I tried Beats Solo Buds, and the ultra-tiny translucent design is the best part

Beats Solo Buds in Transparent Red
(Image credit: Future/Jacob Krol)

Beats already has a packed line of headphones and earbuds, but the brand-new Solo Buds aim to differentiate with two firsts for the brand: price and size. These tiny buds are competing with the best earbuds for small ears, and the best budget earbuds.

Solo Buds are the cheapest true wireless earbuds from Beats at $79 / £79 / AU$129, and the carrying case is also the smallest. And I’ve spent a little more than a weekend with the latest from Beats in the “Transparent Red” color option; that’s enough to get a feel for them but not quite enough for a full review as we need to put them through proper testing.

Ahead, though, I’ll share my first impressions of Beats Solo Buds, which slim down the case and some features but still offer a wide soundstage with a surprisingly strong low-end output. (Well, maybe not that surprising for Beats…)

The case is really, really tiny

Beats Solo Buds in Transparent Red

(Image credit: Future/Jacob Krol)

From the original imagery Beats shared for the announcement of Solo Buds, we knew the case would be ultra-compact, but after unboxing the earbuds, I can say it’s really, really tiny.

It can easily and comfortably fit in a front or rear pants pocket, and tossing it into a backpack made finding them a little bit difficult. Beats says the case here is about 40% smaller than the Beats Studio Buds Plus, and you can tell. In comparison to the AirPods Pro 2 case, the Solo Buds are slightly longer, but they end where the lid essentially flips open on Apple’s top-of-the-line earbuds – call it a third shorter.

Beats Solo Buds in Transparent Red

The Beats Solo Buds on the right, with the Beats Studio Buds on the left. Big difference. (Image credit: Future/Jacob Krol)

Ditching the battery in the case, making it truly just a carrying case, makes it super light already. It’s merely around 33 grams or 0.07 pounds – super pocketable. You will need to plug the case in via USB-C to recharge the Solo Buds, and Beats promises a ridiculous runtime of 18 hours from the earbuds. It seems a little cheap that Beats didn't toss a USB-C cable in the box. It wasn’t the best surprise during unboxing, or representative of the price – you'd get this from the less-expensive Earfun Air Pro 3, or really any of the best true wireless earbuds we recommend.

The case also doesn’t feature an LED charging indicator or a button for pairing/resetting; it will chime when plugged in, but that comes from the earbuds – not a built-in speaker. 

I really dig the “Transparent Red” case, though the see-through aspect doesn’t transfer to the earbuds, which are a standard red plastic mold similar to the Studio Buds or Studio Buds Plus.

In terms of in-ear comfort, the Solo Buds are comfortable enough, having tested them for a few days. The design language borrows a lot from the Studio Buds and Studio Buds Plus, including a corkscrew-like outer shape, which lets you easily place them in and take them out; plus, a button on the outside for playback control. A nice feature for the price is automatic head detection, which will pause or resume playback when you take them out or place them back in your ears – not all mid-range buds offer this (Sony WF-C700N, we're looking at you).

A classic Beats audio experience with a strong low-end

Beats Solo Buds in Transparent Red

(Image credit: Future/Jacob Krol)

In terms of playback, Beats Solo Buds sound like a small part of the bigger lineup, striking a similar experience to the Studio Buds or even Fit Pro without some of the fancier listening experiences. 

At $79 / £79 / AU$129, you won’t get head-tracked spatial audio or active noise cancellation. Still, you do get a wide soundstage with a significant low-end representation. 

Please, Please, Please by Sabrina Carpenter puts an extra spotlight on the singer's higher-end vocals and striking beat throughout the track. The mid-range and higher frequencies, like picking on a guitar, also come in clearly. It’s a nice track, and the Solo Buds do it justice. It’ll play back with basic spatial audio, essentially a Dolby Atmos mix that provides a bit more separation than standard stereo, it just doesn't have the head-tracking option.  

With a more crowded track like Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, the Solo Buds create a wall of sound, layering Springsteen’s vocals above drums, keyboard, organs, guitars, and saxophone. Even on these lower-cost earbuds, the song can still provide a burst of energy and separate a good chunk of the elements. 

The Tortured Poets Department by Taylor Swift puts the lower and higher frequencies on full blast at opposing ends, which sometimes causes the lower end to outshine other elements of the mix. 

I did most of my testing between Apple Music and Spotify, and I connected these to an iPhone 15 Pro Max or a Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. The Solo Buds can also get pretty loud, and that, paired with passive noise cancellation, provides at least some measure of blocking out the world around you, despite the lack of ANC.

Regarding pairing, the Solo Buds will fast-pair with iOS and Android, a feature parity that I’m stoked to see trickling down throughout Beats’ entire lineup. Additionally, via Settings on iOS or the Beats by Dre app on Android, you can adjust controls, locate the buds, and turn automatic ear detection on or off. You’ll also be able to monitor battery life, something we’ll put through the paces as we work on our full review.

The outlook

Overall, Beats Solo Buds aim to take the best, and arguably most essential, qualities of Beats’ other earbuds and package them in an ultra-portable, more affordable offering. The Solo Buds still sound like a pair of Beats earbuds with an excitable mix, offer great feature parity for Android and iOS users alike, and should last really long. 

I haven’t had to charge them yet with on-and-off listening for a few days, though when that time comes, it’ll be unlike any other true wireless earbuds I’ve ever used. I’ll need to supply my own cable and plug the case in.

Still, at $79 / £79 / AU$129, it’s a pretty feature-filled package, and if you’re all right without a dedicated listening mode, I’d consider these. Beats also pushes the right design chords with a great-looking “Transparent Red” offering. 

Pricing and availability

The Beats Solo Buds are available for preorder now at $79 / £79 / AU$129 and will begin shipping on June 20, 2024. You can choose between Arctic Purple, Matte Black, Storm Gray, or Transparent Red. The box includes the Solo Buds, some eartip sizes, and some paperwork, including a “Beats” sticker.

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Jacob Krol
US Managing Editor News

Jacob Krol is the US Managing Editor, News for TechRadar. He’s been writing about technology since he was 14 when he started his own tech blog. Since then Jacob has worked for a plethora of publications including CNN Underscored, TheStreet, Parade, Men’s Journal, Mashable, CNET, and CNBC among others. 

He specializes in covering companies like Apple, Samsung, and Google and going hands-on with mobile devices, smart home gadgets, TVs, and wearables. In his spare time, you can find Jacob listening to Bruce Springsteen, building a Lego set, or binge-watching the latest from Disney, Marvel, or Star Wars.