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Beats Solo 4 review: Style and status at a high price

Our Rating :
£199.00 from
Price when reviewed : £200
inc VAT

The Beats Solo 4 are stylish on-ear headphones but struggle to justify their price, especially if you don’t own an iPhone


  • Extensive battery life
  • Good range of connection options
  • Decent passive noise cancellation


  • Uncomfortable during prolonged use
  • Key features unavailable on Android
  • Pricier than many rivals

I was taken aback when I discovered the Beats Solo series of on-ear headphones is the brand’s best-selling range. Not because previous Solo products have been bad. The two most recent releases, the Solo 3 Wireless and Solo Pro, won Expert Reviews awards. But I’ve been reviewing headphones for five years and almost everyone I speak to uses over-ear headphones or true wireless earbuds rather than on-ear headphones.

Perhaps I’ve been spending too much time with wisened journalists and audiophiles and not enough time rubbing shoulders with athletes and popstars, but regardless, Beats sees plenty of mileage in the format. More than four years after the release of the Solo Pro, the Apple-owned brand has refreshed its on-ear lineup with the addition of the Beats Solo 4.

While not a major departure from the iconic design that’s helped bring the series success, the Beats Solo 4 have a few new tricks up their sleeve. They support spatial audio with dynamic head tracking, high-resolution and lossless audio when wired, and have also received upgrades to their acoustic architecture, battery life and microphone performance. Is all this enough to justify their £200 price tag or are you paying a premium for the Beats name? Read on to find out.

Beats Solo 4 review: What do you get for the money?

You can pick up the Beats Solo 4 in either Matte Black, Cloud Pink or Slate Blue for £200, which is £50 cheaper than the Beats Solo 3 Wireless cost when they launched in 2016. Those headphones are still available but their price hasn’t fallen as much as you might think, with most retailers selling them for between £159 and £169.

Both the Solo 3 Wireless and Solo 4 look pricey when compared to the competition. The Marshall Major IV have recently been replaced by the Major V but are an appealing purchase at £85, while JBL’s Tune 670NC add noise cancellation to the mix and cost just £60 at the time of writing. The Jabra Elite 45h (£65) and Adidas Sport RPT-001 (£80) are also worth considering if you’re after affordable on-ear headphones, with the latter a particularly good choice for runners and gym goers.

Included in the Beats Solo 4’s box are a pair of on-ear headphones weighing 217g, a fabric carrying case, a USB-C to USB-C cable and a 3.5mm to 3.5 mm cable. Two small pouches on the inside of the case enable neat storage of the cables.

The Solo 4’s wireless connectivity is looked after by Bluetooth 5.3 but, as is generally the way with Apple and Beats headphones, codec compatibility is restricted to SBC and AAC. However, the Solo 4 deliver high-res lossless audio when wired to a compatible source thanks to their in-built DAC – a welcome option. The USB-C and 3.5mm inputs are located at the bottom of the left and right earpads, and their discrete integration is representative of a simple yet cohesive design. 

Buttons are kept to a minimum. There’s a small power/pairing button on the outside of the right earpad, while the remainder of the controls are handled over on the left pad. A central multifunction “b” button governs audio playback and call controls, with volume adjustments actioned by pressing the upper or lower sections of a ring around the Beats logo.

Battery life now stands at an estimated 50 hours of audio playback with volume set to around 50%. That’s a decent increase from the Solo 3 Wireless, which could only manage 40 hours, but still a long way off options like the JBL Tune 670NC (70 hours) and Marshall Major IV (80 hours).

The Solo 4 have ‘Fast Fuel’ charging on their side, however, with just 10 minutes on charge providing five hours of listening time. It’s also worth pointing out that they don’t use the battery when connected via the 3.5mm cable, so can be used indefinitely.

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Beats Solo 4 review: What did I like about them?

While on-ear isn’t my headphone style of choice, there’s a lot to be said for the Solo 4’s design. They’re lightweight and look great – it’s easy to see why the Solo series has a cult following.

The brushed steel hinges linking the extendable headband and earpads are a neat touch and create a point of difference with the rest of the design. The ability to fold the earpads in towards the headband, meanwhile, makes stashing the Solo 4 in your pocket a viable option if you don’t have the case with you.

The Solo 4 are also easy and intuitive to control. Since they’re relatively light on features, there isn’t a long list of commands to memorise and the physical buttons cover what options there are effectively. The plastic click I noted in my Beats Studio Pro review remains an annoyance whenever you push the Beats logo but is something I gradually filtered out.

Other areas of strength include good battery life and a wide range of connectivity options. I’ve been using the Solo 4 regularly for around a month now and have only had to charge them once, which is great going. Meanwhile, having the choice of Bluetooth, USB-C and 3.5mm connectivity provides a level of flexibility that shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially when the wired options unlock higher-resolution, lossless audio playback.

The Solo 4 also exceeded my expectations when it came to their ability to block out external distractions. Some might rue the absence of ANC, but it’s never made as much sense to me with on-ear headphones as it does for over-ear models or earbuds. Either way, I found the Solo 4’s earpads did a solid job of dampening the din around me.

I found the Solo 4 very good for making and receiving calls, too. They use beam-forming microphones along with an algorithm designed to improve voice pickup and this combination proved successful during testing. Very little background noise made its way to the other end of calls, I was told I sounded clear and was able to hold conversations without issue, save in extremely loud surroundings. 

Beats Solo 4 review: What could be improved?

The Solo 4 certainly can’t be accused of overcooking the bass like some of their predecessors. They’re surprisingly restrained in that department and I found them better tuned for general listening than their skull-rattling stablemates of yesteryear.

I wasn’t blown away by how they sounded, whichever connection I used. There was decent clarity to vocals in songs and dialogue in films but upper mids and trebles were a little too prominent. This brightness worked well for some genres and proved ideal for podcasts but became fatiguing quickly, particularly at higher volumes.

Unlike the Solo 3 Wireless and Solo Pro, the Solo 4 are powered by a custom-made Beats chip rather than an Apple headphones chip. This means that they’re slightly less ecosystem-specific in terms of functionality. 

Find My and Find My Device are available on iOS and Android, one-touch pairing is supported across both platforms and you can pre-pair the headphones with multiple devices if you’re signed into your Apple or Google account. However, they’re some way from being ecosystem-agnostic, with Android users getting the short end of the stick.

Their personalised spatial audio with head tracking added a level of immersion to compatible Atmos content such as The Bloody Hundredth on Apple TV+, but is only available if you’re using an Apple device, as is hands-free Siri. Siri worked flawlessly during my tests, which is great news for Apple users, but the absence of an always-on voice assistant for Android leaves a sizeable proportion of smartphone users out in the cold.

Audio Sharing is another Apple-only perk and allows you to enjoy whatever you’re listening to with a friend or your partner, assuming they also have a pair of Beats headphones or AirPods.

One of the reasons I tend to avoid on-ear headphones is that I find they squash my ears uncomfortably and while the Solo 4 were better than most options I’ve tested for short bursts, I still found them challenging to wear for long periods.

The earpads are lined with what Beats describes as “UltraPlush” cushions and these are certainly nice and soft but the clamping force required to ensure the headphones remained stable on my head resulted in some discomfort after an hour or so. Your mileage here will vary, however.

There are a few other ways in which I feel the Solo 4 could be improved. They don’t support Bluetooth multipoint, meaning you can’t seamlessly switch between devices across different ecosystems, nor do they have wear detection for automatically pausing audio when the headphones are removed. Both are convenient features I’ve come to expect from headphones in the Solo 4’s price bracket.

Speaking of convenience features, I feel the Solo 4 would also benefit from a transparency mode. While I understand the omission of noise cancellation and didn’t miss it too much due to the effective passive noise blocking the earpads provide, the ability to quickly tune into my surroundings would have been greatly appreciated.

Beats Solo 4 review: Should you buy them?

The Beats Solo 4 are technically superior to the Solo 3 Wireless they replace and are cheaper at launch too. The addition of spatial audio with dynamic head tracking is a boon for those able to use it and extra battery life is always welcome. They also score highly where aesthetic appeal is concerned; few headphones of any style scream “trendy” like the Solo 4.

But unless you’re a die-hard Beats fan or desperate for on-ear headphones from one of the world’s most recognisable audio brands, your money will be better spent elsewhere. And even if you do fall into one of those camps, I’d recommend holding out until the Beats Solo 4 are available at a discount.

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