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Best wireless Beats headphones
Like it or not, Beats headphones are some of the most popular headphones in the world. If you go by the sheer amount of dollars earned, even that might be an understatement. Beats is a part of Apple, which dropped the headphone jack with its iPhone 7, so it makes sense that all of the Beats products went wireless. Whether you’re looking for yourself or looking to gift them to someone, it’s hard to know what the best wireless Beats are, and because of the pricing, it’s not a decision you should take lightly.
Let’s see which wireless Beats products are better than the others, and go over a few technical details you should know before making your purchase.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on July 20, 2021, to add the Sony WH-XB900N to What you should get instead, and to fix a missing image.
For most people, the best Beats headphones are the Beats Flex
Hear me out here. Sure, it’s not a pair of over-ear headphones and it doesn’t have that same classic appeal that something like the Solo3 headphones does, but that’s kind of the point. The Beats Flex, like the BeatsX before it, is designed to be discreet and low key.
The Beats Flex keeps all of the same features that made the BeatsX such a good choice and improved on the weak points. The neckband is still super flexible and easy to stash away in your pockets without worrying about any cables getting tangled up and the W1 chip makes pairing to Apple devices a breeze.
Beats’ latest earbuds also now charge via USB-C and have an improved battery life of roughly 12 hours compared to the 8-hour battery life of the BeatsX. Of course, it still doesn’t have an official IP rating so using it at the gym isn’t the best idea. Still, this is a great entry headset into Apple’s ecosystem.
If you’re a commuter take a look at the Beats Studio3 Wireless
If you commute a lot or find yourself on planes often, then you might want a good pair of active noise cancelling headphones. When it comes to Beats, that means the Studio3. These are a large pair of over-ear headphones that don’t only passively block outside noise, but also do so actively thanks to tiny microphones that help them pick up outside noise. We have a whole explainer on how active noise cancelling (ANC) works, so if you want to learn more make sure to check it out. Now while the Studio3 isn’t the best at ANC across the board, it’s currently the only pair of Beats over-ear headphones with noise cancelling.
But besides that, the Studio3 features the W1 chip for easy pairing to iOS devices along with roughly 20 hours of battery life with Bluetooth and ANC. This is reason alone to crown it as one of the best wireless Beats, and it’s more than enough for a flight to most places in the world, so you won’t have to worry about running out of juice mid-flight.
You’ll notice some pretty significant lag when watching videos so if you’re going to be watching on your next flight you might need to hardwire them in. Also, don’t expect great sound here. It’s definitely a sound for a certain kind of person, but if that person is you, then these will do the job nicely.
If you want the classic on-ear style, go with the Beats Solo Pro
When you picture a pair of Beats headphones, you probably think of something like the Beats Solo3 wireless that was previously on this list, but the Beats Solo Pro makes a strong case for why they should be the first thing you think of. Mainly because of the fact that it’s actually a good pair of headphones. Sure, it’s still a bit overpriced, but at least now it doesn’t feel like you’re paying for just the marketing scheme of Beats and are getting a decent product.
This headset uses Bluetooth 5.0 along with the same H1 chip that you’ll find in the AirPods Pro, Powerbeats Pro, and even the AirPods Max headphones for easy pairing, so that’s a plus. Not to mention that the Solo Pro has decent active noise cancelling, which is impressive for a pair of on-ears and (let’s be honest) a pair of Beats headphones.
On the downside, the Solo Pro is still pretty expensive and no longer has a 3.5mm input. This means if the battery dies, you have to recharge the headset before you can use it again. If you’re not a fan of Bluetooth for one reason or another, that could be a pretty strong deterrent. That said, if you’re ready for the wireless life and want to give Beats a try, the Solo Pro gets the job done.
The best wireless Beats for the gym are the Powerbeats Pro
If you just want some buds for the gym, then you should go with the Beats Powerbeats Pro. This set of true wireless earphones is among the best we’ve tested, and they provide over 10 hours of playtime on a single charge. The earbuds have an IPX4 rating that protects against sweat and water damage. Apple packed in its H1 chip, so you can quickly pair your iOS device and automatically switch between devices, so long as they’re all associated with the same iCloud account.
While the frequency response isn’t as bass-heavy as you might expect, Beats still places a decent emphasis on the low end that makes this the perfect gym companion. The only problem with them is the giant charging case that could be two or three times bigger than the one that comes with the Airpods. It also charges via a lightning cable which means that if you don’t already have an iPhone you’re going to have to find a way to carry another cable with you. But if you throw everything in your gym bag it shouldn’t be too much of a problem anyway. Just don’t expect to be able to comfortably carry this in your pockets.
Related: Best true wireless earbuds
Android will quick pair with the Beats Studio Buds
The Beats Studio Buds features quick pairing for Android, which you won’t find in any other Beats products. You can control music playback with a clickable button on each earbud, and the Android app lets you switch between listening modes or customize settings, such as the preferred audio codec.
The Beats Studio Buds sounds great, though Android users might want to stick with the SBC over the AAC codec for streaming consistency. The ANC reduces ambient sounds by only 25%, which leaves much to be desired. On the bright side, the noise isolation provided by the included ear tips works well on high-frequency sounds without digging into the 5- (with ANC) to 8-hour battery life.
Speaking of battery life: the charging case holds two full charges and you’ll top it up with USB-C. Sporting an IPX4 rating, the Beats Studio Buds is a great companion for your workouts when you’re in a pinch. The compact and stylish case will fit great in any gym bag.
Android quick pairing comes at the expense of an H1 or W1 chip. While the Beats Studio Buds also pairs well with iOS devices, Apple users won’t get automatic iCloud-powered device switching or dynamic head tracking with spatial audio. But you can still use Siri and control the earbuds from iOS.
What you should know about the best wireless Beats
There are some things that you might want to know before you spend your hard-earned cash. While you can dive deep into any of these topics by reading the full articles linked below, we thought we’d take the important parts and condense them here for the purposes of this article.
Why is the W1/H1 chip so special?
By this point, you’re probably wondering what’s so great about the W1 chip that we keep mentioning and what does it do? Well sorry Android users, but the W1 chip is Apple-specific. It’s a chip that Apple designed in-house to help the newer wireless Beats products (and the AirPods) have fewer issues when connecting wirelessly. Its purpose is to provide some backup to the Bluetooth chipset already in the phone. With the newer Airpods and Powerbeats Pro, it has been updated to the H1 chip.
Both chips help to maintain a more reliable connection, adds better power management so the headphones can last longer, and also makes the initial pairing process way easier by auto-detecting nearby devices with W1 chips and letting you connect to them quickly (with a sweet animation on your phone I might add). Of course, it isn’t going to suddenly make every pair of headphones with a W1 chip perfect, but it does help make not having a headphone jack a little less of a hassle. The H1 chip has all the same benefits but also allows for increased talk time, even better battery management, and the option to say “Hey Siri” in order to activate the voice assistant hands-free.
Bluetooth codecs and AAC
So what is a Bluetooth codec? A simple analogy is that it’s like a language. If two devices have the same language, they can communicate more effectively, which in turn allows for faster data transfer over Bluetooth resulting in better sound. Every Bluetooth device speaks the same baseline language called SBC, but there are a few that are better (including aptX Adaptive from Qualcomm that has the potential to be the best).
Now, this is usually the part where we tell you all about the numerous codecs available and what the difference are, but none of that matters here. If you’re using an iPhone the only codec you need to worry about is AAC because that’s the only one that Apple uses. The downside is that AAC isn’t the best, and you don’t have any other options if you have an iOS device or a newer pair of Beats headphones due to a long and annoying legal battle between Apple and Qualcomm.
Auditory masking and why some people don’t like Beats
If you speak to anyone who cares about audio (and even us sometimes), they’ll tell you that Beats products sound terrible. But then why do so many people like them? Well, some of it is marketing, but most of the reason is that not everyone enjoys a clear and crisp sound. Depending on your musical tastes, you might just want something with powerful bass. And if you’re commuting or surrounded by noise, lower notes are usually the hardest to hear. For people who are constantly on the go, having headphones that make the lower notes louder is exactly what they want; enter wireless Beats.
Emphasized bass comes with a few downsides, mainly due to the human ear. If you make one note louder than another, our brains tend to delete the lower one. This is called auditory masking. So if you wear headphones that make all of the lower notes louder, then you’re going to lose some quality elsewhere. This is why Beats headphones usually aren’t for audiophiles. If you want headphones so you can hear every little detail in your songs, then Beats isn’t for you. But if you’re just going to the gym and need some bass to help you power through it, then look no further.
But what about the AirPods?
Even though they aren’t technically a Beats product, the AirPods are still made by Apple and come with some of the features that makes Beats so exciting. Plus, they’re not as expensive as most of the Beats products. The downside is that they are true wireless earbuds, so the odds of losing one accidentally are pretty high. But if you can manage, they’re super convenient and have become surprisingly popular despite their weird design.
Should you get the Apple AirPods Max?
If you’re looking for the best audio quality that Apple has to offer, consider the AirPods Max. The company’s latest rides off the success of the AirPods and AirPods Pro, integrating active noise cancelling, adaptive EQ, seamless connectivity, and great sound quality into an unconventional, yet functional over-ear design.
In typical Apple fashion, the AirPods Max is best suited for people who are heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem. If you fancy yourself more of an operating system-agnostic, then the AirPods Max is hard to justify. Speaking of things that are hard to justify… the price. These premium headphones currently retail for $549 USD, so you may want to think twice before you hit checkout on Apple’s website.
Are all Beats wireless headphones noise cancelling?
The answer here is no, not all. Beats wireless headphones have active noise cancelling. If noise cancelling is your top concern, then it’s worth checking out some of the other top competitors because while Beats products do seem to be improving when it comes to noise cancelling, they’re still not better than some others.
What should you get instead of Beats?
For fans of in-ears like the Beats Flex, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is a solid pair of active noise cancelling earbuds that—while expensive—provides an immersive listening experience in a compact form factor. While on the topic of Sony, if bass is what you like about Beats, try the Sony WH-XB900N headset. It has more codecs to play nice with Android than Beats. If you want a stable, comfortable fit and don’t care to fiddle with EQ customizations, consider the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds instead.
The Monoprice BT-600ANC is an excellent noise cancelling headset that costs far less than the competition. For around $79 USD, you get ANC that outperforms headsets double its price like the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 and even gives the Sennheiser PXC 550-II a run for its money too.
Those who love the look and portability of on-ear headphones should really consider the Jabra Elite 45h for its compact design, accurate audio quality, and long battery life.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
Listening to and comparing as many headphones as possible is our day job. The SoundGuys team loves audio, but we also know that everyone has different preferences. This is why we try to test objectively so that regardless of our personal preferences, you get the facts about which products are worth spending your money on. We also have years of experience in audio between us, with Chris even heading up testing phones (as well as other things) over at our sibling site Android Authority. Make sure to check out our ethics policy as well if you’re interested.
Next: Best Beats alternatives