When you think of Beats, you’re likely thinking about the style and not the substance. The iconic logo, the striking colors, the flashy over-ear styling. Beyond their reputation for bringing literally all of the bass, Beats haven’t traditionally been known for their sound quality. That’s all about to change, though, because the Beats Studio Buds are easily the best sounding pair of Beats that we’ve ever tested. More than that, they’re some of the best headphones out there if you’re looking for stylish, noise-canceling earbuds.
None of that is to say that the Beats Studio Buds don’t look great though. While they come in a rather unassuming little charging case, the earbuds themselves look very unique, with a rather bulbous inner ear section and a raised ridge that displays the logo. The designers have obviously put a lot of thought into this design because the Beats Studio Buds are not only extremely comfortable to wear, but they’re super secure too, so there is very little chance of them falling out while you’re wearing them.
In fact, we’ve got very little to complain about after our time with the Beats Studio Buds. The active noise canceling tech is superb, they have a decent battery life and they sound great. The only minor quibble we have is the lack of volume controls on the earbuds themselves, but how often do people really use them?
Beats Studio Buds review: Design
- Stylish, unique design
- Three colors: Red, Black, or White
- Compact charging case
Beats Studio Buds are certainly a visually striking pair of earbuds thanks to their very unusual shape. They’re available in three colors: red, white, and black. We’ve always associated Beats with red, and flamboyant colors in general so we snagged a red pair and they look stunning, if a bit strange. The main body that fits into your ear is quite bulbous, with the soft tip of the earbud protruding at a seemingly odd angle. In practice though, they’re incredibly comfortable to wear and fit us like a dream. The large, rounded shape rests comfortably on your inner ear lobe and they just stay put, even when exercising.
The other distinctive part of the design is the raised ridge that faces outwards, proudly displaying the Beats logo. These raised ridges on each earbud are actually physical buttons, allowing you to pause music and skip tracks. A single press is play/pause, while a double press skips the track. Holding the button down switches between the three noise-canceling modes. Bizarrely, the controls are the same for both earbuds.
We love the look of these things. They might look a bit weird sitting on a table, but when you’re wearing them, Beats Studio Buds look fantastic. There is a downside to this unique look though. Due to the odd shape and limited space, there are no on-earbud volume controls. It’s a minor omission in our mind, but it might bother some people. During our briefing with Beats, the possibility of adding volume controls via a long-press of the buttons through a software update was suggested, but there are no guarantees.
The charging case for the Beats Studio Buds is remarkably understated for a Beats device, especially with the headphones themselves having such a radical design. It’s a compact, oval-shaped device with the Beats logo and a small LED light to indicate when it’s charging on the front, and a USB-C charging port on the bottom. It opens via a single hinge that feels a little flimsy if we’re honest, as it’s a wide lid and small hinge. There’s no danger of it snapping off, but it means the lid feels a little wobbly when closed. Inside the case, the buds fit snuggly into their assigned slots thanks to the power of magnets. There is also a button for synching Bluetooth connections.
Beats Studio Buds are IPX4 rated for both water and dust resistance, which means you’ll be able to use them out and about without worrying about the weather ruining your sweet new earbuds. This also makes them a great choice as a pair of workout earbuds too.
Beats Studio Buds review: Features and performance
- Active noise canceling
- Balanced sound profile
- One-touch pairing
As we alluded to in our intro, the Studio Buds sound nothing like you’d expect a pair of Beats headphones to sound, and that’s only a good thing. The bass has been reigned in significantly. That’s not to say the bass isn’t excellent though - it’s just no longer running the show. We wheeled out an old favorite, Fort Minor’s Remember the Name which has a punchy baseline, and the Beats Studio Buds brought it to life beautifully.
The real difference comes in the rest of the audio range. Again, we went back to Steely Dan’s Do It Again to test the treble, where the opening medley’s huge variety of instruments puts headphones to the test. We were impressed with the clarity of the sound profile, with no individual element being lost in the mix.
Beats Studio Buds also feature both active noise canceling and transparency modes - a first for Beats earbuds. We tested the ANC in a variety of locations, both in the house and out on the street and we were impressed with the performance. In fact, an alarm went off on my phone as I was writing the above sentence, and I didn’t hear a thing. We’ll call that a win for Beats. The transparency mode is basically the opposite of noise-canceling, using the exterior mics on the earbuds to bring more sound in. This is ideal when you’re in an environment where you need to be able to hear e.g. you’re working in the office and need to hear when the boss asks you where those TPS reports are.
You can also use the Beats Studio Buds for taking calls thanks to the 2 external voice microphones (alongside the 4 mics that are used for the noise-cancelling modes). We found call quality to be fine, but nothing special. It’s a nice feature to have though, if you don’t mind looking like you’re talking to yourself.
While we’d normally expect Beats headphones to play nice with Apple devices, given that Beats is owned by Apple, the development team has actually gone to efforts to make sure that Beats Studio Buds are seen as device agnostic, in their words. To this end, these earbuds aren’t using the H1 chip that you find in Airpods. Instead, it uses a proprietary chip, offering benefits to both Android and Apple users. Beats Studio Buds support one-touch pairing with Android and Apple devices. There are still some Apple-only benefits though, like compatibility with Apple Music Dolby Atmos and the Find My capability for iOS devices.
Beats Studio Buds review: Battery life
- 24 hours total battery life, or 15 hours total with ANC
- Fast Fuel charging
- No wireless charging
Battery life is where we find out the cost of that sweet sweet noise-canceling technology sadly. Without the ANC on, Beats Studio Buds can go for eight hours on a single charge, but turning the ANC on drops that down to five hours. You get another two full charges out of the charging case, for a total of 24 hours listening time without ANC, or 15 hours with ANC.
That’s not terrible as battery life goes, but it’s not amazing either. For comparison, the Earfun Free Pro earbuds that we reviewed earlier this year last six hours per charge with the ANC on, and come with another three charges in the case on top of that.
There is no wireless charging either, which might put some people off. If you want wireless charging earbuds, you should check out the Apple Airpods Pro. At the same time, it’s worth noting that those will cost you nearly twice as much, for very similar sound quality. You can recharge your Beats Studio Buds using a USB-C cable. Thanks to the Fast Fuel charging tech, five minutes of charge will give you an hour of playtime - ideal for when you’re about to leave the house and realize the battery is drained.
Beats Studio Buds review: Price
- $149.99 / £129.99
- One year warranty
Beats Studio Buds cost $149.99 / £129.99 and can be purchased from the Beats store, Apple store, Amazon, and numerous other retailers. Inside the box you get the Beats Studio buds and charging case, 3 pairs of alternative ear tips, a USB-C charging cable, a quick start guide, and a warranty card. Beats Studio Buds come with a one year limited warranty in the US and UK.
As a nice added bonus, all Beats Studio Buds come with a free four-month trial for Apple Music, so you can put them to the test with Apple Music’s extensive library of music.
As a nice extra touch for eco-conscious buyers, the packaging for Beats Studio Buds is made from 92% plant-based material that is either sourced from recycled material, or sustainable forests.
Should you buy Beats Studio Buds?
Beats Studio Buds are an absolute triumph for Beats, finally letting the company shed its bass heavy, style over substance reputation by putting sound quality at the forefront of their design. That’s not to say the style has gone anywhere though - these are some of the freshest looking earbuds we’ve seen in sometime. Stack the active noise-canceling tech on top of that and Beats are on to a real winner here.
The only real downside to these headphones is the relatively lackluster battery life. It’s not bad and they’ll certainly last you a couple of days on a full charge with the case, but they’ll need charging more often than most, especially if you’re using the power hungry ANC mode.