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Beats Solo Buds review: Apple's best wireless audio bargain yet

Beats Studio buds

Beats Solo Buds

4.0 / 5

Last updated

The Beats Solo Buds are the cheapest wireless earphones Apple produces, yet still offer outstanding battery life and an astoundingly small case.

If you want to buy some wireless earphones made by Apple, you have a fairly decent selection to choose from. AirPods offer quite a lot to users, complete with the obviously Apple branding.

The problem, though is that AirPods are still fairly expensive. You don't have to pay out the hefty sum of $249 for the AirPods Pro, but the $129 gen 2 AirPods don't really seem that much of a deal either (check AirPods prices).

That, and you're stuck with the brilliant white externals that extend to the case, unless you pay for some stickers.

Alternately, you could have a look at Beats by Dre, the subsidiary that offers Apple's tech but in a somewhat different format.

In its range of wireless earbuds, it offers the Beats Studio Buds+, the Beats Fit Pro, the Beats Studio Buds, the Powerbeats Pro, and the Beats Flex.

Of that range, the Beats Flex is the cheapest at $69.99, but it's not really truly wireless thanks to a connective cable.

Thankfully, if you want low-priced actually wireless earphones, there is an option available to you. Namely the Beats Solo Buds for $79.99.

Beats Solo Buds review - Design

The Beats Solo Buds are a pretty standard pair of Beats earphones. If you're familiar with the design of Beats Studio Buds, you're getting something very similar here.

Each earbud is circular, flattening out on one side to a rounded but pinchable shape. It's designed to be compact, to sit inside the folds of your ear with only a small section sticking out on each side.

White wireless earbuds with a black 'b' logo on a reflective surface, with a blurred background.
The Beats Solo Buds are compact and just fit inside the ear folds.

When worn, people will only really see them if they're to one side of you, as barely anything shows when looking straight on at your face. Add in that Beats has kept away from the dangling elements of AirPods, and they're pretty understated earphones.

The construction consists of a main earbud with a silicone ear tip that sits inside the ear canal. Beats supplies four different ear tip sizes for a more comfortable fit.

Since there's no wingtip design like the Beats Fit Pro to catch the folds of your ear, you are basically relying on the ear tip holding the earbud in place as you move around. In our time using them, they didn't move once, even through some intensive workouts.

That said, they do not have sweat or water resistance ratings, so they're probably not going to be your next workout partner. Beats Fit Pro is going to be a more secure option for that sort of activity.

White earbuds with replaceable silicone tips laid out on a gray grid surface. Background includes a white charging case and a stack of colorful books.
You get four silicone ear tip sizes in the box.

Each earbud measures 0.66 by 0.73 by 0.74 inches, and weighs in at a mere 5.7 grams per earbud when used with medium ear tips.

To go with the earbuds, there's the case. However, this is where Beats majorly departs from the AirPods norm.

Typically, an earbuds case is used to recharge while on the go, as there's usually a built-in battery providing power. This time, Beats has decided to eliminate the battery element from the case.

You do still have to charge the earbuds using the case, but only when it is connected to a power source.

The sacrifice of the battery does offer some benefits. The case is small and lightweight, at 1.31 inches tall, 2.6 inches wide, and 0.74 inches deep.

White wireless earbuds with a grey 'b' logo, one inside an open charging case, and another outside, placed on a grid-patterned cutting mat.
The case for the Beats Solo Buds is very small, since it doesn't have a battery.

The lack of a battery also makes it incredibly light, at 22 grams without any buds inside. All this combined makes for a case that's about half the size of most of Apple's or Beats' other case designs.

The result is a case that is even more pocketable than usual. The case design is also interesting when you consider that Beats offers four options. While Storm Gray, Matte Black, and Arctic Purple are fairly conventional, the Transparent Red is more interesting.

The buds themselves are opaque red, but the case is see-through. You can see the buds inside, along with internal contacts and electronic elements.

Having visible internal mechanics is an aesthetic that departs from the others in the range, and is different than most of the rest of the electronics that I've evaluated over the last 12 years doing this job. It also makes electronics-inclined people like me want to carry it around more, to enjoy its aesthetic.

Beats Solo Buds review - Audio quality

Running on Beats' proprietary platform, the Beats Solo Buds use 8.2mm dual-element diaphragm transducers used for the Beats Studio Buds+. This is a tried and tested system that still holds up very well.

The architecture is more "closed" this time, with the use of micro-venting holes laser-cut for a better bass response. The transducers are also set parallel to the acoustic nozzle opening, which Beats calls an "axial alignment."

As a result it allows Beats to offer very good sound reproduction. There's enough separation between the treble, mid, and low end to keep most listeners satisfied, and without needing to make many changes to how the audio sounds in settings.

At this price point, you're not going to have Active Noise Cancellation or Transparency to help your audio. Then again, you do get a lot of passive noise isolation from the silicone tips alone.

It's not ANC, but the snug silicone tips do enough to block out audio to make the sound quality better in my opinion.

You may not get the all-singing, all-dancing ANC, but you do get Spatial Audio. Alas, it's not the full-blown Spatial Audio with head tracking, but it's still a nice-to-have feature.

Beats Solo Buds review - Features

While it certainly doesn't offer the bells and whistles of ANC, there's still a fair amount of features at play with the Beats Solo Buds.

For a start, it has custom-designed digital MEMS microphones with a high signal-to-noise ratio. There's also one microphone in each earbud, used for voice.

That is paired with Beats' noise-learning algorithm, optimized by machine learning to target the user's voice. It does so while also suppressing external, unwanted noise, thanks to its algorithm's 7,000 hours of simulations.

The result is a very clear microphone for the listener. Tested using assorted kitchen sounds, it seemed that a lot of the noises were eliminated by the mic processing.

It's not quite studio quality, but it's more than enough to ensure that anyone you call will be at least able to hear you.

On-device controls consist of a pair of buttons, one on each ear. You can press each to answer, end, and mute or unmute calls.

A press-and-hold option is also available, which you can set to control volume depending on the ear pressed, or to summon Siri. There's no "Hey, Siri" support here, unfortunately.

Gray wireless earbud case on a grid-patterned surface with blurred books in the background.
The case has a single physical connection for USB-C.

When it comes to the connection, the Beats Solo Buds work over Bluetooth 5.3. The case sports a single USB-C port around the back.

Like other models of earphone from Beats, there is compatibility with both Apple and Android ecosystems, with slight differences.

One-touch pairing is available with both, with a pop-up card appearing on iOS while Google Fast Pair is supported on Android. For Apple, iCloud Pairing helps them work on multiple devices, with automatic handoff to an Apple Watch available if an iPhone isn't nearby.

Android users get their own ecosystem pairing, thanks to registering the earbuds to a Google account.

Apple's Find My and Google's Find My Device can help you track down misplaced earbuds. Audio sharing is offered with Apple hardware, but there's Audio Switch available instead on Android.

In terms of iOS integration, there's a lot with Apple hardware, with the earbuds appearing in the Settings app. Extra configuration on Android can be done, but via the Beats companion app.

The continuation of supporting both Apple and Android ecosystems is a good thing to see. If you're involved with multiple ecosystems, you have earbuds that can work on both sides of the digital fence.

Beats Solo Buds review - Power options and battery life

One of the big foibles about these earbuds is the case. Since there's no battery, it's not capable of being used to partially charge the earbuds on the move.

However, you do still need to use the case to recharge the earbuds. There's a USB-C port on the rear, which is intended to provide power to the case from an outlet.

If you have a USB-C to USB-C cable handy, you could also take advantage of the ability to borrow power from an iPhone 15 while on the go. You do have to supply your own cable, as there's not one in the box.

Since there's no power in the case itself, it's smaller and more pocketable, but it still can be used to quickly recharge the Beats Solo Buds. So long as you can get power, a five-minute charge will result in an hour of music playback.

Grey wireless earbud set with charging case and stylus on a checkered grid background.
You recharge the Beats Solo Buds with the case, but you must feed power to the case itself.

As a byproduct of the case lacking a battery, this puts the onus on the earbuds to hold enough charge for themselves.

For the Beats Solo Buds, it's claimed that they have up to an 18-hour battery life. In testing, this seems to be a fairly accurate claim.

The 18 hours seems to be low compared to the 24-hours for the Beats Fit Pro, or the 36 hours of the Beats Studio Buds+. But it's more impressive as these longer times also incorporate the case's battery, which is absent here.

For example, the 36-hour claim for the Solo Buds+ is the total possible time. For one charge, the earbuds can last up to 9 hours.

An 18-hour battery life is exceptional, especially when there's no case battery to back it up.

Beats Solo Buds review - Decent sound and great value

Anyone wanting to pick up a decent pair of wireless earbuds will be willing to splash the cash a little bit. Everyone knows deep down that going for the cheapest option is taunting the possibility of having middling-quality headphones that you're probably going to replace down the road.

If you're prepared to spend more on earphones, you certainly can. There's the risk again of spending a lot with little actual return.

With that mindset, the entry-level second-generation AirPods seemed like a decent deal. $129 for good quality earphones seems reasonable, though you are well aware that you're missing out on a bunch of features.

At this price range ANC isn't a real option, nor is Personalized Spatial Audio.

White wireless earbuds in a charging case on a cutting mat, with a stylus pen and stacked books in the background.
Beats Solo Buds can be a great first pair of wireless earbuds.

With the Beats Solo Buds, you're getting earphones that offer a fairly decent alternative to the cheapest AirPods. You're ending up with a decent pair of earphones, in a choice of colors, and pretty good audio quality despite niceties like ANC.

The icing on the cake here is price. The Beats Solo Buds are priced at a mere $79.99. That's $49 cheaper than the lowest-priced AirPods, with a similar feature list, but bags more battery life.

You could even buy three sets of Beats Solo Buds and still save a few bucks compared to a single AirPods Pro purchase.

The inclusion of a new slimline design of case, as well as the enhanced per-earbud battery life, makes it hard not to recommend them.

The Beats Solo Buds are a fantastic set of wireless earbuds for anyone who wants a good value solution. They are a better buy than the base AirPods in multiple ways, and certainly should be called Apple's best-value personal audio accessory.

Just remember to take a USB-C cable with you.

Beats Solo Buds review - Pros

  • Compact casing
  • Exceptional earbud battery lifetime
  • Great value
  • Comfortable and good-quality audio

Beats Solo Buds review - Cons

  • No sweat or water resistance
  • No Hey Siri
  • Constrained charging options

Rating: 4 out of 5

Where to buy Beats Solo Buds

The Beats Solo Buds are available from Amazon and B&H Photo for $79.99. Preorders are open until their release on June 20.