To set the stage for this review, let me take you back to five months ago, when I flew out to cover CES and left my primary wireless earbuds and backup at home, 2,500 miles away in New York.
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I need headphones for conferences, editing videos, and getting my groove on to start what will be one of the worst work weeks of the year. So my first order of business when I got to Las Vegas was to go to the local Apple store and buy a free pair. AirPods Pro.
Lo and behold, when I arrived at the store, I was directed to a headphone section right next to the Genius Bar. That’s when I was suddenly reminded that Beats by Dr. Dre brand is thriving and still alive, nine years after it was acquired by Apple. The darker packaging of the various models of the earbuds makes them stand out from Apple’s light-themed boxes. I bit.
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Beats Studio Buds Plus
Sweat-resistant wireless earbuds that offer spatial audio, noise cancellation, and Android compatibility.
To be clear, the real clincher for me is the almost equal share of parity for iOS and Android users. “Does Apple, a company famous for building one of the strongest ecosystems of products and services, really sell a pair of earbuds that work as well on Android as they do on iOS?” I asked myself.
Fast forward to this month when I had the opportunity to test Beat’s latest headphones, the Studio Buds Plus. Besides being undeniably beautiful transparent color, there aren’t many design changes between it and 2021’s Studio Buds. I’m not upset about that because the main reasons why you wanted to buy the original Studio Buds, including the fantastic Android support and fit in the ears, remain in the new model.
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Instead, Beats has put most of its focus on less flashy features that are just as valuable as battery life — now six hours per charge and up to 36 hours total in the case — and a improved active noise cancellation (ANC) . Studio Buds Plus also have extra small ear tips, same as AirPods Pro (2nd Gen). The small size isn’t for me, but I know it’s a valuable benefit for others.
With the matte-frosted, all-rounded charging case, I found the Studio Buds easy to handle and slip into pockets. How subtle the earbuds’ cases are is a bonus for me, and these are the ones out there. While there’s no wireless charging on this model, which is a bummer for a $169 pair, I’ll take USB-C charging over the AirPods’ Lightning any day of the week. Beats remains the only earbuds offered by Apple with USB-C support, which is another reason why they are great for Android users.
As far as audio performance goes, I’m satisfied with the Studio Buds Plus. They’re not as bass-heavy as I remember Beats headphones being, and I’d love it if there was an equalizer or an option to boost lower frequencies through the Beats app, but the emphasis on trebles and mids still make pop, electronic, and, of course, hip-hop tracks fun to listen to. If you enjoy hearing most, if not all, of the vocal and instrumental layers in your music, then this one gets the job done.
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Where the Studio Buds Plus falls short for me is in ANC, although I benchmarked it against the likes of Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and AirPods Pro (2nd Gen), both of which cost at least $60 more. Whether I’m strolling through a park or traveling on a bus, there’s bound to be birds chirping or passers-by interrupting the audio, detracting from immersion. But is it a $60 difference in noise cancellation? Absolutely not.
In fact, I would say that the transparency mode on these buds makes up for the ANC. Given how absorbed we are in our personal technology, I would argue that spatial awareness is more important than ever. And if you’re considering a pair for exercising or jogging outdoors, then the ambient listening feature should serve you well.
Finally, these are great earbuds for both Android and iOS users. The fact that I can flip the charging case over and have both my Android and iPhone showing quick pairing prompts is hard to come by and doesn’t matter. And at the same price as regular AirPodsTHE Studio Buds Plus not only have cushioned ear tips for better passive noise cancellation and comfort but support tap gestures for greater control than AirPods’ squeeze system.