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Beats Pill (2024) speaker review: the best portable for under $200

Beats Pill (2024) in Champagne/Gold and matte black.
Beats Pill (2024)
MSRP $150.00
“Take two Pills and thank me in the morning.”
Pros
  • Sleek design
  • Excellent battery life
  • Can charge other devices
  • USB-C audio
  • Fully dust/waterproof
  • Works great as a speakerphone
Cons
  • No analog-in
  • iOS needs more controls
  • No EQ settings

It’s been just shy of a decade since Beats launched its last new Bluetooth speaker, the Beats Pill+. And when Beats discontinued that product in 2022, it looked like the company might be done with speakers entirely. Turns out it was simply studying the competition as it planned its next move. Now that a new Beats Pill is here, it’s safe to say that the brand has done its homework.

The new Pill manages to hit a perfect sweet spot, combining sleek design, handy features, great battery life, and sound quality that arguably is the best you can get under $200.

Beats Pill Review | It's Back and You’ll Want Two!

Here’s everything you need to know.

The key to a great portable speaker is its size-to-sound quality ratio. Give it powerful sound and you risk making it too big to easily tote or stuff in a backpack. Make it too small and you risk selling a speaker that barely sounds better than a smartphone.

I’ve seen speakers on both sides of the equation, like the Marshall Willen, which is tiny, but tinny, and the Sonos Move 2, which creates big, beautiful sound, but unless you have access to a car, you won’t be tempted to take it farther than your backyard or balcony.

The new Beats Pill fits right in the Goldilocks zone. At 8 inches long with a diameter of 2.75 inches, the cylindrical speaker is smaller than most water bottles. At 24 ounces, you’ll notice the weight in a bag, but it won’t wrench your shoulder if you carry it around all day. Oh, and it sounds great. More on that in a moment.

Beats Pill (2024) in Champagne/Gold hanging on a wall.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Though looks are always subjective, I think the Pill is stylish, with fluid lines, a surprisingly demure Beats “b” logo that’s color-matched to the metal grille, plus a set of controls that are nearly invisible. The included lanyard is a nice touch. All portable speakers should at least have this as an option, but the Pill+ lacked this handy add-on.

In keeping with Beats’ history of offering lots of colors, you can buy the Pill in black, red, or a lowkey blingy version called champagne gold (seen here, along with the black version).

The choice to use metal for the grille may mean that your Pill takes on a certain lived-in charm over the years (it’s gonna dent and scratch). But out of the box, it’s pretty glorious.

My one small gripe: The grippy, rubberized body is an absolute magnet for pet fur, pocket lint, and any other debris you can think of. On the other hand, the Pill is rated IP67, making it effectively waterproof. So if — when — it becomes fouled with Fido’s fur, just run it under the tap. You can even toss it in the pool. But since it doesn’t float very well, you should probably retrieve it ASAP.

Beats Pill (2024) in Champagne/Gold (rear view)
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Around the back you’ll find an unprotected USB-C port. Using the included cable, you can charge the speaker via USB-C and even play lossless audio from a computer or other compatible device — a very unusual feature on a Bluetooth speaker that’s this portable.

Sadly, Beats didn’t quite go for the kill shot here: There’s no way to pipe in analog audio, something you could do on the Beats Pill+.

Speaking of the new Pill’s predecessor: Just like that older speaker, you can run power both ways — into the USB-C port for charging, and out of the port for charging other devices. Changing the charging direction can be done with a triple tap on the power button, which is super clever.

Beats Pill (2024) in Champagne/Gold (side view)
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The difference is that the Pill+ only had a 12-hour battery to work with. The new speaker doubles that capacity, letting you donate up to half its charge to your phone while still getting a day’s worth of listening time.

Let’s just repeat that: The new Pill has a 24-hour battery. That’s unheard of in a speaker this size. You can track that huge capacity using the LED on the Pill itself — white means full; green means normal (between 10% and 100% remaining); and red means less than 10% remaining (roughly two hours or less). Or you can check your iPhone settings or the Beats Android app for a precise percentage.

Using the Pill as a speakerphone is very convenient, and your callers might not even know you’re doing it. Voice pickup is excellent within about 1 or 2 feet and is still perfectly adequate at up to 7 feet indoors. Not every portable speaker doubles as a speakerphone — see the more expensive Bose SoundLink Max, for example. But compared to the ones I had on hand that have this feature (Sony ULT Field 1, Soundcore Motion 300), the Beats Pill proved superior for voice clarity — and yes, you can trigger your phone’s voice assistant too.

The new Pill supports fast pairing for both iPhones and Android devices (via Google Fast Pair). Unfortunately, Beats hadn’t enabled Fast Pair during our review period, so I didn’t get a chance to test it. Not that pairing an Android without Fast Pair is hard — it’s like two more taps. Hopefully Google Fast Pair’s key benefits (Google Find and seamless device switching) works as well when it goes live as it has on previous Beats devices like the Studio Pro.

Beats Pill (2024) in Champagne/Gold and matte black.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Like many other Bluetooth portables, you can connect two Pills for bigger sound. Amplify Mode sends the same sound to both speakers, while Stereo Mode turns them into a stereo pair.

When using an iPhone, you’ll have to memorize the button-press combos needed for these modes. And once in Stereo mode, an iPhone won’t let you swap the left/right channels. To do that, you’d need to exit Stereo mode and re-enter it using the other speaker (the speaker you use to trigger Stereo mode automatically becomes the left channel).

This is one area where you’ll find one of the rarest occurrences in tech: an Apple-made device that works better with Android. The Beats Android app gives you a clear and easy way to manage both modes, plus you can flip a stereo pair’s channels with a single tap.

One of the biggest changes from the Beats Pill+ is the move from stereo to mono sound. Whereas the Pill+ used four drivers (two per channel), the new Pill has just two drivers. Does it matter? I don’t think so. Those two drivers occupy the same space that used to fit four, and they’re bigger and more powerful. Volume level benefits the most. At 50%, the Pill pumps out a lot more sound than either the Marshall Emberton II or the Sonos Roam/Roam 2.

To be frank, stereo sound from a small portable can be an iffy thing at the best of times. The size of the speaker rarely provides enough distance between the two channels, making the stereo sweet spot very small both in terms of width and distance from the speaker. Mono sound just makes more sense.

The fidelity of the new Pill is excellent for a speaker of this size. The Bass, while not thunderous by any means, still has plenty of resonance and oomph. The highs and upper midranges are clear and precise, and the mids — while not as detailed as you’ll get on a bigger speaker — are as good (if not better) than I’ve heard on any other portable at this size and price.

The entire frequency response is well-managed, and you won’t find a hint of distortion even if you push the Pill to its limits. We put the Beats Pill versus the Bose SoundLink Max, and one-on-on it holds its own.

Using the USB-C audio input improves the highs considerably. When using Bluetooth, Nick Cave’s voice on the track Red Right Hand can sound a bit harsh at times. Normally I’d reach into a speaker’s EQ settings to tweak that, but the Pill unfortunately lacks any tone or EQ adjustments. Cave’s vocals heard via USB-C retain their gravel but lose the grit.

USB-C audio works with virtually all Android phones (plus the iPhone 15) and it makes the Pill an unexpectedly good mini soundbar for desktop computers. My Mac also recognized the Pill’s microphone — handy for FaceTime and other chat apps.

Beats Pill (2024) with Marshall Emberton II, Sonos Roam, and Sony ULT Field 1.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

I put the new Pill head-to-head with the Marshall Emberton II ($170), Sony ULT Field 1 ($130), and Sonos Roam ($180) in a sound quality shoot-out. It was a tight race — with the ULT Field 1 in particular. But after several plays of my go-to test tracks, the Pill came out on top.

Beats Pill (2024) and JBL Flip 6.
The new Beats Pill (left) and JBL Flip 6. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Minutes after publishing this review, a reader emailed me to complain about my declarative headline given that I didn’t include any mention of the very popular JBL Flip 6. That’s a fair critique, so I’ll fix that.

The Flip 6 ($130) might be the only speaker in this price range that can match the Pill’s raw output, but it doesn’t handle all of that power as gracefully as the Pill. The louder the Flip gets, the harsher it tends to sound, whereas the Pill just gets, well, louder. The Pill’s low frequency reproduction also has a warmer tone than the Flip’s, something that I wasn’t able to address with JBL’s EQ adjustments.

That said, the Flip is smaller and lighter than the Pill, making it an easy choice for those who value portability above all.

As you’d expect, Amplify Mode gets a second Pill to play the same audio (at the same volume) as your first Pill. It’s a great way to spread sound around a large gathering or as a poor man’s multi-room audio setup.

Stereo Mode, however, is the Pill’s real superpower. Set up two in any location and then angle the speakers toward your listening area, and you’ve got a truly portable hi-fi alternative. It’s surprising how few portable speakers offer this feature given how great it sounds. Sony’s ULT Field speakers can stereo pair, as can JBL’s most recent portables like the Flip 6, Charge 5, and Xtreme 4, but Marshall’s Emberton II won’t do it, and neither will UE’s Boom 3. The Sonos Roam/Roam 2 will stereo pair, but only when they’re at home, on your Wi-Fi network.

By now, you’ve likely guessed I’m impressed by Beats’ new Pill. Is it perfect? No — I would have liked to see an analog input and perhaps some backlighting on the controls to make them easier to see at night. It’s also inexcusable that iOS lacks the handy pairing/amplify/stereo settings found in the Beats Android app, but overall, the Pill checks every box you could ask for, and does it at a price that is way lower than you’d expect given who sells it.

Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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