If London's 2012 Olympic Games are anything to go by, then there's no chance to forget about Dre. The hip-hop Doc's range of headphones have not only infiltrated a generation, they've made their way to high-profile athletes' ears too. Although, such fun and games has now been outlawed by the brand police.
Beats Pro - the cans that sit at the top of the Beats tree - claim to be designed for "sound engineers, musicians, and those who take sound seriously". Are Beats Pro the top-grade over-ears that they claim to be; and are they worth their weighty price tag?
Beats Pro are big, hefty headphones. But they also look stunning.
The white finish version that’s in the Pocket-lint office for review has over-stuffed leather earcups and a leather headband. They’re big, brash and unashamedly chunky, but those cups are incredibly comfortable.
The first downside, however, is the weight. These cans will weigh down on your brain; they don’t pinch like a bear trap, but it’s the mass that might be too much for some wearers.
But the weight can be attributed to tank-like build quality. The gunmetal aluminium frame is matched with steel build quality and, believe us, you’ll struggle to mess up these headphones. They are solid.
The grand scale will suit many modern day commuters on the go, plus the pivoting earcups fold right back up into the headband area and can be stored in the included Beats Pro soft pouch.
There’s some great detail too: the box includes a 4.2mm coiled cable with a 3.5mm twist-lock jack, which means it’s possible to plug in to either the left or right side, or even "daisychain" to a second set of cans. Thanks to the locking mechanism it can be just as easily removed, to avoid unnecessary cable tangles. A 1/4-inch jack is also included.
The Beats Pro style won’t suit all. If they look too big and cumbersome for your head then, well, they almost certainly are. But those looking for stylish, sturdy and oversized headphones will like the size. Our only concern: the weight. Oh, and the weightier £279-349 price tag.
The Beats by Dr. Dre brand is known for its bass-heavy approach, something that the Beats Pro cans certainly deliver, but with less dominance than some of the models lower in the range. And we don’t mean that in a bad way: there’s enough space for mid and high-end too, the kind of mix that producers and electronic music-lovers will be looking for.
But these aren’t exclusively for bass-heads. The Pros dealt with a variety of music well: we listened to some Einaudi (modern classical pianist), acapella-like tracks by Counting Crows, and some funked-out rock by The Eels. There’s bass, as there should be, but it doesn’t sound like someone’s cranked up the low-frequency EQ; there’s enough room to give vocals, keys, acoustic guitars and the like room without over-enhancing their lower end. When the bass is needed it’s there though.
However, physical positioning is crucial: the large earcups can easily slip around and, should they not be positioned well to the ears, then the sound can sound a little "off" or tinny in the mids.
The Pros certainly sound good, but these are headphones with an RRP upwards of £300. That’s a lot of money. For the same price you could buy the lighter, better-sealed and ultimately louder Sennheiser HD25-II, for example.
We’ve tested one side by side to the other and the Sennheisers deal with volume far better than the Beats, the latter began to "crunch up" into a bit of a painful listen. Not that we endorse listening to music at that volume for any sustained period.
There’s no doubt that the Beats Pro over-ears mean business. They look the part, and are superbly built - but they are ex-pen-sive and a bit too heavy.
It’s not that the price is too much for a pair of headphones, it’s the calibre of other headphones on the market that complicates things. There are cheaper and lighter headphones that sound just as good, but these might not come with the style and perceived image of the Beats range.
This is fashion meets audio in many respects. Some will love the Pros, while others will hate, but it looks to us that Dre is now way beyond just "representing gangsters across the world" - he's got chunks of the world's high-profile athletes and the public in his pocket too.