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

    • Missing man found dead in belly of 7m-long PYTHON in Indonesia

      Villagers in Indonesia were left horrified when they discovered the body of a missing man inside the belly of a giant snake. A six-minute video on the website of the Tribun Timur publication shows villagers slicing open the 7m-long python’s carcass to reveal the legs and torso of the 25-year-old victim, named Akbar Salubiro. Junaedi, the secretary of Salubiro village in West Sulawesi province, said that villagers began searching for Akbar on Monday night after realising he had not returned from his palm oil crops.

      Yahoo News UK
    • Love, Marriage – and Babies! How the Property Brothers Finally Settled Down – and Why They Still Live Together

      The Property Brothers Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott stay connected. As the stars of HGTV’s most popular series, Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan Scott, 38, have spinoff shows, a bestselling book (their second, It Takes Two: Our Story, comes out Sept. 5), their own production company and a collection of furniture and decor. “This is the most humbling, unexpected, fantastic place to be in my life,” Jonathan tells PEOPLE of his relationship with girlfriend, Jacinta Kuznetsov, 28, a development producer at Scott Entertainment.

      People
    • Dog owner fatally mauled by Staffordshire bull terrier while he was being 'interviewed for BBC documentary'

      A dog owner mauled to death by his Staffordshire bull terrier was allegedly being interviewed by the BBC when the horrific attack took place. The man’s cause of death was recorded as hypovolemic shock and damage to the airway – with the injuries said to be consistent with a dog bite. The dog remains in secure kennels after being seized by police – who have since confirmed that the animal is not prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

      Yahoo News UK
    • Girl Savagely Edits Her Former Friend Out of Picture See the Hilarious Results

      Girl Hilariously Photoshops Friend Out of Picture

      People
    • This divorced couple gets together every year to take a family photo with their son (4 photos)

      Adam Dyson and Victoria Baldwin may no longer be married, but they will always be parents. “We are not in love, we don’t always agree, we’re not best friends, sometimes we don’t even like one another. But you know what we are? We are forever connected because of our beautiful, smart, kind, compassionate, funny son,” writes Baldwin in a Facebook post that was shared by Love What Matters . The couple got divorced shortly after their son turned two, and even though they live in completely different states (Baldwin is serving in the military in Alaska while Dyson is ex-military and attending school in South Carolina), they make an effort to get together with their son for a family photo every 12 to 18 months. “Adam and I are not perfect co-parents, but we made a deal when we got divorced, to put our son first and to value the richness that we each bring to his life, for different reasons,” she writes. “We both need to be there, we both deserve quality time and quality memories with him. Neither of us blame one another for the direction our relationship took. We do not place blame on one another, and we certainly don’t place blame in the presence of our son.” ALSO SEE:  When it wouldn’t stop raining, this family did a muddy maternity photoshoot instead The almost-annual family portraits started before the divorce when Baldwin, who was a professional photographer herself, would get photos taken of the her husband and herself. When Bruce came along, Baldwin wanted photos “to capture milestone and the growth of our son.” “There wasn’t a huge discussion about it,” Baldwin tells Yahoo Canada . “I asked Adam if he would like to come, so he could get photos will Bruce as well. He agreed that was a great idea, and we naturally decided a family portrait was part of that session, in addition to our individual photos with Bruce. After our first post-divorce professional photo, we decided to continue it for the foreseeable future.” And so began an adorable tradition, one that Bruce looks forward to. “[Since] our divorce was finalized shortly after his second birthday, Bruce doesn’t have memories of mom and dad being romantic together,” Baldwin says. “He loves it when we are all together!” But Bruce isn’t the only one loving the family portraits, Baldwin’s photos on Facebook received thousands of likes, with hundreds of commenters sharing their own experiences. ALSO SEE: We divorced to save our relationship “Good for you guys! It truly is an act of selflessness to do this for your son! My ex husband and I remain friends and respect each other and get along great. Not only for our four kids, but for us as well!” writes one. “This is so important. Growing up, I had family photos with “both” my families. Everything was kept so separate that it made me feel like two different people,” says another. “We want Bruce to know families don’t have to fit a specific mould to be a family even when things may seem like they are falling apart. We want him to know it’s possible to come back together in a different way, and still have happiness and joy in your heart,” Baldwin says. “The ending of a romantic relationship didn’t mean the ending of a relationship all together, it meant we needed to find a new way to love and parent our son together, just no longer together.  Two homes, twice the love, I always say!” What do you think of Baldwin’s family photos? Let us know by tweeting us @YahooStyleCA .

      Yahoo Canada Style
    • How a Body Positive Blogger Stopped Trolls in Their Tracks With 1 Bikini Pic

      Body positivity blogger Ana Carolina Rojas has nothing to hide, not even the hate she receives from trolls. Rojas was minding her own business, enjoying a beautiful, warm day of sunbathing and sharing it with her followers when a troll attacked.

      Yahoo Style
    • Halep talks herself into defeat against Konta at Miami Open

      (Reuters) - Britain's Johanna Konta recovered from the brink of defeat at the Miami Open on Wednesday to beat third seed Simona Halep in the quarter-final. Halep was only two points from victory in the second set, but could not put away her opponent, who pounced on the Romanian's evident emotional fragility to prevail 3-6 7-6(7) 6-2. "It was a really tough match, very high level," Halep told the WTA after the match.

      Reuters
    • 'Good Morning America' anchors reportedly 'sick' of Michael Strahan getting special treatment

      Michael Strahan’s role at “Good Morning America” is still ruffling feathers at the morning show. Sources claim fellow anchors on the show are sick of ABC bosses giving him preferential treatment. “They roll out the carpet for [Strahan] while seasoned talent is treated like dirt. He’s been given a lot of opportunity, flexibility, when the others who have been working there longer don’t get that kind of treatment,” a source said. Strahan signed a special deal that allows him to continue to analyze football at “Fox NFL Sunday” and host ABC’s “$100,000 Pyramid.” But he was forced to drop most of his lucrative endorsement deals when he joined the morning show. Meanwhile, pop anchor Lara Spencer, “feels

      Fox News q
    • Guilty German Shepherd can't hide shame

      You be the judge: Is Shadow the German Shepherd guilty or not? The evidence is a bit overwhelming...

      Rumble
    • 'Property Brothers' stars Drew and Jonathan Scott open up about romance, settling down

      Drew and Jonathan Scott have charmed viewers for years as HGTV's "Property Brothers." Now, the twins, 38, are opening up on how they charmed the lucky ladies in their lives. "The moment I saw her, it was her energy," Drew told People magazine of his fiancée, Linda Phan. Drew Scott and Phan met in 2010, and became engaged in December.

      Good Morning America
    • ASU Student Receiving Death Threats for FB Post

      "I think my duty as an empowered immigrant and an empowered woman is to use that empowerment to speak for those who are still too scared."

      Cosmopolitan
    • 911 Call Released in 'Make My Day' Home Invasion Killings

      Three teens are dead, and a 21-year-old woman has been arrested.

      Inside Edition
    • We tested 4 boxed brownie mixes and figured out the only brand worth buying

      The INSIDER Summary: We tested four national brands of boxed brownie mixes. The options were Duncan Hines, Pillsbury, Ghirardelli, and Betty Crocker. Betty Crocker's brownies tasted the best and closest to homemade. Ghirardelli's came in last due to a cakier texture and slightly bland flavor. Baking brownies from scratch is an art form and our previous experiments with recipes proves it. So sometimes a boxed mix will be easiest — but which type should you choose? As part of an ongoing INSIDER taste test series — check out our chocolate cake taste test and pancake mix comparisons — we compared brownie mix brands to see which is worth your money. We bought four different plain fudge brownie mixes:

      Business Insider q
    • Body of missing Indonesian man found inside giant python

      An Indonesian man, who had not been seen since the weekend, was found inside a 23ft (7m)-long python. Villagers on the island of West Sulawesi had the horrific task of cutting open the giant snake's stomach to retrieve the body.

      International Business Times
    • Venus downs Kerber to set up Konta clash at WTA Miami Open

      Venus Williams rolled back the years to send world number one Angelique Kerber crashing out of the Miami Open on Wednesday and advance to a semi-final showdown with Britain's Johanna Konta. Williams, at 36 the oldest woman in the field, downed Kerber in straight sets, winning 7-5, 6-3 while Konta fought back to beat Romania's Simon Halep 3-6, 7-6(9/7), 6-2. Both results had the element of surprise about them with Kerber the top seed and Halep the third and in good form, but they set up what should be a fascinating contest on Thursday.

      AFP
    • Amal Clooney Shows Off Baby Bump in Chic Red Dress in London -- See the Pics!

      The 39-year-old attorney is hard at work in London while husband George Clooney promotes his new film in Las Vegas.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Mama June Regrets Her Weight Loss Surgery

      The long recovery time took a toll.

      Delish