At a glanceExpert’s Rating
ProsGreat soundComfortable fitVery good battery lifeiOS and Android friendlyConsNo in-ear detectionNo EQ controlNo hi-res supportNo wireless chargingOur Verdict
The Beats Studio Buds+ have most of the features of AirPods Pro, and even add extra Android compatibility, for less money.
Apple bought Beats two years before the first AirPods were announced. Today, Beats earbuds are very similar to AirPods – which is a great thing when they often cost less but offer similar features.
The Beats Studio Buds+ are the best true wireless Bluetooth earbuds yet from Beats, and they are a great alternative to Apple’s own AirPods Pro.
The Buds+ drop some of the more advanced features you’ll find on the $249/£249 AirPods Pro and other AirPods models such as spatial audio and automatic device switching. But at $169/£179, they are more affordable and have better integration with Android smartphones.
In my time with the Buds+ I did not miss the extra features $80/£70 gets you on the AirPods Pro, and suggest you save your money by going for the Beats instead.
Design & build
Four tip sizes in boxClever grip/button designIPX4 rating
The Studio Buds+ have an attractive and functional design that thankfully doesn’t try to rip off AirPods. Instead of a long stem, the buds are small, well, buds, with a tapered edge that you can grab between thumb and forefinger to take them out the case or your ear.
This is clever design, which also puts a physical button on the edge where the Beats ‘b’ logo is printed on each bud. The grip let me twist the buds to get a better fit rather than have to painfully push them further into my ear. There’s a degree of this when pressing the button on either bud, but if you do it at the right angle it’s OK. At 5g per bud you barely notice them in your ears.
Henry Burrell / Foundry
I reviewed the black and gold model, though there’s also an ivory and a headline-grabbing translucent version that looks great. My black buds and tips showed dust and dirt easily, while the matt plastic case picked up a few surface scuffs but looks surprisingly unscathed after a week of being tossed around in bags and pockets.
Beats has put four eartip sizes in the box, something I gratefully discovered as I have quite small ear canals. I could get a decent sealed fit with the smallest ‘XS’ size, so you should be fine with one of the options. I found the Buds+ comfortable to wear for a couple of hours at a time before I felt a bit of soreness, common with closed seal earbuds – your mileage may vary.
The Studio Buds+ have an attractive and functional design that thankfully doesn’t try to rip off AirPods
For what it’s worth, the Buds+ have circular silicone tips, similar to many other true wireless buds. I find AirPods Pro more comfortable as they have slightly flat-sided, oval-shaped tips.
The buds sit snugly in the pebble-shaped charging case held in place with the satifying thunk of a strong magnet. The case charges via USB-C rather than Lightning. This is welcome for me given I use a fair few USB-C devices for my job, but if you have an iPhone you might actually prefer AirPods for their Lightning port. There’s a USB-C to -C cable in the box.
Universal, well rounded soundstageGood bass responseNo hi-res support
Most importantly, the Studio Buds+ sound excellent. There’s little to tell between these and the AirPods Pro, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, and OnePlus Buds 2 Pro that I’ve used or reviewed lately.
Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ sounds fresh and vibrant, with the bass guitar bopping along in the mix with the trebly drums and backing vocals.
On a packed London Undergound tube carriage with a lot of noise but noise cancellation on, I could hear the bass guitar tone on boygenius’s ‘$20’ better than on other buds and appreciated it more.
Beats has a reputation for bassy sound and that is true of the Buds+. They don’t overdo it, but there’s more low end to the tuning here than on AirPods. Unfortunately, the Buds+ don’t (like AirPods) have any EQ controls. You’re stuck with what Beats deems best – luckily, it’s pretty good.
There’s the faintest hint of distortion in the buds when I listened to Bush’s ‘Machinehead’ at a decent volume, possibly down to the trebly, ’90s mix of the song. All the instruments sound crisp and clear though. The Buds+ are a universally great sounding earbud, no matter the music genre.
Only a few wireless earbuds support hi-res music playback and these aren’t among them. Just like AirPods, the Buds+ can’t stream Apple Music hi-res tracks at their full resolution despite being Apple-made headphones. Instead, they support the widely used AAC and SBC codecs over Bluetooth 5.3.
The Buds+ don’t have any EQ controls. You’re stuck with what Beats deems best – luckily, it’s pretty good
Noise cancelling & smart features
Good ANCFast pairing with iOS and AndroidNo in-ear detection
It’s a bit odd for my observations on the Beats’ smart features be longer than the sound quality section here, but wireless earbuds all have such differing smart features these days that it takes longer to explain.
When you whip them out of their case the Buds+ connect very quickly to their last paired device. I spent much of my time with them connected to an iPhone, Pixel, and Mac, and switched between them manually successfully every time in the settings on the devices.
One of the best things about the Buds+ is their smart features span iOS and Android – unlike AirPods, which only offer things like fast pairing with iPhones. One of the worst things about the Buds+ is their lack of in-ear detection, so music won’t automatically pause when you remove a bud and then start playing when you put it back in. This is in part down to the Beats’ lack of the H1 chip found in all AirPods.
Henry Burrell / Foundry
In pairing mode, you get pop ups to quickly connect the Buds+ on iPhones or Android phones via Google’s Fast Pair standard. When connected to an Apple device, the Beats are then discoverable across other Apple devices connected to the same iCloud account, but there’s no auto device switching that you get with AirPods. You also lose out on the ear tip fit test feature.
The Buds+ also work with Android’s audio switch where I could be connected to two Android devices simultaneously. Pausing audio on one device and then pressing play on another works with the buds connected automatically. The buds are also discoverable using the Google Find Device app along with the Apple Find My app.
Active noise cancellation (ANC) is good, but a shade below the second-gen AirPods Pro and a step below the industry gold standard of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, but I love how compact the Buds+ are in comparison to those big Bose.
Active noise cancellation (ANC) is good, but a shade below the second-gen AirPods Pro
I could easily listen to songs on a packed train with the Beats and even when a bloke turned up to drill for an hour outside my window. Noises are still there, but far off behind an ocean of noise cancelling signal.
There’s a background hiss of static noise when the Buds+ are connected that I do not find with the AirPods Pro but is present on other wireless earbuds. I didn’t notice it most of the time when music was playing but it is audible listening to podcasts in a quiet environment.
The transparency mode is good enough to keep on with the buds in to listen to your surroundings or chat to people without removing them (though you probably should).
The Buds+ support spatial audio playback for Apple Music on iPhones and compatible apps on Android, but they lack the head-tracking or personalised spatial audio of AirPods, and you can’t switch it on or off on compatible tracks. This is a tad annoying as I prefer it off when listening to Apple Music.
You need to use the Beats app to switch between noise cancelling and transparency modes using an Android phone, but the controls appear in the iPhone’s Control Centre like they do with AirPods.
Henry Burrell / Foundry
Battery life & charging
Incredibly good battery lifeUSB-C chargingNo wireless charging
The Studio Buds+ go and go. Beats says you get 36 hours from the combined fully charged buds and case and I found this to be accurate. I only had to charge the case once in a full week of using the Buds+ for several hours per day.
You get six hours of playback with ANC or nine without, with the case adding on up to 27 hours more off a full charge. Battery life is one of the best things about the Buds+, and it’s the least anxious I’ve ever been about charge when reviewing earbuds.
You don’t get wireless charging here, only wired via USB-C, but that’s a compromise it’s easy to make when battery life is this good.
Henry Burrell / Foundry
Price & availability
The Beats Studio Buds+ cost $169/£179. They go on sale on 13 June 2023.
You’ll be able to buy them direct from the Apple or Beats websites.
This is a good price considering the sound quality, ANC, and smart features on offer. The only thing I missed about $249/£249 second-gen AirPods Pro while using the Beats was the fit and comfort over several hours – otherwise they offer practically the same experience, bar the notable lack of spatial audio options.
The Studio Buds+ are cheaper than the $229/£219 Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and are about the same as the $179/£179 OnePlus Buds Pro 2. I give the edge to the Beats over both those buds thanks to the excellent battery life and interplay with iOS and Android.
If you want the best of the best, that’s still the $280/£250 Sony WF-1000XM4, although you can now find those for about $200/£200.
Henry Burrell / Foundry
Even though you probably don’t need to switch between iOS and Android device with your Bluetooth earbuds, the Beats Studio Buds+ support both meaning I can recommend them to everyone, not just iPhone people.
The fit is excellent despite a little fatigue after a few hours use, and the sound quality is only just below the absolute top quality on offer from Apple’s own AirPods Pro and Sony’s WF-1000XM4.
Battery life is truly outstanding, and the noise cancellation is very good, making the Studio Buds+ not only the best Beats earbuds yet but also one of the best true wireless earbuds you can buy.
Google Fast PairiOS one-step pairingActive noise cancellationWireless: Bluetooth 5.3, SBC, AACVoice control: SiriButton controlsBattery life: Up to 36 hoursFour eartip sizesIPX4 sweat and weather resistant5g per earbud