Beats Solo Pro active noise canceling headphones
In the box —and what isn’t
Apple has always had a widely-revered skill in its packaging prowess and the Beats Solo Pro shows Apple at its best. The packaging of the Solo Pro 3 was truly a marvel and just shows the attention to detail the headphone-maker has.
Other than the thin wrap that covers the paper box, there isn’t a lick of plastic devoted to the packaging at all. The thin paper slipcover comes off a thicker —but still paper —folded box. It is held together by a pair of paper pegs that stick into holes on the top flap of the box. Once popped free, the entire box falls to the sides, revealing the headphones in their case.
The bottom flap has the accessories housed inside such as the charging cable, the carabiner, Beats stickers, getting started guide, and other literature. It’s impressive that even the carabiner and cable aren’t even ensconced in any plastic, still using creatively manipulated paper.
Apple’s environmental focus extends to the product as well —the soft carrying case is made of largely recycled materials and it is apparent the plastic usage on the product has reduced.
Unboxing the Beats Solo Pro ANC headphones is wonderful
The cable Apple included is not the same USB-C to Lightning cable that it chose to include with the AirPods Pro —but rather a USB-A to Lightning cable instead. It’s quite disappointing that USB-A stuck around for another product, but it is likely one of the last times it will make its way into an Apple product.
Not present, however, is any form of an audio cable. These headphones are designed to be used primarily wireless, but for times that they need to be used wired, a cable would have been nice.
If you want to go wired, you’ll need to pony up another $35 to Apple for the privilege.
Oddly, if you want/need to use them wired with your iPhone or iPad Pro, you will have an awkward setup. You need Apple’s Lightning to 3.5mm cable then a 3.5mm audio adapter to Lightning or USB-C. Clearly, wired is not how Apple wants these used.
Just like with all of its other recent headphones, Apple has chosen not to include a wall power adapter in the box.
Build quality and design
Build quality on the Solo Pro has vastly improved from the Solo 3. Gone is the glossy plastic exterior for a handsome matte finish. The exposed rails on the sides when extended are now anodized aluminum and color-matched to the headphone’s color.
Beats Solo Pro headphones on their case
Under the headband is soft silicone which is comfy, though it did pull at our hair a bit as we adjusted them. The earpads are larger than the Solo 3 which makes them more comfortable and they are covered with faux leather.
Compared to many others, the Solo Pro is very light. We had no issues with that, but because they are on-ear headphones and have active noise canceling, they need a good seal. This yields a slightly tight clamping pressure which was uncomfortable, but those who consider themselves to have larger heads may feel fatigued after a few hours of use.
The bottom of one side of the headphones is equipped with a Lightning port for charging and the other has a single button for controlling the ANC.
Features and abilities
The main flagship feature of the Solo Pro is active noise cancellation. Very similar to what is found in AirPods Pro it can be toggled between off, on, and transparency mode.
Beats Solo Pro ANC controls
Unlike other big-name ANC headphones, the level of noise cancelation is not adjustable and it does so on its own. In quieter environments, it is reduced and in loud environments, it ratchets up.
We found in our testing over the past week that the Solo Pro did an adequate job drowning out most external sounds from busy streets, passing planes (I live near an airport), and general background noise. It wasn’t outstanding and falls short of the high bar set by Bose and Sony in their latest ANC headphones.
What most blew us away was the capabilities of transparency mode. These headphones did a phenomenal job of allowing external audio to be passed through in a subtle, natural way. It didn’t sound overly processed, loud, or mechanical. We use this quite a bit in the office but was helpful many other times as well, such as taking a dog for a walk down a busy street.
Switching between these modes is simple —done from the Bluetooth settings, the Control Center volume widget, the button on the bottom of the headphones, or simply using Siri.
There’s no power button on the Beats Solo Pro, like the Jabra 85H we recently reviewed, they turn on when they are opened and turn off when they are closed, greatly simplifying the user experience. If you ever take them off, but don’t close them, they enter a low power state to preserve battery further.
Though there are many similarities between the Beats Solo 3 and the Beats Solo Pro, the internals were greatly reworked to not only provide better sound but improved sweat resistance for long bouts at the gym.
Apple’s legendary setup and pairing process
Within these headphones is Apple’s latest H1 audio chip —the same found in AirPods and other recent Apple headphones. It still relies on the seldom-used Class 1 audio for great range and strong signal connection. We never had any issues with Bluetooth connectivity. It also is what powers the incredibly simple setup process where they are just opened near an iPhone and a modal appears to pair them.
Moving Beats Solo Pro to Apple Watch
They also then sync across all your other Apple devices that are signed in to your Apple ID. That includes your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and Apple TV. The Bluetooth profile is synced to each device and doesn’t require any additional pairing or setup. Don’t worry, they also can be used with any non-Apple device as well.
With ANC or transparency mode turned on, users can expect a solid 22 hours of use or 40 hours with both of those turned off. These aren’t industry-leading numbers, but they aren’t bad. Just average numbers that will likely be suitable for most users. When they need to be charged, a 10-minute juice up will yield three hours of playback time.
Audio Sharing on iOS 13.2 works with AirPods and Beats headphones
Another great feature unique to Apple is Audio Sharing. Audio Sharing arrived as part of iOS 13.2 and allows users to share their audio between two sets of headphones. Say a friend is listening to music on their iPhone with their AirPods. You just bring your Beats Solo Pro near and they will be able to share the audio with you temporarily. Listen to music, watch a movie, or play a game with two sets of headphones.
Beats Solo Pro support “Hey Siri” for hands-free control through a set of physical buttons hidden behind the earpiece also function as playback and volume controls.
Using AppleInsider’s audio testing playlist with the Beats Solo Pro
Beats have historically had a well-deserved reputation for excessive bass at the expense of everything else. But this hasn’t been the case for some time. Following the Apple acquisition, audio has started to become more balanced. The Beats Solo 3 had a great sound profile and it got even better with the Powerbeats Pro.
With the Solo Pro, it is the best sound we’ve heard yet from a set of Beats. The sound is very balanced and quite enjoyable to listen to. There isn’t excessive bass though there is a good amount of bass present. They don’t have quite as large of a soundstage as others, but they are nice to listen to, even for extended durations.
Much more detail comes out as we went through our AppleInsider testing playlist on Apple Music. There was no harshness or anything that gave us pause. These aren’t audiophile quality, but an audiophile isn’t picking up a $300 set of Beats.
Should you buy the Beats Solo Pro?
As always, it comes down to whether or not you should pick up a set of Beats Solo Pro of your very own.
Beats Solo Pro in the box
If you are looking at Beats headphones and you like the style, then they are absolutely worth the purchase. These are the best Beats headphones we’ve used to date.
Coupling the new refined style with significantly improved audio, Hey Siri support, audio sharing, and active noise canceling, there aren’t many drawbacks against them.
The only real reason to shy away from the Beats Solo Pro is if you are specifically looking for the best ANC or the longest battery life.
- Refined design with exposed metal and matte finish
- Active noise cancelation is good
- Transparency mode for external audio
- Improved audio quality
- Audio sharing
- Hey Siri support
- Strong Bluetooth connection
- Still mostly plastic build
- Not the best ANC on the market
- No audio cable included
Rating: 4 out of 5
Where to buy
Beats Solo Pro headphones retail for $299.95, with Amazon now shipping the wireless headphones in your choice of six colors.
These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019
It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion. This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would…
It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion.
This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would have been good for third place last year behind IBM’s mega deal plucking Red Hat for $34 billion and Broadcom grabbing CA Technologies for $18.8 billion.
Contributing to this year’s quieter activity was the fact that several typically acquisitive companies — Adobe, Oracle and IBM — stayed mostly on the sidelines after big investments last year. It’s not unusual for companies to take a go-slow approach after a big expenditure year. Adobe and Oracle bought just two companies each with neither revealing the prices. IBM didn’t buy any.
Microsoft didn’t show up on this year’s list either, but still managed to pick up eight new companies. It was just that none was large enough to make the list (or even for them to publicly reveal the prices). When a publicly traded company doesn’t reveal the price, it usually means that it didn’t reach the threshold of being material to the company’s results.
As always, just because you buy it doesn’t mean it’s always going to integrate smoothly or well, and we won’t know about the success or failure of these transactions for some years to come. For now, we can only look at the deals themselves.
Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0
The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom. Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition. To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and…
The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom.
Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition.
To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and opportunity, perhaps more than any other market in the world. Across major African economies, many of the requisites for online retail — internet access, digital payment adoption, and 3PL delivery options — have been severely lacking.
Still, startups jumped into this market for the chance to digitize a share of Africa’s fast growing consumer spending, expected to top $2 billion by 2025.
African e-commerce 2.0 will include some old and new players, play out across more countries, place more priority on internet services, and see the entry of China.
But before highlighting several things to look out for in the future of digital-retail on the continent, a look back is beneficial.
Jumia vs. Konga
The early years for development of African online shopping largely played out in Nigeria (and to some extent South Africa). Anyone who visited Nigeria from 2012 to 2016 likely saw evidence of one of the continent’s early e-commerce showdowns. Nigeria had its own Coke vs. Pepsi-like duel — a race between ventures Konga and Jumia to out-advertise and out-discount each other in a quest to scale online shopping in Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.
Traveling in Lagos traffic, large billboards for each startup faced off across the skyline, as their delivery motorcycles buzzed between stopped cars.
Covering each company early on, it appeared a battle of VC attrition. The challenge: who could continue to raise enough capital to absorb the losses of simultaneously capturing and creating an e-commerce market in notoriously difficult conditions.
In addition to the aforementioned challenges, Nigeria also had (and continues to have) shoddy electricity.
Both Konga — founded by Nigerian Sim Shagaya — and Jumia — originally founded by two Nigerians and two Frenchman — were forced to burn capital building fulfillment operations most e-commerce startups source to third parties.
That included their own delivery and payment services (KongaPay and JumiaPay). In addition to sales of goods from mobile-phones to diapers, both startups also began experimenting with verticals for internet based services, such as food-delivery and classifieds.
While Jumia and Konga were competing in Nigeria, there was another VC driven race for e-commerce playing out in South Africa — the continent’s second largest and most advanced economy.
E-tailers Takealot and Kalahari had been jockeying for market share since 2011 after raising capital in the hundreds of millions of dollars from investors Naspers and U.S. fund Tiger Global Management.
So how did things turn out in West and Southern Africa? In 2014, the lead investor of a flailing Kalahari — Naspers — facilitated a merger with Takealot (that was more of an acquisition). They nixed the Kalahari brand in 2016 and bought out Takelot’s largest investor, Tiger Global, in 2018. Takealot is now South Africa’s leading e-commerce site by market share, but only operates in one country.
In Nigeria, by 2016 Jumia had outpaced its rival Konga in Alexa ratings (6 vs 14), while out-raising Konga (with backing of Goldman Sachs) to become Africa’s first VC backed, startup unicorn. By early 2018, Konga was purchased in a distressed acquisition and faded away as a competitor to Jumia.
Jumia went on to expand online goods and services verticals into 14 Africa countries (though it recently exited a few) and in April 2019 raised over $200 million in an NYSE IPO — the first on a major exchange for a VC-backed startup operating in Africa.
Jumia’s had bumpy road since going public — losing significant share-value after a short-sell attack earlier in 2019 — but the continent’s leading e-commerce company still has heap of capital and generates $100 million in revenues (even with losses).
Airbnb’s New Year’s Eve guest volume shows its falling growth rate
Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between. It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in…
Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.
It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in this coming year’s technology exit market. Expect the NYSE and Nasdaq to compete for the listing, bankers to queue to take part, and endless media coverage.
Given that that’s ahead, we’re going to take periodic looks at Airbnb as we tick closer to its eventual public market debut. And that means that this morning we’re looking back through time to see how fast the company has grown by using a quirky data point.
Airbnb releases a regular tally of its expected “guest stays” for New Year’s Eve each year, including 2019. We can therefore look back in time, tracking how quickly (or not) Airbnb’s New Year Eve guest tally has risen. This exercise will provide a loose, but fun proxy for the company’s growth as a whole.
Before we look into the figures themselves, keep in mind that we are looking at a guest figure which is at best a proxy for revenue. We don’t know the revenue mix of the guest stays, for example, meaning that Airbnb could have seen a 10% drop in per-guest revenue this New Year’s Eve — even with more guest stays — and we’d have no idea.
So, the cliche about grains of salt and taking, please.
But as more guests tends to mean more rentals which points towards more revenue, the New Year’s Eve figures are useful as we work to understand how quickly Airbnb is growing now compared to how fast it grew in the past. The faster the company is expanding today, the more it’s worth. And given recent news that the company has ditched profitability in favor of boosting its sales and marketing spend (leading to sharp, regular deficits in its quarterly results), how fast Airbnb can grow through higher spend is a key question for the highly-backed, San Francisco-based private company.
- 2009: 1,400
- 2010: 6,000 (+329%)
- 2011: 3,1000 (+417%)
- 2012: 108,000 (248%)
- 2013: 250,000 (+131%)
- 2014: 540,000 (+116%)
- 2015: 1,100,000 (+104%)
- 2016: 2,000,000 (+82%)
- 2017: 3,000,000 (+50%)
- 2018: 3,700,000 (+23%)
- 2019: 4,500,000 (+22%)
In chart form, that looks like this:
Let’s talk about a few things that stand out. First is that the company’s growth rate managed to stay over 100% for as long as it did. In case you’re a SaaS fan, what Airbnb pulled off in its early years (again, using this fun proxy for revenue growth) was far better than a triple-triple-double-double-double.
Next, the company’s growth rate in percentage terms has slowed dramatically, including in 2019. At the same time the firm managed to re-accelerate its gross guest growth in 2019. In numerical terms, Airbnb added 1,000,000 New Year’s Eve guest stays in 2017, 700,000 in 2018, and 800,000 in 2019. So 2019’s gross adds was not a record, but it was a better result than its year-ago tally.
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