Are Beats by Dr. Dre headphones worth the price tag?

Consumer Reports

Beats Solo HD headphones
Do you care whether your headphones look as good as they sound? If so, you might be considering a model in the Beats by Dr. Dre line. Developed in conjunction with Monster Cable, Beats helped usher in the era of higher-priced, logo-embossed headphones bearing a celebrity endorsement. Certainly, based on the number of people you now see wearing Beats models (with the distinctive lower-case "b" on the earcups) around their necks, they have an obvious appeal.


MORE AT COnsumer Reports

If you don't really care what your headphones look like, my advice for the past dozen or so years or so has been to buy a pair of Grado SR60i ($80) or SR80i ($100) on-ear models. Despite their somewhat stodgy appearance, they'll give you a taste of what high-end audio sounds like for about the cost of an average dinner for two in New York City. But based on the growing popularity of celebrity and fashion-oriented headphone models—including the Beats by Dr. Dre series—it seems that an awful lot of us do care about the look of what we're wearing in, on, or around our ears.

Last year, despite nearly a half-billion dollars in sales, something surprising happened: The highly successful Beats/Monster deal unraveled. The story of how Monster lost its deal with Beats is fascinating. You can get the back story on what transpired in this great Gizmodo article, but the key element to the split is that Beats, not Monster, retained the design, engineering, and branding rights the Beats product line. (Following the split with Monster, Beats signed a deal that gave phone giant HTC a 51 percent stake in the company.)

(See also: Tech that can save you money)

So this leads us to the key question many of us have pondered as the latest Beats headphones have hit the market: Is the attraction to Beats by Dr. Dre headphones purely physical, or do they actually sound good?

The answer—yes, they generally do—might be surprising to doubters. Beats headphones tend to have a consistently bass-heavy sonic signature that fans of certain types of music, such as hip-hop and dance, may appreciate more than others. But most of the models we tested deliver satisfying sound. But a second question, whether they are worth the money, is a bit more complicated.

Beats by Dr. Dre Executive

Beats by Dr. Dre Executive

In our just-published new headphone ratings, several Beats models did very well. In fact, in the noise-canceling category, the Beats by Dr. Dre Executive, a $300 set of larger on-ear headphones, topped our ratings, with excellent sound quality and very good noise reduction. We also like the Beats Studio, the $300 on/over-ear headphones that started the whole Beats craze. While neither of these models is cheap, they're the same price as the highly rated Bose QuietComfort 15, and they cost $100 less than two other top-rated models, the Sony MDR-NC500D and the PSB Speaker's M4U 2.

The $200 Beats Solo, a lighter, less expensive on-ear version of the Studios (without the noise canceling feature), also deliver very good overall sound quality, though in that category they cost more than competitors with similar sound scores. But the $100 Beats by Dr. Dre urBeats didn't fare as well. These earbud-style earphones had only good sound--while fine, the sound quality is below that of many lower-priced models in our Ratings.

Bottom line. You're probably paying more for the Beats name, especially for models without active noise cancellation. In almost almost every category there are lower-priced models that offer the same, and sometimes better, sound quality. So if sound quality is your only consideration, choose one of those models rather than a Beats set.

But in almost every category of consumer goods, there are some brands that command a higher price because they have developed an allure that transcends their component costs, Apple being an obvious example. If design, aesthetics, and personal identification with a brand are important to you as a consumer, then Beats headphones may well be worth the extra money, provided you find their sonic signature compatible with the style of music you most enjoy. Most of Beats headphones we tested can deliver very good to excellent sound, so you'll have to determine whether the value of these other elements are commensurate with the price you're being asked to pay.

Copyright © 2006-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Devastated Parents Speak Out After 1 Piece of Holiday Cake Killed Their Son

      When 11-year-old Oakley Debbs ate a piece of cake over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, his family had no idea that it had the potential to kill him. Oakley had a peanut allergy and when he realized his mistake, his family was alarmed but gave him Benadryl, which seemed to do the trick. His mom, Merrill, explained to WMTW that the allergy medicine had always worked in the past after an accidental consumption of nuts. She also shared that he felt "great" for the rest of the evening after taking the medicine. However, his condition took a drastic turn later that night and he went from playing with cousins and his twin sister to vomiting. Within minutes the child could no longer breathe. "He was

      PopSugar q
    • Sherri Papini’s Husband Breaks Down in Tears Describing How She Survived Weeks in Captivity

      Sherri Papini “literally lived through hell” during her 20-plus days in captivity — being branded and beaten and losing about 15 percent of her body weight — her husband, Keith Papini, told ABC News in an interview that aired Monday. Sherri appears to have coped by imagining she was with Keith and their children Tyler, 4, and Violet, 2. “The things she told me,” Keith told ABC’s Matt Gutman, in an on-camera interview on Good Morning America, before breaking down in tears.

      People
    • KKK Holds Parade to Celebrate Trump's Win

      The hate group loves our President-elect.

      Cosmopolitan
    • Self-made millionaire: If you want to get rich, start working 95 hours a week

      Stop doing the 9-to-5 and start doing 95, advises businessman Grant Cardone.

      CNBC.com q
    • Mom Gets Inspired by Her Baby Girl to Lose 130 Lbs.: ‘I Wanted Her to Look up to Me’

      Kassidy Linde had reached 260 lbs. when she completely lost her self-confidence. “It got to the point that whenever I would look in the mirror, I wasn’t able to find anything beautiful about myself,” Linde, 25, tells PEOPLE.

      People
    • Oakland warehouse operator sparks outrage for mourning loss of venue — not victims

      The operator of the converted warehouse in Oakland, Calif., where a fire broke out during a dance party on Friday night, killing at least 33 people, has been widely criticized over his initial response to the tragedy. “Everything I worked so hard for is gone,” Derick Ion Almena wrote in a Facebook post early Saturday morning. Almena’s post was met with immediate backlash from Facebook users for omitting any mention of the victims.

      Yahoo News
    • Cam Newton explains why he didn't have a tie and violated Panthers' dress code

      Cam Newton has had some interesting press conferences, some combative ones, some short ones, but none like the one he had on Sunday night. Newton was benched for the first series of Sunday night’s game against the Seattle Seahawks for a dress-code violation. Panthers coach Ron Rivera wouldn’t get into details, but Newton said it was because he didn’t wear a tie on the team’s flight to Seattle.

      Shutdown Corner
    • Little Girl Drowned While Babysitter Smoked Meth

      The girl's mother told the babysitter not to let the girl anywhere near the pool, police said.

      Cosmopolitan
    • Republican success opens door to amending US Constitution

      JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The November election put Republicans in full control of a record number of state legislatures around the country, a level of power that gives the party an unprecedented opportunity: change the U.S. Constitution.

      Associated Press
    • Kanye West and Kim Kardashian Are Reportedly Living Apart

      Sources say the rapper is receiving outpatient care in a rental home.

      Harper's Bazaar
    • Abducted jogger skips town with family and leaves dogs behind

      REDDING, Calif. — The California mom found beaten and bloody on a highway after going missing for three weeks has skipped town with her husband — and left their two dogs behind. Sherri and Keith Papini left their home in Redding with their two kids but decided not to bring the dogs, friends said. A “buddy of Keith’s” was at the Papini home on Sundust Road on Saturday around noon — and told a Post reporter he was there to “walk the dogs.” He then took the smaller dog on a leash and said he “couldn’t answer any questions” and “I’m going to go walk her now.” He said he was there “just helping out.” A neighbor who has lived next to the Papini house, which is Keith’s childhood home, and has known

      New York Post q
    • Jayson Williams speaks following release from prison

      60 MINUTES SPORTS spoke with the former NBA player, who spent 26 months in prison for murdering his limo driver. See the full interview Tuesday, Dec. 6th only on SHOWTIME.

      Yahoo Sports Videos
    • Sasha Obama Embraces the Season's Biggest Trend (57 photos)

      Following their European tour with First Lady Michelle Obama earlier last summer, the first daughters are bringing their chic sense of style to the streets of NYC for a father-daughter weekend with the President. Since moving into The White House eight years ago, Sasha and Malia Obama's style has transformed along the way. Click through for a look back at the teenagers' best fashion moments over the years. From Harper's BAZAAR

      Harper's Bazaar
    • Just three stocks are responsible for almost half of the Dow’s huge one-month rally

      A quirk of the Dow's construction and a bit of luck have combined to help the 30-stock index outperform mightily.

      CNBC.com q
    • Missing Woman’s Remains Found After Fleeing Estranged Husband and Then Vanishing on Jog

      Federal officials have found the body of Rachael Madison, the woman who vanished while jogging along a Florida beach last week after fleeing her estranged and allegedly abusive husband, PEOPLE confirms. On Friday night, unidentified human remains were found in a remote area on the side of a highway in Knoxville, Tennessee. Officials announced the discovery Saturday, believing the remains belonged to the 44-year-old, though the identity was not confirmed until Monday. Madison’s husband, Jarvis Madison, was arrested Friday morning, on an arrest warrant from Indiana State Police, for criminal confinement charges.

      People
    • Rumors of sharp drop in China’s yuan swirl on social media

      Rumors swirled on social media on Tuesday that China's currency dropped sharply overnight, but the purported move may have been an isolated data hiccup.

      CNBC q
    • HGTV Responds to 'Fixer Upper' Pastor Controversy

      “We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows.”

      Cosmopolitan
    • Paul Ryan on Trump’s baseless voter fraud claim: ‘Who cares what he tweeted?’

      House Speaker Paul Ryan says he doesn’t care that Donald Trump continues to tweet outlandish claims as president-elect as long as Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress get things done when he’s in the Oval Office. “That’s what’s going to matter at the end of the day,” Ryan said in an interview that aired on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday. It was a stunning claim as there is no evidence of significant voter fraud.

      Yahoo News
    • The 6 best smartphones to buy this holiday season

      The holiday shopping season is officially upon us, which means if you’re in the market for a smartphone prepare to be inundated by a ton of incredibly tempting deals. Fortunately, we’ve got the lowdown on the best smartphones for everyone on your holiday shopping list. Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus is the ultimate phone for Apple fans.

      Yahoo Finance
    • 'The Walking Dead': Tensions Mount Heading Into Midseason Finale

      See what happened on last night's penultimate episode.

      ABC News q