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What should you buy: Apple's BeatsX vs. AirPods

With BeatsX now in stores, AppleInsider takes a closer look at the new W1 chip-equipped wireless earphones and how they compare with Apple's flagship AirPods.

The design differences between the two units are obvious. As we noted in our AirPods review, Apple's wireless earphones were crafted to serve all listeners as a one-size-fits-all device based on the already successful EarPods. Because the individual earbuds are molded from hard plastic, some users might find the design too small or too large for their liking. It also means the acoustic seal might vary from one listener to the next.

BeatsX, on the other hand, takes a more traditional approach by including four interchangeable silicone eartips for an adjustable fit. A pair of "earwings" also comes with the unit to snug BeatsX into a user's ear when exercising or performing other strenuous activities. In addition to fitting a wider range of ear types, the eartips offer an enhanced acoustic seal as compared to AirPods.

Something to take into consideration, however, is that Apple's latest Beats product is a tethered design, like the recent Powerbeats3 model. While the Flex Form connecting cable is highly malleable, users will always have a cable touching their neck. The tether does have its benefits, however, as users can simply take out both earbuds and let them dangle when not in use. Magnets built into the BeatsX earbuds also allow them to snap together for necklace-style wear and easy storage in the provided soft case.

Since AirPods is a totally wireless design, its carrying case serves double duty as a portable charger. With BeatsX, charging is accomplished through a standard Lightning cable that connects directly to one of two component pods located on both ends of the tether cable. Apple integrated a Fast Fuel feature with the Beats unit that nets users 2 hours of playback time from a 5-minute charge.

Moving on to pairing, BeatsX features Apple's new W1 chip, so the pairing process is identical to AirPods. Simply power on the earphones near an iOS device and tap "connect." From there, BeatsX is automatically provisioned for use on any iOS 10.2 or macOS Sierra device linked to a user's iCloud account.

On sound, BeatsX features the audio company's signature bass-heavy reproduction, though mids and highs are surprisingly well tuned. The overall sound profile is more dynamic out of the box than AirPods, which produce a flatter, more even sound signature. That said, we found AirPods to be much louder than its BeatsX cousin, perhaps due to driver impedance or a firmware-limiting volume cap.

There is a definite difference in sound quality between the two, so we suggest buyers visit an Apple store to experience them first hand before making a decision.

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Where to buy

Adorama, an authorized Apple reseller, has BeatsX earphones in all four colors for $149.95 with free shipping and no tax outside NY and NJ. B&H, another Apple reseller, expects to ship AirPods in three to five weeks, which is shorter than Apple's reported six-week wait. B&H will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ as well. For detailed availability and current offers, please visit our iPhone Accessories Price Guide.