Arguably one of the most successful crossovers between fashion and technology, and the most recognized audio engineering force in the industry, the Beats by Dre Studio set needs no introduction. Having first made waves in the music realm since its conception in 2008, the music gurus chose 2013 as the year to refresh the iconic Studio headphone with a full in-and-out rework. With a trimmed silhouette, sleek aesthetic, and intricate technological upgrades, the over-ear set promised a whole new listening experience while maintaining its signature design concept. After testing out their newest addition to the Beats by Dre line-up for the last few weeks, peep below for my first impressions and concluding thoughts with HYPETRAK’s review of the 2013 Studio set.
The Studio’s trimmed down makeover and sleek re-design is not only instantly noticeable but definitely a welcome development. Currently only available in black, red, white, and limited orange colorways, the new edition trades in the bulky grey ear cushions for matching padding built of soft leather, and swaps out the pudgy headband and its exposed bolts for a cohesive band built of one sleek curve. Further design developments are subtle yet effective, with the set’s padding at the headband hidden as an extension of its design rather than the initial protrusion from the band piece, and the slight red accents at the ear piece are extended by the all-red cable options.
On first impressions, the new Beats by Dre Studio set definitely offers an upgrade in comfort and wearability: the set immediately fit securely over my ears without any adjustments and was initially free of any over-exertion of weight or force at the head piece, with the extra padding at the ear piece and soft material granting the set an even lighter feel. However, as someone who spends majority of my day “plugged in” it was only a matter of hours before the fitted feel of the headband began to weigh down and feel tight and irritable, pulling my attention away from the comfort of the ear pads and the sound stream, and instead targeting my focus towards the weight and bulk of the head piece.
The biggest and most notable change for the Beats by Dre Studio fans will be the move away from the AAA battery power in favor of a 20 hour rechargeable battery. Although this does eliminate the nuisance of carrying an extra pair of batteries, the concept of a rechargeable battery – or the concept of a headphone that is exclusively reliant on battery power – definitely has its drawbacks. Aside from the fact that the set needs to be charged via its USB cable, which is too short to make way for a charge-while-you-listen option, my biggest concern about the Studios is this: when the battery dies, the music goes with it. Users can turn the headphones on and off to preserve battery (this can be done manually using the on/off button or automatically by plugging and unplugging the wire) but one must be sure not to make way for any mistakes – accidentally leave your set plugged in overnight and expect your battery to be completely burned out by the next morning.
Having gained a reputation for a bass-power level best suited for EDM enthusiasts and heavy hip-hop bangers, Beats by Dre’s 2013 edition of the Studios definitely offers a smooth and tamed bassline in comparison to its predecessor. That being said, despite the comparatively streamlined sound the set is definitely still designed with bass-heavy songs in mind, meaning that acoustics and simpler instrumental compositions may sound awkward when their minimal bass is met with the Studio’s unexpected amplification. What’s most interesting about the developments in its audio engineering, however, is the Adaptive Noise Canceling feature. Composed of a slight hiss that cuts out unwanted noise and allows you to focus on the music, the ANC feature offers a purified listening experience, but with this comes some definite limitations: the ANC feature is impossible to cut out. Your listening options are as follows: stream your music with the ANC feature on or stream the ANC hiss without any music. The ANC drawback, therefore, is that there is no way to listen to music without the noise cancelling feature turned on. So if you’re used to a more raw listening experience that merges the music with your surroundings, the power of the ANC may be initially off-putting.
Beats by Dre have definitely earned their title as one of the most coveted and innovative audio engineers in the industry, but with title comes user expectations that the audio guru’s did not quite meet with their 2013 Studios. Although they soared in regards to its design makeover and clean aesthetic, it does lack in wearability and user-friendly elements, especially for those who rely on their headset for multiple hours in the day. However, the move to trim weight and design, replace AAA batteries with a re-chargeable platform, and add lush padding to the ear piece does imply that Beats by Dre is listening to their customers, and although their improvements may have missed potential perfection, Beats by Dre’s 2013 Studio is definitely a move in the right direction.