Beats Solo 4 vs. Beats Studio Pro: choose wisely

Phil Nickinson holding the Beats Solo 4 and the Beats Studio Pro headphones.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Beats fandom is real. While Beats headphones might not dominate our list of the best headphones, there’s no denying the importance of the Beats brand. And you don’t have to take our word for it — just look around on the streets. Chances are you’ll pass someone with a Beats logo firmly attached atop their ears.

But 2024 finds us in a precarious position. There are now two solid contenders — one new, one not quite a year old — in the Beats headphones category. The Beats Solo 4 are the young pup, situated on the lower end of the lineup. The Beats Studio Pro are hardly old and have proven their worth since their release midway through 2023.

But which is right for you? And if you’re choosing between Beats fare, which should you get? We’ve got some thoughts.

The biggest differences

We’ll get to price in a bit. But the story of the Beats Solo 4 versus the Beats Studio Pro really needs to start with the biggest differences on the specs sheets.

One earcup of the Beats Solo 4 and Beats Studio Pro.
The Beats Solo 4 (left) are slightly smaller than the Beats Studio Pro. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

First is the difference in form. Beats Studio Pro are of the over-the-ear variety, while Beats Studio 4 are on-ear. That means the former sits over and around your ears, while the latter pushes on top of them. Because of that, Beats Studio Pro generally are considered to be a little more comfortable, especially over longer durations. And that’s doubly so if you wear glasses, either of the prescription or sunny variety. Over-ears also passively block out a little extra sound.

That’s not to say that Beats Solo 4 are uncomfortable, or allow in all kinds of ambient sound. They’re not — at least if you’re not wearing glasses — and they don’t. At least not completely. It’s just that they’re in a slightly different physical category.

The second major difference between Beats Studio Pro and Beats Solo 4 is active noise cancellation, or ANC. The Studio Pro have it. The Solo 4 do not.

And that’s all there is to say about that. If you want headphones that use the onboard microphones to cancel out the ambient noise — or most of the ambient noise, if you prefer to use the transparency function — then you’ll want the Beats Studio Pro. The Beats Solo 4 don’t have that feature.

Also, the Beats Solo 4 are smaller overall. Not a ton, and it’s not like it really changes the fit and feel — it’s more a function of them being on-ear headphones instead of over-ear headphones. But it’s noticeable.

Battery life

The inside earcups of the Beats Solo 4 (left) and Beats Studio Pro.
Despite being smaller, the Beats Solo 4 (seen here in blue) have 25% longer playback time. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

This is one of those categories that just doesn’t matter all that much to me. On paper, there’s not a whole lot of difference here. The Beats Studio Pro theoretically get you up to 40 hours of playback before needing to be recharged. Beats Solo 4 get you 50 hours of playback, or 25% more. That’s not nothing.

But we’re also comparing apples and oranges. While both of those runtimes are without any active noise cancellation (because, again, Beats Solo 4 don’t even have that option), the Studio Pro will use more battery if you have ANC turned on. So keep that in the back of your mind.

But the reason I don’t really worry about battery life on either of these headphones is that I’m never — ever — going to wear them for so long in a single stretch that I’d completely kill them. The only time that’s ever been a problem for me has been on a transoceanic flight. And in that case, it really just means that I should have gotten up and walked around the plane and hydrated a little sooner. And both will add a fair number of hours of playback time with just a few minutes of charging, which is more than enough time to hit the lavatory and stretch your legs on a flight.

So battery life is a wash for me. It’s moot.

One area in which the Beats Solo 4 have a small leg up is that you can use them when they’re completely drained, thanks to the 3.5mm audio cable. That’s nice if you have no way to charge them up for a few minutes. The Studio Pro can’t claim that.

And one more relatively small (but slightly annoying) difference: The Beats Studio Pro have LED indicators that show battery life in addition to power and pairing. The Beats Solo 4 just have a single LED that doesn’t show battery life.

Sound quality

The Beats Solo 4 headphones.
The Beats Solo 4 are competent, but don’t sound as good as the Beats Studio Pro. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

This is where we get to the important stuff. The Beats Studio Pro sound better than the Beats Solo 4. Full stop. And they should — they’re more expensive. It’s plenty obvious which ones sit higher in the Beats pecking order.

The Beats Studio Pro have more balanced sound, and there’s more bass to match with the treble. The Solo 4, meanwhile, are a bit lacking on the low end. Or a bit overpowered on the upper ranges. Either way, it’s very noticeable that the Beats Studio Pro sound better.

The Beats studio Pro headphones.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Then there’s the matter of ANC. Again, the Beats Studio Pro are noise-canceling headphones. The Beats Solo 4 are not.

Both support 24-bit/48kHz lossless audio via USB-C, though, which is good if you’re into that sort of thing. The Studio Pro sprinkle a little extra sugar thanks to a three-profile sound option when using USB-C, and that’s a nice thing to have.

Both headphones support spatial audio, and both headphones work just fine with Android phones. You’ll find tighter integration with iOS, of course — Beats is still owned by Apple. But functionally, there’s no real difference between the platforms.

If phone calls are important to you, the Beats Studio Pro will win out thanks to ANC and transparency modes.

It all comes down to price

This is where things either are extremely clear, or a little muddied.

The Beats Studio Pro cost $350 at retail prices. The Beats Solo 4 cost $200 at retail. That’s a big difference and a major reason a lot of folks are likely to settle for the Beats Solo 4.

Phil Nickinson wearing Beats Solo 4.
The Beats Solo 4 won’t make you not look like a middle-aged man. Even in blue. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

But sales can and do happen. And it just so happened that as the Beats Solo 4 were announced and went on sale, the Beats Studio Pro could be had at a discounted price of $250. That’s about a 29% discount off the retail price, or about 25% more than the Beats Solo 4. And that extra $50 will get you better sound and active noise cancellation.

For many folks, that’s $50 well-spent. Others might not care that much and will be fine with the model with lower specs. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Phil Nickinson wearing Beats Studio Pro.
The Beats Studio Pro also won’t make you not look like a middle-aged man. But they do sound better. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

When it comes to retail pricing, it’s really just a matter of what you want fitting into the budget you have. If you’re not looking to spend upward of $300, then you’ll want the Beats Solo 4.

But if you can get either the Beats Solo 4 for $200 or the Beats Studio Pro for $250, it’s a no-brainer. Spend the extra money and get the Beats Studio Pro.

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