Affordable Beats: Wicked Audio Solus Headphone Review

Wicked Audio Solus
Wicked Audio’s Solus tries to go for the Beats headphone crowd with its aggressive design. Wicked Audio

Upstarts love to make a name for themselves by aiming for the market leader. In the case of the headphone industry, that leader would be Dr. Dre’s Beats line. Yes, you can debate whether the headphones actually sound good compared to other brands preferred by audiophile purists. In terms of mind share, however, Beats are undeniably at the top of the young crowd’s minds thanks to a consumer-friendly design and plenty of marketing muscle.

It’s that very Beats line that Wicked Audio is trying to aim for with its new Solus headphones. From its chunky band and logo placement to the design of its ear cups, the Solus definitely has shades of Dre’s Beats in it. Even the packaging evokes its more high-profile competitor. Add a sound profile that emphasizes the low end of the audio spectrum and a DJ-centric feature set and it’s quite obvious whose crown the Solus is trying to usurp.

In terms of design, the Solus sports a very aggressive look. From its black and red color scheme to its chunky, exaggerated styling, the testosterone-laden design is something that will likely appeal more to guys than girls. The outer part of the cups use the bowl shape that Wicked Audio has adopted as its own unique style. The earcups also can flip on their axis and be rotated in two directions. This helps when you place the headphones around your neck when taking a break from your music listening as it allows you to place the cups flush against your chest.

One issue I had with this part of the headphone’s design is that it swivels way too easily even when you don’t want it to, which can be a bit annoying during handling. For easier storage, the band allows you to push up the cups when not in use. Unlike other boutique headphones such as the SMS Street ANC by 50 and the Soul SL300JAM, the Solus comes with a soft pouch instead of a hard case.

Personally, a hard case would be better for a headphone this chunky but I assume this was done to help keep the price low. Fit, meanwhile, can be diplomatically described as snug. For others, though, head crushing might be more appropriate. On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about the headphone falling off. On the downside, the fit can cause some fatigue after extended after extended use.

The cable, meanwhile, is pretty lengthy and uses a fabric shell to minimize tangling. Unlike other boutique headsets, however, the cable is fixed and not detachable. The cable also has a built-in control module for switching from mono to stereo and adjusting volume. It’s pretty chunky and does not come with controls for pausing or skipping tracks. One thing I noticed is that I get a bit of distortion every time I turn the volume dial on the cable module. I also get uneven audio output between the left and right cups when adjusting the volume through the dial.

The audio profile, meanwhile, heavily leans toward the low side. This is good for folks who prefer lots of bass but not so good for people who don’t like exaggerated low end. The bass also is not as refined as my favorite DJ headphones so far, the V-Moda Crossfade M-100.

Instead, it sounds muffled, especially if you don’t use an equalizer to adjust it.

Overall, an assortment of niggles scuttle the promise of the Solus, especially when compared to the build quality of other boutique headphones. One thing it has going for it, though, compared to its more high-profile competitors is price, which I’ve seen go as low as $35. If you place a premium on cost and prefer a heaping of bass, then the Solus might be worth considering. Just make sure to have an equalizer handy, though, in case you need to tame its exaggerated low end.

Final rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Jason Hidalgo is About.com’s Portable Electronics expert. Yes, he is easily amused. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo and be amused, too.