Beats Studio Buds review (hands on): Surprisingly affordable ANC earbuds
The Beats Studio Pro might just be the most brand-defying set of earbuds that Beats (and by extension Apple) has ever unveiled. From ditching sporty conventions for a radical new design to including active noise cancellation (ANC) at an affordable price, the Studio Buds a lot going for it.
The good news is that, from our first few hours of testing, it’s largely living up to that promise, even compared to some of the best wireless earbuds on the market. We’ll have a full review soon but in the meantime, here are our initial impressions after spending a few hours with the Beats Studio Buds.
Beats Studio Buds: Price and availability
The Beats Studio Buds was announced on June 14, 2021, and is available for preorder from Apple. It will start shipping June 24.
Among the best surprises of the Studio Buds is the price. At $149, it’s competitive with some of the best headphones, such as the Jabra Elite Active 75t. It also costs less than the AirPods Pro and Beats Powerbeat Pro, while offering many of the same features.
Beats Studio Buds: Design
The first thing you’ll notice about the Studio Buds is how tiny each earpiece is — just 0.9 x 0.8 x 0.6 inches. They don’t have over-the-ear hooks like Powerbeat Pro or dangling stems like Apple AirPods. They’re so small I had some trouble getting them out of the case.
The Studio Buds have a pill-shaped part that extends from the part that goes in your ear, which is adorned with the iconic Beats “b.” Other than that, little of the earbuds is visible once you stick them in your ear.
It also comes with three tip sizes to help them fit best in your ear. The buds stayed in my ears firmly as I went about everyday activities. At just under 0.2 ounces per bud, the Studio Buds are light enough to wear for hours.
The Studio Buds includes six microphones across its two earbuds, splitting them up for voice call and ANC duties.
The case size is another pleasant surprise, especially if you’ve seen the gigantic Beats Powerbeats Pro case. The Studio Buds case — while by no means diminutive — is only slightly larger than an AirPods Pro case. However, it doesn’t support wireless charging. It ships with a tiny USB-C cable for charging.
Beats Studio Buds: Controls and digital assistant
The surface of the “pill” that extends from buds includes a multifunction button. You can press once to play or answer a call, twice to skip, three times to go back or long-press to activate noise cancellation or switch to transparency mode. The button was responsive and didn’t require much force.
The Studio Buds include hands-free Siri and it’s quick to activate, easily changing playlists and calling people from my contacts.
Beats Studio Buds: Sound quality
We’ll hold off on evaluating the audio quality until we get more time to test the Studio Buds, but initial testing shows it offers balanced overall sound.
Like pretty much all headphones it works with Apple Music’s recently-added spatial audio playback, which uses Dolby Atmos mastering for a 360-degree sound effect. What gives the Studio Buds a boost over most other models is that it enables spatial audio automatically, without any additional setup.
Beats Studio Buds: App and special features
If you’re using an iOS device, the Studio Buds takes advantage of built-in features, such as using Control Center for volume and switching sound modes. You can also go into the Bluetooth menu to find more options. Android users can download the Beats app to access the same kinds of features, though they won’t get spatial audio or “Hey Siri” voice controls.
The Studio Buds includes active noise cancellation, something regular AirPods can’t boast. It uses adaptive technology to adjust for your environment. Again, we’ll test how well this works in our full review. You can also switch to transparency mode to let in outside noise when you’re on the street and need to be aware of your surroundings.
The earbuds have an IP4 rating, making them resistant to water and good for when you’re sweating at the gym or on the trail.
Beats Studio Buds: Battery life
Beats says you can get 8 hours of battery life from the Studio Buds on a full charge, but that’s without ANC or transparency modes on. With those active, expect 5 hours — which is the pretty average for earbuds right now. The charging case carries an additional 16 hours (10 with noise cancellation) of power. The case can also do fast charging, adding an hour of playback in 5 minutes.
After about an hour without using noise cancellation or transparency, the battery in my unit had about 90% left — in line with the estimates.
Beats Studio Buds: Outlook
The Beats Studio Buds has a lot going for it, from a small and lightweight design to plenty of features, including ANC and hands-free Siri. All at an affordable price, too.
If you can’t wait to get your pre-order in, we’ll say now that initial results are promising. Stay tuned for our full rating, which we’ll post after some more quality time with the sound output and noise cancellation.
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