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Apple Beats Powerbeats
$79 USD (discontinuted)
Everything about the Powerbeats Pro is appealing, except for the exorbitant price and limited availability, which is why athletes love 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 is an underrated member of the Beats line that stays in place no matter how you move.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on November 3, 2021, to address the Beats Fit Pro, and to make note of Beats discontinuing the Powerbeats.
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 it offers 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.
What’s it like to use 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 the earpieces 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.
Learn more: What makes a good set of in-ears?
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 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 Powerbeats isn’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.
Is 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 it a great option for runners.
I happen to be more of a cyclist, can use this headset during extremely sweaty rides. The ear hook design proves useful: I always towel off my head during cycling workouts. True wireless earbuds without ear hooks fall out when I do this, but these remain in place without issue.
Does the Powerbeats stay connected?
Seeing how Beats is an Apple subsidiary, it’s no surprise that the Beats Powerbeats performs 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 the Powerbeats supports. 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 (3rd generation), 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.
How long is the battery life of the Beats Powerbeats?
Our testing yielded 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: 5 minutes of charging via Lightning cable yields 90 minutes of playtime.
Related: How long do AirPods last?
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.
How does the Beats Powerbeats sound?
The Beats Powerbeats sounds identical to the Powerbeats Pro, which means it sounds ok. The frequency response is consumer-friendly: bass and treble notes are markedly more amplified than mids. Under-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.
In order to maintain a 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).
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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.
Can you use the Beats Powerbeats for phone calls?
These earbuds are equipped with mics that work in tandem to target your voice while also filtering out background noise. It’s fine: 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.
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.
Beats Powerbeats microphone demo:
How does the microphone sound to you?
As of July 26, 2021, most readers have rated the above mic sample as somewhere between “bad” and “okay.” This is a below-average for wireless earbuds.
What’s the difference between the Beats Powerbeats and the Powerbeats Pro?
These headsets are very similar with a few marked differences: the Powerbeats has 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 appreciate how the Beats Powerbeats hangs around your neck when not in use.
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 is a great pair of workout earbuds, but if you’re strapped for cash the Powerbeats is a better value but it’s hard to find these days.
Should you buy the Beats Powerbeats?
Yes, the Beats Powerbeats is excellent for all athletes but its discontinuatin makes it a rare product to spot on the shelves. If you can find the Powerbeats, you’ll get a great deal for around $80 USD.
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.
What should you get instead of the Beats Powerbeats?
If you aren’t in love with the Powerbeats, fear not: you have plenty of workout earbuds to choose from.
To stay within the Beats family while getting an identical experience with an iPhone or Android phone, you should get the Beats Studio Buds, a set of noise cancelling true wireless earphones that does well against the AirPods Pro. Another solid pick is the Beats Fit Pro, a pair of compact earphones with Spatial Audio support, active noise cancelling, H1 chip integration, and an IPX4 rating. If you want something between the Beats Studio Buds and Beats Powerbeats Pro, the Beats Fit Pro is it.
The Jaybird Vista 2 includes an incredibly durable pair of earbuds with a uniquely strudy charging case. The fit isn’t the most comfortable, but you get excellent passive isolation from the Vista 2 and it supports active noise cancelling. The Jabra Elite Active 75t and Elite 75t true wireless earbuds are great options too. They’re dust and water-resistant and feature a comprehensive app that works with both iOS and Android.