My girlfriend at her company holiday party won a pair of PowerBeats Pro by Beats and gave them to me as she already has the Airpods. I haven't personally owned a set of wireless earbuds ever, as it never been a huge ordeal for me to use wired headphones, and Bluetooth still kind of sucks. They also have the benefit of not requiring a charge, meaning one less thing to charge repeatedly in my life. That said, the place that wireless headphones are attractive is working out, and the beats are designed for such an activity. Here are my collected impressions as someone who's finally slipped into wireless.
- The beats aren't nearly as comfortable as other ear wrap designs. The early Shure Earbuds, the e2cs used a cable ear wrap design I found more comfortable.
- The ear hooks are moderately goofy to put on even after a week I'm still a bit cumbersome putting them on or removing them.
- They rest against the ear instead of in the ear. I bought foam tips hoping to change this. They only minimally block out the outside world, making them not the best for noisy environments like riding a bike to and from work or the gym.
- Apple knows the Bluetooth experience is shitty. Hence it has developed its own proprietary system with its W1 and now H1 chipsets as opposed to making it an open standard or at least something like MFI where manufacturers can produce there own. The experience of pairing is wonderful for the iPhone and they way wireless headphones should work, but Apple purposely has kept the H1 experience limited to the Airpods line and a few select Beats headphones.
- The 3D presentation of the beats devices on iOS is garish and feels like an advertisement. If I'm at the point of pairing the device with my iOS device, it's pretty obvious I know what it looks like as it's in my hand.
- I've only owned one pair of Beats headphones (the original earbuds). I bought 15 years ago for $99 at an Apple store. These aren't nearly as overblown in the soundstage but are certainly bass-heavy, but slightly thin, with an airy/breathy feel. I'd say that audio quality is less than that of 1more Triple drivers, which MSRP for $99 but have tumbled down into the $65-70 range. The PowerBeats Pro's soundstage is simply just ok, with an exaggerated soundstage, and overly bright treble and meaty bass at the expense of rich mids.
- The controls work just like a cord on a headphone, although I find myself hitting the play/stop button when inserting into my ears.
- Auto-pausing when removing an earbud is nice.
- Call quality is about as good as I've experienced from any type of headphone. It's honestly my preferred method for speaking on the phone over speaker now as there's no risk of cable noise. My girlfriend reported "clicking sounds" like I was typing when I was walking outdoors at the beginning of a call but then said it stopped shortly after. Otherwise, there's been little complaint from anyone I've talked to.
- With corded earbuds with mic controls, often sweat causes the play/stop to trigger, it is nice that this doesn't happen when working out.
- I can charge and listen to my iPhone. I'd be able to do this if Apple hadn't actively blocked case makers from producing cases with audio jacks.
- The looks are in the eye of the beholder. I'm indifferent. The beats logo doesn't mean much to me, and I do like that I'm not wearing the same white earbuds everyone else seems to have. That said, the Airpod Pros seem like a better product.
- The lack of noise blocking is my biggest point of contention with these.
- The foam tips are better than the rubberized tips they ship with as they reduce the "thud" effect from walking.
- Battery life seems pretty good.
- The range on the PowerBeats Pro is much better than expected, I've walked 50 feet away and still had a connection my large office.
- The PowerBeats Pro immediately showed up in MacOS as already authorized in MacOS which is a nice touch but there isn't a snappy "hand off" which would have been nice. I don't expect seamless uninterrupted audio, but it'd be nice if I could I could set up auto switching. I'd envision as any not system alert from the iOS device or MacOS device triggers the take-over (assuming the beats aren't already receiving an audio stream). Pause your audio on your iPhone, and hit play on your Mac and the beats auto pairs to the Mac, and then repairs to the iPhone when the Mac is paused and the iOS device plays an audio stream.
Ultimately, had I paid $200-$250 I would have experienced some buyers remorse. These are not my daily driver earbuds as they're not as comfortable, nor do they block out sound (which is great when doing noisy chores like vacuuming, or biking etc). They're (mostly) a pleasure to use but the fit/comfort is subpar and the lack of noise blocking is surprisingly bad. I imagine its Airpods Pro or bust for the Apple headphones.