AirPods Pro sound quality on a budget

Beats Studio Buds+ improves the sound quality, battery life, and comfort of the previous generation while maintaining same price.

Pros

  • Great sound quality with true ANC
  • Excellent battery life
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Sleek design

Cons

  • Not good for calls
  • Lacks wireless charging
  • Bluetooth connection issues

Released in May, Beats Studio Buds+ is the second generation of a new Beats earbuds lineup that was first introduced in 2021. This iteration improves weak points from its predecessor and makes its qualities shine even more. Still, some issues might never be addressed.

If you are looking for true Active Noise Cancelling earbuds on a budget but with a stylish look, Beats Studio Buds+ could be the earbuds you’ve been waiting for.

Beats Studio Buds+ specs

Sound Custom acoustic platform delivers powerful, immersive sound
Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) adapts to your personal fit to keep you immersed in the music
Transparency mode blends your listening experience with the world around you
Spatial audio for Dolby Atmos surrounds you with sound
Design Three new acoustic vents to improve audio precision and gently relieve pressure for a more comfortable-all day fit
Size and weight Up to 36 hours of total listening time (up to 9 hours from the earbuds and three additional charges from the charging case)
With ANC/Transparency mode on, you’ll get up to 24 hours of total listening time (up to 6 hours from the earbuds and three additional charges from the charging case).
With Fast Fuel, a 5-minute charge gives up to 1 hour of playback when the battery is low.
USB-C universal charging
Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Sweat resistant IPX4-rated sweat and water-resistant earbud
Connectivity Industry-leading Class 1 Bluetooth® for extended range and fewer dropouts
High-quality call performance from upgraded voice-targeting microphones
Power Up to 36 hours of total listening time (up to 9 hours from the earbuds and three additional charges from the charging case)
With ANC/Transparency mode on, you’ll get up to 24 hours of total listening time (up to 6 hours from the earbuds and three additional charges from the charging case).
With Fast Fuel, a 5-minute charge gives up to 1 hour of playback when the battery is low.
USB-C universal charging
Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Hey Siri Yes
Controls Single multi-function button per side
On-device controls for music, calls, and voice assistant
Built-in voice-targeting microphones filter out background noise to enhance voice clarity
In the Box Beats Studio Buds + earbuds
Silicone ear tips with four size options — XS/S/M/L
Matching pocketable charging case
USB-C to USB-C charging cable (power adaptor sold separately)
Warranty card

Design: Cool but discrete

Beats Studio Buds+ reviewImage source: José Adorno for BGR

Beats Studio Buds+ is available in three colors: Transparent, Black/Gold, and Ivory. Beats sent BGR the transparent option, which, honestly, looks the best. While the other ones are stylish plastic painted in black or ivory, this additional option shows the internals of the earbuds, which is pretty sick.

You could call it a throwback to the Game Boy – or for Apple aficionados, it has the iMac G3 transparent design. Either way, the charging case stands out in public, and people always seem curious about these mysterious but cool earbuds.

While the case can draw attention, I love how the earbuds disappear in my ears. Since they have this pill-shaped format and a transparent finish, they are almost unnoticeable when I wear them on the streets or on public transportation.

Although Beats is known for having a charming design that people recognize anywhere – and you can say that about other earbuds, such as the Beats Fit Pro and the Powerbeats Pro – I really dig the idea of looking like I’m not wearing earbuds. While they’re a budget option in the US, I can’t say the same in Brazil.

Beats Studio Buds+ are comfortable, but I wish they had these tweaks

Beats Studio Buds+ in real life Image source: José Adorno for BGR

I tested almost all Beats earbuds and headphones in the past six years, except the first-gen Beats Studio Buds and Beats Flex. It comforts me that I can spend hours and hours wearing Beats Studio Buds+ with no issues, while Fit Pro and Powerbeats Pro would hurt my ears after an hour or so of listening time.

Although the Studio Buds+ ear tips are perfect for my ears, Beats offer three more options: XS, S, and L, one more than its predecessor. Nice improvement, Beats! I’ve seen some people saying Beats should offer a foam option, but I feel like an XS ear tip is more important.

Different ear tip options besides the M size that comes with the earbuds. Image source: José Adorno for BGR

But here are a few drawbacks. As I mentioned above, I wouldn’t say I like the pill-shaped design of these earbuds because it requires me to press them into my ears, which can hurt. So, whenever I want to skip a song or activate ANC or Transparencarbuds. That said, even though they stay comfortable in my ears, they can annoy me if I need to skip songs or switch between modes.

Beats also let you opt for turning the volume up/down instead of ANC/Transparency, but the issue remains. It’s better not to use this function and rely on the iPhone or Apple Watch instead. Still, I really wish Beats would offer AirPods 2-like tap sensors for these functions. Unfortunately, I think this is one of those dealbreaker features that will make users choose between Beats or AirPods options.

Sound quality on par with AirPods Pro 2

iPhone 14 Pro Max and Beats Studio Buds+ earbudsImage source: José Adorno for BGR

if you think you know Beats earbuds, you should think twice. I recently praised the quality sound of Beats Studio Pro headphones, but I said they still don’t sound as good as Apple’s premium AirPods Max option. Regarding Beats Studio Buds+, I think they sound as good as AirPods Pro 2 – and I’m impressed.

I switched between these two earbuds a lot to make sure I wasn’t crazy, but yes, they sound pretty similar. Beats Studio Buds+ makes songs in Spatial Audio shine, as it really sounds like the audio is playing in 360 degrees. One of the reasons could be its new acoustic platform.

Beats say these earbuds offer “re-engineered acoustic venting that improves audio precision and gently relieves pressure for a more comfortable all-day fit. Each bud is equipped with a two-layer transducer that flexes to deliver cleaner bass and ultra-low distortion.”

ANC is also excellent. It isolates most background noises; even buses or motorcycles are hard to hear. If the music you’re listening to is too soft, the earbuds might let some voices or background noises slip. Still, this feature really shines in earbuds that cost way less than $200.

Transparency Mode, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. Since these are in-ear earbuds, they already isolate background noises pretty well. That said, the outside microphones help me detect a car/motorcycle/bus approaching, but it doesn’t feel right talking with this feature or trying to listen to what someone is saying.

Call quality

Image source: José Adorno for BGR

Beats Studio Buds+ is actually OK for in-ear earbuds. On an outdoor FaceTime call, the other person can understand what you say, but the call sounds muffled and a little robotic – especially because the earbuds are very far from the mouth. Beats say it has upgraded voice-targeting microphones with this product, which gives “high-quality call performance.”

That said, Apple tricks also help, such as Voice Isolation mode. Even though the earbuds can isolate background noises, the other person might have difficulty understanding what you say in an audio message. In addition, I don’t like listening to my voice inside my head while I’m speaking, which is the sensation in-ear earbuds give me.

So if you are looking for earbuds to make tons of calls and send audio messages, I’m definitely not recommending these – and I’d say, “Get AirPods 3 instead.” But if you need to pick up a call every now and then on the street, it won’t be a huge deal. Just don’t expect much. For indoor calls, the quality is fine.

Connectivity and features

This section shows Beats Studio Buds+ weak spots. Although I praise its USB-C smart case, Beats decided users would prefer ANC, Spatial Audio, and Transparency mode support rather than wireless charging or Apple’s custom H1 or H2 chips.

Indeed, budget earbuds can’t have all the features; otherwise, they’d become expensive products. Still, I feel like wireless charging is almost an industry standard in 2023, so I miss not having it. But I also don’t think it is a deal breaker for most customers.

I also miss some of the best AirPods features, so after wearing them for years, it’s weird not having the song instantly pause when I take an earbud from my ear or not switching the connection from the iPhone to the iPad, etc.

Beats Studio Buds+ besides iPhone 14 Pro Max
Beats Studio Buds+ besides iPhone 14 Pro Max Image source: José Adorno for BGR

But what has become a huge miss for me is the connection instability between the iPhone and Beats Studio Buds+. While they work just fine at home, at the gym, or if I’m still in a place, in large crowds, or on busy streets, the song I’m listening to crackles every now and then, which isn’t something I’d expect to happen from Bluetooth earbuds these days.

Maybe it’s just me, or the Buds+ needs a firmware update, but since people wear earbuds anywhere, I think it’s important to share my experience, especially with this drawback. If I ever feel it has improved, I’ll update the review, but I don’t see these crackles happening that often with AirPods, although this issue also exists with them in this specific use case.

That said, while Beats Studio Buds+ doesn’t offer some AirPods features, both iPhone and Android users can benefit from Beats’ custom chip.

Apple compatible features:

  • One-touch pairing – easy, one-touch setup instantly pairs with every device in your iCloud account
  • “Hey Siri” – simply say “Hey Siri” to activate your voice assistant
  • Find My – locate your lost earbuds on a map based on the last known connected location
  • Over-the-air updates – receive software updates and new features automatically

Android compatible features:

  • Google Fast Pair – connect quickly with a single tap and automatically pair to all Android or Chrome devices registered to your Gmail account
  • Audio Switch – seamlessly transition audio between your Android, Chromebook, and other compatible devices
  • Find My Device – quickly locate your lost buds with Google Find My Device

Improved battery life

Image source: José Adorno for BGR

Lastly, Beats improved the battery life of Studio Buds+. While past reviews call it “fine,” this time, battery life is outstanding. It holds up to 36 hours of charge, including 27 hours from its case. Using these earbuds for 9 hours straight is possible, and a 5-minute Fast Fuel charge delivers an additional hour of usage.

In my tests, I never cared about not having enough juice to go to the gym or join a call. That said, I feel I would put it more in the charger if it had wireless charging capabilities. Users that are on the fence about choosing new earbuds will be more than pleased with the battery life of Beats Studio Buds+.

Should you get AirPods or other Beats earbuds instead?

AirPods 3, Beats Fit Pro, Beats Studio Buds+, and AirPods Pro 2. Image source: José Adorno for BGR

Beats Studio Buds+ is a solid choice, but Apple has other great options. Here are the key differences:

  • Beats Studio Buds+: Costs $169 and has amazing sound quality with true ANC. It lacks AirPods-like features, and it’s not ideal for calls;
  • AirPods 3: Costs $169, has great sound quality, but lacks ANC. It’s ideal for calls;
  • AirPods Pro 2: Costs $249 and has amazing sound quality with true ANC. Features actual Find My capabilities, and it’s great for calls. The “issue” is that it costs more than the other options;
  • Beats Fit Pro: Costs $249, and it’s as good as the first AirPods Pro. It lacks Find My’s Precision Find feature, but it’s the best choice for those that don’t think AirPods Pro are comfortable enough.

Price and conclusion

Image source: José Adorno for BGR

As mentioned above, Beats Studio Buds+ costs $169.95. Anyone looking for great sound quality with well-designed earbuds and true ANC will benefit from Beats’ latest product. Despite lacking Apple’s custom chips, this lets Beats offer more features to Android users.

It’s important to note that there are always deals with discounts for Beats products, so getting these earbuds for less than what they currently cost is possible if you pay attention. Also, remember that new colors and special editions could be made available in the future, so if you don’t fancy the current options (although I’d strongly recommend the transparent color), more options can appear soon.

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