(Pocket-lint) - Apple wasn’t the first to market with true wireless earbuds when it first launched AirPods. But just like the smartphone market and tablet market, there’s no denying its product gave the product category a boost, and now every company under the sun makes them.
Of course, one of those is a brand that Apple owns: Beats. And it’s launched its own noise cancelling earbuds in form of the Studio Buds. So, the question is: should you save money and go for Beats true wireless ANC buds instead of the more expensive AirPods Pro?
- Both: IPX4 rated (sweat/splash proof)
- Studio Buds: Available in white, red and black
- AirPods Pro: White only
With Beats being part of Apple, it likes to do things differently to distinguish itself from the parent brand and that means - when it comes to design - you’ll not likely find similar-looking products. The Studio Buds don’t look anything like AirPods.
While Apple’s earbud has that external stem pointing down out of the ear, Beats’ Studio Bud doesn’t. Instead, its earbud casing curves up towards a classic Beats style pill shaped exterior. And this isn’t there just to give it a unique look. It has a function too. It’s a button, and it physically clicks, rather than being a touch sensitive panel. Plus, the button does the same thing on both Beats buds, so it's a completely ambidextrous control system.
Apple’s AirPods Pro has an identical system but it's a touch sensitive panel built into the stem for controlling aspects, like playing and pausing music, or controlling the noise cancelling or transparency mode. In our experience, clicking that button on the Beats is a little more convenient than activating the touch system on the AirPods, but in truth it doesn’t take long to get used to either. Besides, often times it’s easier just to grab your phone and control it from there.
The other thing we preferred about the Beats was the fit in the ear. We often find the AirPods Pro sliding out slightly and losing its fit, whereas Beats Studio Buds didn’t seem to at all.
Compatibility and features
- Studio Buds: One-touch pairing on Android and iPhone
- AirPods Pro: One-touch pairing on iPhone
- Studio Buds: Up to 8 hours play time (ANC off)
- AirPods Pro: Up to 5 hours play time (ANC off)
- Both: Up to 24 hours total battery life
It's probably in features and compatibility where you'll decide which one of these is for you, and it's where you see the clearest picture of who Beats and Apple are targeting with the two products. It's also where you start to see why one is more expensive than the other.
AirPods Pro, of course, have been built to seamlessly blend into Apple's ecosystem of products. So the H1 chip inside means that once you pair it with your iPhone, they're automatically paired with any other Apple device signed into the same iCloud account.
On the other hand, Beats Studio Buds are compatible with Google's Fast Pair technology, so you get simple one-touch pairing and connection, but it also means the buds are registered to your Google account, so if you sign into another Android device or Chromebook, they will recognise when your Beats Studio Buds are nearby, display a popup and you can connect to them.
What's more, the Fast Pair compatibility means you see detailed battery information right within the phone's interface. Of course, you can download a Beats App to see that info too, if you want.
This integration is also compatible with iOS. You get get one-touch pairing on iPhone as well, you get Find My support for locating them when missing, and you get controls for the noise cancelling and transparency modes within Control Centre. Just like AirPods. The only thing you don't get is the automatic sharing across all your iCloud devices and the ability to seamless switch between your iPad, iPhone and Mac, like you do with AirPods.
There are a couple more features in AirPods Pro's favour: in-ear detection and wireless charging. Remove an AirPod, music pauses. The same doesn't happen with the Beats. And, while the Studio Buds case conveniently charges with USB-C, you don't get to place it on a wireless charging base to charge it, whereas AirPods Pro do.
As for battery life, there's not a huge amount in it overall when you combine the play time and the battery in their respective cases. Both give about 24 hours of total time, but the Beats can go longer outside of the case, offering up to eight hours of listening time with ANC switched off. That's versus five hours for the AirPods Pro.
Sound and noise cancelling
- Both: Adaptive ANC
- Both: Support Apple Music's Spatial Audio
Again, in sound, you can hear the difference between the two, with noise cancelling on or off. There's no doubt that the AirPods Pro offer the more effective complete cancelling. Put them in your ears, the ANC engages and you're immediately in this noiseless vacuum. But this feeling does sometimes have a slightly nauseating effect for some people.
Still, the Studio Buds do an effective job of killing the types of constant, droning ambient noise. You don't get the same feel of being in a vacuum, but they still cope well with most noises. Loud children squabbling, or high pitched, high impact noises will cut through still.
The best way to describe the sound difference is probably to say the AirPods have a bit more presence, clarity and warmth to them. You can feel the bass, and it feels like there's a bit more cohesion between the different frequencies. Still, the Studio Buds offer good control of bass, and good separation between the bass and treble frequencies. Compared to AirPods, higher frequencies like snare drum, vocals and guitar do sound harsher and less clean though.
In truth, they sound plenty good enough considering how much they cost versus the AirPods. But the AirPods do sound nicer.
Both are effective and clean enough to use for voice and video calls too, but perhaps - with the longer battery life - the Studio Buds are the better choice if you have quite long calls to manage.
- Studio Buds: £129.99
- AirPods Pro: £249.00
There's a clear difference in price between the Studio Buds and AirPods Pro. While AirPods Pro are often available discounted from retailers at various points of the year, the full retail price is almost twice the amount of what you need to pay for Beats' comparable product.
In the UK, the AirPods Pro will set you back £249, where the Beats Studio Buds are just £129.99.
In the end there are a few reasons to choose the Studio Buds. Firstly - price. They're cheaper than AirPods Pro. Secondly - they're much more Android-friendly than AirPods without losing many of the benefits of integration within Apple's ecosystem. Thirdly - the buds will go longer outside the case before needing to be popped back in for a refill.
For AirPods, the extra money gets you better sound quality, and convenient features like in-ear detection, better noise cancelling and wireless charging. Plus, if you're already in Apple's ecosystem, the effortless switching between Apple devices makes them super convenient.
Writing by Cam Bunton. Originally published on 20 August 2021.