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Apple’s Beats brand appears to be seriously upping its game with the release of its anticipated Studio Buds, a $150 set of true wireless earbuds that also happen to include Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). You can pre-order them here, or continue reading to learn more.
We first saw rumours of the new Beats-branded earbuds last month, when MacRumors’ Steve Moser found images of them in the iOS 14.6 betas, and while a release date wasn’t specified, FCC filings and leaked images suggested they were nearing release. When celebrities like LeBron James were caught sporting them on Instagram, it became even more apparent that they were just around the corner.
While the Beats Studio Buds are the second set of true wireless earbuds from Beats, they’re breaking entirely new ground by offering ANC at a remarkably affordable price, making them more of a successor and upgrade to the $50 Beats Flex released last fall, and making it clear that Apple is using its Beats brand to bring the advanced technologies powered by its W1/H1 chips to the masses.
What’s particularly noteworthy, however, is that the Beats Studio Buds don’t include any Apple Silicon inside, making them the first wireless Beats headphones released since 2016 to exclude the W1/H1 chip.
Instead, it looks like Apple has built some of the most notable features that were previously part of the W1/H1 chips into the software instead. The Beats Studio Buds still support hands-free “Hey Siri” when paired with an Apple device, and they’ll offer the same seamless iOS pairing experience that the AirPods and other W1/H1-equipped Beats headphones are known for.
In fact, at a superficial level, the iOS experience in using Beats Studio Buds is very similar to what you’d get with a set of AirPods Pro. You’ll be able to activate noise cancellation and transparency modes in the iOS Control Centre, and they’ll automatically play Apple Music’s Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio tracks.
As The Verge notes, however, there are a few things that clearly still require Apple’s W1/H1 chip to power. The pairing doesn’t sync across multiple Apple devices at all, much less automatically switch between devices the way that Apple’s H1-equipped AirPods, Powerbeats, Powerbeats Pro, and Beats Solo Pro headphones do.
Further, they don’t support Audio Sharing, which is a particularly odd omission, considering it’s something that’s available on the $50 Beats Flex. This is obviously another feature that requires Apple Silicon to pull off, and we suppose there’s only so much that Apple wants to give customers for a mere $150.
After all, the Beats Studio Buds are the first true wireless and stemless in-ear headphones to be produced by Apple. While rumour has it that the second-generation AirPods Pro will also lose the stems, right now, the Beats Studio Buds have the design edge — and at a much more affordable price.
Put simply, they’re competing against the standard AirPods, the AirPods Pro, and the Powerbeats Pro, at a considerably more affordable price. The AirPods sell for $9 more for a comparable version, since the Beats Studio Buds don’t offer wireless charging either, but of course, the AirPods also lack ANC.
On the other hand, the Powerbeats Pro and AirPods Pro both sell for $249. The AirPods Pro adds wireless charging and ANC, while the Powerbeats Pro starts to feel like the odd duck in the lineup, with a design that’s more appealing to sports enthusiasts, but no wireless charging, ANC, or even decent portability. This is perhaps why Apple has marked them down to $170 — supposedly for a limited time.
Notably, however, the Beats Studio Buds also provide the clearest evidence we’ve yet seen that Apple is keeping the Beats brand around to appeal to the other side; for the first time, headphones made by Apple now include Android-specific features. This includes Fast Pair to link them up to your Google account after the initial setup, along with battery status and location information in Android’s Bluetooth settings.
This makes that the Beats Studio Pro the first headphones to support both Apple and Android devices almost equally, not only offering seamless pairing, but also the ability to be located by Apple’s Find My network and Google’s equivalent.
In fact, about the only thing missing is hands-free support for Google Assistant, but as The Verge notes, that’s probably too much to expect from a device made by Apple.
As far as the other specs go, the Beats Studio Buds promise up to five hours of battery life with noise cancellation on, or eight without, and can be topped off twice using the case. They’re also IPX4 rated for water and sweat resistance — the same rating as Apple’s second-generation AirPods and AirPods Pro. They’re available for pre-order today from Apple and other retailers, and are expected to land in stores on June 24.Pre-order Beats Studio Buds