Beats X are better than AirPods in almost every way [Reviews]

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Beats earphones
The Beats X are worth listening to.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

I’ve never been a fan of Beats headphones. Whenever I’ve given them a go, I’ve found the sound quality to be less than stellar, with far too much bass. So when Apple unveiled Beats X wireless headphones alongside the AirPods last fall, the weird-looking white ones grabbed my attention.

Now that I’ve had a chance to try them both, it’s clear I got that backward. I give you all the details on Beats X versus AirPods in my Beats X review below.

Beats X boasts understated design

In terms of design, the Beats X will be familiar to anyone who’s tried out PowerBeats 3 or JayBird wireless earphones. Thankfully, they’re a lot more conventional than Apple’s truly wireless AirPods, which I still think look a little odd to wear when out and about.

All the commercials for Beats X focus on the phrase “Got no strings,” but that’s not strictly true. While no wires connect them to whatever device is feeding your audio, a slender Flex-Form cable connects the earbuds, letting you blend right into the crowd. It sits neatly behind your head on your neck and is flexible enough to fold up into the awkward silicone case it comes with.

Below the left Beats X earbud, you’ll find a set of in-line controls with a built-in microphone for phone calls. The controls allow you to play and pause music or to answer and end calls with a single press. A double press skips to the next song; a long press activates Siri. On either side of the center button, up and down buttons let you adjust the volume of whatever you’re listening to.

Beats X controls
Having in-line controls is a big plus for the Beats X.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

One size doesn’t fit all, Apple

The Beats X headphones go the opposite route of Apple’s one-size-fits-all AirPods. Each set of Beats X ships with four different-size earbuds, which pop on and off. This means everyone should be able to find  a size comfortable for them. Luckily enough for me, the size that came installed on the Beats X fit snuggly into my ears, giving the earbuds a tight fit to block out noise and sit firmly in my ears without falling out.

If you’re doing anything more strenuous than sitting around, the included Beats X wingtips will come in handy. These handy accessories, which come in two sizes, hook into your ears for extra security — something you’ll probably want if you go jogging or work out in the gym.

The Flex-Form cable is comfortable in most situations. However, when wearing it with a jacket with a collar, the cable can get in the way. A bit of adjustment takes care of that problem, though.

In my Beats X unboxing video, I incorrectly stated that the headphones don’t have any indicators to show which earbud is for the left ear and which is for the right. I’ve since been corrected by YouTube commenters, who pointed out that there are subtle “L” and “R” indicators on the cables just underneath the earbuds.

Beats X earbuds
The Beats X will fit nearly anybody thanks to the interchangeable tips that come standard.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple’s W1 chip chips away at the competition

Just as with the AirPods and PowerBeats wireless headphones, Beats X contains Apple’s W1 chip, which powers the smoothest and best Bluetooth setup ever. Simply turn on the earphones near your iPhone, and a prompt will automatically pop up asking if you’d like to connect. Tap on connect and that’s it! And checking the battery of the earphones is as easy as swiping up on my iPhone.

If you’re an Android user, the Beats X will still connect, no problem, only you’ll need to do it the old-fashioned way by going through your Bluetooth settings.

Speaking of the battery, Apple claims the Beats X deliver a battery life of up to eight hours at a moderate volume, which is actually pretty spot on. I was able to use them on and off for the best part of a day and still have around 25 percent left come 9 p.m.

The best part about the battery is Beats’ Fast Fuel charging, which basically means you can get two hours battery life from a five-minute top-off. I drained them right down and put them on charge for exactly five minutes and got back 25 percent battery. Again, pretty damn impressive.

Beats X bring the bass (in a good way)

The Beats X are definitely bass-rich, as Beats headphones always are, but not to the point where the low frequencies overtake the actual music and become distracting. They sound a lot more balanced than Beats headphones normally do. Also, the volume is fantastic: Beats X get loud enough for when I want to blast my favorite tunes, but not to the point where it’s uncomfortable.

Beats X review
Beats X wireless headphones are some of the best earbuds I’ve ever tried.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The great fit of the earphones cancels out a ton of background noise, which is great for when I need to drown out the world for a while.

The only downside I found is when it comes to using the Beats X for phone calls. While I can hear callers no problem, the person on the other end of the line complains that I’m hard to hear — especially if it’s windy.

Also, unlike the AirPods, Beats X earbuds don’t stop playing music when you remove them from your ears. That would have been a nice addition, but it’s not the end of the world thanks to the in-line controls.

Beats X review: Final thoughts

Priced at $149, the Beats X run slightly less than the AirPods at $159. But in my opinion, they sound better and will definitely be a better fit for most people, thanks to the interchangeable buds and wingtips.

This marks the first time I’ve been impressed by Beats products. And, unlike the AirPods, I think I’ll actually be keeping the Beats X.

Beats X wireless headphones review
The Beats X are definitely going to be staying in my backpack.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Buy from: Apple

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  • Mac2020

    Regardless that both are from Apple, it’s funny I feel true the other way round. I am keeping my Airpods and return my BeatsX

  • Josh

    I’m on the boat with you…I sold my AirPods and kept my Beats X. LOVE these things! (‘Course, I have been a Beats guy for awhile…I have a pair of Studio Wireless that I use a lot as well.)

    • Warren

      This is a comment I needed to read – I usually use Studio Wireless but would like an in-ear “wireless” option, so if you can go from one to the other without hating the sound quality change, that puts my mind at ease!

      • Josh

        Oh…there’s definitely a quality change…Studios are TONS better. However, it’s all about expectation. For what they are, I LOVE them.

      • Warren

        Yeah I would expect a quality drop, but as long as it doesn’t ruin my enjoyment of the beats x, I can handle a drop off!

  • Matthew Smith

    For me, I can’t get over how much I love AirPods. Being able to keep (and charge) them in my pocket make them perfect. I can’t imagine Beats X’s microphone being as good as the dual one with AirPods either.

  • crateish

    Nope. Clunky floppy wires. Uncomfortable sharp edges on buds. Slow, crummy controls. A power button? Really? They sound good for in-ears, but if you have experienced AirPods, they seem like cheap toys. Returned mine today. Hoping for in-ear AirPods.

  • Glenn Gore

    The BeatsX are slightly cheaper than the Airpods, and you can actually buy them! That alone will get me to buy a pair, thanks for the review.

  • Bruce Woodall

    I disagree. The AirPods are worlds better, for me at least, and I can’t see myself going back to having anything with wires ever again. The liberation is real! Obviously there are no arguments that the Beats X will fit more people as they have interchangeable earpieces, but in every other way I found the AirPods to be better, sleeker, and just simpler to use. Thanks for the comparison video!

  • loadedmind

    Marketing vs actual quality. They’re both $hit. If you care ANYthing about your audio quality, you’ll drop both of those options and go with something that actually sounds good, like Audio Technica, Bose or Sennheiser.

    • here we go with this shit.

  • Purchased the BeatsX the day they released. Returned them the same day. The cable didn’t sit well on the back of my neck and kept slapping my cheek. I put on a jacket with collar and it REALLY didn’t sit well. Kept pushing up. Kind of annoying. Got me some AirPods the same day though and I love them. Sounds remarkably similar to the beatsX headphones too.

    • Yujin

      Lucky you got AirPods since they have been sold out for weeks and stores don’t even have them. Personally, I found the beatsx to be a better fit and they don’t bother me at all. Specially since the plastic they use is very soft.

      • My buddy works for the Apple store near me and had him call me if they came in. He also suggested calling or coming in between 11am and 2pm for their daily shipments but that they never know what they’re getting in for security reasons. I got lucky. Even got a pair for my girlfriend. However, she hasn’t even tried them yet. Damn Hallmark holiday… I mean Valentine’s Day.

  • dtb24

    I prefer the beats x because they do have the wire, which for me is better for working out since they are slightly harder to lose and I can wear them around the neck when I am wearing shorts without pockets.

    I also think the beatsx sound better due to some passive noise cancellation with the rubber in-ear piece sealing off some sound.

    But I ended up keeping both because the Airpods are truly magical with no wires whatsoever and the pause upon removal feature is amazing.

  • londoner

    Why ask someone who doesn’t like Beats to review them? He lost me at “personally I’ve never been a Beats fan”.

    • stormchild

      Funny…that’s the exact reason why I kept reading. I share the author’s distaste for the “Beats sound” and it’s my primary concern about this otherwise attractive looking alternative to AirPods (which lack in-ear isolation and physical controls…deal breakers for me).

  • Yujin

    By the way the video stated that there is no right/left indicator, they ARE is on the cable just where it meets the earphone. The printing is a bit hard to see, but they are there.

  • Core23

    I wonder why the controls are on the left side over traditionally right?

  • John Fenton

    No. Besides the fact that nothing designed to plug up my ear canal ever fits me well, the BeatsX cable on my neck would drive me batty.

    The AirPods fit me perfectly. They take me from running to cycling to the gym to work.

  • every person’s ears are different, if you can use the AirPods they are very good and in my opinion better than the beats X. The primary issue I have with the beatsX is the cord noise. When walking, running or anything in which you hit or tap the cords hanging out of your ears it makes a noise that is extremely annoying.