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Beats Studio Buds review: Surprisingly affordable ANC earbuds

The Beats Studio Buds is a small but feature-stuffed set of wireless earbuds

Beats Studio Buds review
(Image: © Beats)

For

  • Compact design
  • Active noise cancellation
  • Affordable price
  • IPX4 water water and sweat resistance

Against

  • Mediocre call quality
  • No wireless charging
  • Can’t easily switch between multiple devices

The Beats Studio Pro might just be the most brand-defying set of earbuds that Beats (and by extension Apple) has ever unveiled. From ditching sporty conventions for a radical new design to including active noise cancellation (ANC) at an affordable price, the Studio Buds has a lot going for it.

The good news is that it largely lives up to its promise, even compared to some of the best wireless earbuds on the market. Along with all those features, the Studio Buds delivers very good sound — especially if you like bass — and the small, light design is comfortable to wear. If you’re thinking about buying another pair of Apple AirPods, keep reading our Beats Studio Buds review to find out if this could serve you better.

Beats Studio Buds review: Price and availability

  • $149 MSRP
  • Available in white, red and black

 The Beats Studio Buds was announced on June 14, 2021, and is now available from Apple and Amazon., among other retailers. It comes in a choice of white, black or red.

Among the best surprises of the Studio Buds is the price. At $149, it’s competitive with some of the best headphones, such as the Jabra Elite Active 75t. It also costs less than the AirPods Pro and Beats Powerbeats Pro, while offering many of the same features. 

Beats Studio Buds review: Design 

  • Very small and comfortable
  • IPX4 water resistance

Beats Studio Buds review

(Image credit: Future)

The first thing you’ll notice about the Studio Buds is how tiny each earpiece is — just 0.9 x 0.8 x 0.6 inches. They don’t have over-the-ear hooks like the Powerbeats Pro or dangling stems like Apple AirPods. They’re so small I had some trouble getting them out of the case. And at just under 0.2 ounces per bud, the Studio Buds are light enough to wear for hours. 

The Studio Buds have a pill-shaped part that extends from the part that goes in your ear, which is adorned with the iconic Beats “b.” Other than that, little of the earbuds is visible once you stick them in your ear. 

The Studio Buds includes six microphones across its two earbuds, splitting them up for voice call and ANC duties. 

It comes with three tip sizes to help them fit best in your ear. The buds stayed in my ears firmly whether I was walking or exercising. They also stayed put as I pulled a shirt over my head — something most earbuds fail at.  

The case size is another pleasant surprise, especially if you’ve seen the gigantic Beats Powerbeats Pro case. The Studio Buds case — while by no means diminutive — is only slightly larger than an AirPods Pro case. However, it doesn’t support wireless charging. It ships with a short USB-C cable for charging.

Beats Studio Buds review: Controls and digital assistant 

  • Touch controls are sensitive, maybe too much so
  • Hands-free Siri, touch-enabled Google Assistant

Beats Studio Buds review

(Image credit: Beats)

The surface of the “pill” that extends from buds includes a multifunction button. You can press once to play or answer a call, twice to skip, three times to go back or long-press to activate noise cancellation or switch to transparency mode. The button was responsive, and didn’t require much force. This works both ways, though, as I did sometimes accidentally press the button when I was putting the earbuds in or taking them out. 

Besides switching between ANC, transparency and off, the Studio Buds lacks any other sound adjustments, such as an equalizer — though you can tweak the frequencies to your liking in Apple Music or Spotify

The Studio Buds includes hands-free Siri support if you’re using an Apple device. It’s quick to activate, easily changing playlists and calling people from my contacts. Android users can set the long press action to activate Google Assistant, though you can’t use it fully hands-free like you can Siri. 

Beats Studio Buds review: Sound quality

  • Surprisingly high for the price
  • Lots of bass

Beats Studio Buds review

(Image credit: Future)

The Studio Buds delivers very good overall sound and, depending on your taste, could rival current top picks for earbuds in this price range. The bass is rich, as you’d expect from Beats. The bass is especially punchy when you engage ANC or Transparency mode; with those off, it still has good bass but it isn’t as strong. The treble isn’t as bright as when listening on a pair of the Jabra Elite Active 75t, but the Studio Buds is on par with the mighty AirPods Pro — and better if you like more bass — while beating the regular AirPods in any listening contest. 

 Lorde’s voice during the chorus of “Solar Power” was rich and the bass sounded full, though the horns at the end weren’t as bright as on the Jabra Elite Active 75t. The many layers of sound on St. Vincent’s “Pay Your Way in Pain” were distinct and the funky synths resonated deeply. The fingerpicked guitar on Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back Again” sounded warm, as did Lindsey Buckingham’s vocals, but on that track the Studio Buds lack of treble was very clear, especially compared to the Elite Active 75t. 

The treble isn’t as bright as when listening on a pair of Jabra Elite Active 75t, but the Studio Buds is on par with the mighty AirPods Pro

The Studio Buds’ bass added significant gravitas to dialog and action sequences in movies; if your main use for earbuds is for the audio to go with movies and shows, the Beats are a better choice than the Elite Active 75t.  

Like pretty much all headphones the Studio Buds works with Apple Music’s recently-added spatial audio playback, which uses Dolby Atmos mastering for a 360-degree sound effect. What gives the Studio Buds a boost over most other models is that it enables spatial audio automatically, without any additional setup.

That’s a feature typical of Apple and Beats headphones with Apple’s H1 and W1 chips. The Studio Buds doesn’t use either, and while it does still manage to produce Apple-specific advantages like automatic spatial audio and hands-free Siri, it’s also opted for an unspecified but more Android-friendly processor instead.

Beats Studio Buds review: App and special features

  • Wider Android support than previous Beats/Apple buds
  • Some iOS bonuses, but not as many as on AirPods

Beats Studio Buds

(Image credit: Beats)

That’s why you get a basic form of Google Assistant support, as well as compatibility with Android’s one-touch pairing. Neither of which you’d ever get on the current AirPods or Beats lineup. The catch is that other H1/W1-enabled features, like audio sharing with other Apple headphones and fast switching across multiple iOS and macOS sources, are missing.

That might be a shame if you’re a dedicated iOS fan, but there are still other benefits to keeping within the Apple family. If you’re using an iOS device, the Studio Buds takes advantage of built-in features, such as using Control Center for volume and switching sound modes. You can also go into the Bluetooth menu to find more options, including changing the behavior of the long press. Android users can download the Beats app to access the same kinds of features, though they won’t get spatial audio or “Hey Siri” voice controls.

Beats Studio Buds review

(Image credit: Future)

Surprisingly, given the price, the Studio Buds also includes active noise cancellation: something the standard AirPods can’t boast. It uses adaptive technology to adjust for your environment. At the gym, the ANC blocked out most of the noise from a nearby treadmill cranking at a fast pace. Against a loud vacuum cleaner, it eliminated the higher pitches and dulled the overall roar of the machine — about the same as the Jabra Active Elite 75t managed, and that’s one of the best noise-cancelling earbuds on the market.

You can also switch to transparency mode to let in outside noise when you’re on the street and need to be aware of your surroundings. However, you can’t adjust the amount of sound that gets let through.

The earbuds have an IPX4 rating, making them resistant to water and good for when you’re sweating at the gym or on the trail.

One thing the Studio Buds lacks: when you take the earbuds out of your ears, playback doesn’t stop. This seems a strange omission on a pair that includes most other features from top earbuds.

Beats Studio Buds review: Call quality and connectivity 

  • Underwhelming clarity on calls
  • Solid Bluetooth connection

Beats Studio Buds review

(Image credit: Future)

If you use your earbuds for calls and video chat, you may want to steer clear of the Studio Buds. While I could hear other people okay, my voice came through muted and dull. In a noisy environment, my voice kept breaking up as the mics tried to isolate me amid the other sounds. 

Otherwise, the Bluetooth connection was solid, even up to 50 feet from my phone with walls in the way. If you’re using an iOS device, Bluetooth pairing is as easy as using AirPods: just open the case next to your unlocked device and connect. Android users can pair with the Studio Pods as they would any other Bluetooth headphones; you push the subtle button between where the earbuds sit in the charging case to engage pairing mode. 

Beats Studio Buds review: Battery life

  • Beats claims 5 hours of ANC — appears accurate
  • No wireless charging, solely uses USB-C

Beats Studio Buds review

(Image credit: Future)

Beats says you can get 8 hours of battery life from the Studio Buds on a full charge, but that’s without ANC or transparency modes on. With those active, expect 5 hours — which is the pretty average for earbuds right now. The charging case carries an additional 16 hours (10 with noise cancellation) of power. The case can also do fast charging, adding an hour of playback in 5 minutes. 

After about an two and a half hours with Transparency mode on, the battery level was at about 50% — right on target with estimates. With ANC and Transparency off, the earbuds were more efficient, draining about 10% in an hour. 

After about an hour without using noise cancellation or transparency, the battery in my unit had about 90% left — in line with the estimates.

Beats Studio Buds: Verdict

Beats Studio Buds review

(Image credit: Future)

The Beats Studio Buds has a lot going for it, from a small and lightweight design to plenty of features, including ANC and hands-free Siri. All at an affordable price, too. Add in impressive sound, and it becomes a top contender in its price range. 

Whether it’s right for you depends on how much bass and treble you like in your listening, and if you plan to use them for calls. The voice microphone clearly pales in comparison to AirPod Pros and the Jabra Elite Active 75t, two of the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls. Bass lovers should seek the Studio Buds out, while those who like sharp and bright sounds may want to avoid it. And if you are considering standard AirPods and you can do without the dangling stem, the Studio Pods beats its sibling rival  in almost every way.