You may have forgotten, but Apple bought Beats a few years ago for a lot of money. And while the company puts most of its efforts into the AirPods and AirPods Pro, it hasn’t completely forgotten about the Beats brand. The new Beats Flex is basically a tweaked pair of BeatsX at a lower price point. The Beats Flex has Apple-exclusive features, but it also plays well with Android phones.
Even though the Beats Flex is fairly affordable, is it worth it?
Editor’s note: this Beats Flex review was updated on July 9, 2021, to address the Beats Studio Buds as an alternative.
Who should get the Beats Flex?
- Anyone who doesn’t want to spend money on AirPods. At this price, the Beats Flex is a fine deal as they offer a lot of the features found on the AirPods, minus the true wireless design.
- People who need to find a gift for someone. The Flex comes in four different colorways and is a good stocking stuffer for holidays or birthdays.
- iOS users. While these wireless neckbuds work well with Android, you’ll really get the best value if you pair them with an iOS device.
What’s it like to use the Beats Flex?
The Beats Flex is great for everyday use because the soft-touch plastic makes the headset very lightweight at just 18.6 grams. This is good if you plan to have the neckband on all day, as you’ll barely feel the buds weighing you down. The cables are very long so, just like the BeatsX, you’ll deal with long loops where the earbuds connect to the neckband. Thankfully the anti-tangle cable design works, so they won’t form a giant knot in your pocket.
When you’re not using the Beats flex, you can snap the earbuds together magnetically, which makes it a little more manageable. The magnetic earbuds aren’t just for organization: they also pause your music when snapped together. Music playback immediately resumes when they’re separated, too. If you separate the buds when you receive an incoming call, the headset automatically answers the call. Although this is neat, I disabled it to avoid accidentally picking up spam calls. This isn’t as handy as having integrated proximity sensors like the AirPods, but it’s still useful.
No matter what operating systems run your life, you won’t have any issues with playback or connection stability. In order to switch between devices, you will have to take the time to enter your phone’s Bluetooth settings. You must manually disconnect from the current device, before connecting to the desired device. This isn’t an issue if you live in the Apple ecosystem thanks to the W1 chip, but for the rest of us, that time adds up quickly.
The earbuds allow for a decent fit, but it’s not great. Sure, they don’t fall out, but they always feel like they’re about to. To remedy this Beats includes a few extra pairs of ear tips for a better fit.
My ears worked best with the double-flanged tips, but your mileage may vary. As long you don’t plan on working out with these, fit shouldn’t pose much of an issue at all. For daily chores and errands, these earbuds are perfectly fine, but they don’t have an official IP rating to protect against sweat or water damage. While these will probably survive a light drizzle, anything more significant won’t bode well for them.
How’s the connection strength?
The connection strength of the Beats Flex is great, especially when compared to its true wireless counterparts. These buds are rocking Bluetooth 5.0 and support the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. This might pose some issue if you’re on an Android device, our testing shows AAC has its issues with the OS, but this depends on your hardware. The lack of aptX support is frustrating, but AAC is perfectly acceptable at this price point.
How do you pair the Beats Flex?
When you power on the Beats Flex for the first time, it will automatically enter pairing mode. After that, things get interesting since the process varies depending on whether you use an iOS or Android device. If you’re using something else, then the pairing process is simple. All you need to do is hold down the power button, and wait for the headset to enter pairing mode. From there just look through Bluetooth settings in your source device, and select the Beats Flex.
How to pair the Beats Flex on iOS
For iOS users, the Bluetooth pairing process hasn’t changed from the last few Apple and Beats headsets. Once you power on the headphones, a white card will pop up on your iPhone or iPad. All you need to do is click the “Connect” button, and the headset will initiate a connection to your device, and all other devices on your iCloud account.
These allow for seamless switching between devices linked to your iCloud account.
The W1 chip also enables audio sharing, so you and a friend can listen to the same thing—so long as they have a compatible pair of Apple headphones. Think of it as the wireless equivalent of handing a friend your left earbud while watching something on your phone.
How to pair the Beats Flex on Android
If you’re on Android, the process is a little different. Apple managed to sneakily include the easy connect card onto Android phones, but this requires you to download the Beats app first. Once you download the app and give it the appropriate permissions, then you’ll be walked through a similar pairing experience as you would on iOS. Just power on the headphones, and a small card will appear so that you can easily connect the Beats Flex.
Do the Beats Flex have Bluetooth multipoint?
The Beats Flex does not have true Bluetooth multipoint, so you can’t connect to two devices at once. That said, these are rocking Apple’s W1 chip. So just like the original AirPods and BeatsX, you can easily switch between multiple Apple devices as long as they’re all associated with the same iCloud account.
How is the battery life on the Beats Flex?
Apple claims the Beats Flex has a 12-hour battery life, but we got a little less than that after we subjected the Flex to our standard 75dB(SPL) battery test. They lasted 10 hours, 24 minutes before they were totally out of juice. Although this falls short of the listed specification, you can always rely on the quick charge feature, which gives you an extra 1.5 hours after just 10 minutes on the charger. Thankfully, these charge via USB-C, so you can charge them with the same cable that charges your Android phone, laptop, and new iPad.
Is the microphone any good?
The microphone doesn’t make your voice sound great. It’s fine for quick calls and voice messages, but for extended conference calls, you’re better off getting a dedicated USB mic for your next Zoom meeting. It does a poor job of rejecting background noise, so you may want to do everyone a favor and either use your smartphone, or get a dedicated headset for extended calls.
Best Flex microphone demo:
How do the Beats Flex sound?
If you tried the BeatsX before, then you know what to expect here. It’s more of the same. The emphasized bass response is much needed to hear low notes, because these don’t isolate you from your surroundings very well. These do a decent job of blocking out high-frequency sounds (2kHz and above), but struggle to keep out any low-frequency sounds. That extra volume in the low-end makes it easier to hear lower notes over outside noise.
The amplified bass response is noticeable in the song No Fear No More by Madeon. When I sat in my quiet room, unencumbered by external noise, the bassline sounded overpowering. This makes sense because bass notes are tuned to sound twice as loud as low-midrange notes. However, it played to my advantage when I walked to the grocery store because I could more easily keep tabs on the main beat.
There is also a good amount of emphasis in the upper-mids that gives a good bump in volume to vocals in songs and podcasts. The vocals in Julia by Retro Stefson are easy to hear in almost any environment. The same is true if you listen to podcasts because this amplified frequency range helps with speech intelligibility.
Cymbals, hi-hats, and other treble frequencies may come across as harsh at times, especially when you listen to higher volumes.
I chose to lower the volume to about 50% most of the time; otherwise, I felt like I was putting myself at risk for noise-induced hearing loss.
Is the Beats Flex worth it?
The Beats Flex is a great option for casual music and podcast listeners. Combine that with the great connection, solid battery life, USB-C charging, and most importantly the $50 USD price tag and this is a great pick.
Sure, it lacks a few things, like accurate frequency response, sweat resistance, and a sub-standard microphone system, but all of this is forgivable at this price point. Whether you’re looking for a new pair of earbuds for running errands, or want a quick stocking stuffer for the holidays, the Beats Flex takes everything consumers liked about the BeatsX for a much cheaper price.
If you want something a bit more premium, and durable, consider the wireless Beats Powerbeats. The Powerbeats earbuds are joined by a cable and flexible neckband, similar to the Flex, and features an IPX4 rating and H1 chip.
What about the Beats Studio Buds?
The Beats Studio Buds is a middling pair of noise cancelling earphones that actually works as well with Android phones as it does with iPhones. While the Studio Buds is significantly pricier than the Beats Flex, it’s still more affordable than the Beats Powerbeats Pro and is much more portable thanks to the compact design.
If you have the cash, the 1MORE Dual Driver ANC Pro offers a premium alternative
At around $150 USD, the 1More Dual Driver ANC Pro costs more than the Beats Flex, but offers a slew of premium features. It boasts an IPX5 water-resistant design and adequate active noise cancellation for the price. These wireless neckbuds also include support for Sony’s LDAC codec, providing Android users with improved audio streaming quality.
Frequently Asked Questions
Download the Beats app for Android from the Google Play store. The app will give you access to firmware updates, as well as additional device controls.