Beats headphones are adored by people who have trouble comparison shopping or those who prioritize aesthetics over sonics. But after hundreds of hours spent testing all kinds of headphones, in all sorts of scenarios, these are the ones you should buy instead.
If you want in-ear headphones that sound good, you can do better than the muddy, sloppy sounding urBeats ($89). Instead, try the Beyerdynamic MMX102ie ($109). They are a bit more expensive, but all of our reviewers agreed the jump in quality was far superior. Or if you want to save some money, you can pick up a great pair of headphones for close to $15 with the Panasonic RP-TCM125 Ergo fit. They have a clearer, more even sound than urBeats and offer significant savings.
Beats Solo ($170) may seem like a good choice for a compact, stylish pair of on-ear headphones, but there are better sounding, cheaper options available. If you want a pair that's light and compact for traveling, spend an extra $30 for the V-Moda XS ($200). They sound better, fold up super small, feature detachable/replaceable cables, and have a two-year warranty (and lifetime 50 percent off replacement program, even if it's your own fault). Or if it's style you're after, Urbanears has on-ear headphones in a rainbow of colors that start at $70 (more than half the price of the Beats Solo).
The best-sounding headphones $300 or more are not the Beats Studio ($300). Yes, they've improved since they first hit the shelves but we can easily name four headphones that sound better and cost roughly the same: PSB M4U 1 ($300), the Beyerdynamic DT990 32 ohm ($310), the Sennheiser Momentum ($350), and the B&W P7 ($400). We listened to these headphones back-to-back with the original and new-and-improved Studios. It was no contest.
For Bluetooth headphones, we recommend the Jabra REVO ($200). Their touch-sensitive interface is intuitive and works nicely. They sound great with or without the cord, fold up for portability, and are built to last. In comparison, Beats Wireless ($280) don't sound great, cost more, and are plagued by reports of poor warranty support and flimsy build quality.
For more alternatives to Beats, check out our full FAQ on the Wirecutter