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Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) vs Beats Studio Buds

For once, Beats looks like a value buy.
By

Published onNovember 22, 2022

Apple AirPods vs Beats Studio Buds header image.

Since taking over Beats in 2014, Apple continues to develop its own audio products while refining the Beats brand. That means sometimes Apple is competing against, well, Apple—the original Apple AirPods Pro and Beats Studio Buds wrestle in the same true wireless earbud arena. Both sets of true wireless earbuds offer a tray of ear tips and active noise cancellation (ANC). Each headset is more expensive than your typical consumer earphones, but they’re pretty close in price to each other, especially with recent AirPods Pro price drops.

This article compares the Beats Studio Buds to the Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation), which can now frequently be found on sale for around the same price. We also have a full review of the newer Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation).

Editor’s note: this post was updated on June 6, 2023, to add mention of the new Beats Studio Buds Plus.

You can watch our Beats Studio Buds video review here:

And this is our Apple AirPods Pro video review:

What’s it like to use the AirPods Pro or Beats Studio Buds?

Beats Studio Buds packaging
Multiple ear tips options ensure a proper fit with the Beats Studio Buds.

The Beats Studio Buds has a vibrant paint job that uniformly finishes the case, earbuds, and ear tips, whether you choose white, black, or red options. At a featherweight 5 grams a piece, the earbuds are light enough that it is easy to forget you’re even wearing them. Without a protruding stem, each earbud is also smaller than the AirPods Pro.

Maintaining the design philosophy of the original AirPods, the AirPods Pro is only available in glossy white. Unlike the original AirPods, the Pro model seals to the ears for better isolation and sound quality. The stem on each earbud doesn’t protrude very far, though it’s long enough to get caught on a mask which can send the earbuds flying out of your ear.

Both the Beats Studio Buds and AirPods Pro feature an IPX4 sweat and water resistance rating, so you don’t have to worry about using either of the earbuds outdoors or at the gym. No matter which pair of buds you go with, you get multiple sets of silicone ear tips (small, medium, and large) to choose from for a more custom fit.

How do the controls differ?

The Apple AirPods Pro in a man's left hand against a green background.
The Apple AirPods Pro has indentations to indicate where the touch controls are located.

Small indentations on the earbud stems control the AirPods Pro. Different combinations of squeezes adjust music playback, Siri, and noise cancellation. You can access more controls from the earbuds with a simple “Hey Siri.” The AirPods Pro also has ear detection to automatically pause playback when you take them out and resume playback when you put them back in, though this feature only works on Apple devices. You’ll also need an iOS device if you want to customize the AirPods Pro controls.

The Beats Studio Buds opt for a clickable button on the side of each earbud for controls, though you can’t adjust volume with the buttons. You can control playback on Apple devices with “Hey Siri,” but the earbuds don’t have ear detection to auto pause/play music. No matter your device, you can edit the Studio Buds’ onboard controls.

How do the AirPods Pro or Beats Studio Buds connect?

The AirPods Pro has better integration with Apple devices. With an H1 chip, it will auto-connect to all your iCloud devices. Once connected, you can control the earbuds via the control center, or from within the settings app on your Apple devices. You can turn on spatial audio, automatically switch between source devices, take an ear tip fit test, and more, all from within the iOS Settings app.

On Android or Windows devices, the AirPods Pro works the same as traditional Bluetooth headphones: you have to manually put the earbuds into pairing mode to connect them to your device. Once connected, you can customize the functions of the earbuds a little. Thankfully, active noise canceling and transparency mode work just fine, as they’re controlled by a hard press of the stem.

On the other hand, the Beats Studio Buds shows Apple is finally willing to play nicely with Android. Using the dedicated Beats app you can toggle between listening modes and customize the controls. The earbuds seamlessly pair to Android devices with a pop-up card, and you can access battery information and find your headphones from within Bluetooth settings.

While the Beats Studio Buds didn’t integrate as well with Apple devices at launch, a subsequent firmware update added iCloud pairing to the earbuds. Once paired to one Apple device, all of your iCloud devices will instantly recognize the Beats Studio Buds just the same as they would the AirPods Pro.

Does the AirPods Pro or Beats Studio Buds have a better microphone?

While neither microphone system is intended for professional conference calls or podcasts, both are serviceable for on-the-go calls. The AirPods Pro emphasizes upper-midrange frequencies more than the Beats Studio Buds for better speech intelligibility. Take a listen to both microphone samples below and let us know which one you think sounds better.

Apple AirPods Pro microphone demo (Ideal):

Beats Studio Buds microphone demo (Ideal):

Which microphone sounds better to you?

22082 votes

Does the AirPods Pro or Beats Studio Buds have more connectivity options?

Beats Studio Buds pairing
Pairing the Beats Studio Buds to an Android or iOS device is as simple as opening the case.

Both the AirPods Pro and Beats Studio Buds feature the standard SBC Bluetooth codec, as well as AAC for consistent high-quality performance on Apple devices. Neither have support for higher-quality Bluetooth codecs like aptX or LDAC, which isn’t great news for Android listeners since AAC performance varies greatly across Android handsets.

The AirPods Pro uses Bluetooth 5.0, while the Beats Studio Buds uses the upgraded Bluetooth 5.2 firmware. The newer version of Bluetooth is more efficient, so you’ll experience minor improvements to connection strength and battery life. Long term, this means the Studio Buds could see LC3 codec support, whereas this model of the AirPods Pro will not.

Does the AirPods Pro or Beats Studio Buds have better battery life?

The AirPods Pro earbuds in the wireless charging case next to an iPhone and digital camera.
Apple includes wireless charging capabilities by default with its AirPods Pro noise canceling true wireless earbuds.

The Apple AirPods Pro and Beats Studio Buds offer nearly identical battery life. In our testing of continuous playback at 75dB(SPL) with ANC turned on, the AirPods Pro last 5 hours and 6 minutes while the Beats lasted 4 hours and 24 minutes.

You can get up to 24 hours of total listening time with the AirPods Pro charging case, while the Beats Studio Buds charging case provides an additional two full charges. A Lightning connector charges the AirPods Pro case, while USB-C powers the Beats Studio Buds. The AirPods Pro supports wireless charging, but you’ll be stuck charging the Beats Studio Buds the old-school way.

Does the AirPods have better noise canceling than the Beats Studio Buds?

Active noise canceling performance is slightly better on the Apple AirPods Pro. Low-frequency droning sounds from a plane or train car live between 100-1000Hz, and the AirPods Pro quiets these frequencies to sound half as loud as they would without the earbuds and ANC. This isn’t the best noise canceling but it is enough to noticeably reduce annoying transit sounds on your commute.

The Beats Studio Buds can only attenuate ambient frequencies below 1000Hz to sound about one-quarter quieter. It’s not great, but it’s much better than earbuds that lack noise canceling. Between the two headsets, you’ll notice a greater difference when you toggle ANC on/off with the AirPods Pro than the Beats Studio Buds.

The silicone ear tips included with the Beats Studio Buds provide slightly better passive isolation than the AirPods Pro, blocking out high frequencies from incidental noise such as the clang of pots and pans.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Beats Studio Buds: Which earphones sound better?

Frequency chart comparing the Beats Studio Buds and Apple AirPods Pro
The Apple AirPods Pro (cyan) has a more neutral sound than the Beats Studio Buds (dotted yellow). The SoundGuys consumer curve (pink) is what we posit as the platonic ideal frequency response for general-purpose earbuds.

True to the Beats brand, the Studio Buds amplifies sub-bass and treble notes more than the AirPods Pro. While many of us prefer a sound like this, the sub-bass and treble notes are much louder than the bass and low-mids (200-500Hz) making it difficult to hear vocals through the Beats Studio Buds. Many vocal performances will sound clearer on the AirPods Pro than the Beats Studio Buds.

Neither pair of earbuds come with a custom EQ, so you’re stuck with how one sounds out of the box unless you explore third-party EQ options. If you like energetic hip-hop or EDM, you’ll likely prefer the Beats Studio Buds’ frequency response. If you prefer acoustic or more vocal-oriented music, the more neutral sound of the AirPods Pro is a better fit.

Should you buy the Apple AirPods Pro or Beats Studio Buds?

Beats Studio Buds on desk
The Studio Buds lack customization but come at a more reasonable price.

If you have an Android phone, the choice here is pretty straightforward. The Beats Studio Buds will play nicer with your phone and it’s more affordable than the Apple AirPods Pro. Due to its high cost and limited functionality on non-Apple devices, we don’t recommend the AirPods Pro to Android fans.

Beats Studio BudsBeats Studio Buds
Beats Studio Buds
Decent sound quality • Multiple listening modes • Lightweight
MSRP: $149.00
A good fit, great sound, and active noise cancelation
Android smartphone owners can finally enjoy the Beats brand with Studio Buds. They have great sound, sweat resistance, and active noise cancelation in a small, comfortable design.

For iPhone owners, the choice is a bit more complicated. If you want high-end features like wireless charging, spatial audio, and seamless switching between Apple devices, the AirPods Pro is worth the money. Now that the AirPods Pro often goes on sale for less than $200 USD, the expense is easier to justify for those seeking a premium earbud experience.

Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation)Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation)
ANC support • Perfect for iPhones • Deep Apple integration
MSRP: $249.00
For iPhone users, not much else can compare
The Apple AirPods Pro offers more features and accessories than the base AirPods, including ANC. A worthy upgrade for any iPhone user if you can afford it!
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Impressive ANC • Comfortable fit • Wireless charging
MSRP: $249.00
One of the best true wireless earbuds for iOS users.
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) modestly improve upon the first-generation AirPods Pro and feature the same iconic look. Apple's upgraded H2 chip begets better noise canceling and battery life, while the case's U1 chip and integrated speaker let you precisely locate the case. If you own an iPhone, the AirPods Pro 2 are an obvious choice.

If you don’t care about all the bells and whistles, Apple users can still save a few bucks by going for the Beats Studio Buds. Beats’ earphones cater to those who care about design and portability, and you still get premium features like noise canceling and an IPX4 rating. Regardless of which earbuds you get, you’ll be better off than if you went with the default AirPods.

How does the Beats Studio Buds compare to the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)?

If you can stomach the cost, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) is better than both the Beats Studio Buds and Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation). With Apple’s new H2 chip, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) features more efficient power consumption and improved noise canceling. You also get some new convenience features such as extra ear tip sizes and sliding touch controls. Even the charging case of the second-generation earbuds is improved, with a U1 chip and speaker to locate it when lost, MagSafe charging, and longer battery life. You can find these earbuds for $239 at Amazon.

Frequently asked questions about the AirPods Pro and Beats Studio Buds

Though the Beats Studio Buds Plus are competent earbuds, the main reason you’d get the Beats over the Apple product is cost — something that is much less of a positive when the Buds Plus are only a little less expensive than the AirPods Pro and have far fewer features.

For most people, the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) is not a good alternative to the Beats Studio Buds or Apple AirPods Pro, as the regular AirPods do not feature adjustable ear tips or active noise canceling. This results in an inconsistent listening experience in various environments, especially for those frequently commuting on noisy transit.

The Beats Fit Pro is the more expensive sibling to the Beats Studio Buds, offering wing tips for a more secure fit. If you have the money to splurge, and are looking for a secure fit with premium features such as spatial audio, the Beats Fit Pro is definitely worth considering,$159 at Amazon.

If you own an Apple device, the AirPods Pro and Beats Studio Buds will automatically install the latest firmware via over-the-air updates. If you own an Android device, you can update the Beats Studio Buds firmware from within the Beats app.

If neither of these earbuds checks off all the boxes on your wishlist, take a look at our roundup of the best earbuds under $200. If you’re looking for an even cheaper option, take a look at the Nothing Ear 1, which almost holds up to the AirPods Pro.

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