I swapped my AirPods Pro 2 for these audiophile wireless earbuds by Status — here's what happened

Status Audio Between 3 ANC with packing box
(Image credit: Future)

I confess, I hadn't heard of Status until a campaign of ads for the latest wireless earbuds from the Brooklyn-based audio company started popping up on my social feeds. As audio editor with a keen ear for the best wireless earbuds though, the Status Between 3 ANC certainly got my attention thanks to their hybrid triple-driver tech that claims to bring "audiophile quality to the masses" in a wireless earbud.

Launched in April 2023, some of the ads I've seen market the Status buds as a serious alternative to the AirPods Pro 2; one of the world's most popular and some of my favorite wireless earbuds of 2023. The Status' balanced audio performance claims and features at the price certainly look appealing, but I'm keeping an open mind on whether that's hyperbole or not.

Status Between 3 ANC with AirPods Pro 2

(Image credit: Future)

Being a seasoned audio reviewer, I've had my doubts about the seriousness of the AirPods rival claims from one of the newest additions to the headphones market. After all, the sector owes a lot of its success to Apple's design, plus the AirPods Pro 2 have become one of my go-to pair of earbuds for all kinds of activities. In fact, I've often found them hard to beat even if I readily admit that they're not for audiophiles

Plenty will disagree with me about the AirPods appeal. But for most music and podcast listeners going about their daily lives, the AirPods Pro 2 offer seamless integration with Apple devices and strong performance across most areas. That being said, even though they deliver a strong all-round package, they're not without competition.

So, with Status' growing popularity and several cries from Tom's Guide readers that I really should give them a try to experience the triple-driver audiophile sound, here are my first impressions on the Status Between 3 ANC wireless earbuds.

Status Audio Between 3 ANC: How do they compare to the AirPods Pro 2?

Status Audio Between 3 ANC in bone with charging case on table top

(Image credit: Future)

The Status Between 3 ANC are priced at $249 / £200 (around AU$370), while the AirPods Pro 2 USB-C have an MSRP of $249 / £229 / AU$399. Interestingly though, the Status' can currently be found discounted to $179 at Amazon, and are also on sale at the same price via the Status website. Meanwhile, Apple's AirPods Pro 2 continue to be discounted to $189 at Amazon

Unlike the AirPods Pro 2 white-only finish, the Status' come in onyx and bone color options with chrome accents to the bottom half of the outer body. The Status Between 3 ANC have a striking design that's as divisive as Apple's ubiquitous drop-stem design, and I'm not much of a fan of either design. I prefer the round, compact design of the Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds that sit discreetly in my ears. 

The Status Between 3 ANC trounce the AirPods on battery life, with a rated 8 hours of continuous audio playback with ANC on.

If I had to choose between them though, I'd go for the AirPods Pro 2. The wider stems of the Status buds stick out way too much and look inelegant to my mind. The look feels chunky and outdated and although I'm not much of a fashion follower, I felt a little self conscious about wearing the Between 3 ANC out in the wild when trying them out at my gym.

I've been using the AirPods Pro 2 for my workouts for a couple of years now, and I've really been impressed by the way they manage to stay in place in my ears no matter how vigorous my training. While the Status stayed put during my workout session thanks to the stabilizing fitwings, they never quite felt secure due to their larger size and protrusion.

Build quality is similarly strong on both models, but one differentiating factor is that the Status' have an IPX5 rating for water resistance while the AirPods are rated to IPX4. Another is battery life, and this is where the Status Between 3 ANC manage to trounce the AirPods Pro 2, claiming 8 hours of continuous audio playback with ANC on, and 12 hours of playback with ANC off.

Although there's no information on battery life for the charging case, users should expect around three full top-ups. In terms of earbud battery life, the AirPods Pro 2 fall significantly behind many of the best noise cancelling wireless earbuds at 6 hours with ANC enabled. Both models have wireless charging cases.

Are the Status Between 3 ANC better than AirPods Pro 2?

Exploded view of Status Audio Between 3 ANC

Exploded view of Status Audio Between 3 ANC wireless earbuds showing the triple driver arrangement with a 10mm dynamic driver for powerful bass and two balanced armatures for mid and high frequencies. (Image credit: Status Audio)

Status makes a lot of the hybrid triple driver tech used in the Between 3 ANC. They use a single 10mm dynamic driver for the lows, and two individual balanced armature drivers deigned to specifically handle mids and high frequency ranges. According to Status, it's like having three speakers in each ear.

While I applaud the attention Status has lavished on the audiophile credentials built into the Between 3 ANC wireless earbuds, Bluetooth codec support is limited to SBC and AAC. That's exactly the same as the AirPods Pro 2. There's no aptX codec or LDAC support for better audio data handling with faster transfer rates to make the most of their triple drive audiophile credentials. That's a shame given the sound quality benefits that Status claims is the major differentiator over the AirPods Pro 2.

There was a greater sense of stereo soundstage when listening to the Status' triple drivers.

It's not all about audio codec support though, and I have to admit that there was a greater sense of stereo soundstage when listening to the triple drivers on the Status' than my go-to AirPods Pro 2. It's a different sound, though. There's a strong dynamic energy given to low frequencies and the bass output seems to dig a little deeper and also hit harder. It's a sound presentation I enjoyed as they gave more drive and energy to my regular workout playlist.

I had some criticisms over the sound balance though that means I still prefer the more even presentation that the AirPods deliver, even if they do sound a bit bland by comparison.

Status Audio Between 3 ANC in charging case on a table top

(Image credit: Future)

The Status app provides 3 sound mode profiles. The first is Signature sound, which while likely to be the go-to option for most listeners muddies the bass frequencies far too much to be enjoyable for any length of time. Selecting Original appears to emphasize both low and high frequencies and reduces the mids to give the feeling of a 'warm' sound. The Audiophile sound mode provided a better balance, but in the end I opted for the Custom EQ mode with its useful 8-band adjustment. This allowed me to tinker with the high frequency balance and drop the 5.8kHz and 14kHz frequency bands by a couple of notches to help soften the harshness that the dedicated treble driver delivered when listening to some of my favorite tracks.

I confess, I didn't feel the need to go to great lengths to try out the ANC performance, as the passive noise isolation felt particularly strong. There is a useful transparency mode, although I seemed to be unable to activate it from the touch controls on the buds. Unlike the AirPods Pro 2, there are no adaptive modes; ANC is either on or off. I felt that the sound balance on the Between 3 ANC was slightly better with ANC disabled. 

Verdict

While the Status app was easy to navigate, and the touch controls intuitive to use, I was disappointed by the lack of wear detection. I could easily remove the earbuds from my ears and the Status buds would continue to play whatever I was listening to until the battery was depleted. 

By today's standards, the app and wear detection are where Status Audio needs to work. Their triple-driver audiophile credentials are a big selling point, but to my mind that doesn't stack up with a lack of higher quality codec support and a sound balance that needs much more refinement to make the grade as a serious AirPods Pro 2 alternative. 

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Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.

  • Dominimmiv
    The word "audiophile" doesn't belong in the same sentence as "Air Pods 2" or any other headphones capable of only lossy AAC and SBC. Perhaps LDAC or AptX HD. Oops, iPhones not capable of those.
    Reply
  • tonyd60
    Agree completely, serious Audiophiles need to ditch the iPhone (unless they support Hi-Res Audio streaming formats)
    Using Lossless content and AptX (or LDAC) is a superior to any Airbuds2 or 3?? Good ANC helps to bring out musical dynamic range also. One exception is the use of external DAC /dongle on an iPhone and a wired connection is a great set-up, but very few do this setup in reality
    Reply
  • Rockstar2005
    Hey Lee,

    You actually can switch between the Transparency Mode and ANC not from the side touch pad control but the physical button on top by simply pushing the button on either side once, aka "short tap". I use it all the time and it works very easily. 👌
    Reply