Beats on Monday announced its latest pair of wireless earbuds, the Beats Studio Buds.
The new headphones feature a fully wireless design and active noise cancelation (ANC), putting them in line with similar noise-canceling pairs like the AirPods Pro from Beats parent company Apple and Sony’s new WF-1000XM4.
At $150, though, the Studio Buds undercut those competitors on price by a fair margin. The earbuds are available to preorder today and will begin shipping on June 24.
I’ve had the Studio Buds on hand for the past couple of weeks, and in that time I’ve generally been impressed. Whether they’re worth it for you, though, will likely come down to what you prioritize from earbuds like these.
A lightweight, comfortable design and a more compact charging case
Beats Studio Buds
The best thing the Beats Studio Buds have going for them is their design. Measuring 15.5 mm×21.6 mm×19.8 mm and 5.1 g a piece, each earbud is exceptionally light and compact, giving off a sense of near-weightlessness in the ear. They don’t jut out wildly from the ear or otherwise look goofy. They use a set of soft silicon ear tips similar to what Apple pairs with the AirPods Pro, and they don’t dig too far into the ear canal by default. That means the headphones don’t naturally isolate noise as well as earbuds like the Jabra Elite 75t or Sony WF-1000XM4, but on the whole, the lighter touch helps the Studio Buds put less strain on the ear over extended periods. Put another way, this is a highly comfortable and relatively discreet pair of earbuds.
The earpieces themselves have a uniquely contoured shape with pill-like “fins” curving out from each end. Apart from being a spot for Beats to stash the external microphones and antennas, this gives you a natural place to grab each earbud whenever you need to remove it or push it back in place, which I’ve come to greatly appreciate. The design also creates a bit of separation between the on-device controls and your ear canal, so when you go to pause a track or turn on active noise cancelation, you won’t be jamming the earbuds deeper into the side of your head at the same time.
Beats puts one physical control button on each earbud, which can be used to play, pause, and skip tracks, cycle between the Studio Buds’ noise-canceling and transparency modes, and answer phone calls. This control scheme is mirrored on each earbud by default, but you can also set one button to activate a voice assistant, either through the Bluetooth settings on iOS or the Beats app on Android. While the customizable touch controls on Sony’s WF-1000XM4 are a bit more versatile, it’s harder to make accidental presses with a physical button, so many people may not mind the trade-off.
That said, there’s no way to adjust volume from the earbuds without using a voice assistant. This is somewhat understandable given how little space the Studio Buds have, but it’s still unfortunate: having to pull out your phone to turn things down runs counter to the idea of an “untethered” device.
I was a fan of Beats’ last set of true wireless earbuds, the Powerbeats Pro, but that pair’s biggest trade-off was its comically huge charging case, which could have trouble fitting into certain pants pockets. Thankfully, the Studio Buds don’t repeat that mistake. The oval case here is still a bit thicker and wider than the cases of AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM4, or Jabra Elite 75t—it measures 51.5 mm×73 mm×25.6 mm and weighs 48 g—but it shouldn’t present significant trouble fitting into most pants pockets or handbags. Beats says it’s 80 percent smaller than the Powerbeats Pro’s case. The earbuds snap sturdily into position within it, which helps relieve any uncertainty about whether or not they’re charging.
The case also charges over USB-C instead of Apple’s proprietary Lightning port, which means Android users aren’t left out in the cold the way they are with AirPods. Unlike the standard AirPods, though, the Studio Buds do not support wireless charging.
Beats says it will continue selling the Powerbeats Pro as a more workout-friendly alternative to the Studio Buds. Given the more stable “ear hook” design of the former, that makes sense. But we didn’t run into major issues keeping the Studio Buds in place, and they come with the same IPX4 sweat-resistance rating. Other true wireless earbuds like the Jabra Elite 75t and Jaybird Vista 2 are technically more resistant, but the Studio Buds should still be able to withstand workouts without going haywire.
Paying attention to Android and other features of note
Like other Apple headphones, the Studio Buds are a breeze to use with iOS devices. To pair, you just open the case near your iPhone, and, so long as Bluetooth is enabled, a prompt will quickly pop up. Hit “Connect,” and you’re good to go. The Studio Buds have quickly reconnected with my iPhone 12 mini every subsequent time I’ve pulled them out without forcing me to make any extra inputs.
What’s different about the Studio Buds is that they try to replicate the usual Apple headphone experience, at least somewhat, on Android. For pairing, you’ll need to give the Beats app location access and hold down the pairing button inside the case, but when you do, you’ll get a similar graphic prompt that lets you connect without digging into menus. Likewise, when using a Pixel 3a as my primary device, the Studio Buds immediately reconnected every subsequent time I opened their case.
From there, there’s at least some level of feature parity between the two operating systems. You can swap between ANC and transparency modes—or just turn both off—by long-pressing the earbuds on either platform. On Android, you can also toggle these in the Beats app; on iOS, you can do so through the device’s Bluetooth settings menu or by long-pressing the volume slider in Control Center. You can check the battery levels for the case and each earbud in Android’s notification tray. Both platforms let you listen with one earbud if needed.
There are lost device tracking features on both, too: the earbuds support Apple’s Find My network on iOS, while on Android, you can see their last known location through the Google Find My Device app. You can also ring an earbud remotely on Android if you’ve misplaced them somewhere nearby. And as noted above, you can use the Beats app on Android to set one of the control buttons to activate Google Assistant with a long-press. You only get hands-free voice assistant controls on iOS, however: there, you can say “hey Siri” to activate voice commands, much like you can with the AirPods Pro.
Of note is that, unlike other Apple headphones, the Studio Buds do not come with one of Apple’s W1 or H1 wireless chips, instead opting for a custom solution. As suggested above, this doesn’t have a huge effect on the device’s functionality; most of the major conveniences of AirPods are still here. But it does mean you lose features like iCloud device syncing and audio sharing. On Mac and Windows, the earbuds pair like any other Bluetooth device, though they didn’t give me any noticeable trouble getting synced up.
From there, the Studio Buds have kept a consistently steady connection in my testing. They connect over Bluetooth 5.2 and, like many other Apple headphones, are fitted with a Class 1 Bluetooth radio. Thus far I’ve had zero noticeable hiccups either indoors or out.
Regardless of what OS you use, though, you won’t get automatic ear detection, which means the Studio Buds won’t automatically pause when you remove them from your ears. This is a feature found on wireless earbuds around this price, so its omission is a disappointment. Likewise, there’s no multi-point connectivity, so you can’t connect to multiple devices at once and quickly switch between them if needed. This is a less common feature, but it’s still convenient to have whenever it is an option.