Beats Solo Buds Review: Great Price, Greater Compromise

Beats Solo Buds Review: Great Price, Greater CompromiseBeats-Solo-Buds-Reviewer-Collage-072024-SOURCE-Ryan-Waniata.jpg

That’s not to say the Solo Buds sound bad. They certainly lean toward the brighter side in the treble and midrange, but their sound is accessible and never got excessively sharp in my testing. The dynamics feel rather flat, but there’s some decent detail here, and they wholly avoid the kind of muddled lower register common in so many budget options. You’ll find clear delineation of each register across a wide range of tracks and genres.

They also support Spatial Audio with supported videos and music on services like Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, though they don’t offer the same head-tracking common with such features, designed to virtually anchor the listening position around you.

I took several calls with the Solo Buds with no complaints on either end. Beats says the buds employ a noise learning algorithm with “advanced logic” that targets your voice and suppresses “external unwanted noises.” While I wasn’t able to test them in especially windy conditions, I tried a call under the bathroom fan. The caller said my voice sounded a bit like a speakerphone call, but the fan noise wasn’t audible.

Minimal Extras

Finding the Solo Buds to be somewhere around the “just fine” level for sound quality isn’t uncommon at their price, but it does make their distinct lack of other features tougher to square. Unlike so many new options at this price (and even well below), you won’t get any noise canceling to buffer annoyances or even transparency mode to keep you aware of your surroundings.

Left 2 earbuds in the palm of a person's hand. Right Hand holding a black ovalshaped case with 2 earbuds inside.

Photograph: Ryan Waniata

Also missing here are plenty of now-standard Apple offerings, like sensors to pause the sound when you pull a bud out, “Hey Siri” voice assistant summoning, or auto-switching to seamlessly swap between iCloud devices. They offer a few handy Apple exclusives, including Find My support to keep track of them, audio sharing, and one-touch pairing, popping up on your iPhone automatically when you first open them.

Like other Beats buds, the Solo can switch hit for Android gear, with some handy tricks like auto-swapping between Google-connected cloud devices, as well as the same one-touch pairing and Find My Device features you’ll get on iOS. The Beats Android app provides some basic settings adjustments and firmware updates.

It’s not nothing, but it’s a rather short list when you look at the litany of extras Soundcore offers in the A40 or the even better outfitted Liberty 4 NC (8/10, WIRED Recommends), with everything from noise canceling and transparency mode to multi-band EQ control and multipoint Bluetooth pairing. Even granting the possibility of a sound upgrade for those who can find a better fit than I did, the Solo Buds are a tough sell with so many loaded budget options out there, and countless more on the way.

If you’re after ecosystem-agnostic buds nestled in the cutest little case in the galaxy, the Solo Buds fit the bill at a modest price that’s sure to see a swift drop. Otherwise, you’ll get more for your money elsewhere.

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