The New Beats Earbuds Are Basically Perfect

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Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

Beats is in a strange position. The company’s marketing is top-tier, and it’s been well established that its bass-forward headphones are the pick of choice for celebrities, athletes, musicians, and more (at least when they’re being photographed, which is often). Everyone knows what a pair of Beats looks like. But the company is moving away from classic over-ear headphones and expanding into Bluetooth earbuds, which are much more subtle and don’t offer quite the same branding opportunity. When Kim Kardashian was recently spotted wearing a pair of new Beats Fit Pro, it wasn’t as obvious as if she had been wearing a pair of over-ear headphones emblazoned with the distinctive Beats ‘b’ logo on each earcup.

Well-known brand aside, Beats is owned by Apple, which means its earbuds should benefit from that company’s technology. But for this year’s Beats Studio Buds, the company’s first pair of totally wireless Bluetooth earbuds sans ear hooks, the company sacrificed a few key Apple features that make Apple’s AirPods Pro so compelling for iPhone owners—though they also offered a more seamless experience for Android users than AirPods do.

Forget the branding. Forget Studio Buds. Forget AirPods Pro, too. After a week using the $200 Beats Fit Pro, I can say these are the earbuds you should buy if you want a pair of perfect-fitting active noise-canceling earbuds with the same near-magical integration with Apple devices you get with the AirPods Pro and third-gen AirPods.

Super Secure Fit

The first thing you’ll notice about the Beats Fit Pro is the winged design. Unlike the Powerbeats Pro, Beats’ original Bluetooth earbuds that have hooks that curve around the back of the ear to hold each earbud in place, the Fit Pro use a slightly curved flexible wing that snuggles inside what a Google image search of “ear anatomy” tells me is called the cymba concha. That wing anchors the earbud, and believe when I tell you it does not move.

The Fit Pro are not the smallest of Beats’ earbuds—that would be the Studio Buds—but I still found the more ergonomic, winged design enabled a better fit than Studio Buds for those with smaller ears. Like Studio Buds, Fit Pro come with three sizes of silicone eartips—small, medium, and large—and while more options would go a long way toward ensuring a perfect fit, the Ear Tip Fit Test you can take in the Bluetooth Settings menu of your iPhone (or using the Beats app for Android) after connecting Beats Fit Pro helps you find the right seal.

And let me just say: The seal is tight. Not uncomfortably so, but definitely more than with AirPods Pro, which in my testing have never been the best-fitting active noise-canceling earbuds. (It almost goes without saying that earbud fit is incredibly personal—what works for me and my ears may not work for everyone else.)

This fit is snug.

This fit is snug.
Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

I have a mass of curly hair that has a life of its own, and I have been known to knock an earbud out of my ear and onto the ground by tucking some of it behind my ear—this often happens while running outside, and never do I feel more ridiculous than when chasing after an AirPod skittering down a sidewalk. This isn’t an issue with the Beats Fit Pro. Over the last week, I used the new Beats paired with my Peloton Bike+ for multiple cycling classes, took them running, and used them during strength-training sessions and barely felt like I was wearing earbuds. The 5.4-gram AirPods Pro and 5.6-gram Beats Fit Pro are comparably lightweight, but the flexible wing on the latter makes a difference. During a sweaty workout, the AirPods Pro tend to slowly slide out of my ear, while the Beats Fit Pro don’t budge. I also found Beats Studio Buds to be comfortable to wear while working out—and the new Beats, the Studio Buds, and AirPods Pro are all rated IPX4 for water- and sweat-resistance—but again the Fit Pro’s wing does a lot of work to stay put. Tried as I might, I couldn’t shake them loose.

The one Beats Fit Pro design element I don’t love is the design of the charging case. Don’t get me wrong: The rounded square case is cute, especially the lilac version I tested with contrasting grey interior. But it’s a little larger than I would prefer—not as over-the-top as the Powerbeats Pro case, but definitely bigger than either the AirPods Pro or the third-gen AirPods case, and therefore not nearly as portable for those of us who deal with the all-around bad pocket situation on women’s pants. If lilac isn’t your color, the Fit Pro also comes in black, white, and a lovely dove grey with sage green interior.

AirPods Pro-Level Audio

The Beats Fit Pro include six microphones total—three on each side—and 9.5mm dual-element dynamic diaphragm transducers that are 15% larger than the ones included in Beats Studio Buds. In my six days of testing, I was overall impressed with the audio. The fit of the earbuds is better than AirPods Pro, but the sound is just as good—and in some cases, due to the design, even better.

As you’d expect from Beats, the Fit Pros easily handle bass, from the industrial thump of Kim Petras’ appropriately spooky club track “<demons>” to the slinky ‘90s R&B beat of Normani and Cardi B’s “Wild Side.” But they also make the acoustic guitar and rolling cymbals on The Mountain Goats’ sparing “Game Shows Touch Our Lives” sound appropriately devastating.

From top to bottom: AirPods Pro, Beats Fit Pro, Beats Studio Buds.

From top to bottom: AirPods Pro, Beats Fit Pro, Beats Studio Buds.
Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

The bass is definitely more forward on Beats than with Apple’s AirPods. Comparing the same tracks across the Fit Pros, AirPods Pro, and third-gen AirPods, I found them equally good, though both AirPods often sound more natural. The Beats Fit Pro can get sharply bright and emphasize beat drops a tad too much, particularly with ANC on. But I’m nitpicking here: The sound is great.

You can use each earbud independently, which I find useful for phone calls. When using both earbuds together, five of the pair’s six microphones are used to pick up your voice and filter out ambient noise. When only one is in use, all three of the bud’s mics are used. I found call quality clear, and those I spoke to had no trouble hearing me.

The Beats Fit Pro’s tight seal means the active noise cancellation is very, very good. I’m not flying much these days, so I didn’t put it to the test on a plane, but I was pleased with the Fit Pro’s ANC when I wore them to tune out a variety of environmental noise: the great outdoors, an audio track of plane cabin noise at full blast on a Sonos Playbase, and my ancient washing machine churning away. I compared it with the AirPods Pro and found the Fit Pro’s ANC to be comparable if not slightly better.

You won’t experience uncomfortable pressure with this design.

You won’t experience uncomfortable pressure with this design.
Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

You can switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode with a long press of either earbud, unless you assign another task to that gesture in your iOS Bluetooth settings or the Android app. You can also keep both ANC and Transparency Mode off, which is when the Fit Pro’s adaptive EQ kicks in. I loved this mode the best because it adjusts audio to fit your ear and I found I preferred the way music sounded. (AirPods also offer adaptive EQ.) In the absence of full EQ control, which I find useful with earbuds that offer manual control in an app, adaptive EQ works well. Weirdly, though, you can’t turn off both ANC and Transparency Mode using the long presses—instead, you have to do so in Bluetooth settings.

The Fit Pro’s other gestures aren’t customizable, but they are useful enough. One quick press will play or pause a track or answer a phone call, two presses will skip forward, and three presses will skip back. You can also use a voice assistant to control playback.

Like AirPods Pro (and AirPods 3 and AirPods Max), the Beats Fit Pro support Apple’s surround-sound feature, Spatial Audio, and the earbuds’ built-in accelerometer and gyroscope enable dynamic head-tracking, which the Beats Studio Buds didn’t offer. Basically, that means you get a more immersive audio experience listening to Dolby Atmos tracks, and sound changes direction as you move your head. I’ve liked this effect on every Spatial Audio-enabled device I’ve tested, and while I wouldn’t run out to buy a product simply for Spatial Audio, the fact that Beats Fit Pro gains this clearly important-to-Apple feature is a good sign.

The Apple Experience You Expect

Aside from its winged design, the major thing that sets Beats Fit Pro apart from Beats Studio Buds is its Apple H1 chip, which enables useful features Studio Buds were missing.

Not only is pairing the Fit Pro to your iPhone as easy as setting up AirPods, the Fit Pro has every other feature that make the new AirPods and AirPods Pro so seamless to use with iPhones. The Fit Pro offers in-ear detection for automatically resuming music or picking up a call on your phone, and it knows what Apple device you’re using and can switch between them fairly seamlessly (with a slight lag because, well, Bluetooth). The Studio Buds lacked both features.

The Fit Pro also work surprisingly well with Android, which is unusual for an Apple device. The new Beats support Android Fast Pairing, so connecting them to an Android phone is easy, and using the Beats app you can customize gesture controls, see battery status, and take the Ear Tip Fit Test. You also get support for immersive Dolby Atmos tracks, though you won’t get the nifty dynamic head-tracking that makes audio feel like it’s changing direction as you move.

Lengthy Battery Life

The bottom of the Beats Fit Pro looks like it would snap nicely to a Qi charger, but it doesn’t charge wirelessly.

The bottom of the Beats Fit Pro looks like it would snap nicely to a Qi charger, but it doesn’t charge wirelessly.
Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

Beats promises seven hours of battery life on each earbud without ANC/Transparency Mode enabled, or six with, and an additional 23 hours in the case (or 21 when using ANC) for a total of 30 hours of battery life (or 27 hours with ANC). That’s better than AirPods Pro, which offer five hours of battery life on each bud and an additional 24 hours in the case, and a dramatic improvement over the Beats Studio Buds, which have five hours of battery life and an additional 10 hours in the case. I’m beginning to think the Studio Buds, which came out just a few months ago, have no real reason to exist.

In real-world use, I found the Fit Pro’s battery life to be as good as promised. After almost a week of using them for a few hours a day listening to music and podcasts, taking phone calls, and working out, the case is down to 65% and the earbuds are fully charged. I could go weeks in between charges, which is ideal.

Unlike AirPods, the Fit Pro charging case charges via USB-C. Though its charging case can’t be charged up wirelessly like the AirPods can, I honestly don’t think that’s a big deal. Wireless charging is slow, and when I need to charge up my earbuds, I need it to happen quickly. But maybe that’s just me.

So Who Should Buy Beats Fit Pro?

From left to right: Powerbeats Pro, Beats Fit Pro, and Beats Studio Buds.

From left to right: Powerbeats Pro, Beats Fit Pro, and Beats Studio Buds.
Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

Apple now has a range of earbud options, and I expected Beats Fit Pro to muddy the waters a bit. But after using the latest Beats ‘buds, it’s clear: If you want ANC earbuds, this is the pair to buy. The fit and battery life are amazing, the audio and ANC are top-notch, and you get every great Apple feature for $50 less than AirPods Pro. Beats Studio Buds are more affordable and also offer ANC, but they have none of Apple’s bells and whistles and are now a hard pass from me.

If you don’t want ANC, the third-gen AirPods are excellent and slightly cheaper than Beats Fit Pro, but you may find the fit (which you can’t customize with eartips) doesn’t work for you.

My only complaint about the Fit Pro is its charging case, and even that isn’t a big deal. I like these so much, and I think most people will too.

The Beats Fit Pro go on sale today and start shipping Nov. 5.