Beats and budget aren’t usually words you’d find together, but the latest headphones from Beats are actually surprisingly affordable. But do you still get the same quality that you’d expect from the Beats brand?
Beats Flex are actually a replacement for the old BeatsX earbuds, which were also rocking the neckband design. But while they were cheap by Beats standards, the new Beats Flex are significantly cheaper still, firmly sitting in the budget headphone camp now.
They’re light, as you’d expect from a pair of wireless earbuds, weighing in at 0.66 ounces. There is no bulky carry case to drive that figure up, which is both a positive and negative depending on your point of view, as you also don’t have anywhere convenient to store them when not in use.
Beats Flex review: Design
Unlike most of the best headphones and earbuds out there, Beats Flex are wireless earbuds connected by a neckband. This neckband lets you take your headphones off and hang them around your neck, so you don’t need to put them away if you’re just taking them off for a few minutes. It also means that if the earbuds fall out while you’re exercising, they don’t hit the floor and roll under the treadmill, never to be seen again.
The other advantage of the neckband is that it leaves somewhere for controls and buttons to sit. Halfway down the left side of the band you’ll find a small control section featuring the volume controls, play/pause button, the USB-C charging port and the microphone which lets you take phone calls using these earbuds. On the right side of the neckband there is another identical sized control section, but this only has the power on/Bluetooth connection button on it.
The earbuds themselves are magnetic, attaching to each other back to back when not in use. The neckband is also flat and designed to prevent your Beats Flex headphones getting tangled up when they’re in your pocket, and let us just say thank the lord for that.
While these are a budget pair of earbuds (at least by Beats standards), they still maintain that premium look and feel that you’d expect from the company. The rubber neckband feels sturdy while still being flexible, and the earbuds themselves are simple but stylish. The only complaint we have is that the neckband was a little too long for us, which meant it occasionally bunched up and pushed out the earbuds if we were wearing a big coat or scarf.
Beats Flex are available in four different color options: Beats Black, Yuzu Yellow, Smoke Grey, and Flame Blue. Those last two color options weren’t originally available at launch, but they arrived in early 2021.
Beats Flex review: Features and performance
While Beats have long been known as the stylish choice when it comes to headphones, they’ve also had something of a reputation when it comes to sub-par audio performance. They’ve done a lot to shake that association in recent years though, and we think that Beats Flex offers a pretty solid performance for the cost.
You get great bass output, which is basically a requirement in Beats headphones which made their name from punchy bass (sometimes at the detriment of all else). Tracks like Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name of and White Stripes Seven Nation Army had the kind of punch that we’d hope for.
More than that though, we also found that the Beats Flex had decent output across the rest of the audio spectrum. We found the mids can get a little lost in the shuffle on some tracks like Enya’s Orinoco Flow where the vocals are a little muddled in, but these aren’t issues that most users are going to notice. [And who listens to Enya these days anyway, right?]
Generally we found the Beats Flex offer excellent audio clarity, both when listening to music as well as YouTube videos and podcasts. It makes them an ideal pair of headphones for your morning run or gym session.
There is no noise cancelling technology in play here, but we didn’t find it to be an issue. With four earbud tip options you’ll be able to get a snug fit and with a good seal - we never had any issues with outside noise leaking in and ruining the listening experience. If you want true nosie cancelling earbuds, check out the Sony WF-1000XM3.
Pairing to devices was easy and painless for us, and it’s even easier if you’re using an Apple device like the iPhone 12 thanks to toe W1 chip inside these earbuds, which gives you easy instant pairing to any of your Apple devices that are synced to the iCloud. Even on an Android device, you can use the Beats app to pair the headphones and keep an eye on your battery life.
Beats Flex review: Battery life
Battery life is important for wireless headphones, and doubly so for banded headphones like these that don’t come with a charging case. Apple claims on its website that you get up to 12 hours of listening time, and our own testing mostly matches up with those claims. We got a little less than that on average, but we’re also usually listening to music at full volume because we hate our eardrums. Apple’s numbers assume you’re at 50% volume, so if you’re a closet metalhead like us, then expect closer to 10-11 hours.
Those are still mighty impressive numbers and it means that you’ll comfortably be able to fo a full day without needing to recharge them, or more likely several days to a full week with moderate usage.
When the juice does run out, you also get Fast Fuel charging via USB-C cable which gives you 90 minutes of listening time from just ten minutes of charging. So if you realize they’re dead just before you head out for a run, a quick 10 minute charge while you dig out your running shoes and you’ll be good to go.
Beats Flex review: Price
Beats Flex are the cheapest headphones that Beats sells, with an MSRP of $49.99. You can even pay monthly if you want - it’s $8.33/mo for 6 months plus a $3 down payment (for a total cost of $52.98).
These aren’t just a bit cheaper than the next model up though. It’s worth noting that the next cheapest pair of headphones that Beats sells is Beats EP at $129.95, and the next cheapest pair of earbuds is the Powerbeats at $149.95. So, if you want Beats on a budget, these are far and away the best option.
Should you buy Beats Flex?
If you want a solid pair of budget headphones that still have the cool factor that a brand like Beats brings, then Beats Flex are an excellent choice. While you can definitely find better audio quality out there in this price bracket,
Beats Flex have a surprisingly well balanced audio output to accompany the expected punchy bass. They are comfortable to wear, look great and have solid battery life. They're not going to compete with high end earbuds like the Apple Airpods Pro, but they're also a fraction of the price.