Wireless over-the-ear headphones are my thing. I know all about them. I own nearly ever pair of higher end over-the-ear, Bluetooth 5.0 (or higher) headphones from brands like Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Technics, Mark Levinson, Focal, T+A (from Germany), two pairs from Bowers & Wilkins, Monoprice, Apple and many more.
Today’s wireless headphones have a “sound” to them because of Bluetooth 5.0 but barely. The more high-end audiophile headphones sound notably better. They tend to follow the Harman Curve (Harman is the parent company, now owned by Samsung, who makes some of the best professional audio as well as consumer headphones. Their “curve” is a measurement metric designed to replicate the sound of a pair of well-tuned loudspeakers in a listening room.) Nearly every headphone company shoots to achieve the Harman Curve. The Mark Levinson No. 5909 come the closest but they are almost $1,000 a pair for audiophile grade wireless headphones.
During COVID, I looked into starting my own headphone company. While this audiophile market opportunity has now passed thanks to the aforementioned players entering the space. I was able to learn a lot about the headphone business – especially on the OEM side. OEM is a company, likely in China, Vietnam or Taiwan, who makes a product for you. Pretty much everybody uses an OEM – even Beats/Apple. They use companies like Foxconn which I could have never dreamed of affording but you get the idea.
The Shepard of the project was an EX-Harman engineer. He left Harman and redid videophile TV manufacturer, Vizio’s, sound bars with great performance as well as financial results. He’s an independent contractor today with a partner who speaks seven languages and is based in China. They were a valuable resource to be polite. To be able to walk the gigantic Asia Tent at CES (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show) without a translator would be close to impossible to get anything accomplished. David was a total champion.
My Sheppard in the project told me of how many Harman headphone engineers that Apple has enticed to leave Harman to work for Apple (and Beats) in Culver City, California. They’ve wooed a lot of engineers to the Apple/Beats world.
So are the headphones any good today from the absolutely terrible headphones that we sold by dozens if not hundreds of home theater and audiophile dealers and specialty stores. The quick answer is that today’s top of the line Beats aka: the Beats Studio 3s which are reviewed here, are a slight improvement over the original Monster Cable Beats which were possibly the worst headphones that anyone has ever heard. Today’s Beats are still very bass forward meaning they have much more low frequency output than other expensive headphones in the wireless, luxury headphone market.
The net-net of the discussion on today’s best Beats by Dre headphones is that they are much more of a fashion statement than an audiophile gem. For those who want to put, in effect, a Nike Air Jordan, over their ears – Beats are the answer. For those who want to blow out their hearing listening to rap and hip-hop at high volumes with the bass jacked up (by design) then there are Beats.
This brings me to my wife. She’s had not one but two pairs of Beats by Dre headphones – both colored in pink. She loved all things pink and don’t try to convince her that pink isn’t the best color because it is. She had procured her two pairs of Beats via work rewards programs (it must be nice to work for a FANG tech company right?) but both have since broken.
When she was in need again for headphones, I put a pair of Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2s in white on her desk. When she saw them, she fell in love with them and wanted them to keep. I have two pair thanks to a gift so why not? While they aren’t pink Beats, Bowers & Wilkins come with an audiophile legacy that is beyond belief. Bowers & Wilkin speakers are used at Abbey Road Studios in the U.K. They are used at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Ranch in California. They are the branded car audio brand found in McLaren, Maserati, Volvo, Aston Martin and other luxury brands.
So in the end, I was able to get my wife to convert to the audiophile ways over the fashion-first, trendy world of Apple and Beats. Women don’t tend to gravitate to the audiophile hobby so using better performance wasn’t the best tact for getting the wife over to a more high performance, better measuring headphone. The white styling and the gorgeous fit and finish of the Bowers & Wilkins was my secret weapon in my war against bad sounding, trendy headphones.
And the best part is – I won. (so did my wife)…