“Though pricey for what you get, they're stylish, comfortable and a joy to use.”
- Very comfortable
- Decent sound quality
- Excellent call quality
- Easy pairing with Apple products
- A bit pricey for what you get
- Battery life is no longer competitive
- Not great for Android users
The Apple-owned Beats lineup of wireless headphones might be most famous for its big and bold Studio over-ear model and its smaller sibling, the Solo Pro, but there’s more to Beats than big cans.
Take the $100 BeatsX, for instance. Ever since their introduction in 2017, they’ve been the most affordable and arguably the most portable Beats you can buy.
But in a world now dominated by true wireless earbuds (including Beats’ own Powerbeats Pro), can the small and simple BeatsX still hold their own?
Time to find out.
What’s in the box?
The BeatsX come packaged in a simple cardboard box and sleeve, and the only hint of plastic you’ll find is the small black retail hanger loop and the package that contains the optional three sizes of silicone ear tips. The rest is easily recyclable.
You get some paper documentation, like the quick setup guide, and a Beats sticker. A short USB-to-lightning charging cable is the only other accessory.
Apple doesn’t include a travel bag or case for the BeatsX, so you’ll need to find a safe way to stow them when not in use.
Beats products tend to be flashy affairs, with bold colors, glossy plastics, and wide headbands that are instantly recognizable from a distance.
But unless you opt for the vibrant red and black color scheme, the BeatsX are subtle compared to their cousins. In the other two colors — silver and black — the only glossy surface you’ll find are on the earbuds themselves, which are essentially hidden when worn.
The BeatsX use a hybrid cable design that combines a flat, tangle-free wire and a thicker, rubberized around-the-neck section that springs back to its U-shape no matter how much you twist and turn it.
At either end of the U are elongated plastic housings that contain the battery, electronics (including the Apple-designed W1 Bluetooth chip), as well as the charging port and the power/pairing button.
The combination of the rubberized coating and the shape-retaining properties of the U-section means that the BeatsX stay put — especially when they’re in contact with bare skin.
At just eight hours of battery life, the BeatsX are beginning to show their age.
The earbuds clasp together with magnets, which help a little in terms of storage, but I found it more useful when I took the earbuds out and used the magnets to stop the buds from bouncing around independently.
Despite the huge popularity of true wireless earbuds (thanks in no small part to Apple’s other personal audio product line, the AirPods) the BeatsX are a reminder that there’s still a reason to buy wire-connected wireless earbuds.
You don’t have to lug a charging case, you don’t have to worry about where to put the earbuds when they’re not in your ears, and the built-in control buttons on the right-side wire are easier to use than even the best touch controls.
Another benefit to the BeatsX design should be their battery life. With way more space inside those plastic housings for a big battery than you’d find on true wireless earbuds, the standard for this kind of design is now anywhere from 15 hours (Beats Powerbeats 4) to 20 hours (1More Dual Driver ANC Pro), but at just eight hours, the BeatsX are beginning to show their age.
But it’s also the case that Apple’s true wireless earbuds, the AirPods and AirPods Pro, only get around five hours before needing more juice, so when it comes to the length of a single session, the BeatsX are still an improvement.
With the BeatsX, you don’t get a charging case for extending their runtime, but it only takes five minutes of charging to snag another two hours of use.
I’d like it if the BeatsX provided audible feedback about their battery state when you power them on, but instead, you get two kinds of visual gauges. On the neckband, the power button will glow white when you’ve got up to eight hours left (but that can mean anything from 1.5 to a full eight hours) and red when you’ve got an hour or less left.
The more informative gauge is on an iOS device, where you can see the remaining power expressed as a percentage right in the control center. The same info is available to Android users, but only when you open the free Beats app for Android.
Comfort, controls, and connections
Wired Bluetooth earbuds are often more comfortable than their true wireless counterparts because the earbuds are basically just the drivers that produce the sound, so they’re far smaller and lighter. For me, this was certainly true for the BeatsX, which did an admirable job of sitting comfortably and securely in my ears.
The around-the-neck portion of the BeatsX is so lightweight, you can easily forget you’re wearing a wire-connected set of buds at all. Except for the actual wires, of course.
Those tangle-free flat wires are a pleasure to use, but you have to pay attention not to twist them. By default, they keep themselves out of your face, but if you grab an earbud that happens to be turned the wrong way, the opposite happens and the wires are suddenly very chummy with your cheeks.
The inline controls will be instantly familiar to you if you’ve ever used Apple’s wired EarPods — the three-button module (which also includes the microphone) gives you access to all of the most-used features: Play/pause, volume up/down, call answer/end, track skip forward/back, and voice assistant.
It’s also a really clever design, as each button can be pressed with a squeeze of your thumb and index finger regardless of which way the buttons are facing.
Apple fans will love how Bluetooth works on the BeatsX. To pair them, you simply power them on a few inches away from an unlocked iOS device running iOS 10 or newer and you’ll be instantly notified that your BeatsX are just one tap away from being set up.
And even though they don’t have true Bluetooth Multipoint (which would let you keep them connected to two devices simultaneously) Apple’s version of multipoint is almost as good, letting you switch between Macs, iPhones, and iPads with just a click.
They deliver plenty of punch through the low and high frequencies, the kind of EQ that complements rap and hip-hop.
Finally, the BeatsX are also compatible with Apple’s audio sharing feature, which lets any two W1 or H1-equipped headphones or earbuds listen simultaneously to content from an iOS device.
Unfortunately, these three Bluetooth features aren’t available on Android. What is available to all BeatsX buyers is the Class 1 Bluetooth performance, which gives them a huge wireless range when compared to most non-Apple wireless headphones. Class 1 devices can operate up to 328 feet under perfect conditions — almost 10 times farther than Class 2 devices.
The only thing really missing is a wear sensor so that your tunes could pause automatically when you pull out an earbud, but this is a rarity outside of the true wireless earbud world.
The BeatsX may not look like other Beats products, but rest assured, you’ll still get that full, bass-forward sound signature that has become the brand’s sonic calling card.
They deliver plenty of punch through the low and high frequencies, exactly the kind of EQ that complements rap, hip-hop, and a variety of club and EDM subgenres.
They also get impressively loud, if that’s your cup of tea (try not to overindulge, your ears will thank you later).
But the BeatsX, as their price hints at, are not going to be all things to all people, at least from a sound quality point of view. Their midrange suffers from a lack of separation and definition, one of the clearest signs these aren’t high-end earbuds. There’s also a shallowness and narrowness to the soundstage — a certain feeling you get that all of the individual elements are crowded together instead of occupying a larger virtual “space” in your head.
For $100, this isn’t a deal-breaker, and I don’t think most BeatsX buyers will be put off by it, but nonetheless, these are not the wireless earbuds for you if you’re looking to kick back in a quiet place and immerse yourself in all of the details of your favorite tracks.
These are great wireless earbuds for taking calls in all kinds of environments.
For that pursuit, you’ll need to look higher up the food chain, in the $150-$250 range.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not the BeatsX are for you, perhaps this will help: The BeatsX have excellent call quality. Perhaps I’ve just become accustomed to the slightly underwhelming calling performance of most true wireless earbuds, but I can’t get over just how good these earbuds sound.
I’m guessing it has everything to do with microphone placement. The BeatsX position their mic much closer to the source of your voice (i.e. your mouth) than any true wireless buds can hope to do, and that pays off in two major ways.
First, your voice is simply clearer. There’s no distortion, no wibbly-wobbly effects that I’ve come to associate with these devices. Second, because your voice is closer, the headphone’s background noise canceling circuits don’t have to work as hard to amplify it, while diminishing everything else.
These are great wireless earbuds for taking calls in all kinds of environments.
For $100 you can get a pretty decent set of true wireless earbuds these days. But with their comfort, good battery life, plus excellent Bluetooth connectivity and call quality, the BeatsX are still worth considering especially if you’re already invested in Apple’s ecosystem.
Is there a better alternative?
If you like the BeatsX around-the-neck design, there are two good alternatives. The cheaper $79 JLab Epic ANC are comfortable and have incredible battery life, but may not wow you with their noise cancellation or sound quality, while the more expensive $150 1More Dual Driver ANC Pro are a great step up if you want a significant improvement in sound quality and ANC.
How long will they last?
The BeastX are very well built, with durable materials and connections. They come with a one-year warranty from Apple, which can be extended with an optional AppleCare purchase. Under normal use, I think they will last for many years, though you can expect battery capacity to diminish over time.
Should you buy them?
If you’re an Apple customer, yes. Though a bit pricey for what you get, the BeatsX nonetheless deliver a good set of features and sound quality. Android users should probably explore alternatives.
- The best Beats headphones and earbuds for every activity
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