Beats Studio Pro Headphones Review: Almost AirPods Max Light, but Not Quite

The highly anticipated Beats Studio Pro, available in four color options – black, sandstone, navy, and deep brown – has finally been released, three years after the initial rumors. In December 2020, Apple introduced the premium AirPods Max, marking a significant addition to their over-ear headphone lineup. While Apple has released numerous earbuds in recent years, including various versions of AirPods and Beats buds, their offerings in the over-ear category have been limited.

However, one notable missing feature that makes it difficult to find out what this is, is the fact that some headphones come with very good headphone caveats. But due to the choice in chipsets, it is not quite accurate that AirPods Max is a very good headphone. However, I am tempted to describe them as more affordable plastic versions of the headphones that significantly make them better. They have some big changes on the inside, which make them look very similar to their predecessor on the outside. They carry the same price list and this is the fourth generation of them. This is the time when they are launching as wired headphones, and among the most popular headphones, Studio Beats headphones are either loved or hated.

Learn more: Top Noise-Canceling Headphones for 2023.

I noticed that not a single person standing right next to me on the crowded subway even noticed that I had new Studio Beats headphones on. I received a sample review of these headphones a little more than a week before they were officially announced and took them into the streets of New York for testing.

Here we have what’s what. Including Sony’s WH-1000XM5, there is a plethora of competition in the high-end wireless noise cancelling headphones market with numerous exceptional models these days. When they were released, I expressed a similar sentiment regarding the Beats Studio 3 Wireless’ lack of design modifications compared to its predecessor, but why tamper with success? We will stick with this iconic design and merely make some adjustments around the periphery, avoiding any drastic reinventions. Especially considering that the previous iteration of these headphones, the Beats Studio 3 Wireless, was introduced almost six years ago, I personally prefer to witness substantial design changes from one generation to the next. There was likely a significant amount of internal deliberation at Apple, the owner of Beats, regarding the design of these headphones, I would venture to guess.

They can also be connected to a USB-C computer or smartphone for wired audio listening. They can also be connected to a USB-C computer or smartphone for wired audio listening. The new Beats Studio Pro also have USB-C charging and ear pads.

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The seamless design of these headphones helps in canceling noise and keeping the noise from outside out, thereby creating a better seal around your ears. I think they make the headphones slightly more comfortable and apparently more durable. The ear pads have been upgraded with higher grades of faux leather and memory foam, and there is no longer any stitching. The two biggest changes are the addition of new ear pads (wired for audio playback) and the inclusion of USB-C charging connectivity.

They have a slightly more relaxed appearance. The headphones incorporate more recycled materials. Interestingly, the headphones do not have a label on the inside of the headband, except for a small one on the left earpiece. Near the right hinge, there is no chrome trim and it would be appreciated if it had the etched label “3 Studio Beats”. Additionally, the exterior of the headband does not have the obnoxious Beats logo, which I find quite pleasant. This adds a higher level of cosmetic appeal.

Although it can be a bit challenging to get the headphones in and out of the case, overall it is better and the new rectangular soft case has some pockets. Thankfully, the new case for Beats does not have any pockets for cables and it is not as bulky as the previous Studio models. I have to say that I really liked the protective hard case that came with the previous models.

The headphones are available in deep brown. They are also available in black and navy.

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The design of these headphones allows you to fold them up flat, using the same single-hinge design. This headphone feels durable and largely overcame the flaws of the Beats Studio 3 Wireless, such as the cracking headband and the durability issues with the hinge that the first two versions of the Studio had. The only thing to note is that the darker colored versions, like brown, end up showing some grime and fingerprints, which is the only drawback. If you don’t want to deal with smudging, the sandstone color is probably the one for you, but personally, I think the blue and brown colors look pretty good too.

The ear pads and top design of the headphones contribute to a more comfortable experience. However, they are significantly heavier, weighing 385 grams, compared to the AirPods Max, which weigh 260 grams, and the Beats Studio Pro, which weigh 249 grams. The Sonys WH-1000XM5 headphones are a bit lighter at 249 grams. Despite their weight, I found these headphones to be quite cozy and agreeable, as they have a mesh design headband and a snug clamp that doesn’t feel too tight.

Features of Beats Studio Pro

Bluetooth 5.3 is enabled with either the H1 or H2 chips, which are powered by Apple’s custom Beats chip. The Pro Studio buds are designed for both Android and Apple users, just like the earbuds from Beats Studio Plus. They offer similar features and many ways to get what you want. However, there are also many upgrades on the side, and some features are missed.

Switching between devices can be a bit irritating and unreliable, which is why some people prefer to manually switch devices. However, if you are an Apple user and have your buds linked to your iCloud account, you will have to manually switch between devices. Interestingly, Android users have the option of automatically switching between linked devices by using Bluetooth multipoint pairing. Additionally, Android users can download the Beats app and use Fast Pair to easily pair their devices with Google.

The AirPods Max and AirPods Pro 2, equipped with head tracking and spatial audio, appear to be comparable to the spatial audio experience for video watching in my tests using an iPhone 14 Pro. These headphones offer Apple users the convenience of spatial audio with head tracking while watching videos, as well as the added benefit of Apple’s Personalized Spatial Audio, which utilizes an ear shape scan, unlike the Buds Plus. This unique feature allows users to access Apple’s voice assistant simply by using the Siri wake command, providing hands-free Siri functionality and spatial audio with head tracking, two features that are not available to Android users.

Similar to their predecessors, the headphones can be folded, but they cannot be folded completely flat.

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In order to experience spatial audio with head tracking, it is necessary to utilize an Apple device equipped with iOS, iPad OS, Mac OS, and TVOS. Beats highlights that Android users can access spatial audio for Dolby Atmos recorded content, however, this is a common feature available on most headphones, including the Beats Studio Wireless 3, which has been on the market for almost 6 years.

The AirPods Pro 2 incorporates the enhanced accuracy locating feature, yet it is not the Find My function that assists in locating your earbuds if they get misplaced, for users of both Apple and Android devices.

This particular characteristic involves over-ear headphones that cost $350. When you put them on, and when you take them off, the music does not pause automatically. This implies that the significant missing feature here is the lack of ear-detection sensors, which is a big drawback.

I assume that the next generation of AirPods, the AirPods Pro 2 and the AirPods Max, will eventually come out, maybe even in the near future. However, for now, it’s only the AirPods Pro 2 that have an upturned design. It’s likely a cost-cutting move, but I also think it was a mistake for Beats not to receive the upgraded features designed for the H2 Apple chip.

The Beats Studio Pro comes with a new soft carrying case that’s a nice improvement over its predecessors’ more bulky hard case.

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

USB-C ports are available on all Android smartphones. For now, iPads and MacBooks with USB-C ports can be connected. There are rumors that USB-C connectivity will become more important for iPhones in the future. I will elaborate on this in the sound quality section. If Apple includes USB-C connectivity on its iPhones, as rumored, USB-C connectivity for audio playback will become more relevant. The headphones come with a built-in digital-to-analog converter (DAC). However, when connected via USB-C, you will lose access to noise canceling and transparency mode. Beats has thoughtfully included both a standard 3.5mm headphone cord for analog wired listening and USB-C connectivity for digital audio playback via a smartphone or computer’s USB-C port. In my opinion, it is significant that Beats has provided both options for users.

The AirPods Max exhibit a discernible disparity in sound quality when used in wired mode with high-resolution tracks. It is worth mentioning that Apple does not provide a wired alternative for the AirPods Max, necessitating the purchase of a separate cable for $35.

Performance in noise cancellation and voice calls

It’s just a slight step down, but the Pro Studio modes were slightly more natural sounding in their transparency compared to the 2 Pro AirPods and Max AirPods, I thought. The transparency mode allows you to hear the outside world in a pretty natural sounding way, with virtually no hiss. It may not be the best out there, as Bose and Sony’s noise-canceling headphones approaches what you get in terms of transparency mode, but it’s close. Whether I was walking the streets or on the subway, I could hear the ambient noise around me, but it adjusted to it and I occasionally heard a shift in strength, as it’s not a fixed setting, it’s adaptive variety. The noise-canceling is quite effective. I found that the headphones performed very well.

I was impressed with the performance of the voice-calling. The headset has six microphones for calling and cancelling noise, and the noise reduction during calls is very good. It’s a big improvement from the previous Studio headphones you had. If you watch my video reviews and companion show, I can demonstrate a test call I recorded on the noisy streets of New York that gives you a sense of the call quality. However, note that the call is recorded via the internet, so you may lose a little bit of fidelity in my voice. But when I spoke and there was no background noise, John Falcone said he could hardly hear any leakage. Overall, I had no trouble hearing me, but my voice sounded a little clipped and compressed (he could tell I was outside).

Audio quality

These new custom 40mm Beats drivers have a dual-layer design and a precise array of fine mesh acoustic and micro-vents to optimize airflow and minimize distortion. You can expect better sound from the Wireless 3 Studio, with tighter bass, improved definition, and enhanced clarity. Overall, they should work well with a variety of music genres and sound really good.

By contrast, the Sony and AirPods Max exhibit a slightly more relaxed demeanor. The vocals are positioned in the midrange, resulting in a more pronounced and refined sound. These headphones possess a somewhat assertive and energetic quality, which may or may not appeal to your personal taste. When comparing them to the Sony WH-1000XM5, one noticeable aspect is their distinctive nature.

Some of my tracks include test tracks from Spoon’s Knock Knock Knock’s Athletes of God’s Don’t Wanna Be Normal, The Doors’ Touch Me Take 3, Orbital’s Dirty Rat Taylor Swift’s Vigilante Shit Jvke’s Golden Hour Drake’s Passionfruit and Beats The delivered good detail and served slightly more exciting sound, but Sony came across as more open and natural.

I discovered that the Studio Pro was slightly more comfortable compared to the Studio 3 Wireless.

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It is easy to operate these controls, as the volume buttons “b” are located below and above the cup ear. Just like the previous model, they also have physical volume controls (they play loud). I did find myself dialing back the volume a bit, but I didn’t experience any listening fatigue with the Beats.

Qobuz, a high-resolution music streaming service, offers the ability to access and listen to lossless music tracks if you have a Google Pixel 7 device. To do this, you can either plug the USB-C cable into the USB-C port or use a standard 3.5mm headphone port. The Pro Studio can be used in two different ways, as I mentioned before.

When you are listening wirelessly with Sound Signature Beats, you have the option to adjust the EQ settings. There is no EQ mode specifically designed for podcasts or making calls, but Beats claims that the Conversation mode optimizes the frequency response for voice. Additionally, there is an Entertainment mode that is ideal for playing games and watching movies. If you are using the USB-C connection, you can toggle between these three EQ modes.

Battery longevity

The battery life indicator was at around 75% to 65% when I used the headphones for a couple of hours a day, mostly with noise cancellation on. Based on my experience, you may even find it better than that. The Pro Studio Beats are rated for up to 24 hours of playback with noise cancellation on (at 50% volume level), and up to 40 hours with noise cancellation off.

With a 10-minute charge, the Beat Pro headphones and earbuds, similar to the Sony and numerous other headphones and earbuds, possess a rapid charge function that offers four hours of power. Battery longevity is not an issue with these kinds of over-ear headphones, which usually provide 25 to 50 hours of battery life on one charge. Conversely, Sony’s WH-1000XM5 are estimated to have around 20 hours of battery life when noise canceling is activated at moderate volume levels.

Final Impressions on Beats Studio Pro

I find it challenging to promote my collection of headphones in comparison to Sony’s exceptional WH-1000XM5 headphones, which are currently being sold for $350 or less. Although my headphones have some drawbacks, there are rumors that a new model with a refreshed design and other enhancements will be released this year for approximately $400. Additionally, Bose is also expected to launch a new flagship noise-canceling headphone. In general, these headphones deliver excellent performance.

The Studio Pro is unquestionably a significant improvement over the Studio 3 Wireless, even if they may not appear distinct. If you are a fan of the Beats Studio line, you can expect to find these headphones priced below $300, and potentially even below $280, in the upcoming months. The absence of ear-detection sensors and Apple’s H2 chip likely provides some opportunity for discounts, and similar to Beats’ earbuds offerings, the Studio Pro should be available for sale a few months after its launch. The positive aspect is that.