So you don’t want Beats to pump out your beats, while you may be concerned about what the competition has to offer there are plenty of trendy, bass-heavy headphones that aren’t Beats. Who knows, you may end up preferring them over the Dr.’s auditory prescription. If you’re looking for some of the best alternatives to Beats then you’ve come to the right place.
Editor’s note: this list of the Best Beats alternatives was updated on July 1, 2021, to add the Jaybird X4 and Sony WH-XB900N, as well as update charts and references to other newer models.
The Sony WH-1000X M4 is the best Beats Studio3 Wireless alternative
The Sony WH-1000XM4 caters to commuters and all-purpose users alike; while it lacks the “Studio” moniker that the Beats competitor has, it boasts many of the same features and outperforms the Studio3 Wireless handily as it applies to noise cancelling capabilities (and equalizing your music).
Sony WH-1000XM4Full Review
Both models are over-ear headphones that retail for around $300 USD, but Sony’s WH-1000XM4 is the better buy. It has Bluetooth multipoint, and Bluetooth codecs including LDAC, which provides the best streaming quality at 990kbps. It doesn’t have as much of a bass boost as Beats or the previous Sony WH-1000XM3, so if you’re looking for that bass sound, it may be best to go with the WH-1000XM3. However, the newer model’s ANC is better.
By providing effective noise cancelling, your music will sound better and you'll likely avoid hearing damage.
If the main feature drawing you to the Beats Studio3 Wireless is noise cancellation performance, then the Sony cans should be your pick. Deciding what’s physically comfortable is more subjective, but we’re confident you’ll be happier with the Sony WH-1000XM4 than with the Beats headphones.
What you should know about Beats alternatives
Before spending your money on something as expensive as a pair of Beats headphones, it’s good to know what some alternatives are. After all, that’s why you’re here right? But before you spend money on anything at all, there are some things you should know that could potentially help you with your purchase decision. We’ll keep it simple for the purposes of this article, but there are links to all of the deep dives down below if you feel like becoming an expert on anything.
Start here: Ultimate headphone buying guide
Why are Bluetooth codecs important?
What is represented is the max transfer rate (kbps) of each respective Bluetooth codec (greater is better). Each waveform depicts a transfer rate of 100 kbps. If you’re unfamiliar with the technology, a Bluetooth codec determines how data is transmitted from a source (phone) to a receiver (headphones). Ideally, there wouldn’t have to be any sacrifices made in quality for the sake of efficiency. However, we don’t live in a perfect world and different codecs provide different transfer rates and qualities.
Since Beats by Dre is now part of the Apple conglomerate and has been since 2014, the company’s wireless headphones and earbuds integrate the W1 chip or H1 chip and support the AAC Bluetooth codec. iPhone users should get headphones that support AAC, and Android users should look out for aptX or aptX HD support. That said, if you’re looking to get the absolute best audio quality, wired listening is still running laps around wireless.
What is frequency response?
Beats headphones are loathed and loved for their bass-heavy frequency responses, but the company doesn’t have a patent on low-end exaggeration. Thus, finding a product that emulates that sought-after sound isn’t an arduous journey. Many of these headphones and earbuds also reproduce emphasized low-end notes. While this usually means you’re enjoying a more consumer-friendly sound, tinkerers (those who often EQ their music) may want to look into studio headphones. Those with neutral frequency responses are easier to EQ because they’re less prone to harmonic distortion.
An alternative doesn’t mean poor quality
Sometimes it’s worth it to invest in the real deal. However, just because a product is an off-brand, so to speak, doesn’t make it inherently poor quality. More often than not, a direct competitor to a Beats model will be cheaper than the household name. The price disparity isn’t indicative of a lack of quality, rather it likely just reflects a smaller profit margin for the company, which means more money for you to put toward streaming.
Related: Best Bose headphones
If you’re interested in the Beats Solo3 Wireless, save money with the Sony WH-XB900N instead
While the Beats Solo3 is one of the company’s most accessible products, it lacks one major feature touted by the Sony WH-XB900N: active noise cancelling. While the noise cancellation found on these mid-tier Sony cans isn’t going to beat the Sony WH-1000XM4 abilities, it’s better than not having the feature altogether.
Sony WH-XB900NFull Review
But it’s not just about having a feature to say that the feature is there; no, the Sony WH-XB900N attenuation is effective enough to prevent you from maxing out the volume. Not only does the lessening of outside noise improve audio quality, but it also steers you away from damaging your hearing.
This headset runs as low as $150, quite a bit less than Beats Solo3 Wireless brand new, but even at the same price, it’s the better choice. The fit and finish are very nice, as is easy integration with your device. Battery life in our tests was 37 hours, 22 minutes of constant playback, and if it dies, you can use the 3.5mm jack.
Related: Best headphones for bass
You get a lot of Bluetooth codec support, which is especially helpful if you’re using Android, with aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, and the usual AAC (for Apple users) and SBC. Best of all, if you’re looking for a Beats alternative, the “XB” in any Sony product means eXtra Bass. If you’re not a basshead, pass on this headset, but if you live for the low end, like many Beats fans, the WH-XB900N is a great pick.
The V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex is a versatile alternative to the Beats Pro
One glance at the Beats Pro and it’s apparent that it’s the most durable pair of Beats headphones, but the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless Codex is MIL-STD 810G certified, meaning it’s officially tough as nails.
V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless CodexFull Review
The V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex isn’t just tough, though; it sounds good too. If you opt to listen sans wires (or maybe your phone manufacturer left you without a choice) then you still benefit from AAC and aptX codec support.
Additionally, when you buy a pair of V-Moda headphones, you’re not just buying a single one-and-done product. No, the company stands behind its albeit pricey lineup with its Immortal Life Program.
The Jaybird X4 features a similar build to the Beats Flex
If you want a worry-free gym experience, get the Jaybird X4 rather than the Beats Flex. Supplied with an IPX7 rating you can dunk these in a shallow pool for 30 minutes, should the impulse take you. This is better than the Beats Flex rating of nothing.
Jaybird X4Full Review
Like the Beats Flex you’re not at risk of easily losing an earbud because of the cable linking them, but you’re also not stuck carrying your phone around either. The X4 has dedicated function buttons and in testing the Bluetooth 5.0 connection stayed between 9-12 meters, letting you workout without being strapped to your device. While manufacturers often make claims of stability over 30 meters, it’s rarely true in the real world, so getting that in real-world conditions is impressive.
Related: Best workout headphones
If you’re not a fan of the default EQ, Jaybird’s app has presets, or you can make your own. Workout buds tend to be bass-heavy, so you can definitely find a setting that’s Beats-like. Battery life is about 7 hours, 30 minutes, which is enough to last several exercise sessions in a week. The fit is secure, albeit maybe tight on some folks, but if you’re running you want the buds to stay in above all else.
The Jaybird Vista is a solid Beats Powerbeats Pro alternative
Beats’ debut true wireless earbuds are making a splash in the world of consumer audio. If you aren’t interested in the Powerbeats Pro, then the Jaybird Vista is a great option. The earbuds feature an IPX7 rating and lack the same ear hook design as the Powerbeats Pro. Don’t fret: angled nozzles and wing tips successfully keep the buds in place.
Jaybird VistaFull Review
You’re afforded USB-C quick charging whereby five minutes in the miniature case yields 60 minutes of playback. Standalone battery life clocks in at 5 hours 37 minutes of listening. While this is about half of what the Powerbeats Pro provides, it’s certainly more than enough to cover a few workouts.
Unfortunately, the Vista earbuds don’t offer high-quality codec support, but that’s forgivable seeing as these are intended for gym use, rather than analytical listening. Plus, you’re granted a lot of leeway with the sound signature by way of Jaybird’s free app. You can create and save EQ settings which may also be shared with other Jaybird users. This is a great, more affordable alternative to Beats’ running earbuds.
What about the Jaybird Vista 2?
If you want to spend a bit more, go ahead and get the active noise cancelling Jaybird Vista 2, which looks very similar to the original Vista, save for the cloth wrap covering each earphone. Jaybird made the case and earbuds more durable with the Vista 2, and battery life is improved too (8 hours on a single charge). If you want a pair of earphones that does it all, this $199 set may be worth it.
Alternative Beats alternatives
- Anker Soundcore Vortex: This pair of headphones costs just a smidge more than $50 but fits comfortably and supports aptX and AAC. It’s a real steal when compared to either the Solo3 or Studio3 Wireless models.
- Apple AirPods Max: Apple’s first-ever pair of over-ear headphones is designed for people heavily invested in the company’s ecosystem. It features some of the best noise cancellation we’ve tested, in addition to great sound quality, spatial audio, automatic device switching, and a unique yet durable design.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M40x: If you’re looking to save some money, these sub-$100 wired headphones have a balanced frequency response and comfortable design that will satisfy anyone—from the casual listener to the budding music producer.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M50x BT: Audio-Technica transformed its ever-popular ATH-M50X to a wireless headset that listeners can take on the go. It operates via Bluetooth 5.0 and supports aptX and AAC codecs.
- Audio-Technica ATH-SR30BT: For around $100, you get a pair of over-ear headphones complete with aptX support, good sound quality, and a 70-hour battery life that will last you several round-trip flights—all without needing to recharge.
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II: Just because there’s a new Bose product on the block doesn’t make the previous beasts of ANC any less appealing. These are still more comfortable and offer many of the same great features as the newer ones.
- Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: The new Bose headphones are another great option for anyone looking for sleep design, great battery life, and solid active noise canceling. If you’re not a fan of the Sony headphones on this list, definitely check these out.
- Bose SoundSport Wireless: These pair of neckbuds are a great alternative to the BeatsX, featuring reliable connectivity and Bose’s comfortable StayHear+ Eartips. As a bonus, you’ll often find these earbuds on sale for less than a hundred bucks.
- Bose Sport Earbuds: Bose’s latest true wireless earbuds are designed to compete with products like the Beats Powerbeats Pro. It offers a comfortable fit, IPX4 water-resistance, decent sound quality, and support for fast charging—all for about $90 less than Beats’ offering.
- House of Marley Exodus: Listeners who value style and durability should look into these. While they didn’t receive the same MIL-STD 810G rating as the V-Moda cans, the aluminum components paired with FSC certified wood make these feel premium and resilient.
- Jabra Elite 45h: These on-ears are a great alternative to the Beats EP, complete with AAC compatibility, great battery life, portable design, good microphone quality, and support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Plus, these are about $30-40 cheaper than the Beats EP.
- Jabra Elite 85h: These headphones are a great over-ear alternative to the Beats Solo 3 Wireless. It features true-to-life sound quality and active noise cancelling, all at a lower price point than Beats’ offering.
- Jabra Elite 85t: These earbuds are the latest Jabra has to offer, featuring surprisingly good active noise cancellation for less than $250 USD. It also offers AAC support, USB-C and wireless charging, and ergonomic ear tip options to ensure a proper fit.
- JBL LIVE 650BTNC: As far as sub-$200 noise cancelling headphones go, these are some of the best. They effectively attenuate external noise and are comfortable to wear for long periods of time due to the deep, plus ear cushions. Plus, with full Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa integration, little tasks like replying to incoming texts are made easy.
- Sennheiser CX 400BT: These buds offer comparable sound quality to the more expensive Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds, in addition to aptX and AAC support—all for less than $200.
- Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3.0: If you’ve thought about getting the Beats Studio but were turned off by the design, Sennheiser’s latest noise cancelling cans may be up your alley. These feature premium materials, great ANC, and a very comfortable fit with excellent sound quality.
- Sennheiser PXC 550-II: These active noise cancelling headphones are extremely high-value for their price. Not only is the ANC great, it also reproduces accurate audio, has Bluetooth multipoint, and boasts a comfortable design.
- Shure AONIC 50: Listeners who want the absolute best in noise cancelling technology should save up for the AOINC 50. This headset attenuates low-frequency noise like no other, and is extremely comfortable to wear with glasses and in general.
- Sony WH-1000XM3: If you want the bass boost that the Sony WH-1000XM4 can’t offer, go with their predecessor. They’re likely to go on sale very soon, too.
Related: Best Google Assistant headphones
How we chose the best Beats alternatives
We have our own internal testing methodology, but the long and the short of it is that we run three basic tests: battery life, frequency response, and isolation to get a broad-strokes, objective understanding of how each pair of headphones or earbuds operates. From there, we use the headphones in our daily routine, taking note of a product’s follies and triumphs.
Ultimately, we respect that audio is subjective to a point—and believe it helps us, and you the reader, to know a product’s objective performance as well.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
We’re dedicated to this site and individually have accrued multiples years of experience when it comes to keeping track of the evolving audio industry. In being so involved, we’re able to quickly pick out the good from the to-be-improved products.
Our main goal is to ensure that you enjoy your purchase, whether you’re looking for workout earbuds, soundbars, or noise cancelling headphones. We just want you to be happy, and none of our writers may benefit from lauding one product over another. If you so choose, we recommend that you read our full ethics policy.
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends on the make and model of your Bluetooth headphones. For instance, nearly all wireless Jabra products' firmware can be updated through the mobile Jabra app, the same can be said for the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, Jaybird earphones, and more. Most headphone manufacturers make it fairly easy to update Bluetooth headphones firmware and software. Sometimes you have to do so via desktop app as seen with the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC.
One of the best Powerbeats Pro alternatives are the Beats Powerbeats wireless workout earphones. This headset affords nearly all of the same features as the Pro model for $100 less. It uses the same Apple H1 chip for hands-free access to Siri, easy iOS device switching, and power efficiency performance. You don't benefit from automatic play and pause functionality, though, because the Powerbeats omit automatic ear-detecting sensors, but it's a small thing to forfeit. The same ear hook design is used, and the streamlined cable is comfortable and rarely gets in the way of activities.