Ask LH: Are Beats By Dre Headphones Any Good?

Ask LH: Are Beats By Dre Headphones Any Good?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m in the market for a new pair of headphones, and I’ve been eyeballing the Beats By Dre Studios. I like a lot of bass in my music, but some people tell me they suck and are overpriced. Are they actually horrible, or are these people just snobby audiophiles who like to hate on popular headphones? Will I notice a difference? Sincerely, Bickering Over Beats

Pictures: Jezper (Shutterstock), Titanas, Joseph Thornton

Dear Bickering,

People have been asking us this question for years, so we’ve decided it’s time to settle this once and for all.

As snobby as (some) audiophiles may seem, they’re right on this one: Beats are… not great. Not only are they not worth their price, there are a lot of headphones that will give you better sound — with lots of bass — for less. Here’s the issue surrounding these fashionable cans, and what we recommend looking at instead.

The Problem With Beats

I tried Beats years ago, before my foray into headphones, and I thought they sounded awesome. Since then, I’ve tried numerous other headphones and assumed that people hated Beats just because it was fashionable to do so. I assumed they were probably OK quality and only overpriced because of the brand name. I recently tried a pair of Beats Studios again, and I was shocked to find that I was wrong: they really aren’t very good.

The problem isn’t that the Beats have too much bass. It’s that they have too much low quality bass, and that their mids and treble are even worse. If you want to hear what Beats sound like, pull up your equaliser and ram the mid-bass frequencies up a bit. There’s not nearly enough definition to make the bass sound good, it’s just… loud and boomy. Plus, it drowns out nearly everything else in the music — which is arguably OK, because the treble and mids sound like they’re coming from inside a well. The Pro and Executive lines are supposed to be better than the Studios and Solos (I haven’t tried them myself), but they’re even more money — and still not worth their price.

Many audiophiles will tell you that you “shouldn’t” be using a headphone with such emphasised bass. In my opinion, that’s bull. Listen to whatever sounds good to you. But even if Beats sound good to you now, you’ll be shocked when you hear something of higher quality — for less money.

That’s right. We don’t have to tell you that Beats are overpriced. When you buy a pair of Beats, you’re paying for style and branding. If that’s what you want, then go for it — we have no vested interest in what you wear on your head. But if you’re looking for awesome sound, we have some headphones you might like better.

Bass-Heavy Alternatives To Beats

So what should you buy instead? If you search around the internet, you’ll find a lot of articles recommending a bunch of random high-end headphones, but we know that’s not what you want. You’re looking for something specific: bass, and lots of it. You probably listen to a lot of hip-hop or electronic music, and bass-heavy cans are going to make it sound awesome. Some of these headphones may be good for rock and pop, too, but those genres usually excel with a more balanced headphone.

Here are a few recommendations for bass-heavy Beats alternatives:

  • Denon AH-D600: In my opinion, these are the ultimate Beats alternatives. They’re a little less portable, and they don’t have active noise cancellation, but they have some serious, high-quality bass slam. It drowns out the mids a tad, but overall the rest of the sound is much clearer and more balanced than Beats’.
  • V-Moda Crossfade M-100: These are the only headphones on the list that I’ve never heard, but word on the street is they’re the other ultimate Beats replacements — and for around the same price as the Beats Studios. They are much more portable than the Denons, so if that’s important to you, they’re worth looking at.
  • Audio Technica ATH-M50: Audio Technica’s insanely popular M50s are not quite as bassy as the others on this list, but still have a but of extra punch in the lower end. Their higher end is also a tad brighter. This would probably be a good headphone if you listen to genres other than rap or electronic.
  • Shure SRH750DJ: Not quite as popular as either the above contenders, the SRH750DJ has some really nice bass boost that doesn’t drown out the mids quite as much. Treble suffers slightly, and they aren’t the most comfortable things in the world, but they’re worthy of their small but loyal fanbase.
  • Ultrasone HFI-580: Like the M50s, most of the Ultrasone line has a nice bass boost, but the treble tends to be on the brighter side (even brighter than the M50s, in my experience). Check out the 780s if you’re willing to spend a bit more.

These are far from the only bassy headphones out there, but if you’re considering Beats, these are some of the most oft-recommended replacements at a few different price points. I highly recommend you listen to a few before you run off and buy one (as my impressions and tastes will differ from yours), and you should also check out this giant thread at Head-Fi which has a lot of information on bass-heavy cans. And, of course, check out our headphone buying guide for other tips and info if you don’t have a lot of experience with headphones.


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  • Beats should have a disclaimer “For optimal performance listen to crunk or hiphop produced by DrDre” casue thats what they were designed for.


  • The Beats get a lot of hate similar to apple products. I understand they are not worth whatever ridiculous price JBHI-FI or Harvey Norman is charging but if you can get some on special at Kogan or somewhere else cheap I would never say these are bad headphones. I like my Studio headphones and haven’t used any other headphones since i bought em almost 2 years ago.

    • Wouldn’t it be beneficial to use other headphones every now and then to get a comparison though? I mean, I thought my old Razer headphones were decent a long time ago until I started using other brands and realised just how bad the Razer ones actually are.

      • Depends I use buds when im working out. But other then that i dont have much use for another pair of headphones. But I understand where you are coming from.

    • When I buy a MacBook, I’m paying a premium for a nice build, good engineering and peace of mind with Apple’s post-purchase customer support. That’s something I can live with. If Beats were great headphones, then there’s a case that they’re worth every penny but by virtually all metric, they’re not. You’re paying more for less, even on sale. If you like the look of them and that’s something you’re willing to pay for, then more power to you.

  • I would also recommend the AKG-619’s. Reasonably priced, good thick bass with out compromising the higher frequencies.

    • AKG makes some decent sets. I’d also recommend anything from beyerdynamic (except maybe the Custom One Pro) as good mid-priced sets that are pretty solid across most all types of music.

  • A few years ago I bought the Audiotechnica’s and OMG they are amazing.. Beats Beats for 6!. I use them on my DJ decks and I have a fairly good PA system too and they block the PA system out fairly well and are loud and clear!

  • I’m no headphone connoisseur but awhile ago I started seeing Beats everywhere. Then I started seeing bootleg Beats in street stalls for $20, which I felt probably explained the sudden popularity.

    So I’m pretty sure no one is buying Beats for how they sound. I think they were a fad. And I’m pretty sure that fad has expired.

    • True.
      And the whole “style” argument???? Sure, if you think MacDonanlds and KFC are “stylish”, which is what Beats stuff is the equivalent of.

  • As a very general observation, audio companies with huge marketing budgets tend to not really be that great and also overpriced IMO, although I’m probably only really just thinking of Bose and Beats here.

  • I bought myself a set of Sony over-ear headphones for $95 at Harvey Normans and they are the best headphones i have ever had although i have always wanted a set of Sennheiser headphones but they are a little outside of my price range.

    I remember my sister had a Beats Audio codec on her computer and it sounded absolutely shit no matter the settings, once i uninstalled it and installed another HD audio codec everything sounded fine.

    • I have sennheiser HD 215s I know they’re hardly their top of the line but I am a little disappointed.

  • Can anyone recommend Klipsch i have never used them but have heard they are not too bad. Anyone used them before?

    • i have a Klipsch sound bar cost me 700 but it was well worth the money Sounds Amazing it puts out better bass than my old Stereo that had dedicated subwoofer. Cant Comment on the headphones or Earphones but if the Speakers are anything to go by they must be great.

    • +1 this is a great australian company with fantastic customer service.

      Look at the Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro as well, although you will also need an amplifier to really bring out the bass in these – the Fiio E11 or E12 are excellent choices to match this headphone.

      The Shure SRH-840 are good if your on a budget, and the SRH-440 is under $100. Both of these will benefit immensely from an equalizer on your phone – the best one for android is Equalizer by Smart Android Apps LLC.

      If your looking for active noise cancelling as well, consider the Audio Technica ATH-ANC9 or if you are on a budget the ATH-ANC27 offer spectacular bass for the $119 price tag, some people find them a little uncomfortable though.

      Headphonic are a fantastic company and I would not hesitate to reccomend them to anyone.

      • Another +1 to those guys helped me out so much when I was looking for my Beyerdynamic DT-250s. I have been very happy with running these, they have a very nice, super clean and super detailed sound.

        I must admit though, I did end up buying them from due to their cheaper price. The guys there are pretty good too.

        Also a great place that you just can’t look past for advice and horror stories about Beats is are the resident Whirlpool audiophiles found here. If you ask a question though, just make sure to hang around and help out some other people too.

  • i use a skullcandy uprock. Much cheaper and decent bass sound. However, my fav is the Senheiser PX 100 -II.

    Another thing to consider is if there are replaceable parts- whilst the skullcandy was ok, there are no replaceable parts.

  • About 4 Months ago i purchased a set of Astro A50 gaming headphones and despite being for gaming it has settings for movies and music as well They are by far the best $300 i have ever spend on anything the bass is so clear and mids and treble sound amazing as well. and because they where made for gaming you can were then comfortably for hours at a time. They Sound much better than my old $600 Bose headphones.

  • Beats should not be considered as a legitimate choice if you’re going for quality. If you want to think you look cool cause it’s the popular brand by all means then.

  • Of course this article and most of the comments miss the most obvious point. It depends entirely what you are listening to with them.

    • Beats might not be bad for some peoples music tastes, but that does not mean that they are anywhere near the best quality or value!

  • I was given some studio beats as a present… I would never pay for them out of my own pocket. Way too much bass/low mid. Overpriced. For not much more than the RRP of the beats I got a set of triple driver custom-moulded IEMS from 1964ears… WAYYYYY better!

  • as an AV tech – My headphones need to be flat (all ranges as they should be) so it sounds how it comes from the source.

    For people that need sooo much bass must have a very small range of music, because most genres have songs that the artist has spent a lot of effort into adding content in mids & highs (like instruments other than bass & drums, and seemingly unimportant things like vocals)

    I’m sure I read an article here about the birth of Beats (inexperienced Asian entrepreneur buys big american name to market headphones, consequently cut out of the deal so the big name can make more bucks) and personally I look for a brands heritage – AKG, Beyer, Sony, Sennheiser (my fav) etc has been around long enough to use their name, not just a person who happens to be in an industry that uses them (i’d be buying headphones sound engineers recommend)

  • No love for the Sony MDR-V6 or its brother the MDR-7506? Be wary of fakes on fleaBay though. Probably the most neutral sounding headphones for the price.

  • +1 for the Vmoda M100’s great set of cans for the price. Built rock solid with a DJ centric focus the quality is amazing like kevlar reinforced cables and metal construction. A lot of big DJ’S are rocking these cans so if you like your music with big bass punch, clear mids and good isolation go these. They also won DJ Tech Mags headphone of the year for 2013.

  • Some surprisingly good suggestions for alternatives. Good on you mate, not often one gets the opportunity to give praise on this shitty blog.

  • I have the Audio Technica ATH-M50s. They are very nice and very clean sound.

    Luckily my headphone amp has a bass boost switch which is just enough to make it have some modest bass without sounding over-the-top.

    I have tried the beats pro headphones and they sound very nice. A nice solid bass kick.

    They are equally good. However beats pros are about 4x the price, haha.

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