Turn It Up: Your Buying Guide to Beats Wireless Headphones
For some, Beats are the only headphone option to consider, because they have that intangible "cool factor" other brands lack. If you're in the market for your first pair of wireless Beats, we're here to help.
Audiophiles Need Not Apply
As popular as Beats headphones have become, not everyone loves the iconic "b" logo. While many users praise the comfortable design and solid sound, some audiophiles turn up their noses at these "overpriced" headphones. We won't dig too deeply into the controversy here, but it's important to have a little background knowledge about the brand and its reputation.
One 9to5Mac reviewer summed things up nicely when he remarked, "[In terms of audio quality], they're certainly the best headphones I have owned, and I think that's the point. I'm not an audiophile and I'm really not certain I would know how to recognize and appreciate something more high end." In short, Beats headphones are extremely popular with "average" music fans, but the brand definitely has detractors in the high-end audio world.
Still, Beats is doing something right. According to a CNN article, "Beats controls 27% of the $1.8 billion headphone market — and 57% of the market for 'premium' headphones, ones that cost $99 or more."
If you're you're still on board with Beats, read on to see which wireless pair might suit you. Or, check out our guide to wired Beats headphone models.
Beats Solo3 Wireless Headphones
Distinguishing Features: Up to 40 hours of battery life, with illuminated LED "fuel gauge" that shows remaining battery life. On-ear controls for music and Siri activation. Another nice feature is instant setup. Instead of going through tedious pairing procedures in a Settings menu, just power on these headphones and hold them near your iPhone to get configured. Once that's done, they'll also work automatically with your other Apple devices, including iPads, Apple Watches, or even a Mac.
- Excellent battery life
- Nice integration with Apple products
- Adjustable, cushioned ear cups
- Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that the connection holds for hundreds of feet
- While not the most expensive Beats, still pretty pricey
- Apple-friendly features may not be useful to Android users
Sample Review: "The Beats Solo3 is hands-down the best pair of wireless headphones that I've ever tested when it comes to range." – 9to5Mac
Final Word: The other two models on our list boast mere 12-hour batteries, so the Solo3 Wireless headphones are great for people who need music all day long, and then some. Better still, a quick-charge feature means that just five minutes of charging can lead to three hours of playback time. Apple fans will also like the fact that all of the available colors match perfectly with current iOS devices. (Rose gold headphones, anyone?). If you own exclusively Apple devices, these are probably the best option for you.
Beats Studio Wireless Headphones
Distinguishing Features: Lighter in weight than the original Studio headphones, with a redesigned headband. Also boast softer ear cups that have an ergonomic bellow, creating a custom fit for even those hard-to-fit ears. Built-in mic. Connect via Bluetooth with your device within a range of 30 feet.
- Auto On/Off feature turns the headphone off when you unplug from a wired connection
- No special charging adapter needed
- Dual-mode Adaptive Noise Canceling
- Arguably the most "fun" colors and designs to choose from
- Lacks battery life of other Beats models
Sample Review: "They're foldable, comfortable and deliver a fairly aggressive sound stage, which makes them ideal for fans of hip-hop, EDM and other bass-heavy genres." – Engadget
Final Word: A hard shell carrying case protects better than the softer cases on other models featured in our guide. Also note that CNET named the Studio Wireless the "Best Bluetooth Wireless Headphone" for both 2015 and 2016. These are arguably the nicest over-the-ear wireless headphones in this guide, if you can deal with getting "only" 12 hours of battery life, and having perhaps a more limited connectivity range than you would with the new Solo3 Wireless headphones.
Powerbeats3 Wireless Earphones
Distinguishing Features: Secure, lightweight design that's perfect for running or other types of exercise. Sweat- and water-resistant.
- Comes with four size options for ear tips (Many other earbuds only come with three)
- Adjustable ear hooks may be more comfortable for some than ear cups
- Special clip around back of head helps to further secure headphones
- Did we mention they're water-resistant?
- Fast Fuel charging is available for this model, but a 5-minute charge only gives you an hour of listening time
- Music/voice controls are inline, not on-ear
Sample Review: Unavailable, since these just went on sale.
Final Word: These are the only option for Beats fans who want a wireless experience in an earphone format, as opposed to over-the-ear, cup-style headphones. They just went on sale, so it's hard to be certain that they'll live up to manufacturer claims about battery life and comfort.
When you browse reviews, message boards, and tech blogs, you can form general opinions about the Beats line. While typically considered comfortable for most head and ear shapes (no mean feat), some Beats owners have called out the headphones for being fragile and prone to breaking. Combine that reputation with Beats' high price tag, and it's no wonder many people are looking to find Beats headphones at a discount.
Keep in mind that Beats has a history of bundling free headphones with Apple products. For the last two years, people who bought Apple computers from the Apple Store or select Apple partners (like university computer stores) got a free pair of headphones. To be fair, these were older-model cans, but free is free! It's safe to assume Beats and Apple will run this promo again when the 2017 back-to-school season kicks off, and it's possible models from this guide will be included.
Can't wait that long for new headphones? Then online shopping is your best friend. As of this writing, Amazon was offering the Beats Studio headphones for 21% off list, while Best Buy was selling them for over 30% off MSRP. We aren't seeing any major deals on the new Solo3 Wireless headphones yet, but that could change as we get closer to the holidays.
One last note on bargain hunting for Beats: Avoid buying used Beats headphones, since counterfeit Beats are frequently spotted in the wild. Sadly, it can be very hard to distinguish fakes from the real deal.
Readers, do you own any of these Beats headphone models? Are you satisfied with your purchase? Share your experiences in the comments below.