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Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro: Which noise-cancelling earbuds should you buy?

This Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro comparison breaks down two of the best noise-cancelling earbuds, helping you decide which pair best suits your needs and budget.

The Beats Studio Buds are the popular audio brand’s latest creation and its entry-level wireless earbuds, with the Beats Powerbeats Pro remaining the flagship. There are numerous differences between the two Beats products, from audio to design to special features. However, the Studio Buds come with active noise cancellation — a first for Beats in the true wireless space.

Still sitting on top of the best-sellers list is the AirPods Pro. Apple’s first-ever set of ANC wireless earbuds has proven to be the perfect iPhone companion, with adaptive sound, customized fit, strong noise cancellation, and unbeatable iOS integration. Functionality continues to expand as well with every new iOS update, extending the AirPods Pro’s shelf life until the rumored AirPods Pro 2 hit the market. 

Both releases are primetime players in Apple’s ever-growing product lineup, and though do they share similar features, there are key differences between the two. Which is the superior Apple model? Our Beats Studio Buds and AirPods Pro analysis determines the better noise-cancelling investment.

Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro: Specs compared

Beats Studio Buds AirPods Pro
Price $149 $249
Wireless Charging Case No Yes
Chip Not stated H1
Battery Life (Rated) 5 hours (ANC on), 8 hours (ANC off), 15 hours (charging case with ANC on), 24 hours (charging case with ANC off) 4.5 hours (ANC on), 5 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case)
Water Resistance IPX4 IPX4
Case Size 2.2 x 2.8 x 1 inches 1.8 x 0.9 x 2.4 inches
Case Weight 1.7 ounces 1.6 ounces
Special features Hybrid active noise cancellation, transparency mode, spatial audio, Fast Fuel charging, “Hey Siri” voice-activated assistance, Bluetooth 5.2, Fast Fuel charging, Google Fast Pair Active noise cancellation, transparency mode, adaptive EQ, spatial audio, automatic switching, customizable fit, audio sharing, Fast Fuel charging, announced messages with Siri, “Hey Siri” voice-activated assistance, wireless charging case

Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro: Price

The Beats Studio Buds undercuts its porcelain-looking rival at $149. Knowing the brand’s price point history, this is quite a shocker, but also a sign that Beats will continue to release audio products at competitive price points, as it previously did with the $50 Beats Flex. As a new release, we don’t see the Studio Buds going on sale anytime soon. 

Both Apple and Amazon are taking pre-orders, with shipping to start from June 24.

Each of these products are fairly attainable and come with their own set of performance perks to justify their MSRPs. Your decision will likely be based on preference.

Apple originally launched the AirPods Pro at $249, though it is often on sale with some retailers having dropped the price down to as low as $180. The buds could receive a generous markdown for Amazon Prime Day 2021, but probably not to the point that the Studio Buds stops being significantly cheaper.

For all of the latest Apple and Beats headphones deals, be sure to bookmark our best cheap AirPods deals and best headphones deals pages.

Winner: Tie

Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro: Design

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Talk about a complete 180 from the Powerbeats Pro. Beats introduced an all-new design for the Studio Buds that’s striking, classy and takes on a more traditional in-ear form. The smaller size is discrete and sits handsomely on your ears. Build quality is strong and sustains scratches and scuffs, while IPX4 certification protects the buds from sweat and water splashes.

Some people like the AirPods design, some people don’t. While not exactly our favorite, we do commend Apple for implementing certain changes on the Pro version. The smaller stems, sturdier casing with sweat and water resistance, and black vents to equalize pressure are nice details that make these buds distinguishable in a crowd of the best Fake AirPods.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The charging cases take on different looks and shapes, though they remain compact and portable to carry on the go. Beats’ case is flashier, with the signature B logo plastered right in the front. However, Apple’s case is smaller and feels more durable. You will need to be careful with either case because the magnetic system that keeps the lid shut is pretty weak.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Comfort and fit go to the AirPods Pro. The installed ear tips are a difference maker compared to the AirPods 2 and keep the buds locked into your ears when properly adjusted. But it’s the Ear Tip Fit Test that steals the show, a special feature designed specifically for the AirPods Pro to determine the best tips for proper fitting. We also found the AirPods Pro more pleasant for wear after a two-hour stretch.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom’s Guide)

Beats created a new ergonomically tilted acoustic nozzle that allows for seamless insertion into the ears and has a laser-cut micro-vent that relieves pressure build-up. The ear tips are fine for on-ear stabilization as well. You won’t have access to the Ear Tip Fit Test. Also, the Studio Buds can cause fatigue after an hour of wear, especially around the concha.

Winner: Beats Studio Buds

Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro: Controls

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The Studio Buds’ buttons are responsive and have great tactility when initiating multi-press gestures, but Apple’s Force Sensor is the better input method for playback, call management, and listening mode activation. Every press produces a nice click sound that reassures users of commands being executed. On-ear detection is programmed into Apple’s buds, so you can automatically pause music when removing them from your ears, and the feature exhibits great motion detection. Beats chose to leave ear detection off of the Studio Buds’ feature list.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Both models come with “Hey Siri” integration and the feature works flawlessly. Apple and Beats’ mics are highly intelligible and register commands with precision. Since the Studio Buds were designed to be more Android-friendly, users also have “Hey Google” integration at their disposal, should they prefer to use Google’s AI bot. Apple doesn’t allow for “Hey Siri” use on Android devices, therefore, it won’t work when pairing the AirPods Pro to an Android smartphone.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro: Sound quality

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Beats has done something fantastic with the Studio Buds: refine its sound signature. Powered by an 8.2mm, dual-element diaphragm driver and custom designed transducers, these buds have a detailed and wide audio mix that balances lows, mids, and highs extremely well. Reproduction is superb with instruments sounding lively and vibrant. We’re also fond of how prominent vocals are on acoustic tracks. The monstrous bass featured on the Powerbeats Pro has been toned down on the Studio Buds, though it still provides enough kick to enjoy contemporary music genres.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom’s Guide)

Apple’s adaptive EQ gives the AirPods Pro a major boost in sound quality, which leans towards the warm end of the audio spectrum and enhances both bass and clarity. Lows are given more oomph and vocals are crisp. Highs won’t blow you away, and in some cases, are barely audible on recordings with complex arrangements. These buds aren’t really engineered to pick up on imperfections or hidden background details on tracks.

Spatial audio support for Apple Music is available on both models and is equally great. We barely noticed any difference in sound quality when playing songs that support the feature, which is based on Dolby Atmos.

Winner: Beats Studio Buds

Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro: Active noise cancellation

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The Studio Buds and AirPods Pro employ different noise-cancelling technologies. We applaud Beats’ effort, but Apple’s ANC is superior with a two-mic noise-cancelling array capable of quieting close to 85% of external sounds. The feature is ideal for at-home use when you want to block out loud TVs, rowdy siblings, and kitchen appliances. It also works well on commutes to drone out gusty winds and even airplane engine humming. High-frequency sounds are unavoidable, but often come off like background effects when listening to music simultaneously.

Beats’ digital hybrid ANC technology consists of a “finely-tuned filter with external, feed-forward mics and internal, feedback microphones” that measures ambient levels and adapts performance to your environment. It’s effective enough to block out any verbal spats on the train, rain hitting your windowpane, or any landscaping tools (like lawnmowers and leaf-blowers) being used from afar. The buds don’t handle wind so well, nor do they significantly reduce the loudness of a baby’s cries or vehicle sirens.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom’s Guide)

Transparency Modes come part of both packages, but the AirPods Pro has the better version. On top of being able to hear and communicate clearly without having to take off the buds, the AirPods Pro’s mics make ambient noises distinguishable for better environmental awareness. The Studio Buds is only good for brief and up-close chats, and whatever noises they do pipe in can sound harsh at times.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro: Special features and apps

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom’s Guide)

Beats’ decision to develop its own chipset for the Studio Buds has its pros and cons. While they receive new features that enhance wireless performance on iOS and Android, they also lose out on some exclusives tied to Apple’s ecosystem. This is the first Beats product to support both FindMy in iOS and Find My Device on Android. One-touch pairing grants instant connectivity via Class 1 Bluetooth connection. Users can also expedite the pairing process on Android with Fast Pair. 

As for what’s shared between the two models, we already touched on spatial audio and “Hey Siri” integration. You can still personalize sound by accessing the system-wide EQ on either platform; iOS users can go to Settings and pick from over 20 different presets, while Android users can use an app like System Equalizer Shortcut to easily adjust frequency levels. Control customization can be accomplished through the Beats app for the Studio Buds and the iOS settings for the AirPods Pro.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Speaking of the Beats app, there’s not much else worth mentioning except battery level indicators and toggle controls for the listening modes.

Since the AirPods Pro is powered by the H1 chip, it takes advantage of cool features like auto switching between iCloud-registered devices, audio sharing between two Apple or Beats headphones, and Siri Announce Notifications.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro: Call quality

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom’s Guide)

Only the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds manages better call quality than the AirPods Pro. From the clarity received on both ends of a call to the resilient wind resistance, conversations are satisfying on Apple’s buds. There is a reason why they made our list of the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls. The H1 chip also gives you 50% more talk time than the first-gen AirPods as well.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

We’ve always found the Powerbeats Pro to be a reliable calling headset, so it’s disappointing to see the Studio Buds fall short in this category. These buds do come in handy if you’re in a pinch and need to contact someone, but the constant muffling and cutout are troublesome.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro: Battery life

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

One of Beats biggest selling points is battery life. The company rates playtimes on the Studio Buds at 5 hours with ANC on, which is 30 minutes more than the AirPods Pro…on paper. Realistically, this drops to about 4.5 hours when factoring in volume, streaming, and several other features running in the background simultaneously. It’s the same as the AirPods with ANC on. 

Where the Studio Buds outperform their rival is in standard playtime, which can be extended to 8 hours when turning off ANC. The AirPods Pro will only increase playtime by 30 minutes when disabling noise cancellation.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom’s Guide)

Apple’s and Beats’ charging cases hold the same battery life when fully charged: 24 hours. The only difference is that the AirPods Pro case supports wireless charging, so you can rest it on any Qi-enabled charging pad to juice up the buds.

The Studio Buds come with a stronger version of Fast Fuel technology, generating 1.5 hours of use on a 5-minute charge versus the AirPods Pro’s 1 hour of use in the same charge time. Apple did integrate Optimized Battery Charging into the two products, that way they learn your daily charging routine to preserve battery health.

Winner: Beats Studio Buds

Beats Studio Buds vs. AirPods Pro: Overall winner

Beats’ newest set of buds is a worthy competitor, but Apple’s flagship pair has better overall performance. The H1 chip does make a difference, both on the features and ANC front, with the technology filtering out ambient noise at a higher level. 

Sound quality isn’t absolute top tier, but is adequate for music listening, while spatial audio adds an extra layer of fidelity to recordings. Battery life isn’t great, and the design is long overdue for a makeover, but these drawbacks seem minor for a product that is practically perfect in other categories.

Beats Studio Buds AirPods Pro
Price and value (5) 4 4
Design (15) 13 11
Controls (10) 7 10
Audio quality (20) 18 17
Active noise cancellation(20) 15 17
Special features and apps (15) 10 13
Call quality (5) 3 5
Battery life (10) 9 7
Total score (100) 79 84

The Studio Buds is an impressive set of hardware that does a fantastic job of defining an identify as the platform-neutral Apple wireless buds. Beats’ decision to go with a new chipset optimized for hi-quality sound and effective noise neutralization pays off. Instant connectivity to iOS and Android devices is greatly appreciated, and you can still access some iOS-related features – just not all of them. 

Even so, steering away from the H1 chip may convince iPhone owners to look in the opposite direction. The subpar call quality and lack of wireless charging doesn’t help the Studio Buds’ case, either.

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