I really like Beats earbuds. They sound good, fit well, stay secure when I’m working out and often come in a rainbow of colors. Plus (and let's not mince words here), they don't cost as much as Apple's AirPods, yet they're still highly iOS device friendly. This is why I was excited to see that the Beats Studio Buds Plus might be coming soon.
Released in June 2021, the Beats Studio Buds are an excellent pair of true wireless earbuds that the TechRadar team rated highly. However, a newer version of the Beats Studio Buds true wireless earbuds could be landing soon, and early reports suggest they’ll be called the Beats Studio Buds Plus.
Although no official details have emerged about the Beats Studio Buds Plus yet, 9 to 5 Mac has revealed some exciting potential news about the refreshed version of the buds found in the Release Candidate (RC) of iOS 16.4, including that they'll be a similar design to the original buds, with better noise cancellation and “Hey Siri” support.
While we wait for more solid information, let's consider what the Beats Studio Buds Plus really need at the level – basically, the things I’d need to convince me to jump ship and buy the Studio Buds Plus over the Apple AirPods Pro 2. Considering the mounting competition from some of the best budget earbuds on the market, it's no small order. But if anyone can do it, Apple's Beats-branded output can…
Beats Studio Buds Plus: What I want to see
1. Better ANC
When the TechRadar team first reviewed the Beats Studio Buds, we enjoyed the ANC on offer, but it wasn’t fantastic. The exact words used in the review in regards to the noise-cancelling on offer were: “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.”
Since they were launched, we’ve seen some even more impressive noise-cancelling tech from rival buds, especially the Bose QuietComfort 2 which, here at TechRadar, we think are the best ANC buds on the planet.
To keep up, ANC would need to be improved in the Beats Studio Buds Plus. Luckily, this is one of the early alleged details that 9 to 5 Mac has revealed. Although the extent to which it’s improved remains to be seen, we’re hoping to experience AirPods Pro 2-like levels of eerily impressive noise cancellation. Then again, it’s worth bearing in mind Apple won’t want to make its Beats buds way better than its AirPods otherwise people might opt for them instead. It’s more realistic, perhaps, to except improved ANC, not better than AirPods ANC.
2. Improved battery life
Yes, I’m well aware that asking for improved specs, such as better ANC, as well as better battery life is a little unrealistic for a pair of true wireless earbuds. But this is my wishlist and, after trialling buds with some seriously impressive battery life recently – take a look at my JBL Live Pro 2 review – I would need the Beats Studio Plus Buds to feel like an improvement over the 8 hours offered by the originals. Granted, that’s not a bad amount of time in the grand scheme of things, but a bump up to 10 would nudge them into no-brainer territory. Especially if the charging case could than add an additional 30, bringing them in line with what the JBLs offer.
3. A similar price tag to the Beats Studio Buds
This is another big ask considering these new buds are reportedly a ‘Plus’ suffixed version, which should mean they’ll be a significant upgrade.
But here’s the thing, the premium end of the true wireless earbuds spectrum is getting very crowded. With buds like the Bose QuietComfort 2, Sony WF-1000XM4 and Apple AirPods 2 all around the $250/£250 mark – not to mention the potentially upcoming Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds – competing to be the best of the best.
You’ve then got a bunch of buds that are considerably cheaper but perform really well and hover around the $100/£100 mark, like the JBL Live Pro 2, 1More Aero and EarFun Air Pro 3. The Beats Studio Buds were $149.99/£129.99/AU$199.95 and this is a good middle ground, enough to feel a little premium, but not super expensive and competing with the highest-end buds, and yet an upgrade over the budget ones. I hope the Beats Studio Buds Plus hover around that mark – or at least don’t bump up to $200/£200.
4. A kaleidoscope of color options
Some people might roll their eyes at this point. In which case, I suggest you go back to your boring dark grey buds and pop them in your ear canals. But in a sea of similar-looking earbuds right now – seriously, I’m getting sick of those long stems – it’s really refreshing to see brands that offer a range of colors because it’s not common to offer more than a black, grey and off-white choice. Then again, it’s certainly not unheard of. The cheap JLab Go Air Pop come in a few different shades and the original Beats Studio Buds came in grey, black, white, red, blue and pink, so I hope that Beats continues its commitment to color.
Beats Studio Buds Plus: What I don’t want to see
1. Long stems
Apple created it, and Apple has maintained it – and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It makes sense why so many true wireless earbuds have long stems these days. Not only has Apple made that design the go to choice for true wireless buds, setting a precedent with the AirPods, it has stood the test of time, albeit with a few tweaks and extra functionality on Apple's part.
With more bud real estate, there’s more room to pack the important things inside – sensors, battery, processor, etc. There’s also more room to ensure gestures and tap controls work well. But like many users, I have long hair that I’m constantly moving around. Why am I telling you this? Becayuse recently, a few buds I’ve been reviewing which were otherwise great – I’m looking at you 1More Aero and Earfun Air Pro 3 – were let down by the stem design, which led to me inadvertently yanking them out a few times. And before you tell me this sounds like a me problem, I’ve asked around and I’m definitely not the only one. Plus, come on, it’s just nice to have some variation; that is what the original Beats Studio Buds offered.
Now, from what 9 to 5 Mac has revealed, I might not have anything to worry about here. According to these early leaks, the buds will only be tweaked slightly design-wise. But given that Apple owns Beats, I’m still worried a long stem will suddenly sprout out from their base, thus nixing that novel "twist top" on the driver housing. And that would be a shame…
2. The same chip as the Beats Studio Buds
It’s been exciting to learn of the ways Beats might upgrade the Studio Buds to create the Studio Buds Plus, but a disappointing piece of news is they’re likely to come with the same custom Beats cheap the Studio Buds had, rather than Apple’s H1/W1 chip. The latter is an improved chip from Apple that packs in a bunch of benefits, including swifter, reliable pairing and more. Harrumph.
There’s a chance that Apple wants to keep that flagship tech as an incentive to pick the AirPods – that’s where you’ll currently find that better chip. Or this choice could be a way to keep costs down. Either way, I’d love the improved Apple chip to be added at the last minute, although that’s looking less and less likely.
The flipside of this is that the H1 chip – which you will find in the Beats Fit Pro – gives iPhone owners some cool features, like multipoint pairing and hands-free Siri, but without it Android users might be happier as they won’t miss out on the goodies.
Will the Beats Studio Buds Plus be worth waiting for?
Beats has a solid track record of creating great buds that are particularly good for fitness and have a fun sound and even more fun color palette. If you’re in the market for a pair of buds that tick those boxes, it might be well worth the wait – just be prepared to pay a little more than the Beats Studio Buds and lower your expectations about an improved chip.
I’d also say that, if you want something specific (best-in-class ANC? Only the best sound and forget the extras? A pair of budget buds or buds that’ll suit a Samsung phone?) it might be worth checking out our best true wireless earbuds guide first. I might like Beats, but there are plenty of worthy alternatives out there…