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

    • Teen Girls Arrested After Video of Assault on Man, 62, Appears on Facebook

      Two girls, one 14 and one 15, are accused of assaulting a 62-year-old man who told them to get off his lawn.

      Inside Edition
    • Woman who pushed husband out of high-rise window found dead in prison

      An Oklahoma woman convicted of second-degree murder for shoving her hubby out of the window of their high-rise apartment was found dead in her prison cell on Monday, officials said. Amber Hilberling, 25, who was serving a 25-year prison sentence for the 2011 death of Joshua Hilberling was officially pronounced dead at 5:33 p.m. at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud, OK, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. The medical’s examiner’s office will determine Hilberling’s cause of death, but the woman’s parents who spoke exclusively to KTUL-ABC 8, said that medical staff told them that the death was being treated as a suicide, according to the news channel. Hilberling’s stepfather, Bryan Whitlock, who said he spoke to Hilberling the night before, told KTUL that there is “no way” his stepdaughter’s death was a suicide.

      New York Post q
    • A Redskins Coach Exposed His Wiener To Fans When He Whipped It Out To Pee On The Sideline

      One Redskins coach, however, decided to go full Nick Novak and pee on the sideline during Washington’s game on Sunday against Detroit. Ben Kotwica, Washington’s special teams coordinator, grabbed a cup, walked away from the action, and went to the bathroom. If you’d like to see the uncensored picture, Deadspin has your back.

    • Donald Trump just got some of his best polling news in weeks

      A CNN poll released on Monday showed Donald Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by five points...

      Business Insider
    • Oops! She Did It Again — Britney Spears’s Bra Top Came Undone at Her Las Vegas Performance

      Whether she’s carrying a seven-foot boa constrictor seductively across a stage, giving us the height of millennial fashion in a coordinated denim gown with Justin Timberlake, or simply displaying her unparalleled ability to Google Image search corn, it seems the singer has got it all under control.

    • Doctors thought he just had jock itch. Then it spread.

      Late Friday afternoon on Dec. 4, 2014, Stephen Schroeder was waiting to board his packed flight from Philadelphia to Las Vegas for a much anticipated long weekend with his son when his cellphone rang. On the line was an unexpected caller: his doctor, reporting test results sooner than Schroeder had expected. Listening intently, Schroeder was flooded with disbelief as he struggled to comprehend what he was hearing. Using the lip of a trash can as a writing surface, he scribbled notes on the back of his boarding pass, making the doctor spell out each unfamiliar word. Then he sent a terse text to his wife, who was at their home in the Philadelphia suburbs, and got on the plane. Onboard, Schroeder,

      Washington Post q
    • Tour Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner's Upper East Side Apartment

      In the living room of the apartment, which was designed by Kelly Behun, a custom-made sofa upholstered in an Élitis velvet and vintage Jindřich Halabala armchairs surround a 1970s cocktail table by Fernand Dresse; the light fixture is by Downtown, the drawing is by Jan Yoors, and the custom-made rug is by ABC Carpet & Home.

      ELLE DECOR q
    • 7 New Fall TV Shows Already in Ratings Trouble (Photos)

      It happens every fall – some of the new broadcast shows just don’t deliver. Here’s a look at some of the offerings in trouble this season, along with their ratings averages over seven days in the crucial adults aged 18 to 49 demographic, according to Nielsen.

      The Wrap
    • Ex-attorney general sentenced to jail, then cuffed in court

      NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, once a rising star in state politics, left a courtroom in handcuffs on Monday after getting a 10- to 23-month sentence for a retaliation scheme a judge linked to her all-consuming ego.

      Associated Press
    • Philippines' Duterte tells worried foreign businesses to go

      President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday urged foreign businesses in the Philippines worried about his deadly drug war to "pack up and leave", as he launched another anti-American tirade before flying to Japan to attract investments. Duterte voiced outrage at comments made the previous day by the top US envoy to Asia that his fiery rhetoric and crime war, which has claimed about 3,700 lives in four months, were bad for business. "These Americans are really crazy," Duterte said, as he held up a newspaper with headlines reporting criticism from US assistant secretary of state Daniel Russel.

    • Principal brutally beaten after telling teen to remove headphones

      The principal at a lower Manhattan high school was beaten to a pulp by a student on Monday when he told the teen to remove his headphones, sources said. Principal Matthew Tossman of Manhattan Early College School for Advertising, which is in inside Murry Bergtraum HS, spotted 18-year-old Luis Penzo with his headphones blasting in the hallway around noon, according to police sources. Tossman asked Penzo to turn down the music, and Penzo refused. Then, when Tossman tried to remove the headphones, the 18-year-old student cold-cocked the principal. Penzo continued to pounce on Tossman, socking him several times in the face, causing swelling and lacerations around both of the principal’s eyes. Tossman

      New York Post q
    • NFL morning after: The decline of Colin Kaepernick

      Colin Kaepernick is the NFL’s most significant player off the field, a player whose simple act of declining to stand during the national anthem has led to wide-ranging discussions across America about race, police brutality, free speech and the role of sport in society. That has been the subject of thousands of commentaries. But it’s…

      NBC Sports: ProFootballTalk q
    • How Donald Trump spectacularly failed his supporters

      At the start of his campaign for president, Donald Trump began to articulate a vision of American nationalism aimed at reviving the fortunes of the white working class. His core supporters believe that liberal immigration and trade policies are hurting them economically and culturally, so Trump promised to build a wall and reset the terms of global trade. No more, he swore, would their concerns be suppressed by the Republican Party's Wall Street and Ayn Rand wing. Everyone on the American right comforted themselves that Trump would flame out like Pat Buchanan or Mike Huckabee. And yet, seeing the enthusiasm of his supporters, they were afraid to challenge him directly. So Trump quickly began

      The Week q
    • A Royal rift as Princes Charles and Andrew row over Beatrice and Eugenie's taxpayer-funded duties

      The Queen is said to be at the centre of an extraordinary row within the Royal Family as her two eldest sons have come to blows over the futures of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie as taxpayer-funded working royals.

      International Business Times UK q
    • Mom Pleads To Save Her Nearly 300 Pound 11-Year-Old Daughter

      Miranda and her mother Julie have come to The Doctors seeking guidance and help to transform their eating habits in hopes of reversing their health issues. Miranda says the bullying from other kids has become a “daily routine” for her. Miranda, who has struggled with her own weight over her life, explains that they have attempted to change their eating habits, but admits she doesn’t know how to fix the issue.

      The Doctors TV
    • You wouldn’t want a Nintendo Switch without a dock

      There are some very basic questions about the capabilities of the Nintendo Switch that have yet to be answered or even addressed by Nintendo, and the company has already made it clear there’s more to learn about the device outside of the use cases we saw in the brief trailer. The dock’s ubiquity and likely low production cost has actually led us to question if we could buy more of them, rather than purchase a version of the Nintendo Switch hardware that excludes it.

      Polygon q
    • Lady Gaga Is 'Absolutely Not' Interested in Dating 'A Star Is Born' Co-Star Bradley Cooper

      The 30-year-old did not address her recent split from former fiancé Taylor Kinney during an interview with Howard Stern on Monday.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Report claims iPhone 8 will feature a revolutionary new design that no one saw coming

      Next year, Apple is expected to release a completely redesigned iPhone 8 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. Following three consecutive years of seeing the same design reused in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone 7, Apple is expected to make dramatic changes to the appearance of its next-generation iPhone, and to the technology included inside the device. Previous reports have stated that the new iPhone 8 will feature an OLED display that covers almost all of the phone's face, and the home button and fingerprint scanner will be embedded beneath the screen. The phone is also expected to have a glass back instead of aluminum, and metal will surround the outer edges as it did on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4. According to a new report, however, these claims have it all wrong and the iPhone 8's new design will be unlike anything the world has ever seen. DON'T MISS:  iPhone 7 Plus vs Google Pixel speed tests: Yup, Android still gets crushed According to everything we've heard so far from tried and true sources, next year's iPhone 8 sounds pretty terrific. The new OLED screen is long overdue and Apple's removal of the home button may finally let it shrink down the overall size of its iPhones without decreasing the size of the displays. Fans are excited enough as it is, but now a new report claims that Apple's upcoming iPhone redesign is far more revolutionary than any previous rumors claimed. "The next iPhone will be, I am told, a clear piece of glass (er, Gorilla Glass sandwich with other polycarbonates for being pretty shatter resistant if dropped) with a next-generation OLED screen (I have several sources confirming this)," wrote longtime tech blogger and current Entrepreneur in Residence at UploadVR in a post on Facebook . "You pop it into a headset which has eye sensors on it, which enables the next iPhone to have a higher apparent frame rate and polygon count than a PC with a Nvidia 1080 card in it." He says the next-generation iPhone will be clear — as in, completely transparent so that users can see straight through it — so that Apple can use it to power an augmented reality experience similar to the one offered by Microsoft's HoloLens. "The phone itself has a next-generation 3D sensor from Primesense, which Apple bought," Scoble added. "Apple has 600 engineers working in Israel on just the sensor. It's the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. It's the first product introduction in Apple's new amazing headquarters. It's a big f**king deal and will change this industry deeply." He continued, "Also, updates from new sources: expect battery and antennas to be hidden around the edges of the screen, which explains how Apple will fit in some of the pieces even while most of the chips that make up a phone are in a pack/strip at the bottom of the phone." This all sounds absolutely incredible... and completely implausible. First, we're years away from having technology that would enable Apple to build an iPhone like the one Scoble describes with a battery and antennas "hidden around the edges of the screen" that would last longer than about 4 minutes on a charge. We've seen some pretty spectacular tech as far as transparent displays are concerned — check out this invisible TV from Panasonic , which is incredible — but scaling it down to a device the size of a smartphone isn't happening in 2017. Beyond that, this contradicts everything we've heard so far from the most reliable sources in the world when it comes to leaking Apple's plans, such as The Wall Street Journal and KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Scoble has plenty of sources in the startup world and he's had some scoops in the past, but he doesn't quite have the kind of track record with Apple scoops that would make us confident in these outlandish claims, however much we'd love for them to be true.

      BGR News
    • Joe Maddon got his first job as a manager despite making a 'ballsy' demand during the interview

      The Chicago Cubs are back in the World Series for the first time since 1945, and a lot of credit...

      Business Insider
    • Terrorists have a cheap new weapon that's surprisingly simple to deploy

      A growing threat of hostile drones on the battlefield and at home is raising concern and accelerating the development of weapons to combat the problem.