reach for the EQ adjustments to tone things down a notch, but there aren’t any to be found in the Solo 4’s iOS settings or in the dedicated Beats app for Android.

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Beats positions this as a benefit: “Solo 4 is our only passively tuned headphone, which delivers a capability distinct from the rest of the Beats portfolio. There is no active equalization applied to Solo 4, so the acoustic transducer handles the tuning of the headphone mechanically and in its entirety.”

In theory, this is absolutely what you want. Even the Beats Studio Pro force their analog input through a digital conversion before converting back to analog. The Solo 4, by contrast, create a direct connection between the incoming analog signal and the drivers — exactly the way a set of standard wired headphones work.

Trouble is if you don’t like the way the drivers are tuned, there isn’t much you can do short of using your own external equalizer (iPhone) or a global EQ app for Android.

To put the Solo 4’s sound signature in perspective, to get Sony’s ULT Wear headphones to a similar tonal balance, I had to use the Treble Boost EQ mode, and even then, the Solo 4 still sounded brighter.

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The human brain is amazing. It can adjust to almost any input. After a few hours of listening, I did get used to the Solo 4’s sound. But the lack of an EQ adjustment would keep these cans from being my go-to choice.

The harshness of the highs did improve a bit when I switched from the wireless connection to the USB-C connection, which leads me to think that some of what I heard was due to the compression of the Solo 4’s AAC Bluetooth codec. That make sense. A lossless audio signal doesn’t suffer from any compression. The same was true when using a DAC dongle like the Astell&Kern Dual DAC Cable and the included analog cable.

Speaking of the USB-C and 3.5mm cables, I’ll repeat what I said in my review of the Studio Pro: the analog cable is flexible enough for comfortable use, but I find the USB cable is too stiff.

(Real) spatial audio

The product page for the Solo3 Wireless says they support spatial audio for immersive music, “delivering a surround sound experience that you can take with you anywhere.” Technically, I guess that’s true. But you know what else is true? All stereo headphones support spatial audio.

The Solo 4 have this same capability, too, but they also get two additional spatial features: head tracking and spatialized stereo. Sadly, they’re both Apple exclusives.

With spatialized stereo, the Solo 4 can take any stereo sound (even if it’s from a non-Apple app like Amazon Music) and give it a 3D-like quality by making it sound like you’re listening to stereo speakers floating above and in front of your head. Turning on head tracking means those speakers stay fixed in space as you turn your head left and right, instead of moving with you. It’s kinda fun and some folks may even prefer it to regular stereo, especially if you use it with a video app like YouTube. But don’t be surprised if it makes the harshness I described earlier worse — this kind of signal processing doesn’t always play nicely with content.

The Solo 4’s spatialized stereo (which is also offered on Beats Studio Pro and Beats Fit Pro) isn’t as good as the version that Bose uses on its QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. But then again, the Bose cost more than twice as much.

If you want the best spatial audio experience on these headphones, you’ll need Apple Music or the Apple TV app on the iPhone (or the Apple TV 4K). This combo gives you access to head-tracked Dolby Atmos (when supported by music or movies recorded in this format), which can be quite dazzling.

Call from anywhere, except your bike

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have a set of Solo3 Wireless on hand to do a direct comparison, but I’m very impressed with the Solo 4’s call quality. The new digital MEMs mics keep most competing sounds at bay, while also keeping your voice clear. In some ways, they do this better than the Beats Studio Pro thanks to a slightly better balance between quiet and clear (the Studio Pro are quieter, but not as clear).

The one area where they both suffer is wind noise. Even moderately breezy conditions will make the system struggle as it tries to separate the sound of the wind from your voice.

Indoors, or when things are quiet outside, you’ll sound crystal clear to your callers.

Still, without any kind of transparency or sidetone option, you’ll be listening to a muffled version of your voice and that can get tiring, especially on longer calls. The Solo 4 would not be my first choice for anyone who does a lot of Teams or Zoom calling.

A bigger battery

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Does anyone need a 50-hour battery on a set of wireless headphones? Probably not, (especially when they work with a wire in an unpowered state), but I’m not going to throw shade at Beats for increasing the Solo 4’s stamina by 25% compared to the Solo3 Wireless — more is, well, more.

I will, however, take issue with the removal of the Solo3’s convenient five-LED battery gauge.

Strangely, the Solo3’s Fast Fuel charging was also better: those cans got 3 hours of playback from 5 minutes of charging, while the Solo 4 deliver 5 hours after 10 minutes of charging.

I didn’t get a chance to drain the Solo 4 from a full charge to empty, but the reported remaining battery level in iOS was consistent with Beats’ claims as I used them.

Same Beats, better value

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The bottom line for the Beats Solo 4 is one that Apple watchers will be familiar with. The price hasn’t changed and neither has the design, but there are enough tweaks and extras to make buyers feel like that $200 investment is getting you a thoroughly up-to-date set of wireless cans.

Longer battery life, head-tracking spatial audio, USB-C charging with lossless audio, and significantly better call quality are welcome additions.

As long as you want on-ear headphones (and you don’t mind paying a premium for that big “b” logo), there’s a lot to like. My only reservation in recommending the Beats Solo 4 is their lack of EQ adjustment. With factory tuning that favors energetic and bright high frequencies, these may not be the Beats you’re looking for.

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