Beats Studio Buds review: are they cheaper Airpods?

WE love

  • Compact and comfortable
  • Good battery life and quick backup charge
  • Balanced audio rendering
  • A disconcerting ease of use

We don’t like

  • Hands-free kit cannot be used in a noisy environment
  • No active break
  • Too few customization options
  • No volume control from headphones
  • Some disconnections during our test

Verdict :

The Studio Buds form a pair of headphones the impregnation of Apple’s philosophy at Beats. We have headphones that are easy to pair and that can be used without fuss, their settings being (too) limited. A bit like AirPods, in fact, except that they offer a volume control … Beats has put water in its wine on the audio side. No more excessive bass, the sound here is balanced although lacking in midrange. In short, the Studio Buds are good headphones anyway, but they suffer from stiff competition. Galaxy Buds Pro or even Oppo Enco Free 2 are quite able to show them. On the other hand, if you are an Apple fan, they are a good alternative to AirPods Pro if your budget does not allow them.

Beats Electronics is best known for its headphones. Launched by rapper Dr. Dre in 2006, the brand was bought by Apple in 2014. From then on, we now find ourselves with Apple and Beats audio products, which operate in the same ecosystems. However, Beats products have the advantage of being fully compatible with Android, while benefiting from additional options on iOS or macOS.

Until then, Beats offered in terms of headphones, a Bluetooth neckband model and its Powerbeats Pro. These are headphones dedicated to sport, high-end and completely wireless. They will soon be joined by the Beats Fit Pro, new sports headphones presented in October. The latter are closer to the Beats Studio Buds by their format.

Because that’s what Beats lacked: compact true wireless headphones. This is why the Apple subsidiary launched its Studio Buds. Headphones featuring Apple’s spatial audio, active noise reduction, fast-pairing on iOS and Android, but also the characteristic bassy sound of Beats.

Pricing and availability

Studio Buds have been on sale since July 2021. They launched at € 149.95. This is currently still their price. Compared to Apple’s AirPods, their cousins, let us remember, their price is reduced over the course of their life, as has been the case for the Powerbeats Pro that we find from time to time on sale.

The € 150 headphone segment is not easy. In question, more and more manufacturers are pulling the prices down by offering complete models, including with active noise reduction, for less than 100 €. This is particularly the case with Nothing with the ear (1) (read their test here) or even Oppo with its very good Enco Free 2 that we have also selected in our guide to wireless headphones. Two models offered at € 99. Also, it is necessary that the proposal of Beats is particularly convincing to succeed in justifying its price positioning.

Studio Buds: big box, small headphones

Beats does not copy any known designs. His Studio Buds discover very fine lines. We have very compact headphones despite the large size of their case. They are discreet when placed in the ears. Silicone tips come in three sizes. The assembly lines do not interfere with the user. The shape of the ear cups is curved, all round, which offers good support once they are inserted.

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While the small size of the Studio Buds is an advantage, it also makes handling difficult. Also, on several occasions, they fell during their extraction, the grip not being optimal, in particular due to the smooth surface of the headphones. On the other hand, magnetized for their storage in their case, they cling to each other when they are close. Practical so as not to lose them when they are not stored.

Beats has had its headphones certified to IPX4. This means that they are resistant to heavy water splashes as well as perspiration. This normally makes them ideal headphones for sports. In use, when running in this case, they are not the best companions. If they hold in place, every stride is echoed through the headphones. An unpleasant snap. And even when changing the tip we did not observe any improvement.

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Audio quality that makes you forget the dark bass of Beats

Studio Buds operate in Bluetooth 5.2 and support SBC and AAC codecs. Nothing surprising here. Beats being in the region of Apple, the AptX codecs are absent subscribers, Apple mobile devices are limited to AAC. Note here that we encountered some cuts during our test, the headphones turning off for no apparent reason.

The resulting audio rendering is surprising, on the other hand. Beats regulars will not find this characteristic bass sound. That’s not to say Studio Buds don’t. On the contrary, they are present, but not predominant. The interest is that they will therefore appeal to all consumers, regardless of the musical style.

On the overall signal side, we have a V-shaped curve, with a hollow in the midrange. Set back, they let the bass and treble dominate for a powerful, detailed and flattering sound. Nevertheless, the decline in the mid-frequencies is limited, not spoiling the quality of reproduction. The most picky might want to take a little of these mediums, in particular to take full advantage of certain voices. Unfortunately, you have to do with the balancing of Beats, no equalizer being integrated into the companion application, which moreover is starving as we will see.

With Studio Buds, forget about personalization

Studio Buds come to work with both Android and iOS. Unlike AirPods, no function is limited to Apple’s system. A good thing. We have on both a connection facilitated as soon as the housing is opened. On the option side, the Studio Buds unfortunately do not benefit from Apple chips. No W1 or H1 here and therefore no Spatial Audio, in particular. As they say, they behave identically on Android and iOS although deeper integration is implemented in Apple systems.

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They are accompanied by an application that is barely satisfied with the minimum. You have access to the three active noise reduction settings (active, off, transparent) and to the setting of the long press of the two earphones (voice assistant or noise control).

If we can only praise the simplicity of these headphones, it also marks that they do not offer additional functions. No automatic pause, no multipoint (quite rare however), no adjustment of all the controls either. In short, these are headphones designed to be used without a headache. A plug and play model, you might say.

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On the controls side, we have two physical buttons, one on each earpiece. It should be noted from the outset that it is difficult to position the headphones without squeezing them and risk hanging up a call, if necessary. These buttons allow you to change tracks, play or pause and activate or deactivate the noise reduction. No volume adjustment here and

A hands-free kit that can be used in peace and that’s it

Beats equips its Studio Buds with two beamforming microphones capable of performing spatial filtering. In communication, this corresponds to cleaning the surrounding sounds to focus on the voice.

A beautiful promise that is not kept. In practice, they do well in calm environments. Outdoors, in the street or in the metro, it’s a different story. The noises are not sufficiently filtered. Inaudible conversations result. Each time we used Studio Buds in transport, we had to take control of our phone to continue our conversations.

Correct passive and active noise reduction, nothing more

While they are not recommendable as a hands-free kit, the same cannot be said of its active noise reduction. It already benefits from a wind noise reduction treatment. That’s silly, but they are totally usable in ANC during a bike ride, for example.

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Studio Buds, by design, include dual noise reduction: passive and active. Beats has focused its active noise reduction on two frequency ranges. The bass between 20 and 250 Hz happens to be well attenuated. The truly erased range is between 800 and 1200 Hz. This corresponds to the midrange and therefore to the usual frequencies of the human voice. However, nothing seems to have been done on the treble.

Beware of the shrill cries of a child or even the braking of a metro, for example. Music in reading, let’s say that in practice, you can still hear the outside if it is noisy, but you can still concentrate on listening to it without having to turn up the volume more than necessary. A decent active noise reduction, but nothing more, in what is done in this price range.

A contained latency, but no better than another

Obviously, who says Bluetooth, necessarily says latency. Latency is this small gap that separates the image from the sound, a phenomenon that you have certainly already experienced. The goal of manufacturers is to reduce it to nothing with low latency codecs, like the AptX Low Latency. Lack of pot, Studio Buds are only SBC and AAC. The best, the AAC, has a theoretical latency of 150 ms. This is the maximum limit of an acceptable latency.

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Measured latency of Beats Studio Buds (AAC) – Credits: Edouard le Ricque / Tom’s Guide

During our test, we noted a slightly better score. 137 ms, that’s what emerges from these Studio Buds. Thus, they are not to be nailed on this point nor to be praised. Remember also that this latency will not interfere with modern uses. Headphones are now able to shift their sound when broadcasting content from streaming platforms. So no worries on YouTube, Netflix or even Disney +. On the other hand, Beats headphones will not be very comfortable on a PS5 or a Switch. Moreover, we had not retained the Studio Buds in our comparison of headphones for Nintendo Switch for this reason.

Autonomy just with a quick backup charge

It is a constant at Apple and its subsidiaries, autonomy measures are never false. Studio Buds are given for 8 hours of battery life on one charge without noise reduction and 5 hours with noise reduction. This is in fact perfectly true. We can congratulate them on their first value which is very good. The second is more modest, but remains in the market average. No problem to last a full day, especially since there is always a moment to put them back on charge in their case, a lunch break for example. Let us add about the case that it has two additional charges. In all, we therefore climb to 24 hours without ANC and 15 hours with ANC. Finally, in five minutes of charging, we recover 1 hour of autonomy.

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Beats Studio Buds review: are they cheaper Airpods?