The Beats Flex are a cheap pair of earbuds that are a solid choice for many people, but not everyone.
The Beats Flex wireless earphones were first released in 2021. But we still feel the same way about them now: they're affordable, but still premium, earbuds from Beats. They have traditional Beats sound with a traditional Beats design and many of the same features of other Beats headphones, but at a quintessentially non-Beats price.
Some of those included features are 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. This is why they're one of our top picks in our best Beats headphones guide.
On paper, the Beats Flex are a great deal. But, spend some time with them, and you’ll understand why the price is what it is. Take a look at our best wireless earbuds guide and best budget wireless earbuds guide for alternatives. Read on for our full Beats Flex review.
Beats Flex review: price and availability
- Available in four colors
- They cost $69.99 / £59.99 / AU$99.95
- A good price for a premium brand
The Beats Flex launched in January 2021 and came in four colors, Beats Black, Yuzu Yellow, Smoke Gray and Flame Blue.
The Beats Flex are $69.99 / £59.99 / AU$99.95. This makes them some of the cheapest wireless earbuds Beats has launched.
But you'll find plenty of similarly-priced alternatives from other brands. Check out our SoundMagic E11BT review, which cost $90 / £69.99 / AU$125. And take a look at our Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 review for a cheap true wireless option at $99 / £99 / AU$185.
But they're pretty affordable considering this is a usually premium brand.
If you're looking for a step up in features and performance, it's also worth taking a look at our Beats Studio Buds review. These are some more recently-released Beats earbuds and although they're considerably more expensive at $149.99 / £129.99 / AU$199.95, if you're looking for an AirPods Pro alternative, they come with active noise cancellation, excellent audio quality, and a cool design.
It’s worth noting that, with Apple removing the pack-in headphones from the latest iPhones, the Beats Flex are the obvious choice for folks who need a pair of earbuds – and if you’re only buying them for that reason, well, the Flex are a decent alternative to Apple's usually lackluster pack-in earbuds.
Beats Flex review: design
- Wireless, but not true wireless
- Slightly annoying neck band
- Cool sensor pauses music
Although Beats hasn’t said it to us directly, the Beats Flex seems to be a direct sequel to the older BeatsX Headphones that the brand released in 2016. Both are wireless (but not fully, take a look at our Beats Powerbeats Pro review or Apple AirPods review for true wireless alternatives) and look identical.
Colors: Black, Blue, Grey, Yellow
Battery life: 12 hours
Dimensions: 1.6cm X 86.4cm X 10.6cm (H X L X W)
Connections: Bluetooth 5.0, Wireless
Processor: Apple W1 chip
The earbuds themselves are actually fairly light (18.6g), but the cord that runs between them is about 32 inches and wraps around the back of your neck. It’s a bit cumbersome having such a long cord wrap around your neck and, admittedly, having the two earbuds connected via a cable isn’t exactly what we’d consider the ideal solution in 2020.
That said, the cable isn’t without its advantages: first and foremost is the fact that they’re harder to lose than fully wireless earbuds. The second is that the wire between the two buds can provide a home to in-line volume controls, a multi-feature button and a bigger battery, allowing the headphones to last longer between charges.
What about a play/pause button? Well, you can use the multi-feature button, but the Beats Flex are also equipped with a sensor that will automatically pause the music when you take them off, and resume the music when you put them back on. Not only is that handy, but it can save you a ton of battery life, too.
Speaking of, charging is done through a USB-C port on the left side of the earbuds near the volume controls. According to Beats, the headphones have a 12-hour battery life and fast charging that can provide an hour-and-a-half of playback off a 10-minute charge.
The difference between the Beats Flex and more expensive Apple wireless earbuds like the AirPods Pro is that the latter uses the newer H1 Wireless Chip that enables hands-free Siri while the former uses the older W1 Chip. Besides hands-free Siri, the more expensive H1 Chip supports Bluetooth 5 versus the W1’s Bluetooth 4.2, which means you’ll get a slightly longer battery life with the H1 Chip, too.
Surprisingly, though, we didn’t find any of that to be a deal-breaker. The W1 Chip is less advanced than the H1 but it still gets the job done, and the semi-wireless form factor is manageable if a little unwieldy. In fact, so far, the biggest fault of the Beats Flex’s design is that they don’t come with wing tips to secure them in your ear – without them, getting that perfect seal can be finicky and can come undone easily.
On a positive note, the Beats Flex does come with a few different eartips – including some large and double-flange tips – that can help make finding the perfect fit a little easier.
Beats Flex review: performance
- It takes a while to find the right fit
- Clear, decent sound quality
- No noise cancellation
After trying a few combinations of eartips we eventually landed on a decent seal and were finally able to test out the Beats Flex’s audio quality. What we heard is pretty much what you’d expect – a deep v-shaped sound that accentuates the highs and lows of the audio spectrum at the expense of the mids.
In our two weeks with the headphones we listened to a bunch of songs on Amazon Prime Music and Spotify, and have a good idea of what you can expect in terms of sound quality. What we found was that the sound quality was actually relatively clear for a pair of in-ear drivers, however they don’t have a very large soundstage to the audio. Thankfully, there wasn’t any drop out or delay in the audio during our testing, which can be a problem with wireless models, so that stability is a huge boon for the Beats Flex.
While all songs mostly had the same steep v-shape, a few examples worth calling out were bass-heavy classics like Rick James’ Super Freak and the treble-rich Jackson 5’s ABC that truly exemplified the rich treble and chunky bass. Unfortunately these songs also highlight how anemic the mids sound, so proceed with caution. On that note, there’s also no real way to tweak the EQ if you’re not happy with the default sound – which is a bit of a bummer.
Now, if you’re using the Beats Flex with an iOS device, you’ll get prompts to sync them to your Apple ID and iCloud – which, in total, takes under a minute. But if you use Android, you’ll have to pair them like a regular pair of Bluetooth earbuds which not only takes a bit longer but will impact the sound quality as the Beats Flex doesn’t support high-end audio codecs like aptX or aptX HD – all you’ll find here is SBC and AAC.
It goes without saying, but at this price the Beats Flex also doesn't offer noise cancellation, either. The right eartips can help provide some passive noise isolation by sealing off your ear canal, but there’s no fancy noise-cancellation tech inside of them to block out unwanted noise on your next plane flight.
The good news here is that people we spoke to with the earbuds on said we sounded great - even better than we did over speakerphone or other headsets. That’s a huge feather in the Flex’s cap and could make them great work-from-home or out-on-the-town headphones.
You also can’t knock them for their battery life: you’ll get a little less than 12 hours of use per charge, and charging only takes about an hour or two. That said, if you need some quick charge just to get from work back to the house, Fast Fuel (Beats’ name for fast charging) does provide an hour-and-a-half of battery life from only a 10-minute charge.
The last feature that’s worth pointing out is that the Beats Flex – like all W1 or H1 Chip headphones – will have iOS’s new audio sharing feature that allows you to share music between two pairs of headphones. It’s not a killer app by any means, but it is nice if you’re in a house with multiple Apple or Beats headphones and like to share music.
The Beats Flex are a decent pair of budget buds. But they're not for everyone.
If you have a hard time getting earbuds to stay in your ears or want buds for working out, these might not be the right buds for you. Without wingtips to hold them in, the Flex can easily fall out.
If you're looking for sound quality or premium features, it shouldn’t surprise you that, at $50 (£50, around AU$70), the Beats Flex don't have cutting-edge feature like hands-free Siri or active noise cancellation and the sound quality is just OK compared to some higher-end earbuds. If that stuff matters to you more than the name, then maybe the Beats Flex aren’t right for you.
However, if you need a cheap pair of headphones for your new iPhone, these might work for you. With Apple removing pack-in earbuds from new iPhone boxes, the Beats Flex are a fairly obvious replacement if you need a pair of headphones.
We'd recommend the Beats Flex if you love Beats and want a second pair of wireless earbuds. You can throw them in a bag and take them with you as a back-up. At $50 (£50, around AU$70), you won’t feel bad if you lose them, and they offer most of the same features as other, more expensive Beats buds.
For anyone looking for more from their buds, take a look at our suggested alternatives below.
If our Beats Flex review has you considering other wireless headphone options, then here are three alternatives for you to look at.
One of our favorite pair of budget wireless headphones, the E11BT from SoundMagic are super cheap with a great design. We think they're more comfortable than the Beats Flex and more likely to stay snug in your ears.
Read our full SoundMagic E11BT review
Sennheiser CX Sport
If you're looking for a cheap pair of wireless earbuds specifically for working out, then the Sennheiser CX Sport are a great choice. They'll stay in place as you move, and offer fantastic audio quality.
Read our full Sennheiser CX Sport review
Beats Powerbeats Pro
The Powerbeats Pro from Beats aren't a budget pair of buds. But if you're looking for a pair of wireless buds that offer great sound and stay in place, these are one of our favorite options.
Read our full Beats Powerbeats Pro review
- First reviewed in July 2021