The new Beats Studio Buds+ went on sale Wednesday as numerous initial reviews praised their good looks and tech upgrades.
Nearly every reviewer loved the ’90s-nostalgic, iMacs-of-yore transparent case option. And the new custom chipset for audio quality, new microphones for better active noise cancellation (ANC) and voice calls, and longer battery life aren’t bad, either.
But some features are still missing on the $169.99 buds, up $20 from the original Beats Studio Buds when they came out — but $80 less than AirPods Pro (2nd generation) for thrifty shoppers.
Review roundup: Beats Studio Buds+
After an early Amazon listing and an FCC filing forecast their release, the new Beats Studio Buds+ are out. The critical consensus so far is that they represent a big improvement over the original Beats Studio Buds released in 2021. The new ones are probably worth the $20 premium.
“The Studio Buds + are arguably the best wireless earbuds that Beats has ever made,” Gear Patrol wrote. “If you get them in their new transparent finish, they’re also one of the coolest-looking wireless earbuds that I’ve ever tested.”
And while the new Buds+ aren’t serious AirPods Pro 2 challengers, they’re probably the best Apple earbuds for Android users, as they enable Google Fast Pair through the Beats app and support Bluetooth 5.3. (Apple bought Beats in 2014.)
The new version looks very similar to the old one — except for that super-cool new transparent color option, in addition to black/gold and ivory — but the internals are greatly upgraded.
Big changes inside for audio and voice quality
The tech in the new buds is 95% refreshed according to Beats, CNET noted:
Beats says 95% of the components are new and improved, and the buds’ “acoustic architecture” has been revised. The speaker drivers remain the same, but the Studio Buds Plus are powered by a new, more powerful custom chipset and have three new microphones in each bud that are three times larger and more sensitive than the ones found in the Beats Studio Buds.
All that, along with better microphone placement and a new venting design, helps improve not only noise-canceling performance but voice-calling performance, which is now quite impressive. It’s right up there with the AirPods Pro 2 in terms of background noise reduction and voice pickup.
Gear Patrol found overall sound quality improved, citing a less tinny sound and a more natural bass than the previous Studio Buds, thanks to Beats’ improvements:
It gave each earbud custom-built transducers with a new two-layer design that, according to Beats, helps it deliver cleaner bass with ultra low distortion. And after testing the Studio Buds + for the last couple days and comparing them to the original Studio Buds, you can notice a difference.
Nice bump in battery life
However, not every review had high praise for audio quality, and some made the “not for audiophiles” distinction. TechCrunch downplayed the sound improvements and praised the increased battery life more:
Frankly, battery life is probably the biggest upgrade. At 24 hours, the Studio Buds were a step down from the 30 hours the company posted with the Beats Fit Pro’s massive case. The Studio Buds + best the both of them at 36 hours total. That includes nine hours on the buds alone and 26 with just the case, up from the Studio Buds’ eight and 16 hours, respectively. The short version is you’ll be able to fly across the continental United States with the buds alone.
And Gizmodo joined others in praising the improved ANC in Beats Studio Buds+:
Where the Beats Studio Buds + really deliver improvements is with their active noise cancellation. Listening to audio recordings of various noisy environments pumped through my sound system at home, they come very close to matching the AirPods Pro 2’s ability to cut out lower-end frequencies like the roar of a plane inside the cabin, or the engine of a bus.
But Engadget had a specific criticism for the new buds’ transparency mode to let sound through the ANC when desired:
Indeed, there’s a noticeable difference on the Studio Buds + as compared to the previous version, but it’s nowhere near the level of what Apple achieves on some of its AirPods. Part of the reason for this is that Beats doesn’t feed the sound of your voice back through the earbuds. So while AirPods Pro and AirPods Max can make it seem like you’re not even wearing them in transparency mode, the Studio Buds + aren’t on that level.
Gizmodo also called the new buds a better choice than AirPods (3rd generation) because of a more-secure fit, access to shortcuts through a simple physical button on the buds, better ANC and longer battery life.
But they’re not quite an AirPods Pro 2 replacement because they lack some of the H1 chip’s refinement.
Despite all the improvements to Beats Studio Buds+, reviews noted some missing features.
All reviews found it disappointing that the new buds don’t offer wireless charging. You must use a USB cable with the case. With so many earbuds charging cases now Qi-capable, this seems like a glaring omission.
And while the new buds support spatial audio with Dolby Atmos, they don’t support the dynamic head tracking you would find in AirPods Pro 2.
You also won’t find multipoint Bluetooth pairing for iPhone users. And with no in-ear detection, there is no automatic pausing.
But for those who like the features and the price point, Beats Studio Buds+ could be an excellent choice — all the more so if the price drops pretty soon, as it did with Beats Studio Buds and other Beats buds, CNET noted. But the transparent color choice might be the last of the three to drop in price because it’s likely to be the most popular.