Feeling absolutely tickled with glee, we got our hands on another of Dr. Dre’s creations. When the urBeats3 arrived, our first thought was to try them out with some deep hip-hop beats. You know, the way Dre intended. Or did he? Aren’t these earphones supposed to make any music sound great?
The difference between these high-quality earphones and your average cheap plastic earphones is obvious. There may also be lots of excellent wireless options out there. But if you want to keep wired and still have love for the beats, check out what these earphones offer…
A Word on Beats by Dr. Dre
This company blew it up when they came out in the late-2000s. Dr. Dre, the legendary artist and producer, was putting his reputation on the line. As they dropped the original Beats headphones in 2009, people were ready to see if the products would live up to his name.
The company built itself upon its fresh style, Dre’s rep, and the high quality of the products they put out. Beats was focused on thick, juicy bass and excellent sound clarity. Their first urBeats earphones came out in 2012, letting consumers get into the premium sound-quality market at a mid-level price. And the same year, Apple made a super-smart move acquiring the company and their swelling ranks of supporters.
Years later, Beats is still doing it. But do the urBeats3 deserve that cult following?
That’s what we were dying to find out…
Crack it Open
The box arrives, and people start to gather around. On first look, the packaging is smart, simple, and plain. There’s definitely an overall design quality to remind you that Beats is owned by Apple. There’s a tingle of electricity in the air, that feeling of Christmas morning. Open up, and there they are.
OK, so are we knocked off our feet? Not really. Unboxing is supposed to be an experience in its own right, and this left us feeling a bit flat.
But then again, ooh those earbuds have got style.
Nothing Beats Design
Yeah, the urBeats3s look good. What did you expect? You can get them in a flat matte black, sure. But we went with what the Beats website calls “Defiant Black-Red.” They must mean defying any hopes their competitors might’ve had that they wouldn’t look great.
Sleek, flat cable wires are going to make sure that your earphones don’t tangle in your pocket. The extra benefit is that they just look tight. Straight flat cables run smoothly into the jack with a connection that appears really durable.
Coming up to the mic and controls, things still look good. But we were disappointed to find the control box is just plastic. How much is powdered aluminum going to cost?
The acoustic chambers are flat-backed for a reason. Magnets in them neatly snap the earbuds together for easy storage when these in-ear earphones are out of your ears. They’ve got that smooth “b,” which stands for Beats, but in case you’re confused, also can stand for “backs.”
So for design, these earphones might miss the A+ grade (that plastic control box), but we’re still happy to give them an A for amazing!
So that’s how they look. How do they feel?
The urBeats3 in urEars
Is urBeats a play on “urban” or on “your”? Perhaps we’ll never know. But what we do know is how it feels to wear these earphones.
Did we forget to mention that the urBeats3 comes with four different sets of ear tips? Well, they do. And they’re the (apparently) silicone-type ones that most people seem to prefer. We had a few staffers try these out, and for the most part, people were happy.
However, as you’d expect, our office giant and office elf were both left out. Though they try, there’s just no fitting all ears. Some high-end brands include more sizes. Considering the ultra-low manufacturing price of ear tips, we wish Beats would, too.
Another issue we’ll focus on more in the sound section below is the precise fit. Some of us tried out the ear tips, chose a pair that felt comfortable, and then, were disappointed by the sound quality. But then with a different size tip, the sound was way different.
What this meant was that there was a certain balance between sound quality and comfort. Not typically a trade-off you want to have to make. The key here was to find tips that fit snugly and somewhat deeply inside your ear canals to get the best sound quality. But for some of us, that meant wearing the earphones for a long time was uncomfortable.
To each his own (ears).
Now that we’ve talked about the feel, let’s get on to what to the most important feature. How’s the sound?
The urBeats3 Sound
Like we said earlier, the urBeats3 wired earphones should make bass heavy hip-hop and dance tracks sound great. That’s what they were designed for, right? So do they live up to this rep? And how do they sound with other music, videos, gaming, and phone calls?
Let’s start with the bass…
urBeats3 For Music
Fans of Beats and Dr. Dre are not going to find themselves disappointed here. Yes, these are in-ear earphones, and there are limitations. They’re not going to beat the fat bass of on-ear headphones. But we can still only describe the bass sound of these buds as juicy.
And not only for hip-hop. EDM shakes your eardrums, and slow, thick synth tracks nearly melt them away. But it wouldn’t be a real review if we just stopped there. How could we only try out the urBeats3 for the bass-heavy tracks they were specifically tailored for?
We have broad enough musical tastes around here that we were able to put these earphones through the paces. Rock, jazz, country, metal, screamo, downtempo, breakbeat, salsa, and reliable old blues all got a run-through. Now, nothing sounded bad coming through these earphones.
We should start with that. These are not crappy convenience store buds. Most of what we heard sounded really, really good.
The urBeats3 wired earphones make a bit of a trade-off. While these aren’t the most bass-heavy earphones around, the bass is rich and lush and just what you need. Any more is risking overkill. But this focus on the bass has come with some sacrifices. In tunes where the bass isn’t a major focus, it seems over-emphasized at the expense of mids and highs.
Some screaming guitar solos sounded like they were whining. Blaring trumpets felt a bit bland.
This is forced by the technology the earphones are built with. With a single axial-aligned driver, it’s a stretch to try to cover all the acoustic range that music presents. This is like a stereo trying to kick out all the bass of a woofer and treble of a tweeter from a single speaker.
Actually, considering this, the bass boost from acoustic chamber design using cleverly laser-cut tiny holes is really an engineering feat!
So, in the end, it comes down to the type of music you’re going to use these earphones for most of the time.
At this price point, or anything cheaper, we think you’re always going to encounter this sort of compromise. In these earphones, the Beats brand gives what it promises. These headphones really are made for the listener who wants to melt away in the soothing sounds of deep bass.
Noise Isolation Earphones
For all kinds of music, one feature we loved was the passive noise isolation designed into these in-ear earphones. Now, we talked earlier about getting that right fit and comfort level. Here’s the explanation.
The passive noise isolation produced by these earphones is pretty much the same as wearing earplugs. There’s no mechanical movement like in active noise cancelling earphones. It’s just that fitting the earbuds snugly in your ears stops most of the background noise from coming through.
We’d say they block out about 90% of background noise. That protects your listening experience from those awful interruptions. You know, power tools, yapping dogs, your boss giving you assignments…
Now there’s a catch here, too. One thing we noticed was that when the ear tips were perfectly positioned in your ears, tight enough to block out the world, you get cable noise. Not fuzz or static. We’re talking about when you move or hit the cable, and that sound transfers up to your ears.
To be honest, it was pretty serious. But if you’re just sitting on the subway or having a chill walk around the neighborhood, you’re going to be alright.
urBeats3 For Videos & Gaming
Videos really vary in their sound quality, so this isn’t an easy thing to judge. High-quality sound files, movies, and TV all sounded very clear on the urBeats3s. However, if there was a lot of background music in a movie, especially with a lot of bass, we found that could sometimes block out the dialogue.
For gaming, these earphones performed surprisingly well. More and more games are pushing up their sound quality, letting gamers with quality earphones and headphones get that much deeper into the experience. The urBeats3 gave us rumbling explosions, clear dialogue, and solid music, and other effects.
For little in-ear earphones, the urBeats3 manage to pump out big theatre sound. Very pleasing!
urBeats3 For Calls, Controls & Other Features
Remember we talked earlier about the in-line control box? It could have been prettier. But it does do what it’s meant to, at least with Apple devices. Because of the Remote Talk function, you can take calls without having to fish out your phone. You can play and pause and skip tracks – all the basics.
However, we found that the controls don’t work on some Android devices. The sounds still come through, of course, so this is a small thing to consider.
Calls using the built-in mic are pretty clear. However, a bit of background noise gets through. So the sound is best when you hold the mic up close to your mouth. A bit of a pain, but only really necessary in loud, crowded places.
The urBeats3 also come with either a 3.5mm (1/8 inch) standard headphone plug, or Apple’s lightning connector. Which is right for you depends on the devices you have. If you’re using all-new Apple products, don’t expect the future to include a 3.5mm jack!
We would have liked to see a branching cable for the lightning connector so that you could still listen while charging your phone. Well, you can’t always get what you want.
We’ve talked about a lot of specs and features. Now let’s sum it up…
urBeats3 Wired Earphones Pros & Cons
- Bass-rich music sounds great. Sound for movies and gaming impresses.
- No surprise -Beats has made these slick earphones look really good.
- Flat-cord and earbud magnets make for a tangle-free experience.
- Noise-isolation is super-effective when you get a good ear tip fit.
- Price. At this price point, you’re getting quality durable earphones with superior sound.
- Not the clearest for non-bass-heavy music.
- Some sacrifice in sound balance for non-bass-centric music.
- Plastic control panel is a bit of a let-down.
- Line noise can be an issue for users on the move.
Lots More Options
Not 100% sure that the urBeats3 are for you? No problem, check out our reviews of the Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds, the Most Durable Earbuds, the Best Earbuds under 100 Dollars, the Best Headphones and Earbuds for Sleeping, and the Best Earbuds under 50 Dollars on the market.
The Final Word
Bass. That’s it. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, high-end set of earphones to melt your eardrums like warm butter, you’re looking in the right place. That’s what we expected with the Beats brand, and the urBeats3 earphones live up to the hype.
Now, ear fit and line noise can be issues with these earphones. They weren’t perfect for everyone, so it really depends on your music preference, devices, and activity level. But overall, we’re still rating them as great.
Great design. Great sound. For this price (do we dare say it?), you can’t beat Beats!