The Beats Studio Buds have been Apple’s worst-kept secret. Star athletes have been wearing them around town, while photos and technical documents about them leaked a month ago; pretty much everyone knew about these earbuds well before their announcement.
And yet, we’re still shocked by just how good they are.
The Beats Studio Buds are rock-solid true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation and support for Apple’s Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos format. They sound great, with a lively sound quality that elevates the highs and lows of the audio spectrum, and feel supremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
Battery life with either ANC or Transparency mode turned on is a little short at only five hours (15 hours with the case), and their noise cancellation isn’t exactly class-leading, but overall these are our favorite Beats earbuds in a very long time, and could pose a real threat to the recently crowned new king of true wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM4.
Price and release date
The Beats Studio Buds are available to preorder now, with an official release date to be confirmed – all Apple has said so far is “this summer” – so anytime between now and the end of August.
The Beats Studio Buds will cost $149.99 / £129.99. While Australian pricing and availability is yet to be confirmed, that works out at around AU$190.
Unlike the last true wireless earbuds from Beats, the Beats Powerbeats Pro, the Beats Studio Buds come in a case that’s almost as sleek and small as the earbuds themselves. The case is egg-shaped, not unlike that of the new Google Pixel Buds Series-A, and features a single USB-C port on the bottom and a status LED on the front.
Pop it open and you’ll find the earbuds themselves. To pull them out, you pinch on the outer control panel and pull them up. The control panel is raised, and that helps the buds slip firmly into the ear without any over-ear hooks or a fin that pushes against the outer ear. The buds then sit almost flush with the ear, and while you won’t be able to wear them to sleep (they stick out a bit too far for that), they’re still supremely comfortable.
Inside the box, all you’ll find are a USB-C to USB-C charging cable and additional eartips. Disappointingly, all of the included eartips are silicone instead of foam – and they only come in two extra sizes – but you should have everything you need to get a proper seal.
Beats designed the Studio Buds to work with both Apple and Android phones with just a tap. All you need to do is open the case near either device and you’ll see them pop up on your screen, ready to pair.
According to Beats, the Buds are using Bluetooth 5.2, and support both Find My in iOS and Find My Device in Android. That’s good, because the earbuds themselves are pretty small and, if you get the all-black color, can be pretty easy to misplace if they accidentally drop behind the bed… not that we’re speaking from experience.
Once you’ve got the right fit, it’s time to turn the earbuds on and give them a listen. For our testing, we paired them with an iPhone 11 Pro and turned on Apple Music, which now supports Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos and Lossless Audio.
While you won’t be able to get the full effect of Lossless Audio with the Buds (Bluetooth compression ruins the lossless nature of the music), you can still use them to play songs with Spatial Audio, and it sounds great. Unlike previous Beats earbuds and headphones that blasted you with thumping bass, the Studio Buds have a lively sound quality that elevates both the high and low end of the mix. The result is toe-tapping, head-bobbing music that doesn’t fatigue you, but engages you for long periods at a time.
As for the noise-cancelling aspect of the earbuds, it’s a great inclusion, and performs moderately well, although Beats still has some work to do to catch up with the likes of Sony and Bose, each of which has years of experience tinkering with the design, processor and noise cancellation algorithm, to make its Buds keep the maximum amount of noise out of your ears.
To that end, it feels like the Studio Buds will be a great office companion – keeping the dull roar of office conversation to a minimum, but likely struggling to be heard over the jet engine on an airplane or the ear-shaking rattles of a subway car. Of course, thanks to lockdown restrictions it’s been a while since we’ve been on either, so that’s something we’ll have to put to the test before we pass a final verdict on the Studio Buds.
Our other slight issue is that the battery life leaves something to be desired. They’re only good for five hours per charge, or 15 hours with the case, when you have either ANC or Transparency mode turned on.
That’s not awful, and it certainly falls in line with other noise-cancelling earbuds, but it falls short of class-leaders like the WF-1000XM4, which offer eight hours per charge and another 12 in the case for a total of 20 hours before you need to go back on the charger.
They also don’t support wireless charging, which isn’t a deal-breaker, but can be a minor inconvenience if you already have a charging pad setup for your other devices. The good news is that the Studio Buds do support fast-charging, and can be juiced with one hour of playback time from just five minutes on the charger.
In the short time we’ve spent with them so far, the Beats Studio Buds have proven to be a consistently reliable and comfortable pair of true wireless earbuds. Their fun, lively sound quality and support for Spatial Audio has made them our go-to earbuds for listening to Apple Music for the last week and a half, and they seem to hold up pretty well against the class-leading Sony WF-1000XM4.
The cross-platform support for both Android and iOS is surprisingly wonderful, and we appreciate the inclusion of active noise cancellation – even if Beats still has some work to do in this area.
The battery life could be better, and you’ll have to make sure you don’t lose these tiny little buds, but otherwise we’re really enjoying our time with the new Beats Studio Buds – and we think you’ll enjoy them too.