Beats announced its newest pair of wireless earbuds on Monday, the Beats Studio Buds.
The new headphones feature a completely wireless design and active noise canceling (ANC), putting them in line with similar noise-cancelling pairs like Beats parent company Apple’s AirPods Pro and Sony’s new WF-1000XM4.
However, at $150, the Studio Buds undercut those competitors by a fair margin on price. The earbuds are available for pre-order starting today and will ship on June 24.
I’ve had the Studio Buds on hand for the past few weeks and in that time I’ve been generally impressed. Whether the headphones are worth it to you will likely come down to what you prioritize earbuds like these.
A lightweight, comfortable design and a more compact charging case
Beats Studio Buttons
The best thing the Beats Studio Buds have going for them is their design. Measuring 15.5mm × 21.6mm × 19.8mm and weighing 5.1g each, each earbud is exceptionally light and compact, providing a feeling of near weightlessness in the ear. They don’t stick out wildly from the ear or look silly in any other way. They use a set of soft silicone tips, similar to what Apple pairs with the AirPods Pro, and they don’t dig too far into the ear canal by default. That means the headphones don’t naturally isolate sound as well as earbuds like the Jabra Elite 75t or Sony WF-1000XM4, but overall the lighter touch helps the Studio Buds put less strain on the ear over longer periods. Put another way, this is a very comfortable and relatively discreet pair of earbuds.
The earbuds themselves have a unique contoured shape with pill-like “fins” that curve outward at each end. As well as being a place for Beats to store the external mics and antennas, this gives you a natural place to grab each earbud when you need to remove it or push it back into place, which I’ve come to really appreciate. The design also creates a bit of separation between the controls on the device and your ear canal, so when you go to pause a track or turn on active noise cancelling, you don’t have to force the earbuds deeper into the side of your head. the same time.
Each earbud gets one physical control button, which can be used to play, pause and skip tracks; toggle between the Studio Buds’ noise reduction and transparency modes; and answer phone calls. This control scheme is mirrored on each earbud by default, but you can also set up one button to activate a voice assistant, via the Bluetooth settings on iOS or the Beats app on Android. While the customizable touch controls on Sony’s WF-1000XM4 are a little more versatile, it’s harder to accidentally press a physical button, so many people might not mind the trade-off.
That said, there’s no way to adjust the earbud volume without using a voice assistant. This limitation is somewhat understandable given how little space the Studio Buds have, but it’s still a shame: having to pull out your phone to turn things down goes against the idea of an “untethered” device.
I was a fan of Beats’ last set of true wireless earbuds, the Powerbeats Pro, but they came with a comically large charging case that might struggle to fit in some pockets. Thankfully, the Studio Buds don’t repeat that mistake. The oval case here is still a bit thicker and wider than the AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM4 or Jabra Elite 75t cases – it measures 51.5mm x 73mm x 25.6mm and weighs 48g – but it should shouldn’t be a significant struggle to fit in most pockets or handbags. Beats says it’s 80 percent smaller than the Powerbeats Pro’s body. The earbuds click securely into position, so there’s no uncertainty about whether or not they’re charging.
The case also charges via USB-C rather than Apple’s own Lightning port, meaning Android users aren’t left out in the cold like they are with AirPods. However, unlike the standard AirPods, the Studio Buds do not support wireless charging.
Beats says it will continue to sell the Powerbeats Pro as a more exercise-friendly alternative to the Studio Buds. Given the more stable “earhook” design of the former, it makes sense. But we didn’t run into any major issues keeping the Studio Buds in place, and they have the same IPX4 sweat resistance rating. Other true wireless earbuds like the Jabra Elite 75t and Jaybird Vista 2 are more technically resistant, but the Studio Buds should still be able to withstand workouts without going haywire.
Pay attention to Android and other notable features
Like other Apple headphones, the Studio Buds are a breeze to use with iOS devices. To pair, just open the case near your iPhone, and as long as Bluetooth is on, a prompt will appear in no time. Hit “Connect” and you’re good to go. The Studio Buds quickly reconnected to my iPhone 12 mini every time I took them out without forcing me to do any additional input.
What’s different about the Studio Buds is that they try to emulate the usual Apple headphone experience, at least somewhat, on Android. To pair, you’ll need to give the Beats app location access and press and hold the pairing button in the case. You get a similar graphical prompt that lets you connect without digging into menus. Similarly, when I used a Pixel 3a as my primary device, the Studio Buds immediately reconnected every time I opened their case.
From there, there is at least some degree of feature parity between the two operating systems. You can switch between ANC and Transparency modes, or just turn both off, by long-pressing the earbuds on either platform. On Android, you can also toggle these features in the Beats app; on iOS, you can do this through the device’s Bluetooth settings menu or by long-pressing the volume rocker in Control Center. You can check the battery levels for the case and each earbud in the Android notification tray. Both platforms let you listen with one earbud.
There are also lost device tracking features on both: the earbuds support Apple’s Find My network on iOS, while on Android you can see their last known location via the Google Find My Device app. You can also ring an earbud remotely on Android if you’ve lost it somewhere nearby. And as mentioned above, you can use the Beats app on Android to set one of the control buttons to activate Google Assistant with a long press. You only get hands-free voice assistant controls on iOS, though; there you can say, “Hey Siri” to activate voice commands, just like you can with the AirPods Pro.
Unlike other Apple headphones – and probably related to its increased friendliness to Android – the Studio Buds don’t ship with one of Apple’s W1 or H1 wireless chips, instead opting for a custom solution. As suggested above, this doesn’t have a huge effect on the functionality of the device; most of the main AirPods conveniences are still there. But it does mean you lose features like iCloud device syncing and audio sharing. On Mac and Windows, the earbuds pair just like any other Bluetooth device, though they gave me no noticeable trouble syncing.
From there, the Studio Buds maintained a consistently stable connection throughout my testing. They connect via Bluetooth 5.2 and, like many other Apple headphones, are equipped with a Class 1 Bluetooth radio. So far I haven’t had any noticeable hiccups either inside or out.
Regardless of which OS you use, there’s no automatic ear detection either, though, meaning the Studio Buds don’t automatically pause when you take them out of your ears. This feature is found on most wireless earbuds around this price point, including many Apple headphones with a W1 or H1 chip, so its omission is a disappointment. Likewise, there’s no multipoint connectivity, so you can’t connect to multiple devices at once and quickly switch between them if necessary. That’s a less common feature, but it’s still handy to have.