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Beats Studio Buds+ vs Apple AirPods Pro 2

  • Beats Studio Buds+

    Android and budget alternative

    The Beats Studio Buds+ are a fun, energetic listen that offer improved noise cancellation and better battery life. You’ll find a touch more refinement in the AirPods Pro 2 but the total package on offer here is fantastic for the price.

    Pros

    • Fun, energetic sound
    • Spacious soundstage
    • Good noise cancellation
    Cons

    • Treble lacks refinement
    • No wear sensor
    • No wireless charging

  • Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Gen - square

    Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C)

    Premium sound for Apple

    Apple’s noise-cancelling buds offer a better sound than the Beats Studio Buds+, that is more refined and easier to listen to over long periods, and with more genres. However, they are more expensive and won’t serve Android users as well.

    Pros

    • Excellent performance
    • Added controls for touch sensor
    • Extra features, like Precision Finding
    Cons

    • No lanyard included
    • Not worth the upgrade for Lighting AirPods Pro 2 owners


Before Apple came on the scene and became the go-to choice for all your headphone needs, there was one company that used to be the fashionable choice — Beats. Admittedly, they were popular not for their sound quality, which was legendarily bad, but rather for their status as a great, fashionable accessory.



Over the past few years, we’ve seen AirPods claim the fashion-forward throne for headphones. Interestingly though, Apple did not stop at getting the AirPods to the top of the ladder — the company also acquired Beats and made the old competitors another offering in its own catalog.

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Even better, Apple now offers two of the best earbuds on the market. On one hand, there is the excellent AirPods Pro 2, a classic choice now for all seeking great sound quality and amazing software features, such as ANC or adaptive transparency mode. However, with the acquisition of Beats by Apple, they became not only a known brand name, but also a manufacturer of equally excellent (and finally great sounding) earbuds. The Beats Studio Buds + are the best example of that. They use Apple’s hardware to be as smart, with a few of their own aces up their sleeve.


One thing is certain — whether you choose the Beats or the AirPods, Apple will be equally happy, as it’s all in the family now. However, which one of these two excellent headphones is the right one for you? Here’s what you need to know to make the best decision.


Specs and pricing: Apple ecosystem or multi-connectivity?

Even though both of these earbuds are now manufactured under Apple’s guidance, they still vary quite significantly. The biggest difference you’ll see in your day-to-day use is the inclusion of the H2 and U1 chips in the AirPods Pro 2. These connectivity platforms are responsible for all the trickery that lets AirPods work seamlessly with your Apple devices, as well as some advanced features — such as adaptive transparency mode. The U1 chip also allows you to use Find My to locate the charging case if it ever gets lost. However, all of that comes at the cost of being fully compatible with Apple products and losing most of their additional features when connected to other devices.


AirPods next to laptop

The Beats use what’s called Beats Software Platform. This means you lose out on things like adaptive transparency mode or adaptive EQ, but in return, Beats work as well with Android as with Apple products, making them much more universal, and a great choice if you switch around different operating systems.

Aside from the differences in the chip, there are also some similarities here. Both of these earbuds come with a USB-C charging case nowadays (although AirPods can also charge wirelessly, something Beats cannot do). Speaking of charging, Beats’ battery lasts a tad longer, going for around 6 hours with ANC on and an additional 30 hours from the case, compared to 6 hours and an additional 24 hours from the case advertised for the AirPods Pro 2.

While AirPods Pro 2 are often available discounted from retailers at various points of the year, the full retail price is $80 higher than the Beats Studio Buds+.


As for waterproofing, the AirPods Pro 2 edge out the Beats Studio Buds+ here. Along with the switch to the USB-C came an update to the IP54 water-resistance rating. The Beats Studio+’s are still only rated for IPX4 water resistance. In practice, both of these will be fine for handling a sweaty workout, and even getting caught in the rain. However, Apple’s own AirPods Pro 2 will handle dust and debris much better thanks to improved dust ingress resistance.

There’s a fair difference in price between the Studio Buds+ and AirPods Pro 2 too. While AirPods Pro 2 are often available discounted from retailers at various points of the year, the full retail price is $80 higher than the Beats Studio Buds+. Considering how close the two come in a lot of respects, that makes the Studio Buds+ very compelling indeed.


  • Apple AirPods Pro 2 Beats Studio Buds+
    Brand Apple Beats
    Battery Life 4.5 hours talk time, 6 hours listening, 30 hours with case 6 hours/9 hours (ANC on/off), 36 hours total
    Noise Cancellation Yes Yes
    IP rating IP54 IPX4
    Weight (earbuds) 5.3g 5g
    Dimensions (earbuds) 30.9 x 21.8 x 24mm 15.6 x 21.6 x 19.8mm
    Waterproof IPX4 sweat resistant IPX4 sweat resistant
    Charging Wireless, lighting, USB-C USB-C
    Price $249 $170
    Color White only Ivory, Black, Transparent
    Chip H2 Chip, U1 Chip in Charging Case Beats proprietary platform (Gen 2)
    Spatial Audio Personalized spatial audio with head tracking Yes

Major design differences for all styles

With Beats being part of Apple, it had to do things a little differently to distinguish itself from the parent brand and that means — when it comes to design — you’ll not likely find similar-looking products between the two brands. The Studio Buds+ (and the original Studio Buds, for that matter, which remain on sale) don’t look anything like AirPods.

Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Gen USB-C - 16


While Apple’s earbud has that external stem pointing down out of the ear, Beats’ Studio Buds+ don’t. Instead, its earbud casing curves up towards a classic Beats style pill-shaped exterior, more reminiscent of other earbud brands. Interestingly, the Studio Buds+ went for a different kind of navigation, centered around this pill-shape on the outside. It’s not only a plastic cover, but also a button, and it physically clicks, rather than being a touch sensitive panel. Plus, the button does the same thing on both Beats buds, so it’s a completely ambidextrous control system for controlling playback, calls and noise-cancellation — just not volume.

Apple’s AirPods Pro 2, on the other hand, uses a touch and pressure sensitive panel built into the stem that you squeeze to control things like playing and pausing music. However, there is a big advantage to Apple’s implementation — you can control volume here, by swiping up and down on that same panel. To do so on the Beats, you must change some settings and miss out on ANC controls.


Beats Studio Buds+

In my experience, clicking that button on the Beats is a little more convenient than activating the touch system on the AirPods, but in truth it doesn’t take long to get used to either.

Besides, often times it is easier to simply grab your phone and control it from there. It also has to be said that, in general, physical buttons are much less prone to accidental activations, so you might want to consider Beats, especially if you want to use them while working out.

The other thing I preferred about the Beats was the fit in the ear. I find it feels more secure than the AirPod Pro 2, while still being comfortable enough for all-day wear thanks to improved airflow releasing the pressure.


Smartphone compatibility and special features

It’s probably in features and compatibility where you’ll decide which one of these is for you, and it’s where you see the clearest picture of who Beats and Apple are targeting with the two products. It’s also where you start to see why one is more expensive than the other.

AirPods Pro 2, of course, are built to seamlessly blend into Apple’s ecosystem of products. So the new U1 chip inside the case means that once you (seamlessly) pair it with your iPhone, they’re automatically paired with any other Apple device signed in to the same iCloud account.

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The H2 chips make the biggest difference, allowing the AirPods Pro 2 to present an impressive repertoire of software tricks. It allows you to turn on features such as Spatial Audio, which (with compatible tracks) creates a wide virtual soundstage, similar to open-back over-ear headphones. You’ll be able to hear your music as if it were played live in concert near you, with different instruments placed in different spots.


The same chip is also responsible for other dynamic features, such as adaptive transparency mode or adaptive EQ. The former is a smart type of transparency mode, letting sounds such as human speech through, while still filtering sounds such as engine rumbling. The latter equalizes the sound of your music differently depending on what’s going on around you and how high the volume is, ensuring a natural, balanced sound in every situation.

Beats Studio Buds+

On the other hand, Beats Studio Buds+ (and the original Studio Buds) are compatible with Google’s Fast Pair technology, so you get a simple one-touch pairing and connection that the AirPods don’t offer Android users. It also means the buds are registered to a Google account, so if you sign in to another Android device or Chromebook, they will recognize when your Beats Studio Buds+ are nearby, display a popup, and you help you connect to them.


What’s more, they appear in Find My Device for finding lost buds, while the Fast Pair compatibility means you see detailed battery information right within the phone’s interface. Of course, you can download the Beats App to see that info too, if you want.

The AirPods are essentially only fully usable with Apple products, while the Beats work well with every device and operating system. If you’re deep into the Apple ecosystem, both of these will do great. If you use devices from other manufacturers, the Beats are clearly a better choice.

This level of integration is compatible with iOS too. You get one-touch pairing on the iPhone as well, newly added Precision Finding for locating any missing buds more accurately, iCloud pairing and all the controls for the noise-cancelling and transparency modes directly within the Control Center.

Apple AirPods 3 AirPods Pro 2 Bloomberg photo 1


There are a couple more features in AirPods Pro 2’s favor, such as in-ear detection and wireless charging. Remove an AirPod from your ear and the music pauses. The same doesn’t happen with the Beats. And, while the Studio Buds+ case conveniently charges with USB-C, you don’t get to place it on a wireless charging base to charge it, whereas AirPods Pro do (though there’s USB-C charging too, if you prefer).

Even though the AirPods Pro 2 have some features that the Studio Buds+ lack, the biggest difference between the two is in platform compatibility. The AIrPods are essentially only fully usable with Apple products, while the Beats work well with every device and operating system. So, if you’re deep into the Apple ecosystem, both of these will do great. However, if you use devices from other manufacturers as well, the Beats are clearly a better choice.

Sound and noise-cancelling

When it comes to performance and sound quality, there are some differences between the Studio Buds+ and AirPods Pro 2 — and overall, the AirPods Pro 2 do sound better, but it’s not a win by a landslide.


The best way to describe the sound difference is probably to say the AirPods Pro 2 have a bit more subtlety, refinement and detail, and they’re warmer too. The Studio Buds+ have a slightly more forward treble by comparison, which makes them sound more exciting, but can be tiring for longer listens and in recordings that highlight it. Surprisingly enough, the Beats should also be a bit more universal, while the AirPods Pro 2 are better suited to the most popular genres nowadays, with emphasis on clearer, deeper bass and detailed mids.

AirPods Pro 2 case

The AirPods 2 always offer more detail too, so leading edges of notes are more explicitly heard as well as more fine detail. It’s a more comfortable listen for sure, but the clarity through the mid-range in the Studio Buds+ is appealing too. Generally, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with it either.


When it comes to Active Noise-Cancellation, AirPods Pro 2 excel

The field where the AirPods Pro 2 triumph is their excellent active noise-cancelling. They deal very well with outside noises thanks to the combination of a great seal provided by the silicone tips, as well as the active software component. Overall, the ANC is excellent on the AirPods. They deal with low rumbles really well, and even higher-pitched sounds, which are much more difficult to cancel out, are adequately handled.

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There’s no doubt that the AirPods Pro 2 offer the more effective complete cancelling, but the Studio Buds+ have caught them up in this respect, and there’s less between them now. They are really excellent at their respective implementation of ANC, but the AirPods Pro 2 still has the upper hand — at least for now. The AirPods Pro 2 will cut out a touch more rumble from traffic noise, and dullen higher frequency noises a bit better, but the Studio Buds+ still do a great job for their price.


Plus, the Studio Buds+ got the nod from my callers as the clearer of the two in phone calls, thanks to the fact they cut out more of the background noise more effectively.

Verdict: Which is a better buy for you — AirPods Pro 2nd-gen or Beats Studio Buds+?

The AirPods Pro 2 offer the best overall performance, albeit at a higher price tag. That extra money gets you better sound quality, and convenient features like in-ear detection, slightly better noise-canceling and wireless charging and Precision Finding. Plus, if you’re already in Apple’s ecosystem, Apple’s new H2 and U1 chips ensure you’ll get all the Apple-friendly features you can get.

the Apple Airpods Pro 2 with charging case

Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C)

Best pick for sound and Apple ecosystem

However, there are a few reasons to choose the Studio Buds+ instead. Firstly — price, they’re cheaper than AirPods Pro 2. Secondly — they’re much more Android-friendly than the AirPods will ever be, all without losing the majority of the benefits of integration within Apple’s ecosystem. If you swap between devices or aren’t tied to an ecosystem, you might find these useful. Thirdly — you should be able to eke out a few more hours of battery life compared with the AirPods Pro 2, though they’re neck and neck on a single charge.


Beats Studio Buds +-1

Beats Studio Buds+

Android and budget friendly alternative

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