For quite some time now, the most popular brand of over-the-ear headphones has been Beats by Dre, a brand built mainly on the reputation of hip-hop legend Dr. Dre. They have been called the best headphones in the world. They have worn the tagline "Listen to music as the artist intended". However much like BOSE in the home speaker world, there have been many who have claimed that Beats are over hyped and severely over rated. I decided to put them to the test, so I compared them to headphones significantly cheaper but well rated in two different categories: Skullcandy Crushers, respected as great headphones by those who love strong bass; and V-Moda's crossfade LP2 Voice limited edition headphones, highly rated as among the most durable and best sounding headphones in the world. Both are more than $100 less than the Beats Studio Over-Ear Headphones I compared them to, with the V-Moda's coming in at $199.99 and the Skullcandy's coming in at just $99.99 compared to the Beats at $299.99.
Beats by Dre Studio Over-Ear Headphones
Ok, here's the deal. If all you have ever compared them to is the headphones that came with your iPhone or iPod, Beats are AMAZING headphones. Huge drivers, adaptive noise cancelling, and distinctive popular design combine to make them very trendy. They deliver rich bass and decent range, but at $300 from Amazon they should be better than the headphones you got for free in the box with ANY electronic device. I found the Beats to be too heavy handed on the bass, to the point that on classical music the bass and drums were crowding out the cellos and tubas. For headphones this large and this expensive I would expect a much larger sound stage. The active noise canceling also seems to take something away from the sound, in my opinion. The build quality on these headphones looks good, but is in reality very poor. The band on the headphones I used for this review broke above the hinge after three days of moderate use. Never have I had a pair of headphones break before, and for it to happen on headphones this expensive is ridiculous. I know there have been rumors of Apple buying Beats for a ton of cash, but if they want to be successful they are going to need to improve quality, at least on the higher end.
The Skullcandy Crushers were my first comparison to the Beats, being the high end of SkullCandy's lineup. The sound actually has a lot in common with the Beats. Surprising to me was that these seemed to have a bit of a wider sound stage than the Beats, with better separation between mids and lows especially evident. It may be in part due to the lack of active noise cancelling, but to my ears it was assuredly a fuller sound. Build construction and design didn't appear as good, and you don't get any of the packaging extras that the Beats come with. However what they lack in appearance they make up for in durability. In fact, I gave these to my son and they haven't even broken with him leaving them laying around and getting tossed all over the place. At just $99.99 from Amazon you may not look as good as you would wearing a pair of Beats, but you'll be far happier with your purchase.
V-Moda LP2 Voice Special Edition
The V-Moda crossFade LP2 Voice quite frankly blew me away from the minute I opened the package. The build quality is as solid as it comes, meeting the US military's MIL-STD-810G Test Standards for durability. They are a bit heavy, but with sound this good I can live with the weight. The sound stage is amazingly broad, with solid separation between all frequencies, and amazing bass. No matter what I listened to the sound was amazingly clear. One problem I ran into is the ear pads that came with these headphones were too small for my ears to fit into, but fortunately V-Moda anticipated this and makes larger sized pads available.
On the left is the XL replacement pad, on the right the standard pads that come with the LP2sWith the larger ear pads the headphones are even more comfortable, and have an even better sound profile, which quite frankly surprised me. At only $199.99 on Amazon these are by far the best headphones I've ever heard.
In all, of the three headphones I tried over the last three weeks, the Beats finished last with the LP2s from V-Moda far and away the best. Beats may look cool and have become trendy because of their ties to the rap music scene, but the quality of construction and sound is terrible. Save yourself $100 and buy the V-Moda LP2 Voice series, your ears and wallet will thank you.