Beats Studio Buds Outpace AirPods With A Bevy Of Great Features

Beats Studio Buds Outpace AirPods With A Bevy Of Great Features

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CNN —  

The latest earbuds from Beats by Dre aren’t like the rest. Powerbeats Pro, Solo Pro and Beats Flex all feature the Apple-made H1 or W1 chip inside, which allow for fast pairing and seamless connectivity with Apple devices. Beats Studio Buds, launching Monday, June 14, for $149.99, feature a custom system on a chip that’s designed in-house by Beats, not an Apple-made one. Studio Buds strike a balance in the battle between ecosystems as they fast pair with Android and iOS alike.

We’ve spent nearly two weeks with Beats Studio Buds, and there are a lot of things that they get right for just shy of $150. And to get a deeper dive on these buds, CNN Underscored got to exclusively chat with Todd Parker, the head of acoustics at Beats, on sound quality and acoustics. Let’s break it down.

Who these are for: For $150, the Studio Buds deliver an intuitive audio experience for Android and Apple users alike. These true wireless earbuds stand out with a strong audio mix and long battery life. If you’re considering standard AirPods, you should look at Studio Buds for a more comfortable experience and stronger sound. Studio Buds boast fast pairing with Android no matter the phone maker, which is a step beyond Galaxy Buds as well.

What you need to know: Studio Buds deliver great comfort with a unique design. Active noise cancellation (ANC) works well for blocking out large sounds but can leave you wanting a bit more, and the same goes for call quality. Studio Buds feature a wide soundstage that works for a variety of genres, but they shine with bass and energetic sound mixes. Fast pairing for Android and iOS is really clutch, and a first for earbuds.

How they compare: Compared to AirPods or Galaxy Buds, Studio Buds are more comfortable with better sound at $149.99. Sound is on par here with Powerbeats Pro. You’ll also get ANC and Transparency modes with on-earbuds controls. AirPods Pro, Galaxy Buds Pro and Sony WF-1000XM4 zoom past these with better noise-canceling chops and more powerful microphones for better call quality. The WF-1000XM4 zero in on audio quality with the ability to customize the mix to your liking. Still, Studio Buds stand as a well-rounded pair of earbuds that don’t lock you into an ecosystem for $149.99.

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The appeal of the H1 or W1 chip was instant pairing with Apple devices like iPhones — and then automatic syncing across the Apple ecosystem. It’s the same tech that powers the “it just works” ethos that makes AirPods a popular choice. And now Beats’ custom chip takes fast pairing to a new level.

Yes, it will still fast pair with iOS devices — but the feature also extends to Android phones. It’s pretty impressive and is similar to the Android fast pair experience we saw on Pixel Buds and Sony’s WF-1000XM4. Beats Studio Buds are the first pair of earbuds (or headphones) that can fast pair with Apple and Android alike.

Flip the pocketable case’s lid open and it will start broadcasting a signal. Hold it close to your iPhone or Android and you’ll see a flash screen appear that asks if you’d like to pair. It’s that simple — after that, you are ready to rock out. On an iOS device, you’ll find controls for ANC built into the volume adjuster. On Android, there’s the Beats app available for download. You can, of course, also use a click button on the earbuds themselves for adjustments.

One oddity is that you’ll need Android 6.0 or newer for fast pairing and Android 7.0 for the Beats app. Considering Android 11 is the current official release (with Android 12 arriving in the fall), we don’t expect compatibility to be an issue. Apple users will need the latest version of iOS (iOS 14.6) for full compatibility.

Better yet, we didn’t experience any connection issues in our testing. We tested Studio Buds with a range of devices, including the iPhone 12 Pro, Pixel 4a 5G, Galaxy S21 Ultra, iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, Apple TV and Fire HD 10, among others.

And since we’re on the subject of setup, the Studio Buds arrive in a pretty simple box. No flashy designs of Beats past featured here — in the box, you’ll get a USB-C to USB-C cable for charging along with two extra ear tip sizes: small and large in the box with medium installed on Studio Buds by default. You’ll also find a free trial for at least three months of Apple Music in the box, which is a nice added value.

Jacob Krol/CNN

The most accurate way to describe the Studio Buds is tiny and comfortable. Beats’ previous true wireless option is the Powerbeats Pro — earbuds complete with ear hooks that offer a sturdier build that isn’t pocketable. The Studio Buds slim things down with a design more reminiscent of widely popular earbuds like the Galaxy Buds Plus, Jabra Elite 75t and Echo Buds.

Where things get interesting is what they look like and how you place them in your ear, as you almost have to rotate them to lock them into place. The earbuds themselves have a rectangular wedge that sticks out of your ear, and it’s a slight slant with a glossy finish that features a “b” logo. Thanks to this design, you can easily grab hold of Studio Buds, both to take out of the case or your ears. The main hull of Studio Buds fits in our ear nicely, with the ear tip portion extending into the ear canal.

Beats is still not offering a software feature to help you see if the fit is correct. AirPods Pro, Galaxy Buds, Echo Buds and even the Sony WF-1000XM4 all offer this, but Beats leaves it up to you. We’d recommend trying all the included sizes until you find the one that fits right — kind of a modern-day Goldilocks journey.

The ear tips are color-matched to the color of Studio Buds. The ear tips themselves, though, aren’t color-coded for size, a new approach that we’ve seen from Sony and Amazon recently. Studio Buds come in a fiery red, black or white. We’ve been testing the red, and it’s an excellent way to show some personality.

Studio Buds are extremely comfortable in our ears and didn’t apply an extreme amount of pressure in our ear canal. They are smaller than the diameter of a quarter and each weigh in at 5.1 grams. We could comfortably wear these throughout the working day, in stationary positions and while walking around. We didn’t encounter any issues with them staying in our ears. You can also use these for workouts or even in rainy weather conditions. These earbuds feature an IPX4 resistance rating.

Let’s be real: Powerbeats Pro had a massive case. If you could fit it in your pants pocket, it made quite the bulge and just frankly wasn’t pocket-friendly. They had long battery life, so many times we’d opt to not bring the charging case along. Studio Buds have a much more compact case that’s only slightly larger than that of the AirPods Pro. It is bigger than Echo Buds or the super-compact Sony WF-1000XM4. Studio Buds magnetically lock into their respective charging slots, and there’s an LED indicator (along with a “b” logo) on the front. The bottom of the case features a USB-C port, which you’ll need to use for charging. There’s no wireless charging here, though, and that’s disappointing.

Jacob Krol/CNN

The Studio Buds deliver a modern-day interpretation of the signature Beats sound, which once emphasized bass but has become more balanced in recent years. The result is an energetic mix with a wide soundstage that works across every genre we threw at them.

In Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U,” the opening bass synth is robust, and Studio Buds don’t end up crackling between the low and even lower audio wave. Furthermore, when vocals get overlaid with a snare drum and a mix of electronic sounds, Studio Buds let each instrument come through with a big wall-of-sound effect. Nothing gets lost in the mix, and the sound is really crisp.

That’s a pop-punk track, but what about classic rock? In “Last to Die” by Bruce Springsteen, the opening violins and guitars come through with no loss of clarity, and Studio Buds deliver a strong clash when the remaining instruments (guitar, drums, saxophone, piano and vocals) come together. It’s also a good example of how a stereo mix on Studio Buds can still deliver proper echo within a track without resulting i

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