Within hours I got an email from Beats Audio which, bravely or foolishly, asked if I'd like to review its latest Executive headphones. The Beats brand is the brainchild of LA rap star and hip-hop producer Dr Dre, who found fame in the rap group NWA and later produced the platinum-selling album Doggystyle for Snoop Dogg.
On face value, the headphones are fairly handsome. It would be hard to describe them as "executive" in any traditional sense, but they're inoffensive. The same, though, cannot be said of their audio performance.
Complex music lacks the refinement found in other headphones in this price range and, while these cans deliver an engaging performance on dance and rap tracks, you expect more from a £250-plus set of headphones.
The noise cancelling feature is similarly disappointing. While other noise-cancelling sets like the Bose QuietComfort envelop the wearer in an eerie, seemingly infinite silence, the starting point for the Beats Executive is a prominent background hiss akin to the run-out groove on a grubby vinyl record.
That hiss never goes away. It's masked by loud passages of music but always returns during quieter pieces – often distractingly so. Worse, take the headphones off and they emit an odd howl – much like when a microphone is held too close to a PA system – that only stops when you switch the headphones off.
The Beats run from two AAA batteries hidden behind a magnetic flap on the left ear cup. The batteries aren't rechargeable and, unlike any other wired headphones, they stop working when the batteries run out, so a spare set is essential.
A smart feature lets you mute music playback and disable the noise-cancelling feature with one press of the Beats logo. This works well to let the wearer hear external sounds, but highlights the hiss generated by the noise-cancelling feature the rest of the time.
With all that said, I'm struggling to find a target market for Beats Executive. The similarly priced and more effective Bose QuietComfort headphones would better serve frequent flyers, while audiophiles have a range of superior choices in the same price range, my personal favourite being the B&W P5s.
Cloth-eared fashion victims have a range of options for the money from Skullcandy, Lady Gaga and the late Bob Marley's estate. Beats also offers a range of other trendy styles and colours around the same price, which leaves me wondering if there's really a gap in the market for executives who want gangster rap headphones dressed up as a dinner suit.
Positives Nice packaging and an inoffensive colour scheme.
Negatives Poor environmental credentials. Hiss masks an otherwise mediocre performance.