BEATS Previously by Dre, and now by Apple, are a meme at this point. The general consensus is that Beats have terrible audio quality for the money they ask for. Is this true? Well, it’s certainly plausible. One of the worst pair of headphones I’ve ever owned were the Beats Solo’s. Extreme uncomfortable, with its pleather pads squeezing my head with strong pressure, irritating the little folds of my ears. The cans squeaked as you moved, and eventually its build broke down, with the pads completely loosing the pleather cover. And the sound was equal to those in the under $50 price range. At that point, you were definitely paying the for the brand.

But what about now? Why are they still a meme? I think mainly its just because the sentiment stuck because the newer Beats Studio3’s actually sound really good. They’re expensive, wireless, ANC headphones meant to compete with the Bose’s and Sony’s. And in that respect, they fall short. But on their own, and just looking at the sound signature, they have certainly taken to the criticism. The audio is more balanced, with the droning bass, leaning more towards the punchy. A welcomed tweak. And now with the massive success of the wireless pods, Beats finds itself competing in another realm with their Powerbeats Pro, in a genre that’s dominated by mediocre offerings. Honestly, the only “great” headphone in this class are the Apple Airpods. So how do the Powerbeats Pro stack up?

Design and Comfort:

So far, in my opinion of course, these are the best looking wireless pods on the market. They don’t look like Q-tips hanging out of your ears like with the Airpods, and they don’t look like giant grapes stuck in your head like with the Monoprice or Samsungs. These are matte black, with a simple rectangular design that sticks close to the ear, covering the ear hole. It also features blacked out branding and black wings that hook behind the ear, all coming together to create a stealthy and understated, yet modern athletic look. I firmly believe this type of design will soon become the standard. The worst part about its design is the matte black charging case. This is one reason why the Airpods are so successful. They slide in anywhere and disappear. For the beats, the case is laughably large, and you will most likely need to tote it in a bag.

The space between instrumentation is so much larger than I expected, and such a pleasant surprise

Now in terms of comfort, for me personally, they aren’t as comfortable as Airpods. I have relatively small ears, and IEM’s often make my inner ear a bit uncomfortable and a bit itchy. This is not the case with Airpods for me, and I can never really tell they’re there. With the Powerbeats, they hook around your ear and use silicon IEM tips that slide in your ear canal, creating a seal, and offering passive NC. They way you put them on is with this “twist” type move, that is low-key genius; but not as seamless as just “plop” like with Airpods. But I do want to compare it to the Jaybirds, which have wings that hold the creases in your ear. And in this case, the Beats are far more comfortable. Really, uncomfortable isn’t the right word. It’s just not perfect for me, like how the Airpods are. But with the perfection I get from Airpods in comfort, I lose out on in sound quality. With the Powerbeats, I’m willing to take a slight hit on comfort, for a much better passive noise cancellation and focused sound. The answer to my problem probably lies in throwing on a pair of Comply Foam Tips, which will then form itself to the dimensions of my canals.

Features and Enjoyability:

I want to touch on some great features that help justify the price a bit. First off, it’s an Apple product. This means it seamlessly fits in its ecosystem. As soon as you pop the case open, your phone lights up with an image of your headphones, and it prompts you to connect, almost instantly. The H1 chip (an upgrade from the W1 chip in the original Airpods which is the model I own), is so pleasing to use. Originally, I was blown away at how awesome the W1 chip was. You have an iPhone, an iMac, and a Macbook, and you could seamless switch devices without all the pairing nonsense that occurs without these chips. It also allows a deeper integration in Mac and iOS software, where using it as a mic for a call, or using it as a listening device, or using it for a podcast, is also seamless.

Oh yeah, these fuckers get loud, too

Now take all that, and just refine to a high degree, and you have the H1 chip. Connecting is much faster, music or podcasts resume quicker, connection stays stronger, Siri is quicker, and battery life is better. In fact, battery life in these top the charts at 9 hours straight, with up to 24 hours utilizing the charge case. This is INSANITY. As long as you remember to keep your charge case charged, maybe plug it in once a week, you should never run out of battery. And finally, there’s Hey Siri support now. I still don’t really use Siri, since I own an Apple Watch, but it’s there if you need it I guess.

Sound Quality:

The last point is sound. And unsurprisingly, these sound far, far, better than Airpods. In my limited time with the Monoprice, they sound better than those. And with my long experience with the Jaybird X2, they sound better than those as well. The question is, do they sound better than wired IEM’s, and do they sound $250 good? So I don’t normally use wired IEM’s. The pair I like to compare against are my Shure SE215’s, which have an extremely balanced sound signature, with great focus and presence, though lacking on soundstage and subtlety.

The Powerbeats sound signature is much more balanced than Beat’s I’ve tried previously, but still packs a deep punchy low that they’re known for. There’s a great response in those punchy bass hits, that it makes the headphones feel a lot faster and more energetic. I’m assuming they did this on purpose. And it’s done all without being muddy or unclear. In fact, I was very surprised at the clarity. The highs, while not sparkly, do present excellent response and detail. In the case of Hip Hop and Electronic, I haven’t found any tracks that aren’t represented well. It seems these headphones were certainly focus grouped with rap, pop, and electric fans. So if you’re a fan of those genres, you will be damn happy. Listening to Feel the Love by Kids See Ghosts is a perfect example. The bass comes through like a punch in the face during the interlude, and the vocals from Pusha T cut through like a hot knife through butter. Oh yeah, these fuckers get loud, too. The passive seal in addition with its volume output can sometimes cause distortion, and I haven’t really noticed any (this though, is sometimes hard to spot and I’m not an expert in distorted tones and chords due to volume). It’s best asset, compared to so many others on the market, is its soundstage. The space between instrumentation is so much larger than I expected, and such a pleasant surprise. Explosions in the Sky’s Look Into the Air has twinkly guitar notes popping in and out of your earspace with detail all while presenting its atmospheric ambiance. It’s not exactly open-back large. There’s still a bit of tightness to its low end representation that can sometimes feel stuffy. But overall, yeah, the soundstage is a nice selling point.

Now the sound isn’t perfect. I noticed how heavily overdriven guitars or hard vocals can sometimes come through a bit shrill, causing listening fatigue. Listening to IDLES’s Never Fight a Man with a Perm, vocals can sometimes get buried under the vibrant and harsh guitars and droning drumlicks. In fact, with a lot of heavier rock, I found myself turning the volume down a touch to ensure listening fatigue didn’t set in too quickly. I’m sure it’s not something many will notice, as it isn’t too apparent. But more experienced listeners will find the vocals seem a touch confused. As someone who listens to a lot of basement demo’s like Dikembe’s Chicago Bowls, a good headphone needs to present “warmth” which usually equals nostalgia. It’s a reason why I’ve spent over tons of money to get that nostalgic sound in my home theater. Now, the Beats aren’t warm, unfortunately. But they seem to be using that faster and punchier bass response to try and emulate warmness which become quite convincing at points. I only wish they were able to open up the low end a bit on soundstage, as I think it could greatly improve this effect. Anyways, those demo’s like Grown’s Up’s self-titled, are portrayed very well with energy and saturation that meets my baseline standard for “warmth”. That’s all I can really ask for from completely wireless IEM’s (at least for now).


Now for the burning question. Do I recommend you buy these, over any other wireless IEM? The answer is yes. I think the combination of the greatly improved sound signature, it’s good passive sealing, it’s great soundstage, it’s insane battery life, and the great convenience of the H1 chip all add to a very compelling wireless IEM that seems to be the best of the bunch. If you’re considering Airpods vs these, I’d wager that the Airpods would be the best choice if you’re a very casual listener who isn’t very active. But if you love music, and you want to get best possible audio there is out of a very small and convenient package – and you’re quite active – these would be an excellent choice and you won’t be disappointed.