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

    • Bill Gates supposedly has long way to go to catch the real richest man in the world

      Coming in at around $86 billion, Bill Gates has ridden his Microsoft fortune straight to the top of the Forbes list of the world’s richest men. Then again, the business magazine doesn’t take into account ...

      MarketWatch q
    • Malia Obama in Ultimate Rich Kids' Ski Trip Pic (PHOTO)

      Malia Obama is on an Aspen vacay that will absolutely make you HATE your life when you see who she's posing with in what has to be the richie richiest photo of all time. Here's the answer key for who's who in this shot, taken last weekend at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro in Aspen: 1. Malia 2. Elizabeth Tisch, daughter of NY Giants co-owner Steve Tisch 3. Audrey Kotick, daughter of Activision/Blizzard CEO Robert Kotick (think Call of Duty money) 4. Fashion designer Monique Lhuillier 5. Jamie Tisch, ex-wife of Steve 6. Tom Bugbee, Monique Lhuillier's husband 7. Holden Tisch, daughter of Steve 8. Zachary Tisch, son of Steve 9. Tassilo von Furstenberg, grandson of Diane von Furstenberg When President

      TMZ q
    • Once Renowned Surgeon Sentenced to Life Behind Bars for Intentionally Maiming Patients

      Christopher Duntsch once billed himself as the best neurosurgeon in all of Dallas.

      Inside Edition
    • ‘Dr. Death’: Texas Neurosurgeon Gets Life in Prison for Botched Surgery

      A Texas neurosurgeon accused of intentionally botching multiple spinal surgeries, resulting in the death of two people and the paralysis of two others, was sentenced to life in prison on Monday, PEOPLE confirms. Christopher Duntsch, 46, was convicted last week of first-degree felony injury in one of those instances: a botched 2012 surgery involving 74-year-old Mary Efurd who lost a third of her blood and the use of her leg, according to the Dallas Morning News. One patient testified that he woke up paralyzed from the neck down after an operation performed by Duntsch.

      People
    • Milo Yiannopoulos apologizes for remarks, quits Breitbart

      NEW YORK (AP) — Polarizing right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos was by turns apologetic for comments he made about sexual relationships between boys and men and adamant he had been the subject of "a cynical media witch hunt" on Tuesday as he spoke after resigning as an editor at Breitbart News.

      Associated Press
    • Photos of Former Couples Walking Oscars Red Carpets Past That Will Make Your Heart Hurt (9 photos)

      All of these A-listers have happily moved on ... yet we can't help reminiscing about their past Oscars red carpet moments (and crying a little bit)

      People
    • Trump's Russia scandal takes an unexpected turn

      On Friday afternoon, FBI Director James Comey delivered a classified, hour-long briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Russia scandal, and soon after, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent “formal requests to more than a dozen organizations, agencies and individuals, asking them to preserve all materials related to the committee’s investigation” into the controversy. Pursuit of shady oligarch a test of DoJ integrity under Trump We don’t know much about how the briefing went – committee members were tight-lipped following Comey’s presentation – though Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted late Friday that he’s “now very confident” that the committee will conduct “thorough bipartisan

      MSNBC q
    • A Look Inside Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago: The New ‘Winter White House’

      Mar-a-Lago sits along a coveted stretch of coastline in Palm Beach, Fla. It was built between 1924 and 1927 by cereal heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. Donald Trump purchased the property, which he would later dub the “Winter White House,” in 1985 for $5 million and used it solely as a private residence until turning it into a private members-only club in 1995. The Mar-a-Lago Club also boasts an oceanfront swimming pool, a beauty salon, a spa, five red clay tennis courts, a croquet court, and seaside cabanas.

      Yahoo Celebrity
    • Iowa farmer gives Senator Grassley some perspective on Obamacare

      “We’re gonna create one great big death panel in this country” At a town hall in Iowa Falls, Iowa this morning, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) faced a packed room of constituents demanding answers on questions ranging from immigration to Obamacare. In one of a few standout moments, an older man confronted Grassley over his support of repealing Obamacare instead of working to fix the existing law. “I’m on Obamacare. If it wasn’t for Obamacare, we wouldn’t be able to afford insurance,” Chris Petersen, an Iowa pig farmer, told his Senator. “Don’t repeal Obamacare, improve it!” he said. The crowd broke out in cheers. It was a full-circle moment for Grassley and healthcare. In 2009, while Grassley was negotiating

      ThinkProgress q
    • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says Bill Gates' original mission 'always bothered me'

      Around 1980, Bill Gates gave Microsoft, the company he founded, a clear mission: "A computer on...

      Business Insider
    • Interracial couple fined for not removing graffiti slur

      An interracial Connecticut couple whose home was vandalized by a racial slur has been fined for failing to cover it up.

      WPVI – Philadelphia
    • Russia Has Its Own A-10 Warthog (And It Was Meant to Be a NATO-Killer)

      Like the A-10, the Su-25 was all about winning a titanic clash between the ground forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact by busting tanks and blasting infantry in Close Air Support missions. This meant flying low and slow to properly observe the battlefield and line up the plane for an attack run. Thus, the pilot of the Su-25 benefited from an “armored bathtub”—ten to twenty-five millimeters of armor plating that wrapped around the cockpit and even padded the pilot’s headrest. The Su-25 Frogfoot, known as the Grach or “Rook” by Russian pilots, is one of those aircraft that may not be at the cutting edge of technology, but still has seen widespread service around the world because it offers an effective and useful solution to the need to blast targets on the ground.

      The National Interest q
    • Karrueche Tran Files Restraining Order Against Chris Brown, Claims He Threatened to Kill Her

      Karrueche Tran has some disturbing allegations against her ex, Chris Brown.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Space buffs drool as NASA announces a major 'discovery beyond our solar system'

      NASA will host a news conference on Wednesday to discuss recent discoveries of planets beyond our solar system. The even will begin at 1 p.m. ET. The public are invited to ask questions via Twitter with the hashtag #askNASA.

      Digital Trends
    • Milo Yiannopoulos Resigns From Breitbart News Amid Pedophilia Controversy

      Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor at the right-wing Breitbart News, has resigned from his post amid controversy over apparent comments he made about pedophilia. The announcement comes after Simon & Schuster canceled his book deal following newly surfaced remarks in which he defends relationships between boys and older men. The comments also cost him his invitation to speak at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

      People
    • Did the Lakers fire Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak because they failed to trade for DeMarcus Cousins?

      Most expected Magic Johnson to usurp Lakers front-office power from Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak at some point, but why did it happen two days before the NBA trade deadline? It might have to do with the DeMarcus Cousins pursuit. The Lakers were among those in the running to acquire Cousins from the Kings, but reportedly bowed out when the Kings asked for 2016 No. 2 selection Brandon Ingram.

      SB Nation q
    • Here's how Trump has spent his first month in office

      Donald Trump has been in office for exactly one month as of Monday at noon. That's 744 hours...

      Business Insider
    • Amber Rose and Wiz Khalifa dressed up as Batgirl and Batman for their son’s birthday party, are #familygoals

      Some kids are born into lucky situations: Will Ferrell’s three sons (do they ever stop laughing?), Walt Disney’s kids (who had a secret…

      Hello Giggles
    • 7-Year-Old Girl Asks Google for a Job and Gets an Amazing Response from the CEO

      When Chloe Bridgewater, who is a big fan of tablets and computers, was told by her father Andy Bridgewater that the conglomerate Google has bean bags, slides and go-karts at their offices, she decided to let the company know how interested she was in working there. “My name is Chloe and when I am bigger I would like a job at Google. While Chloe knows she has quite a few years until she can actually apply, Google CEO Sundar Pichai responded to her handwritten note with his own message of encouragement.

      People
    • Billionaire Elon Musk credits his success to these 8 books

      The SpaceX and Tesla founder is a voracious reader.

      CNBC