Review: Monster Beats by Dr. Dre

HIP-HOP ICON'S HEADPHONES LIVE UP TO THE HYPE
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Tricked Out > In addition to the headphones, Beats by Dr. Dre comes with a hardshell zippered carrying case, two detachable 1/8-inch cords (one with a mic to use with music-enabled phones), an 1/8-inch to -inch adapter, an airplane seat adapter and two AAA batteries.

Honestly, when I first heard about headphones developed by Dr. Dre, I thought they were going to be crap. I think the stuff Dre does works for him — I love the finished product of his records — but a lot of them are distorted and superbright. There's low end, but that's not really his emphasis. So I just thought the Beats by Dr. Dre headphones would be kind top-end-y, shrill and probably have some distortion. But when I first heard them, I was pleasantly surprised. Listening to them, I heard a lot of things you don't necessarily even hear in regular monitors. They are very detailed.

NUTHIN' BUT A BEAT THANG

I mixed T.I.'s “Swing Your Rag” (from his new album, Paper Trail) and Alicia Keys' “Teenage Love Affair (Remix)” using Beats by Dr. Dre. I use headphones about 5 percent of the time while mixing. In the studio I never use them for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time. I've been using the Dre headphones with my mixes lately to listen to the stereo space and hear different things spectrumwise — for example, to see where my vocals are sitting. I also did a mix recently in a room I wasn't familiar with, and I decided to listen to these a lot as my point of reference.

Beats by Dr. Dre's low end is pretty accurate — maybe on the sub-side, especially for headphones. You usually don't get that type of response on headphones. They may be lacking in the mids or the “mid-mids,” but there's definitely a nice low-end response. It's not hyped. They let you hear things that you didn't hear before, such as different artifacts and harmonics of instrumentation you don't always hear — and not just in the low end.

Previously, I was using the Sony MDR-V700DJ headphones, and I loved those, but there is a big difference. I knew how to make things sound right with them, but it was always an adjustment. For example, I knew the top end was not as dull as it appeared to be. But I mix with Genelec 1031As, and the Dre headphones seem like a pretty good translation of those. They give you a more intimate feel with the music; it's just right there in your ear. I feel like they give me a little bit extra that I've never experienced with headphones. The details and articulation of the drivers in there are really, really good.

RUTHLESS

Before I overhype them, there are definitely little things that could be better. I still use my Bose noise-cancellation headphones for flying. On Dre's, the noise cancellation is there (they require two AAA batteries to work), but it has a ways to go. The second thing is because the Dre headphones are open in the rear, you're definitely disturbing the people around you. Everyone can hear what you're listening to. In that respect, they're good for the studio, but if you're sitting on a plane, train or bus, they're not.

The headband also seems a little shady to me. It's not very flexible; I have a friend who broke his already. They might be stronger than they look, but I feel like you always have to be extra careful. And I think it would feel a little more comfortable if it weren't such a rigid plastic. A lot of headphones fit the top of your head kind of snug, and these don't; they just sit on the ear. I don't like the way they fold up into a pointed shape, and they're definitely not for DJing because the cups don't rotate. They do look cool, but personally, I care more about how they sound.

Another thing that's kind of sucky is that the batteries aren't rechargeable. That's why I'm so careful to always turn them off from the power switch on the right cup because if they go dead, I could be screwed.

THE AFTERMATH

I think the Beats by Dr. Dre headphones address the needs of urban-music listeners, but I don't know if they're only for them. I pretty much listened to the stuff that I listen to with it, so I couldn't tell you what an engineer like Tom Lord-Alge might think of how they sound with stuff they mix. But even on records I mixed myself, Dre's headphones brought out things I didn't notice before, like harmonics on the bass or things resonating on the top of the bass line. They just make things a lot clearer. The reproduction is pretty good. There might be a tiny bit of hype to the top end but not like a lot of others in this price range.

For what I do, they are worth the price to me. I don't know about the average person, but I would absolutely recommend them for other professionals. I don't I know of anything at this price point that can compete. It seems like they were trying to give you as much bang for your buck as possible, especially with features like the mute button on the right cup and all the accessories. If you're an up-and-coming producer or have a small home setup, and the room you're working in isn't acoustically correct and has issues with standing waves and reflections, Beats by Dr. Dre would be a good investment.

MONSTER

BEATS BY DR. DRE > $349

Pros: Extremely accurate and detailed sound, including in the low end. More appropriate for urban and other bass-heavy music than comparably priced models.

Cons: Noise cancellation could be better. Non-rechargeable batteries. Headband feels vulnerable. Not well suited for DJing.

Contact:www.beatsbydre.com; www.duroceo.com