The Beats Studio Buds were one of Apple’s worst-kept secrets before they launched in mid 2021. Star athletes wore them around town, while photos and technical documents about them leaked months in advance. Pretty much everyone knew about these earbuds well before they were even announced. Yet, when they arrived, we were still shocked by how good they were.
The Beats Studio Buds are a pair of rock solid true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation and support for Apple’s Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos format. Audio is great, with a lively sound quality that elevates the highs and lows of your music, and they feel supremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
An update from Apple after they launched made the Beats Studio Buds available in three new color options – gray, pink and blue – and added the Locate My Beats feature for Android devices.
Weight: 5g (buds) 48g (case)
Acoustic design: Closed
Battery life: 8 hours (24 hours with charging case)
Extra features: Active noise cancellation, spatial audio support.
Despite being some of the best true wireless earbuds, they're not perfect. Chief among their faults is their lackluster call quality and lack of an H1 Wireless Chip. Battery life with either ANC or Transparency mode turned on is also a little short at only five hours (15 hours with the case), and their noise cancellation isn’t exactly class-leading, either.
However, these are some of the best Beats headphones you can buy today. They offer a decent alternative to the current king of true wireless earbuds, which you can find out more about in our Sony WF-1000XM4 review. Ot take a look at similar high-end buds in our Sennheiser CX True Wireless review.
These were our favorite Beats wireless earbuds for some time, but read our Beats Fit Pro review for another pair of Beats buds that are marginally better in terms of fit and sound. They also have the H1 chip the Studio Buds are, unfortunately, lacking.
In the Beats Studio Buds review below, we share everything you need to know about these great true wireless earbuds after spending time testing them, including their design, performance and who they’re best suited for.
Beats Studio Buds: price and availability
- Release date: June 24, 2021
- Price: $149.99 / £129.99 / AU$199.95
- Cheaper than AirPods Pro and better than the AirPods
The Beats Studio Buds dropped on June 24, 2021 for $149.99 / £129.99 / AU$199.95. That puts them well below the price of Apple's latest AirPods, which you can find out more about in our Apple AirPods review. As well as the Apple AirPods Pro with active noise cancellation that will set you back $249 / £249 / AU$399 – and we like them more than the standard issue AirPods.
You might want to pay more for Apple's flagship earbuds, find out more about them in our Apple AirPods Pro review. These might make more sense, especially if you're using a lot of Apple products and not tied to a budget. You should also consider the Beats Fit Pro, a similar pair of true wireless earbuds with a better fit for working out and Apple's latest H1 chip inside.
Alternatively, there are similar true wireless earbuds available that are much cheaper. Take a look at our Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 review or Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review to see other cheaper options. But if you're looking to use the buds with an Apple device, the Beats Studio Buds are surprisingly good value for their price.
Beats Studio Buds: design
- Both case and buds are small and easy to carry
- The buds fit comfortably in the ear and look good
Unlike the last true wireless earbuds from Beats, which you can read about in our Beats Powerbeats Pro review, the Beats Studio Buds come in a case that's almost as sleek and small as the earbuds themselves. The case is egg-shaped, not unlike that of the new Google Pixel Buds Series-A, and features a single USB-C port on the bottom and a status LED on the front.
Pop it open and you’ll find the earbuds. To pull them out, you pinch on the outer control panel and pull them up. The control panel is raised, and that helps the buds slip firmly into the ear without any over-ear hooks or a fin that pushes against the outer ear. The buds then sit almost flush with the ear, and while you won’t be able to wear them to sleep (they stick out a bit too far for that), they’re still supremely comfortable.
In terms of water-resistance, the Beats Studio Buds are rated IPX4, making them sweat-resistant but not waterproof. That means you certainly can take them to the gym for a quick workout, however, without the earhooks they're a little less secure and the lack of outright waterproofing means that they're certainly not something you should be bringing out to the beach with you.
Inside the box you’ll find a USB-C to USB-C charging cable and additional eartips. Disappointingly, all of the included eartips are silicone instead of foam – and they only come in two extra sizes – but most people should have everything they need to get a proper seal and a good fit.
Beats Studio Buds: audio performance and noise cancellation
- Fun, lively sound quality that's a pleasure to listen to
- Active noise cancellation is a nice addition but needs work
- Call quality fine but not fantastic
Once you’ve got the right fit, it’s time to turn the earbuds on and give them a listen. For our testing, we paired them with an iPhone 11 Pro and turned on Apple Music, which now supports Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos and Lossless Audio.
While you won’t be able to get the full effect of Lossless Audio with the Beats Studio Buds (Bluetooth compression ruins the lossless nature of the music), you can still use them to play songs with Spatial Audio, and it sounds great.
Unlike previous Beats earbuds and headphones that blasted you with thumping bass, the Studio Buds have a lively sound quality that elevates both the high and low end of the mix. The result is toe-tapping, head-bobbing music that doesn’t fatigue you, but engages you for long periods at a time.
As for the noise-cancelling aspect of the earbuds, 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, each of which has years of experience tinkering with the design, processor and noise cancellation algorithm, to make its Buds keep the maximum amount of noise out of your ears.
To that end, it feels like the Beats Studio Buds will be a great office companion – keeping the dull roar of office conversation to a minimum, but likely struggling to be heard over the jet engine on an airplane or the ear-shaking rattles of a subway car. Of course, thanks to lockdown restrictions it’s been a while since we’ve been on either, so that’s something we’ll have to put to the test in the future.
Unfortunately, the call quality leaves something to be desired. It's good enough when you've got them on walking around the house, but take them outside where you've got wind, traffic and other background noise and you'll quickly wish you were wearing another pair of earbuds.
Beats Studio Buds: battery life and connectivity
- No W1 or H1 Chip for hands-free Siri or multipoint pairing
- Battery life is fine at 15 hours with the case
- Fast-charging in 5 minutes
Beats designed the Studio Buds to work with both Apple and Android phones with just a tap. All you need to do is open the case near either device and you’ll see them pop up on your screen, ready to pair.
Now, that's because the Studio Buds are running a proprietary wireless chip that's not exactly the W1 or H1 Chip we've seen in other Apple earbuds. That's both refreshing for Android owners who haven't been catered to as well in recent years by the Beats brand since its acquisition by Apple and a bit of a disappointment for some Apple users who enjoy features like multipoint pairing with other Apple devices and hands-free Siri.
While that last bit is pretty disappointing, the benefit of the Buds' wireless chip is that it enables Bluetooth 5.2, and support both Find My in iOS and Find My Device in Android. That’s good, because the earbuds themselves are pretty small and, if you get the all-black color, can be pretty easy to misplace if they accidentally drop behind the bed… not that we’re speaking from experience.
The battery life on offer in the Beats Studio Buds is fine but not great. They’re only good for five hours per charge, or 15 hours with the case, when you have either ANC or Transparency mode turned on, which isn't awful and certainly falls in line with other noise-cancelling earbuds, but it falls short of class-leaders like the WF-1000XM4 that offer eight hours per charge and another 12 in the case for a total of 20 hours before you need to go back on the charger.
What's more, the Beats Studio Buds don't support wireless charging, which isn’t a deal-breaker, but can be a minor inconvenience if you already have a charging pad setup for your other devices. The good news is that the Studio Buds do support fast-charging, and can get one hour of playback time from just five minutes on the charger.
Should you buy the Beats Studio Buds?
Buy them if...
You miss Beats' audio quality
Look, audio purists have always taken issue with Beats' audio quality, but its fun, lively sound is really a blast to listen to. Its accentuated highs and lows will make your music radiate energy, and will have you bobbing your head along with the beat.
You want something that's comfortable and stylish
We really like the Powerbeats Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM4, but they're not the most stylish. The Beats Studio Buds are both pretty stylish and supremely comfortable. We could wear them for hours and still want to listen more.
You want *affordable* noise cancelling true wireless earbuds
The Beats Studio Buds aren't the best noise cancelling earbuds out there, but they are on the more affordable side compared to the AirPods Pro and WF-1000XM4. If you don't have $300/£300 to shell out on earbuds, the Beats Studio Buds offer a good mix of price and performance.
Don't buy them if...
You need top-tier noise cancellation
The Beats Studio Buds aren't the best noise-cancelling earbuds – we found the Sony WF-1000XM4 to be a bit better in that area, and would likely pick those instead if we were about to jump on a transatlantic flight.
You're buying a pair of earbuds for the gym
The Powerbeats Pro are still our go-to gym earbuds and the Beats Fit Pro are also worth considering. With over-ear hooks these styles stay locked in place a little better.
You are an Apple aficionado
If you own an iPad, an iPhone, a Mac computer and a Macbook, you'll probably want a pair of earbuds that plays nicely with all of them without needing to re-sync them every time you use a new device. If you're in that camp, pick up the Apple AirPods Pro instead or the Beats Fit Pro with Apple's newest H1 chip.
If our Beats Studio Buds review has you considering a new pair of true wireless earbuds then
Apple AirPods Pro 2
The new AirPods Pro are more expensive than the originals and considerable more expensive than the Beats Studio Buds, but they boast a new H2 chip and even better ANC. So if you have a higher budget, you'll be impressed.
Check out our Apple AirPods Pro 2 review
If you're looking for a much more affordable true wireless earbuds option, we recommend the Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW. They look unusual and there's no ANC here, but for the price the performance is excellent.
Check out our Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review
Beats Fit Pro
The Beats Fit Pro are similar to the Beats Studio Buds, but they have Apple's latest H1 chip and offer greater comfort if you plan on using them while working out. The H1 chip is totally worth it if you have an iPhone, if you're on Android, it's not going to matter.
Check out our Beats Fit Pro review
First reviewed September 2021.