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Apple AirPods Pro vs Beats Studio Buds: Can Beats beat the Pros?
While Apple has been refining the Beats brand since taking it over in 2014, the Apple AirPods Pro are still the most popular option, especially for iPhone users. In fact, the Apple AirPods Pro and Beats Studio Buds actually compete against each other, and they’re tough competition. Both are true wireless earbuds with active noise-cancellation (ANC) and a selection of ear tips. They’re both pricier than most consumer earbuds, but they’re pretty close in price to each other. Let’s put them head to head to see if you should go with the Beats Studio Buds or the AirPods Pro.
Our verdict: Apple AirPods Pro review | Beats Studio Buds review
Apple AirPods Pro vs Beats Studio Buds
The Beats Studio Buds come in six different colors, the original red, white, and black, as well as three newer colors as of April 2022, Ocean Blue, Sunset Pink, and Moon Gray. They only weigh five grams, making them light enough to forget you’re wearing them. They also don’t have a stem, making them smaller than the AirPods Pro.
The AirPods Pro are only available in white, much like the original AirPods. However, unlike the original AirPods, the Pro model seals to the ears using in-ear silicone tips for better isolation and sound quality. The earbuds have small stems, though they’re long enough to get caught on a mask.
Related: Headphone buying guide
Both the Beats Studio Buds and AirPods Pro have an IPX4 water-resistance rating, so they’re both suitable for working out. Both come with multiple sets of silicone ear tips so you can ensure they fit your ears properly.
The AirPods Pro have small indentations on the earbud stems for controls. Different squeezes adjust music playback, Siri, and noise cancellation. You can also control the earbuds using Siri voice controls. There’s also automatic ear detection, so your music will pause when you take the earbuds out and resume when they’re back in, though this feature only works on Apple devices. You’ll also need an iOS device if you want to customize controls on your AirPods Pro.
Related: The best AirPods alternatives
The Beats Studio Buds have a clickable button on the side of each earbud for controls, though volume isn’t adjustable with the buttons. They also don’t have ear detection, but you can control playback on Apple devices with Siri voice controls. You can customize the Studio Buds’ onboard controls on any device.
The AirPods Pro have better integration with Apple devices. They have an H1 chip, so they automatically connect to all your iCloud-connected devices. Once connected, you can control the earbuds from the control center, or from the settings app. From here, you can turn on spatial audio, automatically switch between devices, take an ear tip fit test, and more.
On Android or Windows devices, AirPods Pro work like other Bluetooth headphones. You have to manually put the earbuds into pairing mode to connect them to your device, and once you’re connected, you can customize relatively few functions. Thankfully, ANC and transparency mode work fine, since they’re controlled by a hard press of the stem.
You might like: Best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds
Beats Studio Buds work much better on Android devices. Using the Beats App, you can toggle between listening modes and customize controls. The earbuds pair seamlessly to Android devices using Google Fast Pair, and you can find battery information for the case and individual earbuds within your Android device’s Bluetooth settings. As of April 2022, the Beats app also has a Find my Beats feature.
Initially, the Beats Studio Buds didn’t integrate as well with Apple devices, but a firmware update added iCloud pairing to the earbuds. Once they’re paired to one Apple device, all of your iCloud-connected devices will recognize the Beats Studio Buds just as they would AirPods Pro.
Neither microphone is fantastic, but they’re both good for phone calls. The AirPods Pro emphasize voices better than the Beats Studio Buds, so you’ll sound more intelligible speaking into the AirPods Pro microphone. Take a listen to both microphone samples below and see for yourself:
Apple AirPods Pro microphone demo:
Beats Studio Buds microphone demo:
Both the AirPods Pro and Beats Studio Buds support the standard SBC Bluetooth codec, as well as AAC for consistent high-quality performance on Apple devices. Neither support higher-quality Bluetooth codecs like aptX or LDAC, which isn’t great for Android listeners, since AAC performance varies greatly across Android devices.
Read more: Bluetooth codecs 101
The AirPods Pro use Bluetooth 5.0, while the Beats Studio Buds use Bluetooth 5.2. The newer version of Bluetooth is more efficient, so you’ll see minor improvements in connection strength and battery life. This also means that the Studio Buds could see LC3 codec support in the future, whereas this model of the AirPods Pro won’t.
The Apple AirPods Pro and Beats Studio Buds offer very similar battery life. In our sister site SoundGuys’ testing of continuous playback at 75dB(SPL) with ANC turned on, the AirPods Pro last five hours, six minutes while the Beats last four hours, 24 minutes.
Read more: Let’s talk true wireless earbuds and their battery life
You can get up to 24 hours of total listening time with the AirPods Pro charging case, while the Beats Studio Buds charging case provides an extra two full charges. The AirPods Pro case charges with a Lightning connector, and the Beats Studio Buds charge with USB-C. The AirPods Pro support wireless charging, while the Beats Studio Buds case can only charge using a wire.
The AirPods Pro have slightly better active noise-cancelling performance. Low-frequency droning sounds like a plane or train are about half as loud as they would be without the earbuds and ANC. This isn’t the best, but it’s enough to considerably reduce annoying sounds on your commute.
The Beats Studio Buds only make lower frequencies about one-quarter quieter. It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing. Between the two earbuds, you’ll notice a bigger difference toggling ANC on and off with the Apple AirPods Pro than with the Beats Studio Buds.
However, the ear tips on the Beats Studio Buds provide slightly better isolation than the AirPods Pro, blocking out higher frequencies like the clang of pots and pans better. If you decide to keep ANC turned off to preserve battery life, the Beats Studio Buds will block more sound passively.
This frequency response chart shows the Apple AirPods Pro (cyan line) and the Beats Studio Buds (dotted yellow line) compared to the SoundGuys consumer curve (pink line), which is a general ideal frequency response for consumers.
As expected from Beats at this point, the Studio Buds amplify sub-bass and treble notes more than the AirPods Pro. While many people prefer a sound like this, the sub-bass and treble notes are much louder than bass and low mid sounds in between, making it harder to hear vocals. Many vocal performances will sound clearer on the AirPods Pro than the Beats Studio Buds.
Neither of them come with customizable EQ, so you’re stuck with how the earbuds sound out of the box unless you use third-party EQ options. If you like hip-hop or EDM, you’ll likely prefer how the Beats Studio Buds sound. If you prefer acoustic or vocal-oriented music, you’ll prefer the more neutral sound of the AirPods Pro.
Apple AirPods Pro vs Beats Studio Buds: The verdict
If you have an Android phone, the choice here is obvious. The Beats Studio Buds will work better with your phone and they’re more affordable than the Apple AirPods Pro. Due to the price and limited functionality on Android phones, we don’t recommend the AirPods Pro to Android users.
For iPhone owners, the choice is more complicated. If you want high-end features like wireless charging, spatial audio, and seamless switching between Apple devices, the AirPods Pro is worth the money. Now that the AirPods Pro often go on sale for less than $200, the expense is easier to justify for those seeking the premium experience.
If you don’t care about all the bells and whistles, Apple users can save a few bucks by going for the Beats Studio Buds. Beats earbuds cater to those who care about design and portability, and you still get great features like noise-cancelling and an IPX4 rating. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll be better off than if you bought the AirPods (3rd generation).