No matter what you think of Beats, it’s undeniable that the brand has had a huge impact on the audio industry. Without the disruptive influence of a “cool” brand that seems to have as many celebrity endorsements as a 2008-era Barack Obama, we wager there wouldn’t have been anywhere near as big a rush from traditional audio brands to up their game. It’s been a productive few years.
Despite this audio arms race, the might of benevolent owner Apple has helped Beats continue as a strong player. The company has its detractors, of course – a love/hate relationship between Beats and audiophiles will seemingly never be reconciled – but its engineers have done their best to develop genuine improvements in all aspects of their products. The Beats studio buds were first launched in summer 2021, offering a true wireless, active noise cancellation pair of earbuds at a welcome price, something still not seen often enough for our liking.
The Beats fit pro earbuds are set to launch in the UK this month, adding some extra audio sophistication and a tighter fit (a wing tip inside the ear?!) to the brand’s flagship buds. However, at half the price, is it still worth considering the Studio Buds as your go-to in-ear listening partner?
How we tested
It might surprise you to discover that IndyBest reviewers don’t live particularly similar lives to globally-renowned rappers and top-end music producers, so testing for us came down to the usual parameters.
We looked, centrally, at audio quality: could we hear an improvement in audio sophistication? Did the sound do enough to hold our attention? Other aspects we considered ranged from comfort and fit – could we wear them for a long-haul flight; will they fall out at random intervals? – to the buds’ looks and portability.
Beats studio buds: £105, Amazon.co.uk
Noise cancellation: ANC
Weight: 5g (case 48g)
Battery life: 8 hours (5 hours with ANC), up to 24 hours with case; fast charging (one hour of playback from five minutes charge)
Connectivity: One-touch pairing for Apple and Android, Bluetooth 5.2
Voice control: Siri, Google Assistant
The studio buds couldn’t look more Beats with a century of research and development time. We’ve spent a good while trying to think of a better way of describing them than “cool”, but that’s what they are: they’re what you’d get if you spent a fortnight analysing Jony Ive’s Pinterest board and then added some Kubrick verve. They exude style in a very Apple and Beats way.
They don’t just look great – they feel just as good. The novel shape of the buds means there’s no hassle with keeping a hold of them while adjusting the fit. Your fingers settle nicely on the flat edges, keeping the buds secure, instead of the risk with more bulbous buds slipping from your grasp as you take one out to listen for train announcements and it squirms out of your hands and onto the track.
There are no touch controls on the buds themselves, with a clickable button for play/pause and no option for volume control. Lack of volume control is a shame, but it’s actually quite nice to bask in the certainty of a click as opposed to the doubt-ridden experience of tapping furiously at your ear.
The studio buds are a slimline 5g and slide nicely into the ear – Beats provides three size options for the tips, meaning most people will be able to achieve a snug fit. The weight also means that wearing the Buds for prolonged periods won’t be an issue: we had no problems wearing them over the course of a few hours. There’s enough stamina in the tips to make it pretty easy to exercise in the studio buds, too, helped by their sweat and water resistance rating of IPX4. Note we say resistance: as long as you don’t want to listen to the Moana soundtrack while doing lengths or immerse yourself in whale noises while in the sauna, you’ll be good to go.
The buds’ case is lightweight and supremely portable, with a pleasingly simple “b” branding on the front and nothing else. Beats has opted to include a USB-C charging port on the studio buds, a nod to the brand’s choice of making these more accessible to non-Apple users. Battery life is extended by 15 hours with a fully-charged case, with a slightly disappointing initial five hours with active noise cancellation (ANC) turned on. Fast charging is available, however, with five minutes of charging enough for an hour’s listening.
The sound quality of Beats products has risen steadily in recent years. The studio buds continue this trend, with a marked upturn in quality when compared to the nice-looking but ultimately more statement products of Beats’s yesteryear. There’s no risk of anything other than a strong audio performance here: it’s certainly still a signature Beats sound, which isn’t for everyone (audio purists, we’re looking at you), but it’s nice to see, or rather hear, Beats sticking to its guns somewhat.
The studio buds’ improved attention to audio intricacy is, however, well appreciated, especially in the higher frequencies, something that Beats has historically not quite found the right balance for compared to booming bass. In fact, it’s quite odd not to hear that imbalance when using the Studio Buds, but after a while, the lively nature of their sound is welcome development. Although there’s a noticeable difference, very little bass is lost on bass-heavy tracks like Childish Gambino’s ‘Redbone’, and this is countered by an impressive clarity throughout. Case in point: we had to test the Studio Buds while waiting for a delivery, and the Buds’ clarity and distinction between track layers meant that we, more than once, thought we heard someone at the door. Turns out that Mac Ayres’ ‘Easy ‘is a lot more talkative in the background than we previously thought. Bonus points to Beats.
Like many earbuds at this price point, the studio buds offer ANC. The studio buds’ ANC is fine, doing enough to block out most external noise, and transparency mode works particularly well. There are better ANC performances out there from Sony, Technics and Apple’s AirPods Pro, for instance, but the studio buds’ effort is by no means a dealbreaker, and does the job with no fuss.
The verdict: Beats studio buds
The studio buds produce some seriously impressive sound, especially in the higher frequencies, and the fit is among the best around, with a barely-noticeable weight and perfect size. The quick pairing for Android users is a great move, and shows that Beats aren’t purely for Apple users since the company’s acquisition. The ANC is decent, which is upgraded to good when taking the price of the studio nuds into consideration, and is more than good enough for the majority of users – the same can be said for call quality.
Ultimately, products like earbuds come down to a few select things. Audio quality is obviously the most important, and fit is vital for a comfortable experience. One less-attended element is the general vibe from a pair of earbuds: how do they look? How do you feel when you wear them? Thanks to a combination of astute branding, money thrown at celebrity endorsements, but above all else a fantastic aesthetic, the Beats studio buds are a very desirable pair of earbuds that not only produce great sound, but give off an air of sophistication and style, even in the ears of tech reviewers. It’s a miracle.
Beats studio buds
Buy now £105.00, Amazon.co.uk
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