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Best Beats headphones 2021: the top Dr Dre headphones and earbuds you can buy

three pairs of beats headphones
(Image credit: TechRadar)

If we said Beats headphones, what would you think of? You’d probably imagine a slick and shiny pair of red over-ears with the Beats B logo on the cups, right? Well, you’re not alone. That’s the look and style that made Beats super popular. But fast-forward to 2021 and there’s much more on offer from the trendy audio brand.

Now, there are lots of different Beats headphones to choose from, including in-ear headphones for sports and comfortable pairs of on-ear headphones that make you feel truly immersed in your music. 

As a bit of background, Apple bought Dr Dre’s Beats headphones in 2014. This acquisition expanded Apple’s tech portfolio to include fashion-forward on-ear headphones, wireless over-ear headphones, and slick running earbuds

Although Apple now has a number of headphones out under its own brand name – including the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max – there are still plenty of brilliant, new Beats headphones to choose from. The question is: which Beats headphones are best? There’s no easy answer to that question, but we’ll help you figure out which are the best Beats headphones for you. 

It all depends on your tastes, your budget and what you want a new pair of headphones for. In our guide below, we've selected the best Beats headphones you can buy right now, along with details about how well they perform in different environments, what their strengths are and whether they're the right choice for you. 

Beats headphones can be expensive, so keep your eyes peeled for deals. We’ve got a best Beats headphones deals guide that’s filled with all the latest discounts. 

Our top picks

The beats solo pro headphones in red

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Beats Solo Pro

The best Beats for style and noise-cancellation combined

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 267g
Frequency response: N/A
Drivers: 40mm
Driver type: N/A
Sensitivity: N/A
Impedance: N/A
Battery life : 22 hours
Battery life (ANC off): Up to 40 hours
Wireless range: N/A
NFC: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great noise cancellation+40-hour battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Lightning port only-Lacks 3.5mm AUX port

The Beats Solo Pro are at the top of our list because they bring excellent adaptive noise-cancelling to an on-ear offering that's comfortable and looks good. Beats Solo Pro are a marked step up from previous iterations – particularly when it comes to build quality.

Sturdier than the Beats Solo 3 and sporting a cool matte finish in each color, the Beats Solo Pro feel like the biggest advance in quality the series has seen in some time for this larger line of headphones. Like the 2019 AirPods and AirPods Pro, they come with the H1 chip and this allows for fast pairing and hands-free Siri integration.

Priced at $299.95 / £269.95 / AU$429.95, the Solo Pro will likely appeal most to users who want a great pair of Beats cans without committing to Apple's bulkier, pricier over-ear option, the Beats Studio 3 Wireless or Apple's own Apple AirPods Max.

The active noise cancellation – both in these headphones and the Beats Studio 3 Wireless – brings Apple's Beats somewhat closer to the best offerings from Sony and Bose, although those two are still ahead by some distance – the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are our top two picks for over-ear ANC.

We do like the simple-one button access to the transparency mode here, though. This optional feature allows some outside noise to come through, which can be handy in an office if you want to be aware of someone calling your name or making sure you're aware of traffic around you when walking or cycling.

Read more: Beats Solo Pro review

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The beats studio buds in red

(Image credit: Beats)

2. Beats Studio Buds

The best-sounding Beats earbuds... with a few caveats

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 5g
Frequency response: N/A
Drivers: N/A
Battery life : 8 hours (earbuds) 16 hours (charging case)
Reasons to buy
+Great sound quality+Comfortable to wear
Reasons to avoid
-ANC could be stronger-Lackluster call quality

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 your music, and feel supremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time. 

They're not without some drawbacks, though. Chief among them is their lackluster call quality and lack of an H1 Wireless Chip. 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, either. 

Saying that, they're cheaper than the AirPods Pro and their predecessors, the Powerbeats Pro, making them a more budget-friendly option if you want to buy a pair of Beats earbuds. 

Read more: Beats Studio Buds review

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The beats powerbeats pro in dark blue

(Image credit: Beats)

3. Beats PowerBeats Pro

The best Beats earbuds for working out

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: N/A
Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz
Drivers: N/A
Driver type: N/A
Sensitivity: N/A
Impedance: N/A
Battery life (on-board): 9 hours
Battery life (charging case): 16 hours
Wireless range: N/A
NFC: No
Reasons to buy
+Easy pairing with iOS+Immaculate fit
Reasons to avoid
-Case is fairly bulky-Limited noise isolation

The PowerBeats Pro true wireless earbuds are special. That's because they do something earbuds often promise on, but rarely deliver: they’re supremely comfortable, sound decent and seem to never, ever fall out. This is (literally) music to the ears of those who like high-intensity workouts but can rarely find buds that keep up – or stay in place. 

They might not be the best true wireless earbuds in Apple's audio arsenal now we can choose from the AirPods Pro, but they're Apple’s most premium play into the world of running headphones, and are the buds we'd recommend to most workout enthusiasts for that reason.

That's thanks to features like the pressure-reducing micro-laser barometric venting hole, their long on-board battery life and good sound quality. If we had to choose between wearing these and the original AirPods around the house or office, we'd choose these.

Read more: Beats PowerBeats Pro review

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The Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones in black and gold

4. Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones

The best Beats headphones for noise-cancelling

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 260g
Frequency response: N/A
Drivers: 40mm
Driver type: N/A
Sensitivity: N/A
Impedance: N/A
Battery life : 22 hours
Battery life (ANC off): Up to 40 hours
Wireless range: N/A
NFC: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Excellent noise-cancelling+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Soggy mids-Weak sub bass

With an over-ear, closed back design, the Studio 3 are among the best noise-cancelling headphones Beats has made. 

The battery has massively improved since previous models as well, which means you can enjoy music for up to 22 hours, or 40 with the active noise cancellation turned off – you get a similar experience with the Beats Solo Pro. 

However, it isn't all good news with the Studio 3. There are sound issues you just don’t hear in other solid headphones at this price. It’s not boomy bass, but a tire of blubber sitting between the bass and mids that makes the Beats Studio 3 Wireless less articulate and open-sounding than most alternatives. This isn't a deal-breaker, but for a fairly premium price it is a little disappointing.

Still, they're a good match for iPhones missing the 3.5mm jack – in fact, you can pair them with any smartphone you have thanks to the Bluetooth technology. The Studio 3s are available in multiple colors too, including red, matte black, white, porcelain rose, blue and shadow grey.

Read more: Beats Studio 3 review

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The powerbeats 4 in red

(Image credit: Apple / WinFuture)

5. Beats PowerBeats 4

A cheap alternative to the Powerbeats Pro

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 26.3g
Frequency response: N/A
Drivers: 12mm
Driver type: N/A
Sensitivity : N/A
Impedance: N/A
Battery life: 15 hours
Wireless range: N/A
NFC: No
Reasons to buy
+Improved sound quality+Hands-free Siri+15-hour battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Difficult fit-The wire isn’t ideal-No noise reduction

The new Beats Powerbeats (the PowerBeats 4) are a significant upgrade on the company's wireless workout earbuds, offering a sound quality that's just as good as the Beats Powerbeats Pro. They also boast an IPX4 rating and Apple’s H1 Wireless Chip, which can summon Siri with the sound of your voice. 

They’re supposed to last 15 hours per charge – six hours more than the Powerbeats Pro and three more than their predecessors, the Powerbeats 3 – and can be paired to multiple devices and share songs wirelessly with another pair of Beats headphones.

They're not quite as good as Apple's high-end alternatives – the Beats Powerbeats Pro and the Apple AirPods Pro – especially in terms of the way they fit and sit in your ears, but they have a lot of the same technology and specs to make them a decent cheaper alternative.

Read more: Beats PowerBeats 4 review

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The Beats Solo 3 Wireless in black

(Image credit: Beats)

6. Beats Solo 3 Wireless

Fashion-focused cans get smart

Specifications
Acoustic design: closed
Weight: 215g
Frequency response: 20 - 20000
Drivers: 40mm
Driver type: N/A
Sensitivity : N/A
Impedance: N/A
Battery life: 40 hours
Wireless range: 400ft
NFC: No
Reasons to buy
+Excellent wireless stability+Good Bluetooth-phone interaction+Energetic, punchy sound
Reasons to avoid
-Firm headband pressure-Lack of fidelity for the price

These Beats headphones were the first fruits of Apple's deal to buy the Beats brand – in terms of actual products at least. That means they're some of the oldest on the list, but we still consider them a solid option if you're looking for a pair of wireless over-ears – especially because they often pop up in deals and during sales seasons.

At first glance, the Solo 3 Wireless don't look all that different to their predecessors, the Solo 2, Apple takeover or not. It's only under further inspection to the internal specs that the improvements become more obvious – Apple's expertise in mobile engineering sees connectivity stabilized and battery life improve.

However, the traditional issues with audio quality are back with the Beats Solo 3 Wireless. Which means we'd only usually recommend these if they're discounted or you're not a Beats brand loyalist, as you'll find better performance from one of the pairs of the best noise-cancelling headphones.

Read more: Beats Solo 3 Wireless review

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The Beats Flex in black

(Image credit: Amazon)

7. Beats Flex

Cheap wireless Beats for iPhone and iPad owners

Specifications
Acoustic design: closed
Weight: 18.6g
Frequency response: N/A
Drivers: N/A
Drivery type: N/A
Sensitivity : N/A
Impedance: N/A
Battery life: 12 hours
Wireless range: N/A
NFC: No
Reasons to buy
+Affordable price+Fast-charging+Auto-play/pause
Reasons to avoid
-Sound is a steep v-shape-Tricky fit without wingtips-Limited codec support

The Flex are affordable, but still premium, earbuds from Beats. They have traditional Beats sound with a traditional Beats design, as well as many of the same features of other Beats headphones, but at a very non-Beats price. 

The price for the Beats Flex is set at $49.99 / £50 (around  AU$70) which makes them the cheapest wireless earbuds the company's ever launched.

Some of the most notable features of the Flex include the Apple W1 Wireless Chip; a built-in sensor for auto-play/pause; a 12-hour battery life with Fast Fuel, and, our personal favorite, a laser cut micro-venting chamber to reduce in-ear pressure. 

On paper, the Beats Flex are a great deal – and worth it if you have a small budget –but, spend some time with them, and you’ll understand why the price is what it is. We had a hard time getting the fit right and the sound might be good, but it doesn't compare to other headphones out right now.

Read more: Beats Flex review

The best Beats headphones: FAQ

Is Beats owned by Apple?

Yes. The company was originally founded by music producer Dr Dre back in 2006. In 2014, it was bought by Apple for a reported $3 billion and is still owned by Apple today.

Which are the best Beats headphones to buy?

That depends what you're looking for. Best in terms of quality and the newest, high-end tech, we'd say the Beats Studio 3 Wireless are the winners. These are over-ear headphones that are super comfortable with noise-cancelling smarts. However, if you need a pair to workout in, the Powerbeats are probably your best bet and if you want noise-cancelling but want to save a bit of money, the Beats Solo Pro are a solid alternative. Check out the guide below for all of our recommendations.

Which is better – Beats Solo 3 or Solo Pro?

Both the Beats Solo 3 and Beats Solo Pro are over-ear headphones that offer hours and hours of listening time. They look similar too, with a sleek band and the Beats signature B on the cups. However, there are some key differences. For example, the Beats Solo 3 don't have active noise cancellation. Of course, this makes them considerably more affordable than the Solo Pro, but does mean you won't get the best audio experience. 

Are Beats headphones worth it?

Beats headphones offer good audio quality and heaps of style. We've awarded some of them 4 out of 5 stars in our reviews. However, they can't compete with some of the best headphones around. For example, even the noise cancelling Beats Studio 3 Wireless and Beats Solo Pro headphones won't beat our pick of the top headphones, like the Sony WH-1000XM4, or even our budget favorites: the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810. But they are a solid choice if you like how they look and use a lot of Apple products too.


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Becca Caddy

Becca has been writing about consumer tech and popular science for over ten years. She’s covered all kinds of topics, including why robots have eyes and whether we’ll all experience the overview effect one day, but she’s particularly interested in VR/AR, wearables, digital health, space tech and chatting to experts and academics about the future. She's contributed to TechRadar, T3, Wired, New Scientist, The Guardian, Inverse and many more. Her first book, Screen Time, came out in January 2021 with Bonnier Books. She loves science-fiction, brutalist architecture and spending way too much time floating through space in virtual reality.