Since the inception of the Beats brand back in 2008—before it was swallowed up and transformed into a division of Apple—we’ve come to recognize the lowercase “b” logo and occasionally ostentatious design choices. The BeatsX are different: these speak confidently, with a minimalist design featuring sleek, uninterrupted lines. Even though it’s been a few years since these were announced, they’re still popular and Apple sometimes even gives these away for free with the purchase of a laptop or iPad. Let’s see how they hold up in 2019.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on March 23, 2020 to reflect changes in pricing.
Who are the BeatsX for?
- iPhone users. Noted as being one of the best pairs of iPhone earbuds, the BeatsX brings many of the same benefits of the Apple AirPods without the drawbacks of true wireless technology. The integrated W1 chip and Class 1 Bluetooth promotes reliable connectivity with a 100-meter range.
- Fashion-conscious consumers. Unlike previous Beats models, the BeatsX features a subdued design and understated all-black or all-white color palette, presenting a more sophisticated style to consumer-friendly earbuds.
- Anyone not into true wireless. Whether it’s because of the shorter battery life or the high probability that you may lose one, true wireless earbuds aren’t for everyone. If you prefer a wire connecting your ‘buds but still want to experience what the W1 chip can do, then these are you.
Purchasing the BeatsX affords listeners four pairs of ear tips, an array of secure-fit wing tips, a softshell carrying case, and a lightning charging cable. Yes, as an Android user, it’s weird seeing Lightning rather than USB-C, but hey, it works. Especially since even the new AirPods Pro still charge via lightning.
How are BeatsX built?
The mainly plastic construction doesn’t cheapen the feel of the BeatsX. In fact, the plastic neckband caps and earbud housings pair nicely with the rubberized Flex-Form cable, much like how a third-tier Cabernet pairs well with tonight’s TV dinner. Cheap, sure, but surprisingly good.
A discreet power button inlaid in the end of the neckband maintains the low-key aesthetic, while still being functional. The same can be said for the in-line mic and remote, which sports a prototypical layout and allows for virtual assistant access, be it Siri or Google Assistant. To my glee, the volume controls are compatible with Android devices.
Ergonomics—a word that might as well have its own department in Home Depot—are excellent and can be attributed to the angled earbud nozzles and varied ear and wing tips. It’s worth it to take a few minutes and figure out which provided ear tips best suit you as it drastically improves audio quality. Additionally, the earbud housings are magnetized. Albeit, the magnets could be stronger as it’s easy to separate them if a piece of clothing tugs against the housings.
How do the BeatsX compare to other Beats earbuds?
While they’re not officially sweat-resistant as per the official product page, they survived my three-mile run and weight-lifting routines. Although—full disclosure—I detest running with neckband style earbuds and don’t find the neckband bobbing or cable wobbling to enhance my runs. In all fairness, though, there are plenty of popular exercise-oriented neckbuds available.
The Powerbeats3 Wireless, however, are a more durable alternative that cost just $10 more than the BeatsX. If you want a top-notch true wireless option with cutting edge technology, look into the Beats Powerbeats Pro true wireless earbuds. Just like the Apple AirPods (2019) and Apple AirPods Pro, these earbuds feature an integrated H1 chip for hands-free Siri access and extended battery life. Granted, they’re significantly more expensive than the BeatsX in question but if you’re after top-tier fitness headphones those are worth looking into.
Just like the flavor of Juicy Fruit gum, the battery life doesn’t last long
Seeing as the battery life is listed at eight hours, it’s a disappointment that our objective testing revealed that the BeatsX provide 5.45 hours of playback before requiring a recharge. Fortunately, a full charge cycle takes just under an hour, which is about half the time of most wireless earbuds. And five minutes of charging provides two hours of playback when the battery is low. Additionally, you’ll likely listen at lower volumes than 75dB(SPL), which should extend the battery life.
So long as we’re discussing charging methods, you may notice that the lightning input is completely exposed. While this makes the BeatsX look sleek, it’s a bit worrisome to have such an integral part of the earbuds subject to dirt, dust, and water. Form before function, I suppose.
For optimal connectivity, you’re going to need an iOS device. It allows you to take full advantage of that delicious W1 chip and AAC Bluetooth codec compatibility. If you’re coming from a non-iOS device, you’re going to experience about a half-second of audio-visual lag. While this is bearable, it’s not ideal.
That said, connection strength and stability is excellent when listening from various Android and Windows devices. I did, however, experience short-lived spotty connectivity when walking around my local park. This shouldn’t cause much pause, though, seeing as most Bluetooth devices struggle in large, open environments.
How do the BeatsX sound?
Generally speaking, the BeatsX reproduces a fairly bass-heavy sound but also place quite a bit of emphasis on midrange frequencies. For the most part, this can be seen as a good thing, because it counteracts vocal masking. It’s still a problem though. Relative to the PowerBeats3, the low-end emphasis could be considered subdued. Treble, on the other hand, is audible, but much of the detail that rings from the instruments’ harmonics are lost in the din.
Isolation is fine. If you want to improve it, make sure to invest in a pair of memory foam ear tips. Doing so attenuates external noise by creating a more cogent seal. As a result, you’ll enjoy more powerful low-end reproduction.
Lows and mids
In the song I Like It by Cardi B, her animated vocals are often masked by the low-end. As Cardi B raps her way through the intro—which lacks the heavy bass found in later verses—it’s easy to hear her above the claps and background instruments. However, once the sub-bass kicks in at 0:57, it’s hard to hear her.
The masking is even more apparent when Bad Bunny jumps in for the second verse. Since his voice is a much lower register than Cardi B’s, it’s even more difficult for the BeatsX to reproduce a clear differentiation between his vocals, the mariachi, bass line, and supporting vocals. You can clearly hear this at 1:32 when he says, “I spend in the club what you have in the bank.”
Though this can be frustrating if you’re looking for a neutral, accurate listening experience, many consumers won’t notice the distortion and masking. As a matter of fact, it’s quite enjoyable to the consumer ear and preferred in day-to-day situations, say during a noisy commute or while exercising.
Cory Wong by Vulfpeck, featuring contributing artist Cory Wong, takes full advantage of Wong’s adroit picking and slides. When listening to this funky instrumental through the BeatsX, the guitar solo that begins at 1:33 sounds good as Wong alternates between D, D#/E, and C notes. Midway through the solo, the hi-hats re-enter and resonate between 3.5kHz-5kHz. The subsequent reverb from the harmonics are difficult to hear above the solo and groovy synth noises.
The microphone performs exceptionally well in noisy environments. With construction just 50 meters away, the BeatsX attenuated background noise with ease. Not to mention that I was also surrounded by multiple voices in windy Atlanta. The chart above shows that the mic struggles to accurately relay lower voices, usually male. However, registers like mine, which has a fundamental frequency response of about 160kHz, sounds accurate. When talking with friends on the phone, they thought I sounded good and was relayed clearly.
Should you buy the BeatsX in 2019?
Yes. Well, unless you get them for free with the purchase of a computer or iPad from Apple, but if you don’t feel like spending thousands then these are still a good deal seeing as these earbuds are just under $100 and feature excellent connectivity—the bane of all Bluetooth headphones’ operational existence—these are a great deal. While the BeatsX earbuds aren’t as flashy as the company’s flagship Studio3 Wireless headphones, they are Beats’ best in-ear option for daily listening. The neckband, in-ear design gives it a distinguished look relative to the company’s other offerings. While you won’t be blown away by the sound quality, the ease-of-use, comfortable fit, and Fast Fuel charging make these worth it.
What about the AirPods Pro?
What about them? Let’s be real, the AirPods Pro are a great pair of true wireless earbuds and are better than the BeatsX in almost every way. They feature surprisingly good active noise cancelling, a transparency mode to let you hear what’s going on around you, an IPX5 build, a great portable charging case, and eartips so they can actually stay in your ear this time. But those are a different kind of earbuds than the BeatsX. They’re true wireless so, as I mentioned at the top of this article, the odds of losing one increase significantly.
Plus, they’re significantly more expensive. You can buy two pairs of BeatsX and still have enough to go get yourself a nice book to read for the price of one pair of AirPods Pro. Are the AirPods Pro worth the money? We think so, but this is about what you want. And if you don’t want to spend too much money, want a longer battery life, and also don’t want the stress of possibly dropping an earbud and losing it forever, then the BeatsX is still a good choice worthy of your consideration.
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