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These new earbuds from the Beats production line are an exciting new addition to the mid-range market.
They might not have the wow factor of the Powerbeats Pro, but the Studio Buds still step up as a worthy mid-range alternative. The lack of Apple's H1 chip is more than made up for in the form of a supremely pretty design that lets you wear them in two different ways. Factor in the convenient one-touch pairing across both iOS and Android – something that's totally unique to this product – and you've got some of the best earbuds out there at this price.
Forgive us if we talk in cliches, but the phrase 'a marriage made in heaven' feels like one that can be applied to Apple and Beats. Back in 2014, the former bought the latter (for the tidy sum of around $3m), and it was five years later that the Powerbeats Pro, the fruit of their combined labours, were released.
Of all the wireless earbuds our experts have tested, these are among our very favourite – and largely because Beats have successfully managed to sustain its own identity despite coming from the same production lines as the likes of the Airpods and Airpods Pro. That's why we were so excited about getting our hands on the all-new Studio Buds ahead of their summer 2021 release.
Unless the ear hook-style Powerbeats, the Studio Buds are designed in the classic in-ear tradition. They're also priced noticeably lower and are missing one major feature that was an undeniable letdown. Read on for our expert, in-depth verdict of the Beats Studio Buds.
While they didn't leave us starry-eyed like the Powerbeats Pro, we were nonetheless delighted to discover that the Beats Studio Buds will enter the market this summer as an excellent mid-range contender.
The sound profile will please everyone with realistic expectations of this price point, as should the solid noise cancellation. Best of all, though, is the gorgeous design and super-comfy fit offered by the Studio Buds.
These are the latest earbuds from Beats and a mid-range follow-on from the Powerbeats Pro, which were released in 2019. To compare them with similarly priced options from other brands, you can check out our Huawei Freebuds Pro review and JBL Reflect Mini NC review.
Here's a run-down of what you can expect from the Studio Buds:
Absolutely – while earbuds (and good-quality ones for that matter) are growing increasingly more affordable, the high-class sound profile offered here for not that much over £100 means these should be definitely worth your consideration. The fact that they're so easy to operate via each earbud's push-button is no small deal either: while there are plenty of cheaper earbuds out there, many of them are hampered by needlessly fiddly UIs.
Unlike the clamshell case of the Powerbeats Pro, the Studio Buds come in an ovoid box that opens to the typical deep charging wells you get with most earbuds. We like the lustre of the case, although that sort of matte surface does love to collect the grease from fingers and thumbs. Beneath the 'b' logo, a glowing light beneath the logo indicates if the earbuds are charging inside.
The buds themselves are an exquisite work of design: both organic and sharp-edged at the same time. It’s hard for us to describe their shape – picture a piece of pinched clay that’s been neatly cut at one end, emblazoned with the Beats logo. Where the ear hook-style Powerbeats Pro are, inevitably, rather ostentatious, these are compact and unassuming, weighing just over 5g each.
But this design isn’t all about appearances: as the visual instructions in the packaging demonstrate, the Studio Buds can be worn in two different positions in your ear, either in the concha (main cavity area) or tucked into the narrow channel between your tragus and anti-tragus. (No, we’re not ear experts. But we do have access to Google.)
We found that both positions were snug and comfortable, with the latter for us being just that little better. To have two options two choose from is one of the Studio Buds' greatest strengths. After all, no matter, no matter how good the sound is, a pair of earbuds don't count for much if they're not comfy.
The Studio Buds come in three colours: Black, White – more an off-white, in reality – and Beats Red, which is a bright, fire-engine colour.
We were also very pleased to discover the Studio Buds still make use of a physical press button on both of those flattened faces. This is something that's being increasingly done away with (and to seriously mixed success) by brands who adopt sensor-based UIs instead.
Beats, wisely, has kept the Studio Buds' interface decidedly simple. One tap starts and stops the track or accepts or ends the incoming call; two taps skips to the next tracks; three taps skips backwards; a sustained tap toggles between the ANC and Transparent sound modes. This means you can’t control the playback volume on the earbuds themselves - but we consider this a worthy sacrifice against the fiddly UI systems you get in other earbuds, which feels almost Morse Code-like in their complexity at times.
With its hip-hop roots, Beats has long held a reputation for bass-heavy sound, and often to a fault. But any previous criticisms that Beats products have received for their overbearingly exaggerated highs, and lows certainly weren’t on display here. If anything, the sound leant towards the trebles: when we listened to ‘Organ Donor’ by DJ Shadow, we noticed the bassline was kept on a surprisingly tight leash.
In terms of sheer horsepower, the Studio Buds will reliably see you through the noisiest of commutes (testing them in a quiet space, we had them set several notches below maximum). The ANC provided is of a sound level, though if you're relying on this as a function, we're going to steer you towards more expensive earbuds like the Apple AirPods Pro or Jabra Elite 85t.
Ultimately, the Studio Buds solidly deliver in terms of sound quality – it's more in their internal workings that we were most disappointed. That's largely down to the absence of Apple's H1 chip, which you'll find in the Powerbeats Pro and helps make those higher-end earbuds such as smooth experience when paired with iOS.
For example, while the Studio Buds will automatically pair with your device when taken from their case, they won't automatically start or stop when inserted or removed from your ears like the Powerbeats Pro. In the Studio Buds' defence, they're a good £90 cheaper – and it's sort of feature you'll only notice if you've grown accustomed to it.
As a whole, the Studio Buds' features fully justify the £129.99 price tag.
Beats promise up to 24 hours of use from the Studio Buds, with eight hours from the fully charged earbuds and another 16 from the charging case, with the ANC switched off. If you do use them in noise-cancellation mode, the figure falls from eight hours to five. Those figures were certainly in line with our use across a 48-hour period.
We were also pleased to discover the Studio Buds are a set of earbuds that come with a 'Fast Fuel' feature, which will give you an hour of playback from five minutes of charge. Always handy... if you're the forgetful type, like us.
Setting up the Studio Buds on our iPhone was a gloriously easy experience – which should be no surprise, given they come from an Apple-owned company. It took all of fifteen seconds to get them from their case to playing music in our ears.
This largely comes down to the one-touch pairing function, a feature Beats has made much of in its pre-release publicity and is one that's available not just on iOS but Android too. Simply bring the Studio Buds into the close vicinity of your device, and a window will appear on your screen asking if you'd like to pair the two. Perhaps the closest we can come to phrase 'poetry in motion' in the world of earbuds.
A USB-C to USB-C charger is included in the box, along with the Studio Buds, their case and a series of silicone ear tips in different sizes. This was a surprise to us: we expected a Lightning cable, as is the case with the Powerbeats Pro. This might prove an annoyance to anybody without a USB-C port in any of their devices: you'll need to invest in either a USB-C wall charger or a USB-C-to-USB converter.
If you're seeking out a mid-range set of earbuds, we'd urge you to give the Studio Buds serious consideration. While there are increasing numbers of excellent-quality earbuds out there for less than £100, these are very much worth the triple-digit spend, thanks to the lovely design and snug fit. That said, if you're a Beats devotee and you use iOS, the Powerbeats are undeniably worth the extra money, thanks to the H1 chip that is sadly missing here.
As a whole, though? These are a major win for Beats.
Overall star rating: 4/5
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