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Beats Studio Pro vs Apple AirPods Max

Between these Apple audio products, which ANC headset is right for you?
By

Published onMarch 28, 2024

Beats Studio Pro
MSRP: $349.00
7.4
Check price
Positives
Sound quality
ANC
Battery life
USB DAC
Weight
Negatives
Fit
Comfort
Construction
Confusing indicators
The Bottom Line.
On paper the Beats Studio Pro are a competent set of headphones, but the decision to make smaller ear cups means that people are likely to have difficulties. If you have a smaller head or don't mind things touching your ears, this isn't much of an issue, but glasses-wearers should steer clear.Read full review...
Apple AirPods Max
MSRP: $424.99
8
Check price
Positives
Nice design and solid build quality
Amazing active noise canceling and transparency mode
Comfortable ear pads and fabric headband
Decent battery life
Button and digital crown are great to use
Good sound quality with no distortion
Great connection strength with Bluetooth 5.0
Negatives
No 3.5mm headphone jack becomes a pain
Uses a Lightning connector instead of USB-C
Proximity sensors and voice assistant activation do not work on Android or Windows
No aptX or LDAC high quality codec support
The smart case is absolutely terrible and provides no protection
Microphone quality is just okay
The Bottom Line.
While the Apple AirPod Max is a great pair of headphones with best-in-class active noise canceling (ANC) and a good sound signature, it also has a few annoying quirks that make it very obviously an Apple product. If you live in the Apple ecosystem and already love your AirPods Pro, then the AirPods Max is more of the same just in a pair of over-ears.Read full review...

If you’re in the market for Apple-friendly headphones, there’s a good chance you’re weighing the pros and cons of grabbing the Beats Studio Pro or the Apple AirPods Max. Though both sets of cans have their advantages, one of these headphones will fit your needs better than the other, and it’s not merely a question of budget. So, which team do you fall into: Beats Studio Pro or Apple AirPods Max? Let us help you decide.

Editor’s note: this article was updated on March 28, 2024, to answer more FAQs and adjust formatting.

What’s it like to use the Beats Studio Pro compared to the Apple AirPods Max?

Though the Beats Studio Pro and AirPods Max are both Apple products, these two headphones are aesthetically very different. One set of cans has huge, deep ear cups clad in metal, while the other has very small ear cups clad in plastic. They are definitely made with different people in mind.

Man holding the Apple AirPods Max over a desk.
The AirPods Max’s ear cup is huge, meaning it will fit just about any sized ears.

The Beats Studio Pro are primarily for commuters with a little less cash or a little less skull real estate. By that, I mean these headphones are more suited for those with smaller ears and heads, as the ear cups are smaller and the band is tighter than most other over-ear headphones. Though this won’t be a problem for some, smaller ear cups can mean your pinna gets depressed by the foam padding, the seal around your ear gets compromised, or the headphones don’t sit properly on your head. If that happens, you’ll notice things like a lack of bass or worse-performing active noise cancelation (ANC). No amount of “burn-in” or getting used to the headphones will change this.

Headphones don’t really come any better than the Apple AirPods Max if you’re looking for comfort, as these cans are the opposite of the Beats Studio Pro: the AirPods Max have insanely deep ear cups, wide cloth-clad ear pads, and a very soft band to distribute an admittedly hefty mass. Even if you have a smaller head, this kind of construction will fit you as it manages its potential failures a little more effectively than a set of smaller headphones could for bigger ears.

The Beats Studio Pro lay flat on a wooden surface.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The Beats Studio Pro get many things right, but the smaller ear cups mean they miss the mark for many.

Both wireless headphones are built around dynamic drivers and with features that are firmly aimed at commuters. Each headset has solid ANC, decent microphones, and a relatively long battery life. Unfortunately for those looking for workout buddies, neither of these headphones has an ingress protection rating, so you need to avoid moisture as much as possible.

How do you control the Beats Studio Pro and Apple AirPods Max?

A man wears the Apple AirPods Max and adjusting volume via the digital crown.
The Digital Crown is smooth and feels great for adjusting volume — but can be clunky for other controlling other functions.

Controls for the Beats Studio Pro happen through a series of in-chassis clicky areas that sit behind the Beats logo and the adjacent housing to the top and bottom. Additionally, there is a system button that controls the power, pairing, and mode toggle of the headphones.

Beats Studio Pro controls:

ButtonSingle tapDouble TapTriple TapLong press
Button
Top area
Single tapDouble TapTriple TapLong press
Volume up
Button
Left logo
Single tap
Play / Pause
Double Tap
Next track
Triple Tap
Previous track
Long press
Voice assistant
Button
Bottom area
Single tapDouble TapTriple TapLong press
Volume down
Button
System button
Single tap
N/A
Double Tap
ANC/Transparency toggle
Triple Tap
N/A
Long press
Power

For the AirPods Max, you can control your device’s operation with the “digital crown,” which is merely a fancy, branded name for a dial. It’s definitely one of the sore spots of the headphones, but it’s fairly easy to get used to over time.

Apple AirPods Max controls:

ActionMedia controlsCall controls
Action
Noise control button
Media controls
Toggle ANC and Transparency mode
Call controls

Action
Headset: remove/wear
Media controls
Auto-pause/play
Call controls

Action
Digital Crown: rotate
Media controls
Adjust volume
Call controls

Action
Digital Crown: one press
Media controls
Play/pause
Call controls
Answer/end call; answer incoming call and put current call on hold
Action
Digital Crown: two presses
Media controls
Skip track
Call controls
Reject incoming call; answer incoming call and end current call
Action
Digital Crown: three presses
Media controls
Previous track
Call controls

Action
Digital Crown: hold
Media controls

Call controls
Reject second incoming call
Action
Customizable controls?
Media controls
Yes, ANC toggle only
Call controls
No

Should you use the apps of either Beats Studio Pro or Apple AirPods Max?

The spatial audio pop-up on an iPad Pro.
Many of the advanced features of the AirPods Max are exclusive to iOS.

As both the Beats Studio Pro and Apple AirPods Max are Apple products, this question depends on what kind of phone you have. Use an iPhone? No apps necessary: the relevant features you’d need an app for are baked into iOS. Use Android, and the answer is “Maybe install the Beats app.” (There is no AirPods Max app for Android.) The reasons you would get the Beats app for Android are limited to being able to rename the device, provide firmware updates, and configure the function of the system button. Beyond that, you’re not really gaining much, so privacy wonks may elect to skip adding yet another source of data sharing from their digital lives.

How do the Beats Studio Pro and Apple AirPods Max connect?

If there’s one clear advantage the Beats Studio Pro has over the Apple AirPods Max, it’s connectivity. Taking a different strategy to the Apple AirPods Max’s use of Bluetooth and Lightning port (to support an analog connection with the appropriate dongle) only, the Beats Studio Pro can get tunes to your ears via Bluetooth, a headphone jack, or digitally over USB-C. Though it’s overkill, it’s a really cool addition to be able to connect to sources and have the headphones handle all of the decoding for you, eliminating the need for extra equipment like an amp or standalone DAC.

The contents of the Beats Studio Pro packaging.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
As Spartan as this looks, uncomplicated packaging contents are a nice plus for any set of headphones.

Ironically, the more expensive headphones here can’t make full use of lossless audio, while the cheaper ones can. This is because there isn’t currently a way to get wired audio working with the Apple AirPods Max without a series of frustrating dongles that don’t come with the product, and even then, it isn’t a digital signal path. On the other hand, the Beats Studio Pro can easily do this with the USB-C cable provided in the packaging or the 3.5mm headphone cable for an analog connection.

Is battery life better on the Beats Studio Pro or Apple AirPods Max?

When it comes to the typical use of your headphones, you’ll find that the battery of the Apple AirPods Max doesn’t last as long as the one inside the Beats Studio Pro. In our tests, the Beats Studio Pro lasted 31 hours and 25 minutes, whereas the Apple AirPods Max was only able to give us a hair under 21 hours in playback time. This is a pretty stark result for the same conditions, so if you care about not losing time to charging your headphones, the Beats Studio Pro are the clear winner here. Additionally, the ability to listen over USB means that you can also listen instead of just losing your headphones for the period of time when you’d normally charge them. No contest here.

Do the Beats Studio Pro or Apple AirPods Max block noise better?

This comparison is rather one-sided. The Apple AirPods Max are much better at not only isolating you from noise, but also canceling it as well. This may be partly due to the larger metal-clad ear cups making the whole task easier, but at the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie. The Apple AirPods Max cancel noise at most frequencies better than the Beats Studio Pro.

The Apple AirPods Max cancel noise much more effectively than the Beats Studio Pro.
This isn’t a particularly close contest: if you care about ANC, then you want the AirPods Max.

If you’re wondering why this matters in the first place, it’s because headphones can subject you to dangerous noise levels. Suppose you listen to your tunes without much environmental noise around you. In that case, listeners tend not to turn up the volume control, thereby lowering the sound pressure levels their ears are subjected to over time.

In that regard, the Apple AirPods Max, despite “only” offering a 5-8dB improvement in noise canceling over the Beats Studio Pro, are a much better way to evade hearing loss. However, you’ll still need to listen responsibly in order to avoid cooking your ears prematurely.

Do the Beats Studio Pro sound better than the Apple AirPods Max?

The Apple AirPods Max and Beats Studio Pro have good-sounding default tunings. The main point of differentiation is how much emphasis you’d like in the upper midrange. While the Apple AirPods Max under-emphasize this range in our testing (relative to our preference), the Beats Studio Pro boost those sounds by up to 10dB, relatively. What this means is the AirPods Max will have less presence in the range where we hear instrument detail and vocal information, as well as less noticeable atmospheric or recording room effects than the Beats Studio Pro. Additionally, if the Beats Studio Pro fit you poorly, higher-pitched sounds will more likely be grating when coupled with the reduced bass frequencies caused by a compromised seal.

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Generally, overemphasis is far more grating than underemphasis, and that’s the issue we run into with the Beats Studio Pro. Compared to the lows, the highs are quite a bit louder — ironic for the traditionally bass-heavy Beats brand. The Apple AirPods Max, on the other hand, sounds very good out of the box, even though frequencies we rely on for spatial cues are quieter. Overall, the sound of the Apple AirPods Max is pretty solid when you consider that you won’t often be competing with outside noise due to the excellent ANC. That said, bassheads will likely want for more.

To the credit of the Beats Studio Pro, you can use one of three included EQ presets when listening over USB. However, these presets exaggerate some of the issues outlined above, limiting their utility. Though the Conversation EQ is useful for hearing speech-heavy content like podcasts and eliminating bassy rumbles, you’re not likely going to ever feel a burning need to use these presets often. The AirPods Max doesn’t have these presets, though you can tinker with the sound a little by using the Headphone Accommodations setting in iOS. But it’s much more involved than pressing a button.

Do the Beats Studio Pro or Apple AirPods Max have a better microphone?

Though neither set of headphones has a great microphone, the Beats Studio Pro are more inconsistent, depending on the application. The microphone of the Beats Studio Pro also lacks the necessary gain (as heard in our samples). You’ll need to crank the volume to hear it, but don’t forget to turn your level back down again!

Beats Studio Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Apple AirPods Max microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Beats Studio Pro microphone demo (Office conditions):

Apple AirPods Max microphone demo (Office conditions):

Which microphone sounds best to you?

1246 votes

Beats Studio Pro vs Apple AirPods Max: Price and availability

At full price, you can expect to pay $349 for the Beats Studio Pro and $549 for the Apple AirPods Max. However, given that the Apple AirPods Max has been around for about two years now, you may be able to find a good deal on a refurbished unit online or even a sale. Both sets of headphones are available on Apple’s website and at big box vendors. There should be no shortage of either in any place you normally get headphones, though the supply might dry up if a successor is released. For headphones, that typically happens from 2-10 years, so this isn’t a huge worry.

A word of caution, however. Because these headphones are so popular, there are a lot of grifters out there hawking cheap facsimiles of the real thing online. If you do try to buy the Apple AirPods Max from an auction or user-sale site, beware: there’s a chance it’s a fake.

Should you get the Beats Studio Pro or Apple AirPods Max?

As with most head-to-heads, this one will likely come down to price for most people. However, it’s possible that the Apple AirPods Max (available $499 at Amazon) will see a price drop if rumors of a replacement are to be believed. If this happens, the calculus changes considerably. The Apple AirPods Max are better in most respects outside of battery life and cross-platform compatibility, but the eye-watering price tag is the only thing that gives us pause when recommending it over the $349.99 at Amazon.

White Apple AirPods Max on top of a green book on a coffee table.
The Apple AirPods Max look great, though they’re not for everyone.

Some may like the Beats Studio Pro over the Apple AirPods Max based on a few key differences in the ear cup design. Namely, those with smaller noggins will absolutely prefer the fit of the Beats Studio Pro because the difference in size is so significant. Additionally, anyone interested in lossless audio will have a much easier time with the Beats Studio Pro, as it can be utilized either using the 3.5mm cable or, ideally, using the USB-C cable. Though you likely won’t hear any deficiency in wireless audio with the AirPods Max, some people find the whole lossless thing very important, and it’s good to demand better from headphones.

Ultimately, we recommend the Beats Studio Pro for those with smaller heads and ears, who want to use their headphones with several different music sources. For everyone else, stick with the Apple AirPods Max.

See price at Amazon
Beats Studio Pro
Beats Studio Pro
Enhanced smartphone integration
Lossless and Spatial Audio
Big battery life
See price at Amazon
Apple AirPods Max
14%off
Apple AirPods Max
One of the best ANC
20-hour battery life
Well-built pads

Frequently asked questions

Yes, you can adjust the band of the Apple AirPods Max.

No. Neither product is waterproof.

Yes.

You can, though increased sweat and moisture means increased buildup of gunk on the pads. Additionally, neither set of headphones has an ingress protection rating, so it may not be wise to work out with them.

Choosing between Beats Studio Pro and Apple AirPods Max comes down to your preferences and needs. The AirPods Max excels in comfort, active noise cancellation (ANC) performance, and overall sound quality but comes with a higher price tag. Beats Studio Pro, on the other hand, offers great value with solid ANC, a more compact design suitable for smaller heads, and versatile connectivity options, including USB-C. If budget is a concern and you value portability and digital connectivity, Beats might be the way to go. For top-tier ANC and sound quality, AirPods Max is the better choice.

Beats Studio Pro and AirPods (assuming AirPods Max) cater to slightly different user needs within the Apple ecosystem. Beats provide a more budget-friendly option with strong ANC, good sound quality, and compatibility across devices, including non-Apple ones via USB-C and a 3.5mm jack. AirPods Max offers superior ANC, exceptional comfort, and premium sound quality at a higher cost. “Better” depends on whether you prioritize cost and versatility (Beats) or are willing to invest in premium sound and comfort (AirPods Max).

While the AirPods Max set a high bar in terms of ANC, sound quality, and integration with Apple devices, “better” can vary based on personal preferences and priorities. For those seeking alternatives that might better align with their needs—whether that’s price, battery life, or a specific feature set—there are several notable options. See our detailed guide to explore some of the best alternatives to AirPods Max.

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