Like it or not, Beats headphones are some of the most popular headphones in the world. If you go by the sheer amount of dollars earned, even that might be an understatement. Since the company is a part of Apple and the iPhone hasn’t had a headphone jack since the iPhone 7, it makes sense that all of the Beats products went wireless. Whether you’re looking for yourself or looking to gift them to someone, it’s hard to know what the best wireless Beats are. And because of the pricing, it’s not a decision you should take lightly. So we’ve made this list to help you figure out which wireless Beats products are better than the others, as well as a few technical things you should know before making your purchase.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on March 25th, 2020 to include updated pricing and new information.
For most people, the best Beats headphones are the BeatsX
Hear me out here. Sure, it’s not a pair of over-ear headphones and it doesn’t have that same classic appeal that something like the Solo3 headphones does, but that’s kind of the point. The BeatsX was designed to be discreet and low-key, and also way more portable. The neckband is super flexible and easy to stash away in your pockets without worrying about any cables getting tangled up. The W1 chip makes pairing to Apple devices a breeze and if you have an Android it’s just like connecting to any other device. Plus, the multifunction button lets you access both Siri and the Google Assistant (depending on your device).
The sound quality is both good and bad depending on what you’re looking for. You can tell by the emphasized low end and slight masking of vocals in the mids that these are in fact a pair of Beats headphones, but it’s nowhere near as bad as some of the other products in the company’s line-up. In fact, compared to some of its other products, the BeatsX sounds pretty good. When you pair that with a good pair of memory foam tips, you get a solid experience whether you’re in commuting or just lounging around the house. Unfortunately, battery life is not great and we were barely pushing six hours in our testing, but if you can deal with that, these are the best wireless Beats you can get (not to mention the cheapest).
If you’re a commuter take a look at the Beats Studio3 Wireless
If you commute a lot or find yourself on planes often, then you might want a good pair of active noise cancelling headphones. When it comes to Beats, that means the Studio3. These are a large pair of over-ear headphones that don’t only passively block outside noise, but also do so actively thanks to tiny microphones that help them pick up outside noise. We have a whole explainer on how active noise cancelling (ANC) works, so if you want to learn more make sure to check it out. Now while the Studio3 isn’t the best at ANC across the board, it’s currently the only Beats product with any kind of noise cancelling.
But besides that, they too feature the W1 chip for easy pairing to iOS devices along with roughly 20 hours of battery life with Bluetooth and ANC. This is reason alone to crown them as some of the best wireless Beats, and it’s more than enough for a flight to most places in the world, so you won’t have to worry about running out of juice mid-flight. That said, these do suffer from a pretty significant lag when watching videos so if you’re going to be watching on your next flight you might need to hardwire them in. Also, don’t expect great sound here. These are about as “Beats” as you can get, with an over-emphasized bass and a super loud output to help stuff it down your ears. It’s definitely a sound for a certain kind of person, but if that person is you then these will do the job nicely.
If you want the classic on-ear style, go with the Beats Solo Pro
When you picture a pair of Beats headphones, you probably think of something like the Beats Solo3 wireless headphones that were previously on this list, but the Beats Solo Pro makes a strong case for why they should be the first thing you think of. Mainly because of the fact that they’re actually a good pair of headphones. Sure, they’re still a bit overpriced, but at least now it doesn’t feel like you’re paying for just the marketing scheme of Beats and are getting a decent product. These have Bluetooth 5.0 along with the same H1 chip that you’ll find in the AirPods Pro and Powerbeats Pro headphones for easy pairing, so that’s a plus. Not to mention that they now have decent active noise cancelling, which is impressive for a pair of on-ears and (let’s be honest) a pair of Beats headphones.
On the downside, these cans are still pretty expensive at $299. Plus they no longer have a 3.5mm input so the only way to connect is wirelessly. If you’re not a fan of Bluetooth for one reason or another, that could be a pretty strong deterrent. That said, if you’re ready for the wireless life and want to give Beats a try, the Solo Pro get the job done.
The best wireless Beats for the gym are the Powerbeats Pro
If you just want some ‘buds for the gym, then you should go with the Beats Powerbeats Pro. These are the newest offering from Apple which takes the Powerbeats3 that were previously on this list, and snip away the wire making them one of the best true wireless ‘buds we’ve tested here at SoundGuys. Of course, you’ll get an IPX4 certification that protects against sweat and water damage as well as an impressive almost 11-hour battery life that’s better than other workout-oriented true wireless earbuds by a country mile. They have the same hook design but feel somehow sturdier on the Powerbeats Pro. These also have Apple’s own H1 chip inside, making pairing to an iOS device seamless.
While these aren’t as bass-heavy as the wired version they’re based on, they still have a decent emphasis in the low end that makes them the perfect gym companion. The only problem with them is the giant charging case that could be two or three times bigger than the one that comes with the Airpods. It also charges via a lightning cable which means that if you don’t already have an iPhone you’re going to have to find a way to carry another cable with you. But if you throw everything in your gym bag it shouldn’t be too much of a problem anyway. Just don’t expect to be able to comfortably carry them in your pockets.
Related: Best workout earbuds
Looking for something else? You might be interested in the Jabra Move Style Edition
Jabra isn’t owned by Apple, but as one of the companies with the most experience making Bluetooth products they shouldn’t be overlooked. The Jabra Move Style Edition is one of their more affordable wireless products that offers a good alternative for anyone that is interested in something similar to the Beats Solo Pro headphones without the high price tag. These are also on-ears with a nice attention to build quality, though they charge via micro USB which is a bit of a bummer. Still, better than being forced to charge with a lightning cable unless you happen to own an iPhone.
Another thing you should be aware of is that these aren’t designed for working out. There’s no sweat-resistance to speak of, but if you’re looking just for a good pair of commuter headphones that won’t break the bank these are worth checking out.
What you should know about the best wireless Beats
There are some things that you might want to know before you spend your hard-earned cash. While you can dive deep into any of these topics by reading the full articles linked below, we thought we’d take the important parts and condense them here for the purposes of this article.
Why is the W1/H1 chip so special?
By this point, you’re probably wondering what’s so great about the W1 chip that we keep mentioning and what does it do? Well sorry Android-users, but the W1 chip is Apple specific. It’s a chip that Apple designed in-house to help the newer wireless Beats products (and the AirPods) have fewer issues when connecting wirelessly. Its purpose is to provide some backup to the Bluetooth chipset already in the phone. With the newer Airpods and Powerbeats Pro, it has been updated to the H1 chip.
Both chips help to maintain a more reliable connection, adds better power management so the headphones can last longer, and also makes the initial pairing process way easier by auto-detecting nearby devices with W1 chips and letting you connect to them quickly (with a sweet animation on your phone I might add). Of course, it isn’t going to suddenly make every pair of headphones with a W1 chip perfect, but it does help make not having a headphone jack a little less of a hassle. The H1 chip has all the same benefits but also allows for increased talk time, even better battery management, and the option to say “Hey Siri” in order to activate the voice assistant hands-free.
Bluetooth codecs and AAC
So what is a codec? A simple analogy is that it’s like a language. If two devices have the same language, they can communicate more effectively, which in turn allows for faster data transfer over Bluetooth resulting in better sound. Every Bluetooth device speaks the same baseline language called SBC, but there are a few that are better (including aptX Adaptive from Qualcomm that has the potential to be the best).
Now, this is usually the part where we tell you all about the numerous codecs available and what the difference are (which you can read about here if you’re interested), but none of that matters here. If you’re using an iPhone the only codec you need to worry about is AAC because that’s the only one that Apple uses. The downside is that AAC isn’t the best, and you don’t have any other options if you have an iOS device or a newer pair of Beats headphones due to a long and annoying legal battle between Apple and Qualcomm.
Auditory masking and why some people don’t like Beats
If you speak to anyone who cares about audio (and even us sometimes), they’ll tell you that Beats products sound terrible. But then why do so many people like them? Well, some of it is marketing, but most of the reason is that not everyone enjoys a clear and crisp sound. Depending on your musical tastes, you might just want something with powerful bass. And if you’re commuting or surrounded by noise, lower notes are usually the hardest to hear. For people who are constantly on the go, having headphones that make the lower notes louder is exactly what they want; enter wireless Beats.
Emphasized bass comes with a few downsides, mainly due to the human ear. If you make one note louder than another, our brains tend to delete the lower one. This is called auditory masking. So if you wear headphones that make all of the lower notes louder, then you’re going to lose some quality elsewhere. This is why Beats headphones usually aren’t for audiophiles. If you want headphones so you can hear every little detail in your songs, then Beats isn’t for you. But if you’re just going to the gym and need some bass to help you power through it, then look no further.
But what about the AirPods?
Even though they aren’t technically a Beats product, the AirPods are still made by Apple and come with some of the features that makes Beats so exciting. Plus, they’re not as expensive as most of the Beats products. The downside is that they are true wireless earbuds, so the odds of losing one accidentally are pretty high. But if you can manage, they’re super convenient and have become surprisingly popular despite their weird design.
How about the wireless Beats Tour 3?
If you were a fan of the original Beats Tour earbuds and were interested in the wireless Beats Tour 3, I hate to break it to you but they don’t exist. I’ve seen a few models for sale online and seeing as Apple has never released a pair of true wireless earbuds outside the AirPods or the Powerbeats Pro, I think it’s safe to say these are fake. That said, these are usually dirt cheap to buy so if you don’t care about buying a fake product from a sketchy company through a weird online retailer, then by all means go for it. It’s your money. But it might be worth checking out our list for more affordable true wireless earbuds that come from reputable companies before you light fire to your money.
Are all Beats wireless headphones noise cancelling?
The answer here is no, not all Beats wireless headphones have active noise cancelling. On the bright side though, if that’s what you’re after then there is a simple answer. There are only three products from Apple that have active noise cancelling: the Beats Solo Pro, the Beats Studio3 wireless, and the Apple AirPods Pro. I know, the AirPods aren’t technically under the “Beats” brand, but you’d be making a mistake by discounting them just because of the branding. They’re actually a really solid pair of ‘buds. But if noise cancelling is your top concern, then it’s worth checking out some of the other top competitors because while Beats products do seem to be improving when it comes to noise cancelling, they’re still not better than some others.
Why you should trust us
Listening to and comparing as many headphones as possible is our day job. The SoundGuys team loves audio, but we also know that everyone has different preferences. Which is why we try to test objectively so that regardless of our personal preferences, you get the facts about which products are worth spending your money on. We also have years of experience in audio between us, with Chris even heading up testing phones (as well as other things) over at our sibling site Android Authority. Make sure to check out our ethics policy as well if you’re interested.
Next: Best Beats alternatives