Apple’s best-kept secret has been the Beats Studio Buds. Photos and technical documentation describing the earphones were leaked months in advance, and almost everyone was aware of their existence before their official release.
Even yet, we’re still awed by their abilities. The Beats Studio Buds are rock-solid true wireless earbuds with active noise suppression and compatibility for Apple’s Spatial Audio format. For extended lengths of time, they are quite comfortable to wear, with a dynamic sound quality that enhances the highs and lows of your music.
However, there are certain negatives to consider. Poor call quality and the absence of an H1 Wireless Chip are among the main drawbacks. Five hours of battery life with either ANC or Transparency mode is a touch short, and their noise-canceling isn’t exactly class-leading either.
It’s worth noting, though, that they are our favorite Beats headphones since the Powerbeats Pro reshaped the exercise earbud form factor in 2019 and are a good alternative to Sony’s WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds.
Beats Studio Buds will be available for $149.99 (£129.99) / $199.95 (AUS) on June 24, 2021. That’s a far cry from the $249 / £249 / AU$399 Apple AirPods Pro with active noise cancellation, which we think are better than the basic AirPods since they’re more comfortable to wear.
Unlike the last true wireless earbuds from Beats, the Beats Powerbeats Pro, the Beats Studio Buds come in a case that’s almost as sleek and small as the earbuds themselves. The case is egg-shaped, not unlike the new Google Pixel Buds Series-A, and features a single USB-C port on the bottom and a status LED on the front.
Pop it open, and you’ll find the earbuds themselves. To pull them out, you pinch them on the router control panel and pull them up. The control panel is raised, which helps the buds slip firmly into the ear without any over-ear hooks or a fin pushing against the outer ear. The buds then sit almost flush with the ear, and while you won’t be able to wear them to sleep (they stick out a bit too far for that), they’re still supremely comfortable.
In terms of water resistance, the Studio Buds are rated IPX4, making them sweat-resistant but not waterproof. That means you certainly can take them to the gym for a quick workout; however, without the ear hooks, they’re a little less secure, and the lack of outright waterproofing means that they’re certainly not something you should be bringing out to the beach with you.
Inside the box, all you’ll find are a USB-C to USB-C charging cable and additional ear tips. Disappointingly, all of the included ear tips are silicone instead of foam – and they only come in two extra sizes – but you should have everything you need to get a proper seal. Beats designed the Studio Buds to work with both Apple and Android phones with just a tap. All you need to do is open the case near either device, and you’ll see them pop up on your screen, ready to pair.
Now, that’s because the Studio Buds are running a proprietary wireless chip that’s not exactly the W1 or H1 Chip we’ve seen in other Apple earbuds. That’s refreshing for Android owners who haven’t been catered to as well in recent years by the Beats brand since its acquisition by Apple and a bit of a disappointment for some Apple users who enjoy features like multipoint pairing with other Apple devices and hands-free Siri.
While that last bit is pretty disappointing, the benefit of the Buds’ wireless chip is that it enables Bluetooth 5.2 and supports both Find My in iOS and Find My Device in Android. That’s good because the earbuds themselves are pretty small and, if you get the all-black color, can be pretty easy to misplace if they accidentally drop behind the bed… not that we’re speaking from experience.
Finally, you’re ready to put the earphones in your ears and listen to what they have to say. On an iPhone 11 Pro running Apple Music, we linked the speakers with a Dolby Atmos-enabled headset and listened to music.
When listening to music using Spatial Audio, you may still enjoy the benefits of Lossless Audio. However, you won’t be able to enjoy it at its full potential since Bluetooth compression compromises the lossless quality of the music. When it comes to sound, the Studio Buds don’t just provide bass; they do it with a vibrant quality that brings out the best in both the highs and lows of your music. The result is music that keeps your feet tapping and your head bobbing for lengthy periods, yet it doesn’t wear you out.
If you’re looking for a good noise-canceling option in your earbud, Beats has a good one. However, they still have a lot of tinkering to do before they can compete with Sony and Bose, both of which have years of experience tweaking the design, processor, and noise cancellation algorithm to make their earbuds keep the most noise out of your ears.
This means the Studio Buds will be a terrific workplace companion, but they’ll likely struggle to be heard over the jet engine of an aircraft or the ear-shaking tremors of a subway vehicle. Although lockdown constraints have prevented us from using either recently, that will have to be tested in the future.
Another minor gripe we have is that the phone’s battery life and call quality may be improved. ANC or Transparency mode only gets you five hours of battery life per charge or 15 hours with the case. That’s not terrible, and it’s in line with other noise-canceling earbuds, but it falls short of the WF-1000XM4’s eight hours of battery life per charge and an additional 12 hours with the case for a total of 20.
The quality of the calls isn’t fantastic either. You can get away with wearing them inside the home, but as soon as you go outside into the elements, you’ll be wishing you had another set of earphones. The last drawback is that they don’t enable wireless charging, which isn’t a deal-breaker but might be a nuisance if you already have a charging station in place for your other gadgets. The Studio Buds feature fast charging in positive development and can recharge in only five minutes.