Beats Solo3 Wireless review: Beats popular on-ear wireless headphone gains best-in-class battery life

The Beats Solo3 Wireless on-ear Bluetooth headphones ($ 300 / £ 250 / AU $ 400) look almost identical to the Beats Solo 2 Wireless because, at least on the outside, Beats hasn’t updated its design. The big change is on the inside: Solo3 uses Apple’s new W1 custom Bluetooth chip, which dramatically improves battery life and makes it easier to pair headphones with Apple devices.

The headset works flawlessly with Android and other Bluetooth-enabled devices, and the battery life is the same for iOS and Android – a whopping 40 hours. That’s a huge leap from the 12 hours the Beats Solo2 Wireless is rated at, and this has the best battery life of any Bluetooth headset I’ve tested so far (I’ve used it for a week without recharging). It also features Beats’ Fast Fuel feature, which offers 3 hours of battery life on a 5-minute charge.

The Solo3 Wireless in silver.

Sarah Tew / CNET

However, unlike the new one BeatsX, which uses a Lightning cable for charging, this model comes with a Micro-USB charging cable.

On the plus side, my wireless connection with the headphones was solid, and the W1 chip makes it easy to switch between the Apple devices you’ve paired the headphones with. Overall, the headphones perform very well and I’ve always liked its compact size and the way it folds to fit into a relatively small case (yes, that case is included).

For better or for worse, Beats hasn’t updated the sound. The Solo3 Wireless sounds very good for an on-ear Bluetooth headset and will appeal to bass lovers who prefer a sound profile that accentuates the bass but manages to avoid being too boomy. However, it doesn’t sound as clean as Beats’ more balanced Studio Wireless over-ear model, which has come down in price and I find it more comfortable (the Beats Solo3 Wireless ($ 162 on Amazon) offers a very snug fit – the headphones stay firmly on the head, even while running – they end up pressing lightly on the ears).

This is a headset designed to be worn outdoors, and the extra bass came in handy when I was walking the streets of New York and competing with a lot of ambient noise, including the subway when I went underground. The headphones passively isolate a good amount of sound, but some ambient noise penetrates and the extra bass doesn’t sound as accentuated on the outside (you really hear it in quiet rooms, however) and the headphones feel a bit more balanced.