Hands on: Beats Solo 4 review

The Beats Solo line gets its first new headphones in eight years – here are our first impressions.

Beats Solo 4 hands on image
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

Early Verdict

Beats has brought its best-selling on-ear headphones bang up to date, with improved sound, fit and features


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    Great battery life

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    New up-to-date features

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    Improved usability for Android users


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    On-ear design won't be for everyone

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    May need to be wired for best sound

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It’s been eight years since Beats released its Solo 3 Wireless headphones, which is a long time in an industry that’s moved so fast.

The AirPods have a lot to do with that. They were released just a few months after the Solo 3, and thrust the industry’s focus into creating true wireless buds to compete. Beats adjusted too, moving its attentions from its celebrity-endorsed over-ears and released eight in-ear designs in the years that followed.

However, Beats is now back to show some love to the older models that started it all. Its flagship Studio Pro line got an update last year, and now it’s time for the more compact, on-ear Solo range to get some attention.

Despite the length of time that it’s been, refinement is still arguably the name of the game here. We’ve spent a little bit of time with them ahead of our full review to give you some first impressions on what you can expect.


Beats Solo 4 hands on image

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Beats Solo 4 design hasn’t really changed too much from the Solo 3 Wireless. The instantly recognisable, largely plastic-based design is lightweight at 217 grams and feels a little less rigid now too, which helps with comfort. The clamping force on the Beats Solo 3 Wireless was really strong, and that has been addressed to some extent this time round.

Being on ears instead of over ears, you probably won’t be able to forget you’re wearing them, but once you get them sitting right, they are comfortable, with decently squishy earpads to help. The earcups have some play in them too, which helps with positioning. 

They’re still foldable to make them smaller for travel, with a brushed chrome hinge an inch or two up from the earcup to collapse them inwards and a soft fabric carry case in the box to keep them looking their best.

The ‘b’ logo on the left earcup is clickable for playback control and call handling, while a long hold will summon your default voice assistant (though iOS users can also summon Siri hands-free). Volume controls are above and below this button too, and all works just as you’d expect.

For power and pairing, there’s a small button on the bottom of the right ear cup, while a tiny LED sits on very edge of the left earcup to show you when they’re on, when they’re pairing and when they’re paired.

As for playback, the Solo 4 can be used wirelessly via Bluetooth as well as wired, with 3.5mm and USB-C cables included in the box. This offers you the flexibility to use the headphones passively, with no charge, when using the 3.5mm cable, or listen to high-quality lossless music via USB-C.

They’re available in a choice of Matte Black, Slate Blue and Cloud Pink, the latter of which is our test sample, and is almost white. These colours are much more subtle than the shiny and frosted plastic of the previous generation and helps them to look a little more grown up.


Beats Solo 4 next to an iPhone 15 Plus playing from Tidal

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Beats offers dual compatibility across the features of both Android and iOS devices, which isn’t something that many other manufacturers ­– if any – do. This means that, no matter what your device, you get things like one-touch pairing (very handy), automatic account set-up for easy multipoint switching, and the ability to locate your lost headphones using Find My and Find My Device.

There are still a few benefits to being on Team Apple though. Android users will need to download the Beats app to keep up to date with any firmware updates, while iOS users will get them over the air. They will also get access to Music Sharing with other Beats or AirPods owners, plus hands-free Siri activation.

The biggie is Spatialised Audio with head tracking. When playing Atmos content in Netflix or Apple Music, for example, you can turn this feature on (with or without head tracking) and enjoy a more expansive sound. For now, Android users will have to make do with stereo. 

Battery life has been boosted in the Solo 4, and is now up to 50 hours on a single charge, from 40 hours previously. As with their predecessors, they manage such impressive longevity because there’s no active noise cancellation here – which is perhaps a brave move in such a competitive marketplace.

For £200/$200, there are other headphones out there that will offer noise cancellation, but if you can go without, the time between charges will increase significantly.

Fast Fuel is on board too, to give you five hours of playback from just 10 minutes on charge, and you can also charge the headphones from your phone via USB-C if you’re caught short.


Beats Solo 4 hands on image

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Beats Solo 4 have been re-engineered on the inside to improve sound quality from their predecessors, with custom-built 40mm transducers that aim to minimise electronic artifacts and distortion for a clear sound.

There’s also been work done to ensure latency is undetectable, so you can watch movies and video content with the perfect lip sync.

We haven’t had long enough with the Beats Solo 4 to pass a full opinion as yet, nor directly compared them with anything around their £200 / $200 price tag, but first impressions suggest these are a fun-focused, energetic listen, with a push towards midrange clarity.

Anyone who has spent time with Beats headphones in recent years will know there has been a concerted effort to shake off their long-held reputation for being overly bassy, and the Solo 4 continue in this effort. It’s far from a neutral bass response but there’s enough wallop and warmth here without it feeling like that’s part of its central character. 

Instead, it’s the midrange that is pushed to the fore to create an upfront and exciting sound. However, in an attempt to be more revealing and insightful, the higher registers here do occasionally find themselves sounding a touch too bright when listening over Bluetooth.

Bear in mind that these Solo 4 haven’t had any running-in time other than the listening we have done for these first impressions, so this could be something that softens up in time. However, you will find that if you attach the USB-C cable and listen wired, this overly bright edge all but disappears. There’s also more detail and subtlety to their sound when listening this way, and a tighter grip on timing too. They clearly sound their best when able to make the most of lossless playback offered through Tidal.

Dynamics seem fine for this level too – the Solo 4 are able to sufficiently translate the build in tempo and intensity in a piece of music like Hans Zimmer’s Dream Is Collapsing, though instruments’ leading edges may be better punctuated in the very best headphones. Again, this is something we will have to compare more thoroughly in a full review.

Early verdict

Beats Solo 4 sitting on two records

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Beats Solo 4 are a long overdue update to Beats' most compact wireless headphones, delivering an improved sound, better battery life, new up-to-date features and an experience that is much the same no matter if you are iOS or Android.

The design has also been refined, and feels more comfortable to wear over longer periods, which is very welcome indeed. 

We need longer with them to truly evaluate the sound, following a period of run-in time, but from our first impressions, you are likely to get a full-bodied, exciting and upfront sound, albeit one that sounds its very best when wired. 


Check out our pick of the best Beats headphones you can buy 

Read our full review of the Beats Solo 3 Wireless

And here’s our review of the Beats Studio Pro

Verity Burns

Verity is a freelance technology journalist and former Multimedia Editor at What Hi-Fi?. 

Having chalked up more than 15 years in the industry, she has covered the highs and lows across the breadth of consumer tech, sometimes travelling to the other side of the world to do so. With a specialism in audio and TV, however, it means she's managed to spend a lot of time watching films and listening to music in the name of "work".

You'll occasionally catch her on BBC Radio commenting on the latest tech news stories, and always find her in the living room, tweaking terrible TV settings at parties.