Everything about the Powerbeats Pro is appealing, except for the exorbitant price which is why athletes will flock to the Beats Powerbeats. The company gave its mainstay workout earbuds a redesign, making them much more attractive than previous iterations. Whether you’re running outside or creating your at-home workout program, the fourth Powerbeats are underrated members of the Beats line that stay in place no matter how you move.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on March 23, 2020, to include battery life testing results.
Who should get the Beats Powerbeats?
- Athletes will want these earbuds. The fit is phenomenal, and the round cable does a great job of staying out of the way during vigorous workouts.
- Apple iPhone users should consider the Beats Powerbeats, as they offer all of the major benefits of the Pro model for significantly less.
- Android users who want to buy into the Beats brand without paying a small fortune.
Using the Beats Powerbeats
Apple reuses the same design seen in the true wireless Powerbeats Pro, which is a great thing. It means that the standard wireless Powerbeats provide the same secure, comfortable fit that Chris Thomas so appreciated with the Pro earbuds. Since these are joined by a streamlined wire and don’t require the same advanced tech as truly wireless earbuds, you’re paying significantly less for the same level of performance. If it sounds like a great deal: it is.
In lieu of a charging case, you get a Beats-branded drawstring bag and a few extra pairs of ear tips, one of which is double-flange. Anyone looking to block out external noise should opt for these ear tips. They may look strange but they can vastly improve audio quality. Beats includes a quick start guide with its headset, too, which directs you on how to wear the earbuds. Each rubberized ear hook can be adjusted as the half closest to the housing sheathes a malleable wire. This is great news for anyone with smaller ears.
As with any in-ears, we recommend a regular cleaning schedule for these ‘buds. It doesn’t have to be daily, but ear wax will inevitably accumulate on the ear tips and near the nozzle. Not only does this look pretty gross, but it can also degrade your earphones audio quality. Plus, you don’t want to run the risk, no matter how slight, of developing an ear infection due to lack of maintenance. We have a guide on cleaning the Apple AirPods Pro, and the process will be the same for any in-ears.
Unlike the Powerbeats Pro, the Beats Powerbeats aren’t equipped with snazzy sensors for automatic ear detection. If you want to pause, you have to do so manually by pressing the “b” logo on the right earbud. The left earbud’s panel is purely decorative. You can make volume adjustments via the volume rocker atop the right earbud’s housing and even access Google Assistant by holding the multifunction button, “b” logo” down for two seconds. iOS users can just say, “Hey Siri,” a benefit of H1 chip-integration.
Are the Powerbeats waterproof?
Although you can’t submerge the earphones in water, you can sweat on them and even get some light splashes on them. The water-resistance, in tandem with the ear hook fit, makes them a great option for runners.
I happen to be more of a cyclist at this point in time, and took them for a ride on my stationary bike stand. Suffice to say they handled my profuse sweating with ease. The ear hook design proved useful: I always towel off my head during the cycling workouts. True wireless earbuds without ear hooks fall out when I do this, but these remain in place without issue.
Do the Beats Powerbeats have good connection quality?
Seeing how Beats is an Apple subsidiary, it’s no surprise that the Beats Powerbeats perform better with iOS devices than Android ones. This is due to Bluetooth codec support and the proprietary H1 chip which does more than facilitating hands-free Siri access. The Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 connection also improves power efficiency over Bluetooth 4.X devices and offers compression advantages.
We say it over and over again here: AAC performs unreliably on Android devices, which is unfortunate because it’s the only high-quality codec supported by the Powerbeats. That said, unless your hearing is pristine, you’re unlikely to notice a difference. Compounding that information with the fact that most users will listen during workouts, the benefits of high-quality codecs are nearly nullified, save for latency. Android users may notice a slight audio-visual lag when streaming from YouTube or Netflix.
You can stream audio from one iPhone to two Beats Powerbeats headsets, which is a great way to share music at a distance.
Just as with the Powerbeats Pro, Apple AirPods, Apple AirPods Pro, and other Apple products, you can share music with a friend via an iOS device. This means if you and a friend both have a pair of Beats Powerbeats, you can connect each headset to the same iPhone for simultaneous audio streaming. It’s a more modern way of daisy-chaining headphones. We should see features like this become normalized once Bluetooth LE Audio and the LC3 codec become the new standard, but until then, it’s a nifty feature for iPhone users.
Our testing yieled an impressive 17 hours, 54 minutes of constant playback on a single charge when connected to a MacBook Pro running macOS Catalina version 10.15.3. Just as we’ve seen from the BeatsX and Powerbeats3, these earbuds support Beats Fast Fuel: five minutes of charging via Lightning cable yields 1.5 hours of playtime. Fast charging technology such as this is arguably more important in workout headphones and earbuds than standalone battery life. There are few modern inconveniences worse than getting to the gym only to realize you’ll be working out in silence.
The Beats Powerbeats sound identical to the Powerbeats Pro, which means they sound ok. The frequency response is consumer-friendly: bass and treble notes are markedly more amplified than mids. De-emphasized midrange notes can make it difficult to perceive vocals, but when exercising the bassline takes precedence. Beats is known for this kind of sound and is a major reason that people are drawn to the brand, aside from general recognition. The upper-midrange frequencies also receive a minor boost, allowing instruments to remain audible.
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In order to maintain the strong bass response, you’ll have to get a good seal. Fortunately, Beats provides listeners with four pairs of silicone sleeves to experiment with. Finding the proper ear tips is about more than just comfort: it creates a solid seal and optimizes sound quality. If you’re a commuter, this is particularly important; so much so that you may find it worthwhile to invest in third-party memory foam tips to block out some low-end noise (e.g. train rumbles).
Lows, mids, and highs
Joy Oladokun’s song Sober begins with the chorus backed by piano; just a few seconds in, she begins the chorus and her vocals are easy enough to detect over the electric guitar pattern that cycles through the chords G-D-Em-D-C.
The low-end impact of the kick drum at 0:34 masks Oladokun’s vocalization of the lyrics, “… years and fifteen days.” The kickdrum enters right as she says “years,” which seems to quiet at this very moment. It’s not that Oladokun thought it would be a great idea for her to temper vocal power on the word “years,” but rather the effect of auditory masking. The louder, lower sound of the kick drum makes it difficult for us to perceive the relatively higher pitched sound of her voice.
These earbuds are equipped with mics that work in tandem to target your voice while also filtering out background noise. It’s ok: I sound slightly distant due to the low-end attenuation but nothing that will significantly impair someone’s ability to understand what I’m saying.
Beats Powerbeats microphone demo:
The downward-facing microphones do a decent job at reducing wind noise, but my friends reported they were still able to hear some wind whistling, especially if I tilted my head upward to nod in agreement. If sound quality is egregious during a conference call, it’s likely not the fault of the microphone system.
What’s the difference between the Beats Powerbeats and the Powerbeats Pro?
These headsets are very similar with a few marked differences: the Powerbeats have two earbuds joined by a round cable, while the Pro edition uses true wireless technology. One isn’t necessarily better than the other: it depends on what you prioritize.
As the name implies, true wireless earbuds afford more freedom of movement, but it’s not like standard wireless earbuds are constraining. If you’re like me and have a penchant for regularly losing things, you may grow to really appreciate how the Beats Powerbeats can hang around your neck when not in use. That said, the Powerbeats Pro includes a nifty charging case to keep track of the ‘buds when not in use; however, I’m guilty of carelessly placing earbuds around the apartment only to dig around for them later.
The Powerbeats Pro integrates more advanced technology like sensors that automatically detect when the earbuds are removed and inserted. This allows for automatic play and pause functionality. Although this is extremely convenient, it isn’t a big hassle to press the “b” button on the right earbud of the Powerbeats.
The Beats Powerbeats offer much of the same functionality as the Pro earbuds for a fraction of the cost.
Both headsets use Apple’s H1 chip for streamlined device switching between iOS devices and reliable wireless connection stability. They both support AAC for high-quality streaming over iPhones, and use Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 firmware that contributes to battery life performance and connection strength. Ultimately, both the Beats Powerbeats and Beats are great workout earbuds but if you’re strapped for cash the Powerbeats are a better value.
Should you buy the Beats Powerbeats?
Yes, the Beats Powerbeats earbuds are excellent for all athletes. Even if you don’t have an iPhone, you still benefit from the secure fit and athlete-preferred sound signature. Sure, there are cheaper workout earbuds available, but if you’re a Beats fan and want to support the company and happen to enjoy the bass-heavy sound signature, then these are a stellar choice. Ever since Beats modernized its design language across its product line, the headsets are more appealing to a wider swath of users, myself included.
Save a few bucks and get these workout earbuds instead
Anyone who isn’t jazzed about spending $150 on workout earbuds may want to look at alternatives like the Jaybird Tarah. These earbuds are from another workout audio powerhouse and are IPX7 water-resistant, meaning they can be submerged for up to 30 minutes. Battery life isn’t as impressive as what’s supplied here, but it’s more than enough to get you through a handful of workouts. Rather than using an immutable ear hook design, the Tarah includes detachable wing tips to secure the earbuds to the ear.
Alternatively, budget-conscious buyers should consider the Jabra Elite 65t. Some may consider the 65t to be outdated since the advent of the Jabra Elite Active 75t and Elite 75t true wireless headphones, but the Elite 65t is just as good as when it debuted. The earbuds are IP55-rated, making them a great option for gymnasts and rock climbers as they can resist both dust and water. Microphone quality is excellent and autoconnect functionality is reliable. Sound quality may not be the greatest, but you can easily EQ this through the Jabra app, which is one of the best on the market.