Am I enjoying these Beats too much? I’ve asked myself that question a few times in the last couple weeks. For years, I’ve listened to audiophiles rail against Beats by Dre headphones, saying they were all style, no substance. For the money, they just didn’t sound very good and put too much emphasis on a bass-heavy sound.
Sure enough, the first thing I noticed about the Beats Studio3 Wireless was that low, heavy sound signature. They tend to drag down mid-frequency sounds (most vocals and instrumentation) a bit and do emphasize bass and heavy drum sounds more than the competition. The Beats difference was especially pronounced because the last set of headphones I used were the Focal Listen Wireless, which tended to do the opposite, yanking sounds up the audio spectrum toward the higher end of things.
So yeah, the bass is strong with Beats, but is that really such a bad thing? I got used to it pretty quick, and I've grown to enjoy the warmth and woof they add to many tracks. The Studio3 sound better than any Beats I’ve ever worn, and more than hold their own against many wireless noise-canceling headphones on the market. The longer I wear the Studio3’s, the less I care about what I’ve ever heard (or heard) about Beats.
Dig These Bassy Beats
In the last few days, I’ve listened to new albums by rock bands like Sloan and The Longshot and they rocked just as hard on Beats.
Dancier and more rhythmic tracks sound especially amazing. Kimbra’s new album and Lizzo’s recent string of singles popped especially well on the Studio3, which do a good job of cradling audio in a nice bed of bass without getting too overpowering, while creating an immersive soundstage. Is it exactly how these artists intended their music to be heard? Probably not, but it doesn’t sound bad.
Beats have come a long way—and if you’re an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac user, these are some of the best headphones you can own for reasons beyond sound.
A New Class of Bluetooth
The Studio3 may look nearly identical to the Studio2 Wireless from 2014, but Apple has redesigned their insides. You’ll notice that most if you try to pair it with an iPhone. And I use the word “pair” loosely. Really, if you turn these headphones on in close proximity to your iPhone it will bring up a nice popup (with a picture of the headphones) and ask if you want to connect. Hit yes, and the Studio3 Wireless will seamlessly recognize all Apple devices connected to your iCloud account. Pairing is the most annoying part of almost every Bluetooth device, but here it’s a cinch.
This is mostly thanks to the proprietary W1 chip Apple stuck inside, the same as what you'd get in its Airpods. That W1 chip has other benefits, too. It doubles battery life when synced with an iPhone, giving you up to 20 hours (even more if you turn off active noise canceling) and it has Class 1 Bluetooth connectivity, which is so strong that I sincerely struggled to find a place in my entire apartment complex where I lost connection. Four flights down? No problem. Separated by three rooms with shut doors? Not a single blip. Taking an elevator while my phone is sitting inside a closet with multiple doors shut? Full connection. Sidewalk next to the street? Yep, it worked.
Beats' active noise canceling tech is left me very impressed. Called Pure ANC, it uses the two onboard microphones to monitor and adapt to environmental sounds many thousands of times per second. Many noise canceling headphones noticeably distort audio or have a faint hum to them, but I didn't notice any added noise with these Beats.
The other day I was happily listening to them at a coffee shop, typing away at something or another on my computer when a waitress came up, bent down, looked at me, and tapped her finger on her wrist. I took the Studio3 off and realized that rock music was blaring—precisely how this cafe likes to let everyone know it’s closing time. Most people had left, but I didn't even notice. Trips on the subway and jaunts down the street have been similarly quiet. I haven't tested them directly against the Bose QC35, but they sure are better than most wireless headphones and hugely improved from older Beats designs.
The noise canceling is also better than the Plantronics Voyager 8200 UC and BackBeat Pro 2 I’ve grown to love. The Studio 3s crush these headphones when it comes to cancelling noise, but lose in the features and comfort department. Both of the aforementioned Plantronics have rotating earcups that sit better on my shoulders and the ability to auto pause when I take them off. The Beats didn't do either of these things, making them less convenient and more uncomfortable around my neck.
I found it odd that even if you skip Bluetooth in favor of a 3.5mm cord, you still need at least some battery charge to play music. Luckily, these headphones charge relatively fast—10 or 15 minutes of charge will net you a few hours of playback time.
While far from perfect, the Studio 3s retain the industrial design and sound that made Beats famous. I was especially surprised by how soft and cool the ear cushions remained, even after extended use. Ample padding in the headband keeps the headphones in place and doesn’t put too much pressure on my skull. Comfort aside, I found them to sound a lot clearer than older Beats by Dre even if the bass is exaggerated. So, they're comfy, sound pretty good, and you get some top-notch tech: the noise cancellation and Apple W1-boosted Bluetooth are both standout features.
Though they're listed for $349 on Apple.com, many large retailers—like Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy—list the Studio3 Wireless for $249. While they're not the cheapest, they're competitive with top rival devices from companies like Bose.
Like the Solo3 Wireless, the Studio3 Wireless probably won’t silence Beats critics, but they will silence that pesky closing music so you can jam out 'till the bitter end.
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