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Beats Solo Buds vs Apple AirPods (3rd generation)

The latest Beats cost less than half as much money as the latest AirPods.
By

Published onJuly 10, 2024

Beats Solo Buds
MSRP: $79.99
7.1
Check price
Positives
Portable
Quick pairing on iOS and Android
Apple Music trial included
Negatives
No ANC
No included charging cable
No battery inside case
No equalizer
Poor button controls
Microphone struggles with noise
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
MSRP: $195.00
6.7
Check price
Positives
H1 chip
Portable
Adaptive EQ (iOS, Android, Windows)
Spatial Audio with head tracking
MagSafe case with wireless charging
IPX4 rating
Negatives
Poor fit, no isolation
Sound quality
Features limited to iOS

Apple may own Beats, but that won’t stop us from putting their earbuds head-to-head. No matter who wins, Apple is still collecting your hard-earned money, but we want to ensure you walk away from your purchase confident you got the better product for your needs. With that said, let’s compare the Beats Solo Buds vs Apple AirPods (3rd generation) to see which you should buy.

Editor’s note: this article was published on July 10, 2024, and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

What’s it like to use the Beats Solo Buds compared to the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

The Beats Solo Buds on a table with extra ear tips and packaging materials.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
You get four different sizes of ear tips, an Apple Music trial, and as always a Beats sticker.

The Beats Solo Buds are much smaller than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation), at least when it comes to the charging case. The pill-shaped case is a lightweight 22g and easily fits into most pockets. Portability does come with a trade-off though, as the charging case doesn’t have a battery inside of it. This means the earbuds won’t recharge when you put them inside the case, unless the case is plugged in via USB-C.

Four different sizes of ear tips come with the Beats Solo Buds, which should ensure you get a comfortable fit. This is a big advantage over the Apple AirPods (3rd generation), which don’t have ear tips. If the shape of the AirPods doesn’t fit your ears, you’re out of luck.

A hand holds a Apple AirPods (3rd generation) earbud by the stem to reveal the open-type fit and embedded sensors with the open case in the background.
The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) earbuds have a more rounded speaker element opening meaning a better fit in your outer ears—and a worse fit at the ear canal openings.

While the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) have a stem design, each earbud is still lighter than a Beats Solo Buds earbud. The charging case is a bit larger but has a battery inside that can charge up the earbuds on the go a few times over. Since the AirPods have some water resistance, they are the better option for wearing at the gym or out in the rain.

When it comes to onboard controls, the AirPods are superior to the Solo Buds. The stem of each earbud has a force sensor that you squeeze to control music playback or activate Siri. Using these controls doesn’t disrupt the fit of the earbuds in your ears. The AirPods also have ear detection to automatically pause your music when you take them out of your ears.

On the other hand, the Beats Solo Buds have physical buttons on the outside of each earbud that require a hard press to activate. I found using the controls disrupt the fit in my ears, which is uncomfortable and has a negative impact on sound quality and isolation.

Do the Beats Solo Buds or Apple AirPods (3rd generation) have more software features?

A hand holds the AirPods (3rd generation) in the right ear while touching the force sensor stem.
The AirPods have more intuitive controls.

If you have an iPhone, you don’t need to download an app to control either the Beats Solo Buds or the Apple AirPods (3rd generation). All of the functionality is baked directly into the iOS Settings app. You can customize the controls for both the Beats Solo Buds and Apple AirPods (3rd generation), but there is no native equalizer support to adjust the sound quality. You can use the Find My app on iOS to find either your lost Beats Solo Buds or Apple AirPods (3rd generation).

If you have an Android phone, you can download the Beats app to control the Beats Solo Buds. The app gives you access to most of the same functionality that iOS users enjoy, such as control customization and finding a lost earbud. One iOS-exclusive feature for both sets of earbuds is audio sharing, which allows you to listen to audio coming from the same Apple device on two different sets of Beats or AirPods earbuds. There is no Android app for AirPods, and you should not buy AirPods if you own an Android phone.

How do the Beats Solo Buds and Apple AirPods (3rd generation) connect?

The Beats Solo Buds on a table with the earbuds next to the charging case.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
Connectivity is not a concern with the Beats Solo Buds.

Both the Beats Solo Buds and Apple AirPods (3rd generation) have quick pairing to iOS devices. Simply open the earbud case near your iPhone, and you’ll see a pairing card pop up. Once you’re connected to one Apple device, you’ll enjoy instant pairing to all your iCloud devices. The Beats Solo Buds also have fast pairing to Android devices, whereas you’ll need to manually pair the AirPods by pressing and holding the button on the case.

We didn’t experience connectivity issues with either set of earbuds. The Beats Solo Buds have Bluetooth 5.3, while the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) have Bluetooth 5.0. Both support the standard Bluetooth codecs SBC and AAC.

Is battery life better on the Beats Solo Buds or Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

A hand holds a Apple AirPods (3rd generation) case with the earbuds in place and embedded sensors in view.
The case is easy to operate with one hand.

In our battery testing, the Beats Solo Buds lasted 17 hours and 24 minutes on a single charge, whereas the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) lasted 6 hours and 21 minutes on a single charge. While this looks like a clear victory for Beats, keep in mind that the AirPods also have a battery inside the charging case for additional charges. Unless you plan on listening for longer than six hours at a time, battery life shouldn’t be a deciding factor here.

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) have a few tricks up its sleeve in this department, such as wireless charging and MagSage charging. The AirPods also have optimized battery charging that won’t charge past 80% until you need to use it, which helps preserve the lifespan of AirPods.

Fast charging the Beats Solo Buds provides an hour of playback time from only 5 minutes of charging. On the other hand, you get a 50% charge in the AirPods from 10 minutes of charging. Either way, you won’t have to wait too long to get back to listening.

Do the Beats Solo Buds or Apple AirPods (3rd generation) block noise better?

A chart to show that the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) don't attenuate much outside noise at all.
Save for some high-end attenuation, the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) don’t really block outside noise well.

Since the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) don’t seal to the ear canal, they don’t block out external noise. You can pretty much hear everything going on around you while wearing these. If you are planning on wearing your earbuds outdoors or on a train or airplane, you will find this extremely annoying, and it could result in noise-induced hearing loss.

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While the Beats Solo Buds don’t have ANC, they do passively isolate a good amount of noise thanks to the silicon ear tips. Our testing shows that the earbuds reduce the loudness of most noise by 75%. That said, if you live in a noisy city, you should check out good noise canceling earbuds.

Do the Beats Solo Buds sound better than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

The Beats Solo Buds and Apple AirPods (3rd generation) both have passable sound quality. You won’t be blown away by the sound quality of either, but I find both good enough for casual quick listening sessions.

Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Scores (MDAQS)

The chart below shows how the sound of the Beats Solo Buds and Apple AirPods (3rd generation) was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Beats Solo Buds and Apple AirPods (3rd generation). The Beats Solo Buds score an Overall score of 4.2, whereas the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) score an Overall score of 4.5.
More people will likely prefer the sound of the AirPods, but it is close.

A simulated panel of listeners rates the sound quality of the Beats Solo Buds very similar to that of the Apple AirPods (3rd generation). Across Timbre, Distortion, and Immersivenes, we see very similar scores for both products, with the AirPods slightly winning out in each category.

Reviewer’s notes

A man wearing the Beats Solo Buds.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
The sound quality of the Solo Buds is fine for quick listening, though it does leave a lot to be desired.

The Beats Solo Buds emphasize upper mids where female vocals and guitars typically live. In a song such as “Without You” by Kygo, the vocals sound more prominent than the piano. These earbuds also have a strong amount of bass, especially compared to the highs. In “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, drum cymbals sound much quieter than the bass guitar and vocals.

On the other hand, the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) are lacking in the lowest lows and highest highs, but pretty much nail everything in between. Since you don’t get ear tips, a lot of the sound quality experience here will depend on how well the earbuds actually fit in your ears.

You don’t get a proper equalizer to adjust the sound of either the Beats Solo Buds or the Apple AirPods (3rd generation), but the AirPods do come with Adaptive EQ which makes real-time adjustments to the low and midrange frequencies to compensate for fit. The AirPods also support spatial audio with head tracking, which makes it feel like the sound is coming from directly in front of you. Beyond listening to tracks mixed in Dolby Atmos, you can also use the Spatialize Stereo feature to convert any audio source to surround sound. While we find it often doesn’t sound as good as the original stereo mixes, you can convert mono mixes to stereo using this feature, which is pretty cool.

Objective Measurements

A chart shows the AirPods (3rd generation) frequency repsonse relative to the SoundGuys Consumer Curve, showing the buds have a severely under-emphasized sub-bass response.
Bass is always poor with unsealed earphones, and Apple’s AirPods (3rd generation) buds are not immune to this.

As you can see in the frequency response chart above, the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) under-emphasize frequencies below 50Hz and above 10kHz. This leads to a lack of sub-bass and detail in cymbals and other high-frequency percussion instruments, depending on how the earbuds fit in your ears.

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The Beats Solo Buds under-emphasize low-mids where piano and male vocals are typically found, as well as the highs where cymbals are heard. For the most part, both the Beats Solo Buds and Apple AirPods (3rd generation) follow our target preference curve.

Do the Beats Solo Buds or Apple AirPods (3rd generation) have a better microphone?

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) have a significantly better microphone than the Beats Solo Buds. In ideal conditions, the Beats Solo Buds microphones sound okay but not as clear as the AirPods. In noisy conditions, such as a simulated street environment, the Beats Solo Buds microphones are abysmal. They have a noise gate that often cuts out the voice in addition to the background noise.

Beats Solo Buds microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Beats Solo Buds microphone demo (Street conditions):

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) microphone demo (Street conditions):

Which microphone sounds beter to you?

4 votes

Beats Solo Buds vs Apple AirPods (3rd generation): Price and availability

The Beats Solo Buds charing case resting on a tablespoon.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
The price of the Beats Solo Buds is an easier pill to swallow.

When it comes to price, the Beats Solo Buds score a major win. They cost less than half that of the Apple AirPods (3rd generation), though you can now often find the latter on sale. Availability isn’t an issue for either model, as you can find both at pretty much any Apple store or other tech retailer.

Should you get the Beats Solo Buds or Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

To be completely honest, neither the Beats Solo Buds nor Apple AirPods (3rd generation) are great options. You can find much better earbuds for less than $200, and some great options for less than $100.

If I had to choose one, I would lean towards the Beats Solo Buds. Even though the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) have more features, that significant price difference is hard to overcome. The lack of ear tips for a good fit with noise isolation also means I can’t use the AirPods in my noisy city.

See price at Amazon
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
H1 chip
Easy for iPhones
Deep Apple integration
See price at Amazon
Beats Solo Buds
Beats Solo Buds
Compact case
Rapid USB charge

What should you get instead of the Beats Solo Buds or Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC with the buds out of the case shown on a wood top.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC delivers all the features most people need for only $100.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get better performance than the Beats Solo Buds and Apple AirPods (3rd generation). For starters, take a look at the Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC, $99.99 at Amazon. The Liberty 4 NC have active noise canceling, a feature you won’t find on either the Beats or Apple earbuds. There’s also a very good chance you’ll like the way these earbuds sound more than the Beats and Apple offerings.

If you really care about sound quality, you should check out the Creative Aurvana Ace 2, $149.99 at Amazon. Using innovative xMEMS dual drivers, these earbuds have better sound quality than pretty much anything else currently on the market. You can also check out the Nothing Ear, $149 at Amazon, which have great sound quality and a ton of features.

Frequently asked questions

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) are IPX4 rated, which means they have some splash resistance. The Beats Solo Buds are not waterproof at all.

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) support wireless charging, but the Beats Solo Buds do not.

Only the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) support spatial audio.

The Beats Solo Buds work well with Android, with support for the Beats app. Technically you can use AirPods with an Android device, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as you will miss out on a lot of functionality.

Neither are great options for working out, due to a lack of strong durability and secure fit. Check out our list of best workout earbuds instead.

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