Monster Beats by Dr Dre Studio Review

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Monster Beats by Dr Dre Studio
Brief: Original noise-cancelling model from Monster’s Dre-endorsed headphone line

MSRP: $349.99
Current Price: $200 from amazon.com

Build Quality (7.5/10): As with the cheaper Beats by Dr Dre Solo, the construction of the Studio model utilizes mostly heavy plastics with a glossy finish. The moving parts are metal but the Studio, being much heavier than the Solo, tends to rattle a bit at the hinges. On the upside, the padding of the Studio is a bit more generous and there is no driver flex. The ANC function requires a pair of AAA batteries, which slot into a compartment on the left earcup. The right earcup holds a sliding on/off switch and a handy mute button. Like the Solo, the Studio is equipped with a detachable 3.5mm cable but the jack is slightly recessed so not all replacement cables will work.

Comfort (8.5/10): The Beats Studio is a circumaural headphone similar in size to the V-Moda Crossfade LP. Like the Crossfade, the Studio is on the heavy side as far as portable headphones go but the padding is ample and long-term comfort is quite good. It does get a little warm after a while but not too bad.

Isolation (9/10): The passive isolation of the Beats lags just a tad behind that of the V-Moda Crossfades and other mid-size circumaurals but the ANC functionality makes up for it for those who travel. Personally, I don’t think the ANC is very impressive compared to the higher-end Bose sets but it does work as advertised.

Sound (6.75/10): I’ve read multiple times that the Beats by Dre Studio are vastly superior in sound quality to the Beats Solo I happen to have reviewed recently, but I just don’t hear it. The problems of the Studio are all the same ones that the Solo suffers from – slightly bloated bass, mediocre clarity (considering the price), and a congested presentation. Like the Solo, the Studio has emphasized, omnipresent bass that is nevertheless tighter than the muddy low end of the V-Moda Crossfades. The bass is aggressive and, at time, intrusive. Impact is good but the texture and detail leave some to be desired, especially considering the price of the headphones. The cheaper Sennheiser HD25, for example, sounds much faster, cleaner, and more controlled than the Beats without giving up much impact. As with the Solos, I feel that the bass of the Studios, while powerful, is not true to source, glossing over detail for the sake of moving more air. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the drivers Monster used in the headphones are slow, but for the price tag I expect a lot more resolution from a set of full-size headphones.

There is some mid-range bleed with the Studios but it is limited by the slight forwardness of the mids (at least when compared to the Solo). Midrange clarity is about on-par with the Solos and on-level with the $40 Sennheiser PX90 I’ve been listening to, which is not terrible for a headphone with the bass bloat of the Monster Studios but certainly very disappointing for the asking price. There is a very slight but constant veil over the midrange and treble regions, which is made all the more annoying by the constant hiss of the ANC circuit and the additional interference it picks up from some RF devices. At their quietest, the Beats Studio are about as silent as a very sensitive headphone with a huge impedance mismatch. As a result, they really do not impress during quiet passages. Detail and texture are again fairly average as far as portable sets go – certainly no better than with the $60 Sennheiser PX100-II or the $90 AKG K430s. On the whole, the Beats sound a bit smoothed-over, as if designed to hide poor mastering and compression artifacts – not traits I normally associate with headphones named ‘Studio’.

Expectedly, the treble of the Studios is a bit laid-back compared to the midrange but not missing altogether. Detail and clarity are similarly mediocre and the top end seems to roll off a bit earlier than with my HD25-1. The lack of notable treble emphasis does mean that there’s no sibilance or harshness to the sound of the Beats but some information is missing at the top, resulting in a slightly dark and muffled overall treble presentation without much air. Tonally, the Studios are on the warm side of things but not quite up there with the Phiaton MS400s. The soundstage of the Studio Beats is slightly larger than that of the Sennheiser HD25 but the Sennheisers are much better at separating out spatial cues, largely due to their greater clarity and detail. While the Studios do beat the Solos in presentation, they are still not what I would call spacious or three-dimensional in presentation. Most annoyingly, the Studios get overwhelmed fairly easily on busy tracks due to a lethal combination of congested presentation and overblown bass. Interestingly, the Studio model is a bit more efficient than the Solo model and the slightly greater dynamic range means music played through them is still enjoyable at safe listening volumes.

Value (6/10): The original Monster Beats by Dr Dre model, the Studio is the headphone responsible for introducing an entire generation to high-end portable audio. As with the Beats Solo, the Studio is not a hi-fi headphone no matter how many times Monster tacks “HD” to the name – fidelity was clearly not a design criterion when they were tuned. Like the cheaper Beats Solo, the Studio is a bass-heavy set with relatively good presence throughout and a congested, but not claustrophobic, presentation. Those who have heard other Beats models should also not be surprised to learn that the clarity and resolution are not particularly great and that they tend to sound a bit murky at the top. However, an entire generation is now more open-minded to spending upwards of $150 on a set of headphones and that’s a victory for the entire industry. As for the Beats themselves, I see no reason to pay $275 for them. The ANC feature may be of value to some, but if ANC is the goal, Bose does it better anyway in my experience. Attention to detail is good but again the cheaper V-Moda Crossfades are packaged and accessorized better than the Beats, which just leaves build quality and comfort. The build quality is reasonable but the construction is not bulletproof – any of the popular DJ cans in the $100-200 range will last longer if abused. The comfort is probably the most competitive aspect of the beats, but again many other large portables do comfort just as well for less. I can see why the Beats are popular, I really can – the combination of features and marketing has always been a large part of Monster’s brilliance – but I can only hope that in planning to purchase the Beats, a small fraction of music lovers will stumble on a truly hi-fi set instead and make an educated purchasing decision.

Manufacturer Specs:
Frequency Response: N/A
Impedance: N/A
Sensitivity: N/A
Cord: 4.3ft (1.3m), single-sided, detachable; Angled Plug
Space-Saving Mechanism: Collapsible


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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