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.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on November 29, 2018, to include new notable mentions and reflect price fluctuations.
The Sony WH-1000X M3 is the best Beats Studio3 Wireless alternative
The Sony WH-1000XM3 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 Studio 3 Wireless handily as it applies to noise cancelling capabilities (and equalizing your music).
Sony WH-1000XM3Full Review
Both models are over-ear headphones that retail for $349, but the Sony’s WH-1000XM3 is the far better buy. It supports an array of Bluetooth codecs including LDAC, which provides the best streaming quality at 990kbps. What’s more, its sound boosts bass more than the previous iteration, aligning it with the bass-heavy Beats signature by default.
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-1000XM3 than with the Beats headphones.
What you should know
- iPhone users should pay close attention to Bluetooth codec support. Since Beats by Dre is now part of the Apple conglomerate—and has been since 2014—the company’s wireless headphones and earbuds integrate Apple’s W1 chip and AAC Bluetooth codec. iPhone users will want something that supports AAC, and Android users should look out for aptX or aptX HD support.
- Beats headphones are loathed and loved for their bass-heavy frequency responses, but the company doesn’t have a patent on low-end exaggeration, so finding a product that emulates that sought-after sound isn’t an arduous journey; that said, you may be sacrificing style for a particular sound.
- 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 MP3s.
If you’re interested in the Beats Solo3 Wireless, save money and get the AKG N60NC instead
While the Beats Solo3 is one of the companies most accessible products, it lacks one major feature touted by the AKG N60NC: active noise cancelling. While the noise cancellation found on the AKG cans isn’t going to beat the Sony WH-1000XM3 abilities, it’s better than not having the feature altogether.
AKG N60NCFull Review
But it’s not just about having a feature to say that the feature is there; no, the AKG N60NC 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.
Of course, the other main benefit to going the AKG route is the price. These headphones run less than $175, nearly half the price of getting the Beats Solo3 Wireless brand new. Plus, you’re still getting both AAC and aptX support; compared to the Solo3 Wireless, these are a real bargain.
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. Things sound especially good if you plug in, though, seeing as these headphones are Hi-Res certified and allow for zero-latency which is great for gaming.
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 Audio-Technica ATH-CK55BT features a similar build to the BeatsX
These earbuds support both aptX and AAC, so regardless of what system you’re using, watching videos and making remote commands is a lag-free process. What’s more, unlike the BeatsX, the ATH-CK55BT use an integrated amplifier while keeping the price below $100.
Admittedly, battery life isn’t anything stellar with these earbuds and is rated at seven hours, but the standalone battery life clocks in at 200 hours to compensate.
By including aptX and AAC support, you're not limited to choosing between an iOS or Android device during listening sessions.
As far as sound quality is concerned, Audio-Technica uses brass to mitigate unwanted harmonic distortion; this results in improved clarity, particularly in the mids and highs. What’s more, the earbuds house large 10.7mm dynamic drivers—well, large for in-ears that is.
Although you’re not getting the same style of neckband earbuds as you would with the BeatsX, you’re benefiting from aptX and AAC compatibility, which provides notably better sound quality for Android phones, as AAC is really only acceptable on iPhones.
Grab Jaybird’s Tarah earbuds in lieu of the PowerBeats3
The Jaybird Tarah, while lacking the same ear hook fit as the PowerBeats3, is “Made For Google,” meaning that it’s ensured to be compatible with your Google Pixel. Unlike the PowerBeats3, the Tarah can be fully submerged for 30 minutes in up to one meter of water and has an IPX7 rating to back it up.
Jaybird TarahFull Review
These are more compact than the Beats equivalent, but that’s at the expense of battery life; these provide six hours of playback while the PowerBeats3 Wireless allows for 10.5. Due to the low-profile design, the Jaybird Tarah can be worn in more environments without attracting attention. It’s a great sub-$100 option and holds its own against Beats or any other pair of workout earbuds.
Alternative Beats alternatives
- OnePlus Bullets Wireless: These earbuds are a BeatsX doppelganger and support aptX. Unfortunately, they’re rarely in stock, demoting them to a notable mention.
- Sennheiser HD1 In-Ear Wireless: This neckband earbud provides aptX and AAC support and is made out of more premium materials than those found on any Beats product, but they’re expensive compared to the BeatsX or PowerBeats3.
- 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.
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II: If you like the idea of Sony headphones but think they may not be the most comfortable for you, then the Bose QuietComfort 35 II may be what your ears need.
- Focal Listen Wireless: These headphones mimic the bulky design that Beats headphones are recognized for and perform exceptionally well when it comes to passive isolation. They’re also comfortable to wear with or without glasses.
- Audio Technica ATHM50X 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.
How we chose
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 us
We’re dedicated to this site as our full-time jobs 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.
Still looking for the Beats alternatives? Look at these best lists.
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