On Wednesday, Beats by Dr. Dre (recently acquired by Apple) sponsored Aria Grande's gay-friendly "Break Free" video. Some consider this move controversial, but others see it as a very smart marketing exercise. The Beats brand is expanding by the second and quarterly sales have increased massively when compared to other brands, such as Bose and Sony.
In light of all this, we thought it would be the perfect time to test Beats' flagship Bluetooth speaker, the Pill XL. Unfortunately, it left us with the continued feeling that Beats is more style than substance. Although the Pill XL is the most stylish Bluetooth speaker, it fails in almost every sense, especially at the ultra-high price of $299.
Beats products are known for their bass output, and the Pill XL stresses bass. However (and this is hard to explain unless you actually listen to the device), the Pill XL doesn't have much "kick" to it. You can tell the bass is there, but it doesn't cause the "bass thump" of other Beats products. We tested the device listening to EDM, Rap, and other types of music where bass is usually stressed. We can sum up the bass response of the Pill XL in one word: artificial.
The Bose Soundlink III, at the same price range, offers much fuller and realistic sound without trying too hard. Even major bass lovers will prefer the SoundLink III, even though it technically produces less bass. The SoundLink III can produce decent bass levels without muffling the high and mid ranges. Beats has improved on its high and mid ranges since their 2012 Bluetooth speakers, but not enough to justify the $299 asking price.
One thing we will give Beats credit for is having a speakerphone mode on the Pill XL; this is something Bose has never been able to do with their otherwise fantastic Bluetooth speakers. The sound from the Pill XL's speakerphone is crisp and clear. People on the other end said that they were barely able to tell we were on a speakerphone unless we were more than six feet away.
With the Beats Studio Wireless headphones, we thought that Beats had moved past the point of style over substance. However, the Pill XL proves that Beats still has a lot of work to do. Let's hope the upcoming 2014 model, scheduled to be released later this year, is greatly improved.