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Three alternatives to Beats Solo2 headphones

Kirk McElhearn | Aug. 18, 2015
Beats headphones have achieved a level of notoriety based on their style, but the sound they offer isn't for everyone. Often touted as headphones for urban music--rap and hip-hop--the Beats sound doesn't transfer well to all genres.

The V-Moda XS is fairly light at 172 grams and folds up quite small, fitting into an easily portable protective case. It has a single, removable cable, reinforced with Kevlar, but I found this cable to be stiff and hard to manage.

Soundwise, the headphone puts both the Beats Solo 2 and the Sennheiser Urbanite to shame. It has a clear, neutral sound, though it's a bit undefined in the high end. It can pack a punch if you want bass, but the bass doesn't overwhelm the midrange and treble.

The only thing I didn't like was the style. The box says "Built like a tank," and it certainly looks like one too. It's rugged, and will last a long time, so it's a good headphone to have if you don't plan to treat it well.

The main problem I found is the inline microphone and remote button. While the microphone is well placed--higher up on the cable than some other models, making it a great headphone to use to make calls with an iPhone--there's only one button. Most headphones have three buttons, one to pause and play, and two others to change the volume; this remote doesn't have volume buttons, so I needed to go to my iPhone to change volume.

Beyerdynamic T 51-i

This $299 headphone from Beyerdynamic costs 50 percent more than the other headphones I tested, but if you want good sound, the difference is certainly worth it. It has a full, powerful sound, with clarity across the spectrum. Midranges are full and vibrant, and trebles are sharp and incisive. There can be a tad too much bass for certain types of music, but the iPhone's Bass Reducer EQ tempers this perfectly.

It's small, light, and comfortable, and, at 157 grams, the lightest of the three models I tested. It feels a bit tight on my head, but over time it would probably be more comfortable. It has good noise isolation, even though the earcups are quite small. Unlike the V-Moda's oval earcups, the Beyerdynamic's are round, and this seems to give a bit more space to the sound.

This headphone has a dual cable; in other words, it connects to both earpieces. I'd rather have a single cable, because it's less tangle-prone, but a dual cable means that if you jerk the cable, the stress is equally distributed. The cable is not removable, however, which makes me wonder about how long it will hold up over time. The inline microphone and remote is placed at nearly the perfect position, and it does have volume buttons.

Aesthetically, I find this headphone to be the nicest of those I tested, but I understand that my taste is not universal. It doesn't have the aggressive styling or bright, shiny colors of Beats headphones, and the solid aluminum armature looks sleek and modern. The build quality makes me think that this is a headphone that's going to last, even with tough usage. (Compare that to Beats' plastic.) It comes with a case, which is a bit large, but very sturdy.


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