Why you can trust AppleInsider
Read how we test products or view our ethics policy. If you shop through our links, we may get a commission.

Beats Studio Buds long-term review: An excellent AirPods alternative

Beats Studio Buds in their case with the lid open.

Beats Studio Buds

4.0 / 5

Last updated

We've been using Beats Studio Buds for a long time alongside AirPods and AirPods Pro. Where they fit in the lineup isn't a simple question.

Beats Studio Buds weren't a surprise when they launched. They had been seen in celebrity ears for months, before the summer 2021 debut.

Apple immediately positioned them to appeal to the celeb-adjacent market, and fans thereof — like it has in the past. But, they launched into a market that had AirPods and AirPods Pro for some time already.

A year and a half later, they still stand up pretty well against the name-brand Apple offerings.

Beats Studio Buds specifications

Beats Studio Buds support the native Apple infrastructure, allowing for Apple-specific features like Spatial Audio, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and Transparency Mode. They also support "Hey Siri," and you can customize the button to active Siri, as well.

Beats Studio Buds next to closed case.
Beats Studio Buds next to closed case.

There is a control button on each earbud that activates ANC, play/pause functions, and next and previous song controls.

Because Apple owns Beats, the Studio Buds support the "Find My" feature, so you don't leave your headphones behind. Plus, the case charges via USB-C and works with iPad and MacBook chargers.

AirPods Pro versus Beats Studio Buds
AirPods Pro versus Beats Studio Buds

These wireless earbuds come with a manufacturer-rated 8-hour battery life with up to 24 hours of total listening time, including the charger case. That is if you listen at 50% volume and with no ANC.

Unlike Apple's signature white, the Beats Studio Buds come in six colors, including the Ocean Blue color we tested. The case and buds are IPX4 rated for sweat and water resistance and include Class-1 Bluetooth with extended range.

Using the Beats Studio Buds

Beats use a standard design for the Studio Buds case. Pop open the top, and the earbuds lay right inside the charging case with two noticeable prongs on each side where the buds inductively charge.

Using the Beats Studio Buds is like using AirPods.
Using the Beats Studio Buds is like using AirPods.

The Studio Buds have an athletic design to them. With the bright Ocean Blue color we tested, the "workout" look is very much the aesthetic we saw when wearing them, or seeing others sporting the pair.

As far as fit goes, you have to twist the bud once it's in your ear to get a proper fit. And although Beats packages three silicon tip sizes, we found that even small ears need the larger tips. That means the small and medium tip sizes were useless, and large ears might need larger buds.

Once the buds are in, a sound lets you know you're connected. A particularly attractive feature of the Studio Buds versus AirPods is they don't try to intelligently connect to whatever device it thinks you want to connect to. Instead, they connect to the last device you paired them with.

The Beats Studio Buds have excellent sound, and bass notes really shine, but the top-end treble can be a bit overpowered. Despite the audio quality, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is a requirement for the best sound.

When using ANC, we still found background sounds leaking through. This drawback was especially apparent in loud environments, yet it makes the transparent mode clearer than Apple's AirPods.

The volume range is quite good, with the highest volumes causing mild ear pain, making them more than loud enough. We usually kept the volume at a max of 75%, which worked well for more listening time.

Beats rate the Studio Buds at an eight-hour listening time, but realistically we found that number closer to 3.5 to 4 hours. The charging case does provide a quick boost of play time as advertised, but again, it falls short of the promised time. This isn't abnormal, given that the louder the music, the shorter the play-time.

And the whole time we've been testing the Studio Buds, we encountered no major issues. We aren't fans of the fact that the buttons for playback control are on the outside of the buds, making it easy to bump accidentally. We have adjusted, though.

Overall, these buds perform pretty well, especially with the quality bass sound.

Comparing Apples to Apples

It's no secret that Apple owns the Beats branding. The Studio Buds connect and operate very similarly to the AirPods. The natural integration into the Apple ecosystem is seamless right from the box, and within the Bluetooth settings, you have similar controls over the buds.

Comparing the AirPods Pro case size to the Beats Studio Buds case.
Comparing the AirPods Pro case size to the Beats Studio Buds case.

When comparing the Studio Buds to the AirPods, the sound quality of the Studio Buds is better than the newest entry-level AirPods.

However, the comparison between the Studio Buds and the AirPods Pro is much tighter. The first AirPods Pro have a slight edge, because the Pro's ANC works much better. And, the second-generation AirPods Pro are even better than that.

Apple's AirPods and AirPods Pro come with smaller cases than the Beats Studio Buds, and the overall feel of the build quality is higher with the name-brand Apple products.

As we rank the three earbuds, on the grossest of scales, the Beats Studio Buds would sit between the pro- and non-pro AirPods. Both models of AirPods Pro are sitting on top, but only by a slim margin.

But, this very much depends on where you like the "character" of your music to fall, and how much you want to spend. If you're looking for a more bassy experience, or an entry for less than Apple's AirPods of any type, the Beats Studio Buds are your answer.

Beats Studio Buds Pros

  • High-quality audio for wireless buds.
  • Native Apple support and controls.
  • Supports ANC and Spatial Audio
  • More affordable than Apple-branded buds

Beats Studio Buds Cons

  • Cheaper build quality compared to Apple products
  • Not as good ANC compared to AirPods Pro
  • Too-easy to press buttons.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Beats Studio Buds are a competent product with much of the same functionality as Apple's flagship headphones. They're easy to pair with devices, have incredible sound, and are much cheaper than Apple's AirPods.

Since we've been testing the Studio Buds across the AppleInsider staff for a year and a half, we can say they're an adequate replacement for even the AirPods Pro — but only if you're willing to sacrifice ANC quality, case size, and athletic look.

Where to buy Beats Studio Buds

You can find Beats Studio Buds at Amazon, Best Buy and Target for about $90. That price is more affordable than the standard AirPods by $20 and AirPods Pro by about $110 — but sales will throw off this balance a bit.