Dr. Dre's Powerbeats 2 wireless earbuds certainly let the beat drop. These $189 earbuds make it easy to go cord-free with music that's full of powerful bass, and the comfy over-ear design lets you wear them all day long. Beats fans will find that these buds perfectly complement their collections, but subpar battery life and weak highs and mids dampen our enthusiasm.
I immediately recognized the Powerbeats 2 wireless buds as a Dr. Dre product. The buds sit behind a thumb-size panel of matte black plastic emblazoned with a red Beats logo. They have traditional silicone inserts, and an over-ear grip made of flexible plastic.
The Beats-ified panel hides functionality in addition to making a statement. The bottom of the left panel houses the microUSB port for charging, and the top holds the power button and an indicator light.
The flat red wire that connects the two buds is also matte and soft to the touch. In the middle of it is a fastener so you can adjust the length of the cord. On the wire close to the left bud is the inline remote, which has a multifunction button for playing and pausing music and taking calls, and a volume rocker that can also skip songs.
Since they are made for working out, the Powerbeats 2 are IPX4-rated (water- and sweat-resistant), so you don't have to worry about getting them too wet.
MORE: Best Headphones
Overall, I prefer the minimalist design of the Powerbeats 2 to the flashier SMS Audio SYNC by 50 Wireless Sport buds. However, when working out, I prefer SYNC's ear wings for their comfort and sturdiness.
Comfort and Fit
The Powerbeats 2 come with four different sizes of ear inserts. I went with the largest size, because I like my ear inserts to fit as snug as possible; they did the trick, keeping noise from the gym out while staying securely in my ears.
These earbuds have an over-ear construction with a flexible grip that wraps around the back of your ears. This was one of the more comfortable over-ear buds I've tried, largely thanks to the bendable top portion that lets you clamp it tightly around your ear. I prefer this design to others such as the Shure SE315 Sound Isolating Earphones, which require draping the wire over the back of your ear.
As the name suggests, the Powerbeats 2 wireless earbuds have insane bass, at the expense of everything else. In Janelle Monae's "Yoga," the bass overpowered the track, making the rest of the instruments and her wonderful voice sound weak.
On bass-heavy tracks like Dr. Dre's own "I Need a Doctor,' I appreciated the resonating power. However, Eminem's guest vocals were muffled and the mids were muddled.
MORE: Best Bluetooth Speakers
The same song on the Shure SE315 Sound Isolating Earphones sounded more balanced, with clear and sharp instruments and biting vocals. The bass was present but it was more subdued.
The Powerbeats 2 wireless buds are louder than the Plantronics BackBeat GO2 wireless and the Jabra Sport Pulse wireless, but rely too heavily on bass to elevate tracks and don't give the necessary attention to the highs and mids. The Jabra Sport Pulse wireless deliver audio that's more well-rounded than the Powerbeats without sacrificing bass quality.
Beats promises 6 hours of battery life with the Powerbeats 2, which is average. It's better than the 4.5 hours on the Plantronics BackBeat GO 2, but not as good as the 8 hours on the SMS Audio SYNC by 50 Wireless Sport. I used the Powerbeats 2 for three days on my commutes to and from work and during my hour-long workouts, before I got an indication that the battery was low.
While other headphones use audible notifications, the Powerbeats 2 use the indicator light to show you how much battery is left. A steady red light means there's less than an hour of listening time and a blinking red light means less than 15 minutes. I liked this system because it's easy to understand, and my music was never interrupted by a random voice.
The $189 Beats Powerbeats 2 wireless earbuds will help you power through a workout, but they don't provide the best audio for the money. While they have strong bass and an over-ear design comfortable for exercise, their sound isn't up to snuff with other buds in their price range.
The $179 Jabra Sport Pulse wireless have more balanced sound, and can also measure your heart rate. Bass heads should also consider the $145 SMS Audio SYNC by 50 Wireless in-Ear Sports, which deliver the lows without sacrificing the mids and highs. You'll feel the beat with the Powerbeats 2, but not much else.