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Beats Studio Buds vs Apple AirPods Pro: the noise-cancelling earbuds compared

beats studio buds next to the apple airpods pro on a gray and red background
(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Beats Studio Buds are finally here, following weeks of high-profile leaks and rumors – and they're be the best Beats earbuds yet. 

They're rock-solid true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation and support for Apple’s Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos format. They also 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 so impressive, that we think they could be a big competitor for the Apple AirPods Pro, especially as the Studio Buds are much cheaper than Apple’s popular noise-cancelling earbuds

So, if you’re wondering whether you should buy the AirPods Pro or the new Studio Buds, making the right choice can be tricky. 

That’s where we come in. We’ve examined the specs of both earbuds, and with our knowledge of the both AirPods Pro and the Studio Buds, we’ve put together this handy guide on all the differences between these Apple wireless earbuds

Beats Studio Buds vs Apple AirPods Pro: price and availability

The Beats Studio Buds are available to buy now for $149.99 / £129.99 / AU$199.95, which is far cheaper than the Apple AirPods Pro.

The AirPods Pro launched in 2019 with a price of $249 / £249 / AU$399, though discounts are sometimes available. Still, they've never dropped below the price of the Beats Studio Buds, so if you're on a budget, the Beats earbuds are the best option for you.

Beats Studio Buds vs Apple AirPods Pro: design

The Beats Studio Buds look very different to the brand's previous true wireless earbuds, the Powerbeats Pro, getting rid of the large, sports-friendly earhooks in favor of a sleeker design. 

Coming in red, white, and black, these compact buds come with silicone eartips and a lightweight build, as well as a tilted acoustic nozzle with vents to relieve pressure on the eardrum. 

They come in an egg-shaped charging case, which has a USB-C port on the bottom, and a status LED on the front – there’s no wireless charging support, though we wouldn’t necessarily expect it at this price. The earbuds themselves feature a raised control panel, giving you something to grip onto as you take them out the case.

All in all, they look very different to the Apple AirPods Pro, which feature protruding stems (though they’re not nearly as long as those on the 2019 AirPods), and an Apple-esque all-white design. 

Unlike the Studio Buds, the AirPods Pro charging case supports wireless charging, so you can pop it on a charging pad when you’re running low. The AirPods Pro also use touch-capacitive sensors that allow you to control your music playback, while the Studio Buds feature a physical button – which you prefer largely comes down to personal taste.

However, there are some similarities between the two models. For example, both the Studio Buds and the AirPods Pro come with silicone eartips and an IPX4-water resistance rating that means you can use them while working out.

Which Apple earbuds you should buy largely comes down to personal preference. Love bright colors? You're better off with the Studio Buds. Prefer the minimalist aesthetic of Apple products? Go for the AirPods Pro.

beats studio buds in white with the earbuds outside of the charging case

The Beats Studio Buds in white. (Image credit: Beats)

Beats Studio Buds vs Apple AirPods Pro: audio performance

The Beats Studio Buds come with 8.2mm dual-element diaphragm drivers coupled with a two-chamber acoustic design. They boast a lively sound that elevates both the low and high ends of the mix, for a toe-tapping result – unlike previous Beats headphones that blasted you with thumping bass. 

The AirPods Pro also offer a lively performance, with rich vocals, warm bass, and clear mid frequencies. While they aren’t a patch on earbuds like the Sony WF-1000XM4 or the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus in terms of detail or clarity, they’re enjoyable to listen with.

Both the Studio Buds and the AirPods Pro support Apple’s Spatial Audio technology, so when you play tracks mixed in Dolby Atmos, you should be able to experience immersive, cinematic sound through your earbuds – though you’ll need an Apple device with iOS 14 or iPadOS 14, as well a streaming service that supports 5.1, 7.1, or Atmos. Stereo content can also be converted to Spatial Audio as long as the streaming service has enabled a special plugin for stereo spatialization. 

Sadly, neither model can handle Apple Music’s Lossless Audio, with their Bluetooth compression making hi-res audio unattainable. 

The AirPods Pro outside of their charging case on a wooden platform

The Apple AirPods Pro. (Image credit: Future)

Beats Studio Buds vs Apple AirPods Pro: noise cancellation

Both the Beats Studio Buds and the Apple AirPods Pro come with active noise cancellation, which means they should be able to block out annoying environmental sounds when you want to listen to your music in peace. 

We found the Studio Buds’ ANC to perform moderately well, though they aren’t as effective as models like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

We think they’ll work well as an office companion, but they may struggle to block out the rumbling sound of an airplane cabin.

The Apple AirPods Pro perform well in this respect too. If you’re in an office and there’s music playing, a small amount might still bleed through – but, when walking down the street, the AirPod Pros practically shut off all the noise of a motor bike, and any constant noise (like a fan or constant wind) is shut out very well. 

Both models come with a Transparency mode, as well, allowing you to hear your surroundings via external-facing microphones that mix the sound of your environment back in with your music. 

A girl with plaited hair wearing the Beats Studio Buds in red.

(Image credit: Beats)

Beats Studio Buds vs Apple AirPods Pro: battery life

Beats says the Studio Buds deliver eight hours of playback, with a further 16 hours in the charging case, though that number drops to five hours onboard and 10 hours from the case with either ANC or Transparency mode turned on.

That's not the best battery life we've seen for noise-cancelling earbuds – the new Sony WF-1000XM4 offer eight hours onboard and a further 12 hours from the charging case, for instance. 

The AirPods Pro don’t fare much better. Their charging case will give you over 24 hours of listening time when fully charged, with each full charge of the AirPods Pro getting you five hours of listening (that’s with noise cancelling or Transparency off – you’ll get four and a half hours with it on), or three and a half hours of use if you use the AirPods Pro as a hands-free mic for calling.

An AirPods Pro user looking at their phone.

(Image credit: Future)

Beats Studio Buds vs Apple AirPods Pro: connectivity

As an Apple-owned brand, you may expect the new Beats earbuds to be only optimized for use with Apple products – however, they are the first Beats headphones to support one-touch pairing for both iOS and Android users. 

That’s because they use a proprietary Beats headphone chip, as opposed to the H1 chip found inside the AirPods Pro. That’s good news for Android users – but it does mean that the Studio Buds don’t support iCloud device syncing or multipoint pairing like the AirPods Pro.

According to Beats, the Buds use Bluetooth 5.2, and support both Find My in iOS and Find My Device in Android.

The AirPods Pro, on the other hand, use the slightly older Bluetooth 5 wireless transmission standard, but there are some nifty features for Apple users, like making sure the fit of your earbuds is correct by heading into your Bluetooth settings.

A 2020 upgrade also brought a new auto-switching feature that means the AirPods can now "magically switch over between devices", detecting automatically which device you are using – handy if you're already embedded into the Apple ecosystem.

A more recent upgrade means that AirPods will also be able to announce notifications with Siri, thanks to an update coming with iOS 15, which builds on the earbuds' ability to announce your messages. No more digging your phone out of your pocket to analyze every ding, buzz, and alert.

Takeaway

The Beats Studio Buds are fairly evenly matched with the AirPods Pro, but there are a few instances where you may be better off opting for one model over the other. 

For instance, if you’re an Android user, the Studio Buds are the only pair that offer one-touch pairing – this only works for iOS users with the AirPods Pro. We’d also recommend the Studio Buds if you hate the look of the AirPods Pro’s protruding ear stems. 

But, if iCloud device syncing or multipoint pairing are deal breakers for you, you’ll want to go for the AirPods Pro. 

In terms of sound quality and noise cancellation, the Studio Buds and the AirPods Pro are on a par with each other, both providing a lively, enjoyable sound and decent ANC.

The biggest difference between the two models is price: the Beats Studio Buds are $100 / £120 / AU$200 cheaper than the AirPods Pro, despite sharing many of the same features. So, if you want to save some money, you should opt for the Studio Buds – you won't be missing out on much from the AirPods Pro.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia is TechRadar's Audio & Music Editor, covering everything from headphones to music streaming services. Based in TechRadar's London offices, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, Top Ten Reviews Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine.  In her spare time Olivia likes gardening, painting, and hanging with her cat Ethel and golden retriever Dora.