Seeing as how my time with the Harman/Kardon SOHO II’s is my first experience with powered headphones, I thought it would make sense to compare them to other high end accessories that are available on the market. Fortunately for my son, and by rule for me as well, Santa brought him a brand new set of Beats Solo 2’s for Christmas. Soon thereafter, I was able to do a comparison to see what the difference really is between a standard set of buds, the HK SOHO II’s, the Beats Solo 2’s, and a few other sets of buds and earphones that I have sitting around.
For the sake of this comparison, I will focus on just the HK’s and the Beats, and there will be 5 criteria: Sound, Comfort, Function, Style, and Overall Impression.
Sound: There is a quite a difference in the way that each set of headphones delivers sound to the user. The Beats live up to their billing, delivering extraordinary bass and low-end sound. The sound is warm, if only because it is so heavy in the bass. Not to say that the higher tones are poor, but they do seem to be masked by what is most likely the intention of the Solo’s, which is to deliver a heavy bass experience. In contrast, the HK’s deliver a full, rich spectrum of sound when the Noise Cancelling feature is turned on. Although no part of the sound spectrum is exaggerated, I find the sound on the HK’s to be cleaner, richer, and crisper than the Beats. Winner: HK
Comfort: This one is easy – Beats padded over the ear headphones are much more comfortable than the HK’s in ear experience. It doesn’t hurt to note that the HK’s are actually a bit uncomfortable, although I haven’t tried all 3 sets of the buds and anchors that come with it them. All the same, the HK’s are NOT comfortable to me. I will continue to tinker with what feels best in my ear, but for now, the Beats are the hands down winner in this criteria. Winner: Beats
Function: This is a hard one to decide, because it’s an apples to oranges comparison. Although Beats claims to provide a rich, deep bass experience, I would say their main function is almost equally based on being a fashion statement as it is to deliver heavy bass sound. The HK’s, on the other hand, are built for Noise Cancellation. Basically the idea with HK’s is to immerse the listener in sound by removing as much ambient noise as possible. So who delivers their idea better? Depends on who you talk to – if you ask my 11 year old which one is a better headset, he’ll tell you the Beats without even trying on the HK’s. But if you ask my 26 year old cousin, he will tell you the HK’s do a much better job with music and sound delivery. In my opinion, it’s a straight tie, because you as the consumer will buy for function when you are deciding on these two headsets. Winner: TIE
Style: Also an easy one. Beats is not only a sound experience – it’s a brand that equips professional athletes, Grammy winners, and iconic pop-stars. Harman/Kardon is known amongst music lovers as one of the highest quality audio accessory and equipment manufacturers in the world. If an audiophile sees you with a set of HK’s, they will recognize your high standards. However, that niche is not large, and they don’t warm up on TV in front of millions of viewers like many Beats users do. Beats has done a nice job of creating allure around their equipment to build an iconic brand that is recognizable, where HK has focused less on image, and more on function and performance. Winner: Beats
Overall Impression: You shop and buy for function, so it’s hard to make a universal decision as to which set is better. For me, middle age has toned me down. If I was in my 20’s, or even 30’s, I might want a set of Beats. Certainly my pre-teen and college sophomore sons are ONLY about the Beats, although they are impressed with the performance of the HK’s. So ask yourself this – do you work or live in a place where the Noise Cancellation function is important? Loud kids? Loud work environment? Do you even have time to take to listen to music? The NC feature is what makes the HK SOHO II’s stand out. Just today, I had them on while I was on hold on the phone and when I pulled them out, I realized that our old dishwasher was creating a scandal with its whirring and purring and humming and hawing. Would the Beats cancel that sound out? Maybe, or maybe not. My brother may have said it best, though, when he told me that “… you don’t really appreciate Noise Cancellation on headphones until you are on an airplane. You could be sitting there during takeoff, not plugged in to any device because you aren’t allowed, but if you have NC phones or buds on with the NC function turned on, it will almost entirely eliminate the sound of a plane taking off!” In my middle age, the winner is the HK’s. But if you have ANY sense of style, or would like an accessory that perfectly marries function with style, then go with the Beats. Winner: HK for me, the boring guy… Beats for all of you stylie folk!
Either way you go, you are going to hit about the same price point (between $100 and $150), so the value is there for both. I don’t think you can go wrong, as they both deliver a great experience, and both live up to their billing. Enjoy, and let me know what you think about whichever headset you go with!
Disclaimer: The Product Ambassadors are Sprint employees from many different parts of the company that love technology. They volunteer to test out all sorts of Sprint devices and offer opinions freely to the Community. Each Product Ambassador shares their own opinions of these devices, therefore the information in this post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sprint. The PA's do not represent the company in an official way, and should not be expected to respond to Community members in an official capacity. #sprintemployee