The new Beats Studio Buds Plus boast a stunning design, great battery life and a firm yet comfortable fit. They are also relatively feature-packed, with great features migrated from the iOS world such as spatial audio, Find My app and Siri voice command support. But with average noise cancellation, below average sound and a higher price, they struggle to earn their Plus designation.
Great looks, including Transparent option
Good noise cancellation plus a transparency mode
Configurable on-bud controls
Overly crisp sound quality
No wireless charging
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Beats Studio Buds Plus: Two-minute review
The Beats Studio Buds Plus are the follow-up to the popular Beats Studio Buds, a model that we generally admired for its sound quality and comfort when we reviewed it. For its new wireless earbuds, Beats has gone back to the drawing board, making improvements to the call quality, noise cancellation and design of the original.
Beyond noise cancellation, the new Beats buds feature configurable on-bud control buttons, Siri voice command support, Find My for iOS, and Find my Device for Android. They also support spatial audio, letting you listen in a 360-degree sound field when playing music and movies mixed in Dolby Atmos. There’s certainly enough going on here feature-wise, though the lack of a wireless charging option is a disappointment.
The crisp sound of the Beats Studio Buds Plus should appeal to those who value sonic sharpness and clarity above all else. When compared to other wireless earbuds with a more neutral and natural presentation, however, it seems that Beats went overboard in that respect. Noise cancelling is effective and so is the buds’ transparency mode, so the company hit its mark when it comes to those features.
Beats’ design for the Buds Plus is another area where the company hit its mark. There are three finish options, and of these Transparent has a cool, cyborg style that’s consistent across the buds and case. The Buds Plus also provide a firm fit – four silicone ear tip size options are provided – that holds up even during strenuous exercise, and they are comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time.
When it comes to value, the Buds Plus struggle to justify their price boost over the original Beats Studio Buds, especially when you consider that there are better-sounding options in the same general price range, and similarly featured ones for less. But with a good feature set, great design and a high comfort level, they are a solid overall wireless earbud option for commuting and exercise.
Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Price & release date
- Released on May 17, 2023
- Priced at $169 / £179 / AU$269
The Beats Studio Buds Plus are priced midway between premium noise-canceling wireless earbuds like the AirPods Pro 2 and the original Beats Studio Buds, which sell for $149.99 / £129.99 / AU$199.95. They are also competing with more affordable wireless earbuds like the Sony WF-C700N that feature noise cancellation.
Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Specs
|Drivers||Custom two-layer transducer|
|Active noise cancellation||Yes|
|Battery life||6 hours (buds) 24 hours total (with case) with ANC on|
|Weight||5g per earbud, 49g case|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.3, USB-C|
|Other features||Touch controls, transparency mode, spatial audio, Find My (iOS) , Find My Device (Android)|
Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Features
- Active noise-cancelling and transparency modes
- Configurable on-bud push button controls
- No wireless charging option
The main Beats Studio Buds Plus features are its active noise-cancelling (ANC) and transparency modes, both of which can be enabled via the pushbutton control on either bud. Those same controls can be configured to adjust volume (right bud up, left bud down, or vice versa) and they will pause or play streamed music or podcasts, or end phone calls, when tapped.
For iOS users, the hands-free Siri Voice assistant is supported, along with one-touch Bluetooth pairing (and Google Fast Pair for Android). Find My (iOS) and Find My Device (Android) lets you locate a misplaced bud or buds using your phone, and there’s spatial audio for services like Apple Music that support that format.
Charging is done via a USB-C port on the included case, and the Beats Studio Buds Plus are rated for six hours (earbuds) and 24 hours (charging case) with ANC active. With ANC off, battery life is boosted to nine hours (earbuds) and 36 hours (charging case), which is an impressive spec for any wireless earbuds. By way of comparison, Apple’s pricier AirPods Pro 2 are specified to last six hours with ANC on, with another 30 hours from the case.
One feature I’d like to have seen on the Beats Studio Buds Plus is a wireless charging option. As a regular AirPods Pro 2 user, that’s come to be an almost indispensable feature for me, and in this price range, it seems like one that should be included. The Beats buds do link with your phone automatically when removed from the case, which is another great AirPods Pro 2 feature.
- Features score: 4.5/5
Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Sound quality
- Effective noise cancellation
- Overly crisp sound
- Lean mid-range
While I do listen to music with wireless earbuds, my main concerns aside from comfort are noise-cancelling effectiveness and vocal clarity with podcasts. The Buds Plus acquitted themselves well on the first point, managing to block out much of the noise in a relatively loud gym environment that I used for testing. They weren’t able to achieve the near-dead silence that my AirPods Pro 2 are capable of, but it was good enough to filter out most sounds other than nearby mid-range-heavy deep voices.
Transparency mode on the Buds Plus also worked well, letting in a wide range of sound so I could clearly hear what was going on around me. But even though the Beats support some of the same iOS features found in Apple headphones, there’s no way to adjust the sound level or otherwise customize transparency mode settings as you can with the AirPods Pro 2.
Sound clarity on phone calls was very good. As for vocal clarity with podcasts, the crisp, treble forward sound the Buds Plus put out was undeniably clear, though it was accompanied by a leanness in the mid-range that resulted in sibilants being overemphasized. At relatively high volume levels, I found the presentation to be fatiguing, and strongly preferred to maintain a strict volume cap.
Unsurprisingly, the same too-crisp sound carried over to music listening with the Buds Plus. Listening to PJ Harvey’s Water on Tidal, the snare drum had a papery quality, lacking the solid “thwack” that I’m used to hearing on this track. And the kick drum sounded deep, but lacked definition. Harvey’s vocals seemed to float somewhat disembodied between the two extremes, as opposed to coming across in a balanced manner.
Moving on to a Beck track, Thinking About You, that I streamed in spatial audio from Apple Music, I heard a similarly edgy quality on the vocals, and the bass guitar, while low-reaching lacked bass definition. An overall dry presentation also made acoustic instruments like guitars, mandolin, and harmonica sound less natural than what I’m used to hearing when listening to this track.
How did those same tracks sound on my AirPods Pro 2 and Technics EAH-AZ60? In each case there was a better balance, and subtle details in the music came through more clearly. Vocals also had a smooth, yet full presentation, and they were well integrated with other layers in the mix.
- Sound quality score: 3.5/5
Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Design
- Transparent finish option
- IPX4 sweat- and water-resistance
- Lightweight and comfortable
Any shortcomings the Beats Pro Buds Plus may have when ranked against the competition is compensated for to a degree by sheer good looks. The Beats are sold in Black/Gold, Ivory White and Transparent options – and I can tell you the Transparent set I was sent to review provided instant delight when I unboxed it.
As the Transparent label would suggest, the cosmetic design gives you a peek inside the inner workings of both the buds and the case, with circuits, power supplies and other components clearly revealed. Transparent is a good look for electronics, and the finish also makes the buds fairly unobtrusive when placed in your ears.
Otherwise, the compact case fits easily in a palm or pocket and the buds themselves are similarly compact. With IPX4 sweat- and water-resistance, the Beats Pro Buds Plus are a good option for working out, and they come with small, medium, large, and extra-large silicone ear tip options to ensure a snug fit with a range of ear sizes. I used the medium tips and the buds remained firmly fixed in my ears during multiple workouts, even holding fast during a sweaty spin cycle session that would have caused a degree of slippage with my AirPods Pro 2.
Comfort is another factor that gives the Beats an edge over the AirPods Pro 2 and other earbuds I’ve used. I could wear them for longer than an hour without feeling need for a respite, and with their light weight, it sometimes felt like they weren’t even there.
As for audio design features, the Plus uses a custom two-layer transducer with three acoustic vents on each bud – something Beats says improves both audio quality and comfort. Mics located on the buds are three times as large as the ones provided on the previous Beats Studio Buds, and the company says this helps to improve noise cancellation and call quality.
- Design score: 5/5
Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Value
- A good feature package for the money
- Better-sounding options in same price range
- Buds with similar features sold for less
The Beats Studio Buds Plus earbuds have undeniable charms – specifically a cool design (go, transparent), a comfortable fit, long battery life and very good noise cancellation accompanied by a transparency mode.
Even so, their crisp, slightly aggressive sound signature put them at a disadvantage during my test when compared to other more neutral-sounding wireless earbuds like the AirPods Pro 2 and Technics EAH-AZ60. Both of those buds combine noise-cancelling prowess with great overall sound on podcasts and music, and while the Technics is a notably pricier option than the Beats, the AirPods Pro 2 are roughly in the same ballpark.
Do the Beats Studio Buds Plus merit their relatively high cost, especially when there are better-sounding options in the same price range? And what about good-sounding buds with similar features but a much lower price like the new Sony WF-C700N? I think Beats Studio Buds Plus' ultimate value will come down to how much you warm to its specific charms – I mean, really, how many wireless earbuds look this cool and feel this comfortable?
- Value score: 3.5/5
Should I buy the Beats Studio Buds Plus?
|Features||Most features you want in wireless buds are provided, though there's no wireless charging||4.5/5|
|Sound quality||Sound is clear for phone calls and podcasts, though overt crispness can be fatiguing||3.5/5|
|Design||A great look for both the buds and case, and also great fit and comfort||5/5|
|Value||Not crazy expensive, but also not the best value out there||3.5/5|
Buy them if...
You want stylish buds
Wireless earbuds aren’t known for their good looks, with Apple’s AirPods being the best example of ugly buds. The Buds Plus though, look thoroughly cool.
You want a comfortable fit
The Buds Plus have a compact design and are the most comfortable earbuds I’ve yet tested. An excellent earbuds option for exercise.
You need long battery life
With six hours for the earbuds and an additional 24 hours from the charging case with ANC active, the Buds Plus have enough juice to last even through long trips.
Don't buy them if...
You mainly listen to music
The Buds Plus have a crisp sound signature that doesn’t work well for music listening, though it does make phone calls come through clearly.
You like to tweak the sound
There’s no dedicated iOS app for the Buds Plus, and the controls available in the iOS interface are limited compared to what you’ll get with many other buds.
You want wireless charging
The Buds Plus buds charge using a USB-C port on the included case, and there isn’t a wireless charging option like you’ll find on buds from Apple, Bose and other makers.
Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Also consider
|Beats Studio Buds Plus||Sony WF-C700N||Apple AirPods Pro 2||Beats Fit Pro|
|Price||$169 / £179 / AU$269||$119 / £99 / AU$199||$249 / £249 / AU$399||$199 / £199 / AU$299|
|Active noise cancellation||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Quoted battery life||6 hours (buds) 24 hours total (with case) with ANC on||7.5hrs (ANC on) plus one full charge in case||6 hours (buds) 30 hours total (with case) with ANC on||6 hours (buds) 18 hours total (with case) with ANC on|
|Weight||5g per earbud,||4.2g per earbud||5.3g per earbud||5.6g per earbud|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.3, USB-C||Bluetooth 5.2, USB-C||Bluetooth 5.3, USB-C||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Waterproofing||Yes, IPX4||Yes, IPX4||Yes, IPX4||Yes, IPX4|
|Other features||spatial audio||Sony 360 Reality Audio||spatial audio||wing tip|
Sony’s new wireless earbuds offer many of the same features found in the Buds Plus such as ANC and transparency modes (adjustable in this case) but cost a good deal less. They also sound good with music and support Sony’s version of spatial audio. Here's our in-depth Sony WF-C700N review.
Apple AirPods Pro 2
The AirPods Pro 2 are great for iPhone users who want top-shelf noise-cancelling and transparency modes, along with very good overall sound quality. They’re pricier than the Buds Plus, but not by much. Here's our in-depth AirPods Pro 2 review.
Beats Fit Pro
The Beats Fit Pro pack many of the same features found in the Buds Plus but go the extra distance for fitness mavens with a wing tip to ensure a secure fit while running. More expensive than the Buds Plus, but for some, worth it for that wing tip. Here's our in-depth Beats Fit Pro review.
How I tested the Beats Studio Buds Plus
- Used at home and at the gym
- AirPods Pro 2 and Technics EAH-AZ60 used for listening, noise cancellation and transparency mode comparisons
- Listened to Tidal Masters, Apple Music Lossless and spatial audio tracks, and podcasts on an iPhone
To test the Beats Studio Buds Pro, I made them my main everyday earbuds, using them for phone calls at home, and podcast and music listening at the gym.
For listening, noise cancellation, and transparency mode comparisons in both environments, I used AirPods Pro 2 and Technics EAH-AZ60, both of which provide a similar basic feature set, and roughly the same pricing.
I mainly used podcasts as a source for my out-of-home listening tests. At home, I used the Beats for phone calls and also spent a good deal of time playing music via the Tidal and Apple Music streaming services.
I’ve been testing audio products for nearly three decades, and have written extensively on speakers, amplifiers, surround sound processors and streaming services. I’ve also notched up a number of headphones reviews, though my focus for the category has mainly been affordable wireless models.
- First reviewed: June 2023
Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine.
When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.