If you’re an Apple or Beats fan, true wireless Beats are finally here. The Powerbeats Pro may cost $100 more than the AirPods, but it offers far better isolation, sound quality, and comfort than the aforementioned earbuds. iPhone owners should absolutely jump at this if they want an audio product that not only offers the benefits of the H1 chip, and the freedom afforded by not just the best wireless Beats, but some of the best true wireless earphones on the market.
Editor’s note: this Beats Powerbeats Pro review was updated on November 19, 2021, to include information about the Beats Fit Pro as an alternative.
Who should get the Beats Powerbeats Pro?
- Apple iPhone users who are unsatisfied with the design shortcomings of the AirPods, and need double the battery life of the AirPods Pro
- Android users looking for true wireless earbuds with an earhook design
What’s it like to use the Beats Powerbeats Pro?
Apple’s Beats Powerbeats Pro is an example of a really good design for a product category that’s hurting for it. Truly wireless earbuds have seen a lot of entrants in recent months, but few have addressed some of the bigger difficulties inherent in the unconnected earbud design. For example, how do you hold the earbuds in the ear if the fit isn’t perfect? If you own unsealed earbuds, you’ll find they fall out quite often. The ear hooks of the Powerbeats Pro do just that: not only do they relieve pressure on your ear canal, but they also keep your earbuds in place should the seal break.
If you have an iPhone, all you have to do to pair the Powerbeats Pro is open the case, and tap the bubble that pops up on your phone. Dead easy. For Android, it’s slightly more complicated. Open the case, and then hit the pairing button that’s almost flush with the inside of the case. Hold that button until the LED on the front turns white, and then pair the device like you would any other Bluetooth device. Just be sure to leave the earbuds in the case until they pair.
Once you’re paired, you can slide the ear hooks behind your outer ear, and gently rock the nozzle of the Powerbeats Pro into your ear. If you find the fit uncomfortable, there are two additional sleeve sizes, and one pair of dual-flanged tips to replace the stock option with. Once the earphones are in place, push the ear hook in to tighten the fit to your liking.
As far as product maintenance goes, true wireless earphones like the Powerbeats Pro will benefit from regular cleaning, though the black color option will show earwax the least. Still, we recommend regular cleaning of anything that goes into an orifice like your ears, so be sure to check out our guide on cleaning AirPods Pro (this will be the same process for any in-ears).
Just like their Apple brethren, these buds are loaded with sensors. Each earbud has a proximity detector to pause your music when you pull them out of your ears. Additionally, each bud has accelerometers to detect when you speak to better guide the microphone when you’re in a loud environment, and to turn themselves off when they’re just sitting on a desk.
Each earbud has a multifunction button, and a volume rocker that has the same function for each side, so you can choose whichever side is easiest to reach at the moment (a godsend for new parents). The multifunction button offers the normal controls, but also allows you to toggle Siri with a long press.
Is the Powerbeats Pro waterproof?
Beats’ earbuds aren’t waterproof, but they do offer IPX4 protection against sweat and water. Sure, that may not be what you’re looking for, but true wireless has a dearth of good waterproof options at the moment. If you like to work out with earbuds, you may find that these fit the bill, as their ear hook and sweat resistance can more than keep up with you.
How is the battery life of the Powerbeats Pro?
Battery life on the Powerbeats Pro is a little ridiculous. At a level of 75dBSPL, our test unit was able to playback music for 10 hours, 52 minutes with an iPhone XS Max. That’s insane for a set of true wireless earbuds. While that result can only be had with a newer iPhone, even on Android the Powerbeats Pro outlast most true wireless models at 10 hours, 34 minutes.
Whether it’s the H1 chip or the larger unit size or both that’s the culprit here, it’s clear from the giant battery case that longevity was a chief concern if the design team. And considering how poorly true wireless earbuds tend to perform in regards to battery life, this is a standout product at this point in time.
The battery case uses a lightning cable to charge up, which is frustrating for anyone who doesn’t use an Apple product for their computer or phone. However, it’s not as big of an inconvenience as it could be, given the other side of the cable is a normal USB-A connection, so it can go in your computer or wall charger.
Editor’s note: we achieved these results on a loan unit from Apple/Beats. Once we get our hands on a retail copy, we’ll re-test and update should a difference be found.
What is the connection quality of the Beats Powerbeats Pro?
True wireless earphones are in a strange way at the moment, as their sound quality is often very dependent on what phone you use. Beats will work with Apple devices far better than they will with Android handsets, simply because of the Bluetooth codecs used, and the H1 chip hidden inside. Without said chip, your phone will likely display issues with latency, and extremely minor noise.
It’s just a fact of life that Android just doesn’t handle AAC, the chief codec used by the Beats Powerbeats Pro, as well as it should. However, unless you’re extremely young: you probably won’t notice a huge difference. Probably.
The Powerbeats Pro boasts Apple’s best efforts at true wireless connectivity, allowing each earbud to be paired independently of each other, meaning your iPhone can simply connect to each bud instead of connecting only to one or the other. Additionally, the Bluetooth 5 connection offers a much better connection with battery life, compression advantages.
Can you use Spatial Audio with Powerbeats Pro?
If you’ve got an iPhone you can access Apple Spatial Audio (by Dolby Atmos) in Apple Music or Amazon Music Unlimited with your Powerbeats Pro. Currently, the selection of tracks with the Spatial Audio available does not run especially deep, but it’s still new.
To enable Spatial Audio, go to your iPhone’s settings, select Apple Music and then Dolby Atmos. Set it to Automatic, so it’ll use it when available. In Audio Quality settings, which you’ll find listed below Dolby Atmos, you can select Lossless Audio. If you have trouble, make sure both your phone and Powerbeats Pro have the newest update.
Does the Beats Powerbeats Pro block out noise?
Much of the ability to maintain sound quality comes from the included ear tips, as isolation is by far the most important performance metric for commuters. While the Powerbeats Pro offers a decent level of isolation, you may want to see if you can find third-party foam tips if you have trouble with the silicone sleeves. The included tips won’t do much to block out common “low” sounds like engine rumble or low voices, but they will take the edge off a baby crying (tested that myself) or common commuter noise.
How does the Beats Powerbeats Pro sound?
Objectively, the Powerbeats Pro sounds… pretty decent. Sure, there are a few challenges inherent to the design of true wireless earphones that make some sound quality issues apparent, but all in all the new Beats in-ears offer a consumer-friendly frequency response that doesn’t rattle your skull (see: How to read charts).
Bass has a pretty noticeable bump as is emblematic for a Beats product, and highs and high mids are boosted a bit to help instruments stand out a little bit from the crowded cacophony of a loud song. While it may not satisfy the pickiest listeners out there (who may prefer something like the Sennheiser CX True Wireless), a response like this lends itself well to most modern music.
However, that dip in the low-mids is a little bit of an issue, as it means that the highest half of a piano, most wind and stringed instruments, and some vocals will sound roughly three-quarters to one-half as loud as the bass notes or highs. In mixes with lots of instrumentation, vocals—especially higher-pitched voices—can sometimes sound a little quiet in comparison to the rest of the track.
Though the Powerbeats Pro have a strong bass emphasis, it is not skull-rattling in the way that some Beats products are.
For example, the vocals tend to be very hard to understand in The Midnight’s Sunset. In the presence of a rather strong bassline and lots of highs, you’ll find the vocalist’s voice just isn’t that easy to hear in the chorus as it should be.
Can you use the Beats Powerbeats Pro for phone calls?
The microphone of the Beats Powerbeats Pro is surprisingly good for a set of true wireless earphones, and while it doesn’t measure perfectly: the flaws aren’t going to ruin your voice. I have a deep voice, and as such would be the kind of person most affected by that dip from 60-200Hz, but as the clip below demonstrates: it’s not so bad.
With a downward-facing microphone in either earbud, wind noise seems to be attenuated fairly well. This is great, because if you’re on the phone a lot like I am, you can really annoy the heck out of your friends and coworkers with wind noise if you like to talk when you’re not cooped up in an office. If they sound bad over your conference call, realize that it’s probably not their fault.
As of May 27, 2021, 2,075 readers have rated the above mic sample as somewhere between “good” and “perfect.” This is an above-average result for true wireless earbuds, and at the very upper end of what you should expect to get out of any products of this type.
Should you buy the Powerbeats Pro?
The Powerbeats Pro is among the best Beats audio products out there. Sure, this headset is expensive, and a stellar example of why people are willing to pay a lot of money for headphones in general. It may offer a lot, but you’ll have to spend to get the Powerbeats Pro—just be sure to shop around to get the retailer that’s right for you. It’s possible to snag a great deal, but definitely figure out what kind of warranties are available to you, as a purchase this big is better with some built-in security for your investment.
The Powerbeats Pro directly addresses the most egregious design shortcomings of Apple’s AirPods, and hits the market as a credible alternative for iPhone users. However, there are cheaper true wireless earbuds out there, and if you have an Android phone: AAC earphones tend to fall short a bit.
That said, no other models of true wireless earbuds come close in battery life, and these are going to be very popular doing the exercise crowd. Really, their biggest shortcoming is limited to price, and the lack of an equalizer app. Even without that last item, they’re still one of the best iPhone earbuds you can buy.
Beats Powerbeats Pro vs Beats Fit Pro: Which workout earbuds are best?
The Beats Fit Pro works equally well on Android devices as it does on Apple devices, something that can’t be said of the Powerbeats Pro. Sure, the Powerbeats Pro has a much longer battery life than the Fit Pro, but the Fit Pro has active noise cancelling and advanced features like spatial audio with head tracking. If you want all the bells and whistles of the AirPods Pro in a compact, OS-agnostic package, then you should invest in the Beats Fit Pro. Just be sure to set aside a good $199 USD for it.
Why should you get the Powerbeats Pro over the AirPods (3rd generation)?
While the decision to go with newest AirPods (3rd generation) or the Powerbeats Pro might have more to do with money (for most). Though the up-front cost of the Powerbeats Pro is between $50-100 more than the latest iteration of AirPods, the Beats in-ears offer isolation, tactile controls, sweat resistance, better fit, and even some ear hooks to relieve pressure on your ear canals. You can argue that the AirPods (3rd generation) has the spatialize setting, but besides that the Powerbeats Pro has Spatial Audio, if not the spatialize setting itself.
There’s really not anything the AirPods have that the Powerbeats Pro lacks outside of gestures, but if you’re like many of us older listeners: those aren’t going to really make that big of a difference in your day-to-day.
The picture gets a little more sticky when it comes to the Apple AirPods Pro, though. For the same price as the Powerbeats Pro, the AirPods Pro offers a smaller battery case, ANC, a slew of iOS-specific features, a smaller battery pack, and that distinctive Apple aesthetic. While we here at SoundGuys don’t particularly care for it, AirPods has become a sort of status symbol, and that matters to some. Where the Powerbeats Pro trash every other true-wireless option on the market in terms of battery life, the AirPods Pro might be good for you if the 5-hour runtime is enough for your daily use.
If you have an Android phone, get the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro merits an IPX7 rating, and can endure all of your workouts. These earbuds may lack the secure ear hooks of the Beats Powerbeats Pro, but it instead relies on ergonomically shaped ear tips and housings. This design allows for a more compact build, and discreet appearance when you wear them outside of the gym. Samsung packed plenty of advanced hardware and software into these earphones, including support for Samsung 360 Audio, hands-free Bixby access, and automatic voice detection. You can hold a conversation without removing the earbuds: the voice pickup unit (VPU) immediately detects when you speak and automatically enables ambient aware mode.
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