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Beats Studio Buds review: Apple's Android olive branch
Beats Studio Buds
What we like
What we don't like
Apple bought Beats all the way back in 2014, and it has been slowly pushing the famed brand further into the iOS ecosystem. At least until the Beats Studio Buds came along. These latest Beats-branded true wireless earbuds ditch the powerful Apple W1 and H1 chips for a universal appeal and a small olive branch towards the Android market. Is it enough to tempt Galaxy and Pixel users? Find out in our Beats Studio Buds review.
Who should buy the Beats Studio Buds?
- Android owners can finally appreciate Beats with full support for smart features and fast pairing.
- Students can tote the Beats Studio Buds just about anywhere. They’re small, reasonably affordable, and charge quickly.
- Fitness junkies will enjoy the portable case and the IPX4 rating for sweat resistance.
See also: Headphone buying guide
What’s it like to use the Studio Buds?
The Beats Studio Buds put their mantra right on the packaging — great sound starts with a proper fit. You’ll find three sets of silicone ear tips tucked away inside, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find your match. We often salute lightweight earbuds, and these bad boys come in at just 5g and barely protrude from your ears. They should stay tightly in place, and you might forget that they’re there during your next workout.
Both earbuds feature a clickable button to control playback. It’s more reliable than the touch controls you find on most true wireless earbuds, but it comes at the cost of onboard volume controls. You won’t find automatic ear detection either, so your tunes will keep going even if one earbud should fall out. On the bright side, it’s easy to move between ANC and transparency mode right from the earbuds or in your operating system’s app of choice. If you have an Android phone, that means the Beats app, while Apple users can head to Settings.
Read more about Beats: Beats PowerBeats Pro review
Apple is still walking the USB-C and Lightning line with its various products, and the Beats Studio Buds fall towards the former. They’re aimed at a larger audience, so choosing the more accessible charging option makes sense. Unfortunately, the charging case does not support wireless charging.
How well do they work with Android?
For once, Apple isn’t avoiding Android with a Beats product. In fact, it even includes Android phones in its marketing content for the Beats Studio Buds.
You will need the Beats app for full functionality, but that’s common on wireless earbuds these days. It allows you to manage your listening modes, tinker with controls, and even name your earbuds. The Beats app can help you connect your earbuds to your phone if you’re having trouble. However, there’s not much to do in the Beats app after your initial setup experience.
How do you pair the Beats Studio Buds to an Android phone?
All you have to do is press the pairing button on the Beats Studio Buds charging case to begin the pairing process. Once you do so, you should see a notification pop up on your phone — much like the iOS pairing card. You can check on battery information and use location tracking from within your Bluetooth settings when you get connected.
Do the Studio Buds work better with Apple phones?
H1 and W1 chips aside, the Beats Studio Buds pair almost instantly with a full range of Apple devices. Just make sure you have Bluetooth turned on and open the charging case. Once you click through the pop-up card, you’re ready to rock.
Apple doesn’t offer a Beats app for iOS, so you’ll manage all of your preferences from the Settings app. Tap on the small “i” icon next to the name of your Studio Buds, and you’ll see your options. Now you can manage active noise cancellation (ANC) modes, adjust button controls, and rename your earbuds.
There are some drawbacks for iOS users when compared to Apple's H1-powered buds.
The biggest drawback of the absent H1 chip is that the Beats Studio Buds don’t automatically sync up across your iCloud devices for fast switching. You won’t be able to swap between your phone and computer seamlessly, and there are no Spatial Audio sensors to be found. Fear not, Siri lovers, as you can still access your favorite assistant by voice alone when paired to an Apple device.
Do the Beats Studio Buds stay connected easily?
The Beats Studio Buds have no problem remaining connected to either Android or iOS devices. They use Bluetooth 5.2 and support the AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs. AAC is the natural partner for Apple devices, so you may want to toggle it off when paired with an Android device; AAC’s performance varies greatly across the Android operating system depending on the paired handset. Unfortunately, there’s no support for the higher-quality aptX or LDAC codecs on these earbuds.
Learn more: Bluetooth codecs 101
How is the noise-cancelling?
If you absolutely must have top-notch noise-cancelling, you’ll want to look elsewhere. The noise-cancelling on the Beats Studio Buds is mediocre at best. While the silicone ear tips help manage high-frequency sounds, the ANC struggles to tackle ambient noises when activated.
Many ambient sounds you hear every day — think airplane noises or air conditioning — reside below about 1,000Hz. With ANC engaged, the Beats Studio Buds cut into these sounds by about 25%. Even though that sounds like a solid number, it’s actually well below the best competitors.
The noise-cancelling on the Beats Studio Buds is mediocre at best.
The Beats Studio Buds do get some credit for beating out the Apple AirPods Pro on both passive and active cancellation, but that isn’t saying a lot. However, it does help combat auditory masking so that your music sounds accurate in most situations. The passive and active tuning should help the long-term health of your ears, though, as it may make you less likely to crank your volume.
Do these Beats Studio Buds sound good?
Beats was once known for its intense, bass-heavy profile. We’re happy to report that those days are behind it. The Beats Studio Buds offer a consumer-friendly response (cyan) that sticks closely to the SoundGuys standard curve (pink). All of this is to say that most people will be pleased with their playback across all genres.
There is a noticeable dip in mid-range frequencies, which makes low and treble frequencies sound relatively loud. The important part is that the egregious auditory masking issue of older beats is a thing of the past. So long, intense bass boost, we won’t really miss you.
See also: The best AirPods alternatives
Most vocal frequencies land between 100Hz and 400Hz, around 5 to 10dB of attenuation on the Beats Studio Buds. The sound profile means that the vocals in certain songs like Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u” sound noticeably quieter than they do on some studio options. High-frequency sounds tend to shine, as the cymbals on the Earth, Wind, and Fire classic “September” are easy to identify.
What is the battery life like?
Beats boasts that the Studio Buds pack five hours of juice with active noise cancellation turned on, and eight hours with it off. We found that our continuous 75dB test with ANC turned on yielded four hours and 24 minutes in the right earbud and four hours, 41 minutes in the left earbud. This is below average for truly wireless earbuds, though it’s close to Beats’ claim and matches other Apple and Beats products.
We achieved two additional charges with the charging case, and Fast Fuel added 60 minutes of juice after just five minutes of charging.
Are the Beats Studio Buds good for phone calls?
The Beats Studio Buds rely on dual beam-forming microphones to provide adequate audio quality. Nobody reported any issues hearing my voice during calls, even while walking through busy streets.
You can give the Beats Studio Buds microphones a listen right here.
How does the microphone sound to you?
Beats Studio Buds review: The verdict
At $149 in the US, the Beats Studio Buds are a solid entry into the true wireless earbud race. When the price begins to tumble with sales and discounts, you can expect Studio Buds to rise to the top of many shoppers’ lists.
There’s plenty to enjoy about them, so buyer’s remorse is unlikely. From sweat resistance to active noise cancellation, Beats seems to have covered all of its bases. The feather-light weight and pocket-friendly package are just the icing on top at this price.
That said, there are drawbacks on both the Apple and Android side. The Beats Studio Buds work with both operating systems, though they don’t fully commit to either one. As a result, it’s tough to excel in one direction or the other.
If you think the price is right and you love that Beats branding, buy away. They’re not the top true wireless earbuds in the world, but they do offer some serious bang for your buck compared to other Apple and Beats options.
Are there any good alternatives?
There are always great alternatives in the hunt for the best earbuds. In this case, it comes down to whether you prefer iOS or Android. Apple users with some extra cash should try the AirPods Pro. They bring a wireless charging case, great sound, and excellent noise-cancelling to the table. You also get better Apple integration and far more features. Best of all, the AirPods Pro often goes on sale for around $200 or less.
On the Android side, the Galaxy Buds Plus is worth a look. They pair best with Samsung devices, but they offer almost 12 hours of playback on a single charge and usually cost under $100.
If you’re an Alexa die-hard, the 2nd-generation Echo Buds are a solid pick. The integrations with the Alexa app offer tons of control over both your earbuds and your smart home for peak flexibility.