Apple’s Beats brand of wireless headphones and earbuds remains a favorite among folks who are looking to combine style, function, and audio quality. But Beats makes a lot of different products, from professional over-the-ear studio headphones to true wireless earbuds meant for the most active of lifestyles.
So how do you choose which Beats headphones or earbuds are right for you? It all comes down to how you plan to use them, and of course, your budget.
That’s where we come in. This guide to the best Beats headphones and earbuds for every activity aims to make the buying process a lot easier — not by sorting every single Beats product into a category — but by picking the best Beats product for your specific needs.
The best Beats headphones and earbuds at a glance
- The best Beats headphones for serious workouts: Beats Powerbeats Pro
- The best Beats headphones for active lifestyles: Beats Powerbeats 4
- The best Beats headphones for critical music listening: Beats Studio 3 Wireless
- The best Beats headphones for canceling noise: Beats Solo Pro
Why you should buy them: They’ll outlast your longest workout, keep you moving with authoritative bass, and won’t break from a little (or a lot) of sweat.
Who they’re for: Those who want a workout companion with zero entanglements.
Why we picked the Powerbeats Pro:
There is no shortage of true wireless earbuds for your day-to-day commute or even a spirited dog-walking session. But for serious workouts — the kinds that leave you breathless and on the verge of passing out — you need much more than a regular set of true wireless buds.
Which is why the Powerbeats Pro are so perfectly aimed at high-intensity activities. The built-in ear hook is fully adjustable, offering a fit that is not only comfortable but very secure. Four sets of silicone ear tips should mean that everyone can find their size.
The last thing you want while training for a half-marathon is to have an earbud launch itself into the road. We can virtually guarantee the Powerbeats Pro won’t move unless you want them to.
The Powerbeats Pro use physical buttons instead of touch controls, which was a wise choice. Though sometimes a bit too easy to activate, they’re guaranteed to respond when you press them instead of requiring incessant tapping.
Better yet, if you’re an iPhone user, there’s no need for button presses at all. Simply say, “Hey, Siri” followed by commands like “turn up the volume” or “skip this song” and your wish is Siri’s command. That is if you still have the ability to speak as you close in on the finish line.
Audio quality is excellent, especially if you like your workouts accompanied by a healthy serving of bass. Nine hours of battery life on a single charge should be more than enough, even for a triathlon, though don’t take them swimming — the IPX4 rating is great for sweat and rain, but not for immersion in water.
Are they perfect? Almost. The charging case is massive; not bad for a gym bag, but definitely not pocket-friendly. We experienced some wonky wireless connections during our review, but that might have been an anomaly.
We’re also a bit surprised Apple didn’t build the Powerbeats Pro with a transparency mode for letting outside sounds in. You’ll just have to be extra careful when working out near other people or traffic.
Then there’s the price. Normally $250, you can sometimes find them for $50 less, but they’re still among the more expensive choices when it comes to true wireless earbuds.
Why you should buy them: Longer battery life and less expensive than the Powerbeats Pro but with the same great sound and sport-oriented fit.
Who they’re for: Those who want an all-day fitness companion and who don’t mind the presence of a wire if it saves some money.
Why we picked the Powerbeats 4:
Though technically still simply called Beats Powerbeats, we’ve tacked on the “4” because they’re the fourth generation of these wireless headphones and when you’re shopping for them you might easily get them confused with the older (and now cheaper) third-gen Powerbeats.
Whatever you call them, they’re still one of the best wireless options for people who like to live life in the fast lane.
With the same integrated ear hook design of the Powerbeats Pro and a modified cable placement that keeps the wire away from your face, the new Powerbeats are better than ever for all kinds of activities.
Some may say that true wireless earbuds are the best for fitness, and that’s definitely an argument we agree with, but that doesn’t mean that cable-connected earbuds can’t compete at all.
Among the Powerbeats advantages is massive battery life — 15 hours — easily topping even the best true wireless earbuds. You’ll never experience sync or connectivity issues between the two earbuds, and, even though you get that signature, heavy-bass Beats sound, at just $150, you won’t have to pay as much to get it.
With Apple’s H1 wireless chip, the Powerbeats have superb wireless range, so you can leave your phone in your bag or locker and remain connected throughout your fitness regimen. The H1 also grants iPhone users hands-free access to Siri, an important upgrade over the third-gen Powerbeats.
Why you should buy them: They’re big, comfy cans that deliver great sound and noise canceling too.
Who they’re for: Anyone who cares about top-notch audio quality and doesn’t mind toting around a full-size set of headphones to get it.
Why we picked the Beats Studio 3 Wireless:
We’re fast approaching the point where a set of true wireless earbuds can deliver all of the sonic goodness of a full-size set of headphones, but for some people, nothing will quite take the place of donning a set of big, comfy, and cozy cans and getting lost in the music.
For these folks, we recommend the Beats Studio 3 Wireless. But don’t let their size fool you — they might be the biggest headphones that Beats makes, but at just 9.17 ounces, they’re among the lightest over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones you’ll find.
Unlike Beats’ newer wireless models, the Studio 3 Wireless are equipped with Apple’s W1 wireless chip. It’s still an impressive piece of hardware for its quick-pairing and switching with Apple products and its superb wireless reliability, but it won’t let you talk to Siri unless you press a button.
Speaking of buttons, the Studio 3 Wireless give you earcup-based controls for all of the most common features like play/pause, call answer/end, volume up/down, track skip, and of course, Siri.
Though not quite as good at noise-canceling as models from Sony or Bose, these Beats headphones do a very good job of muting the outside world, something that is helped by a set of mics inside the earcups, which ensure the ANC is optimized for how well the earcups are sealed to your head.
As far as the audio is concerned, there will be few surprises for Beats fans: The sound signature is still bass-forward and very lively — perfect for pop, rap, hip-hop, and EDM — but ever so slightly better balanced than previous Studio models.
With about 22 hours of playtime with ANC engaged and up to 40 with it turned off, the Studio 3 Wireless can keep going for the longest of flights. A 10-minute rapid charge delivers an extra 3 hours of playback.
It may not be the most portable Beats model, but we’re guessing you probably won’t mind when you hear them.
Why you should buy them: The Beats Solo Pro offer a fantastic combination of style, ANC, quality audio, and portability.
Who they’re for: Those who want excellent noise cancellation without sacrificing the ability to hear the world around you when it counts.
Why we picked the Beats Solo Pro:
The Beats Solo Pro might be the best Beats headphones so far. Armed with Apple’s latest noise-canceling tech, they claim to analyze your surroundings thousands of times per second, to continuously block out unwanted sounds.
With a single button — the only visible button on the headphones — you can switch between ANC and transparency mode, which flips the noise-canceling script and lets the outside world in so you can have a conversation or just stay aware of the world around you. You can also turn both functions off with the same button.
Sound is very good on the Beats Solo Pro; they follow in the Studio 3 Wireless’ footsteps by taking the over-hyped Beats bass signature down a notch, which lets all of the other frequencies enjoy an equal place on the soundstage.
Using Apple’s latest H1 wireless chip, the Solo Pro have ultra-fast pairing with iPhones and can let you speak to Siri hands-free, but one of the coolest features is audio sharing. When using newer Apple devices (like the iPhone 8) as the source, you can pair the Solo Pro simultaneously with Apple’s AirPods, AirPods Pro, or other Beats headphones with the W1 or H1 chip for two-up listening, whether it’s a movie, song, or podcast.
Speaking of the H1 chip, as a Class 1 Bluetooth device, the Solo Pro offer exceptionally long operating distances (up to 300 feet outdoors) when used with a Class 1 Bluetooth device as the source.
Battery life is also a highlight. You’ll get 22 hours with ANC on, but this jumps to 40 hours when you turn it off. You can easily extend your listening time with a 10-minute quick-charge, which provides an additional three hours of playback.
If there’s a drawback to the new Solo Pro, it’s in their drive to be as simple as possible. For instance, there’s no power button. To turn them on, you unfold them, while folding them up turns them off. It’s clever, but not everyone will like that they stay powered on as long as they’re unfolded.
There’s also no headphone input, so you won’t be able to use them with a non-Bluetooth music source or an airplane’s onboard entertainment system unless you have a Bluetooth accessory like the AirFly.
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