Beats PowerBeats Pro Review

Are the Powerbeats Pro better than the Apple AirPods?

Pros

  • Stable, comfortable fit
  • Decent sound
  • Very good battery life for true wireless

Cons

  • Connectivity isn't perfect
  • Slightly synthetic mid texture
  • Bass boost improved, but not high-end

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £219
  • 9-hour battery life
  • Battery case for 24 hour use
  • Solo earpiece use
  • Apple H1 chip
  • Bluetooth
  • Volume rocker

What are the Beats PowerBeats Pro?

The Beats PowerBeats Pro are the first true wireless earphones that manage to make this category seem normal.

That is no insult. Nine hour battery life means all the usual annoyances of true wireless pairs melt away.

Beats: the grown-up face of true wireless. Who would have thought it?

The Beats PowerBeats Pro are not the very best sounding true wireless earphones around, by a good margin, but they sound good. They do have few of the obvious old Beats issues Sennheiser and Grado bores probably still bang on about, but this is a satisfying pair of earphones.

Related: Best true wireless earbuds

Powerbeats Pro

Beats PowerBeats Pro — Design and comfort

The Beats PowerBeats Pro have a sporty design. That Beats logo on the back of each earpiece automatically makes them street earphones too.

I find them near-perfect for runs, but there are no bright pink or lime green parts (common in sporty pairs) that might put you off wearing them with a business suit.

Beats makes the Powerbeats Pro in four colours. This all-black version is sultry, and the others are not remotely garish. The off-white “ivory” version has a black logo, the dark green “moss” a gold one. The dark blue Powerbeats Pro also have a gold Beats insignia. They’re due to arrive later in the summer.

Powerbeats Pro

These earphones are plastic and rubber. There are no metal parts, which can make a pair feel more expensive. Plastic keeps their weight low, though, which is important for the PowerBeats Pro’s stability.

A rubbery stem sits behind your ear. But, in my ears at least, only the silicone tips actually make significant contact with your skin. The “hook” is there to make sure they won’t fall to the floor if you knock them while out for a run, or at the gym.

I’ve used the Beats PowerBeats Pro on all my recent runs, and there’s little chance of that. These are very stable earphones, and the hook part is malleable, should you want to make the fit more secure.

Related: Best headphones

Powerbeats Pro

Their practicality surprised me. Beats is a company you might expect to use fancy touch gesture controls, which rarely works well in earphones. There’s none of that show-off style in the PowerBeats Pro.

The little Beats logo circle on the earpieces is a button. Press once for play/pause, twice to skip to the next track, three times to switch to the last-played one.

Each earpiece also has a tiny volume rocker. It sits just above your ear canal. Changing volume is easier than in any true wireless earphone I’ve used to date, although much of this is thanks to the Beats PowerBeats Pro’s large size. True wireless earphones are usually much smaller than this.

Powerbeats Pro

They are also less techy than many in this £200-plus class. The Beats PowerBeats Pro do not have active noise cancellation or an “ambient aware” mode that pipes sound from the outside world in. They don’t really need one, as isolation is only fair.

If you take a noisy underground train to work, the PowerBeats Pro are not ideal.

There are other highlights. The earphones are water and sweat resistant, but this is not tied to any specific IP rating (some claim IPX4), which likely covers Beats – and owners Apple’s – back should you drop them in the toilet and find they don’t work anymore.

Each earphone also has an IR proximity sensor. This lets the PowerBeats Pro know when they are removed from your ear. They automatically pause your music, and start it up again when you put the earphone back in. I’m not a fan of this “smart” feature, but most are.

Related: Best running headphones

Powerbeats Pro

These earphones are surprisingly independent too. You can use one on its own, which switches to mono audio. And as they both have dual pinhole mics, you can take calls with either one, flying solo.

The mics also let you talk to your phone’s assistant. Use an iPhone and you can simply say “hey Siri” to do so. You have to long-press the side button for the same effect with an Android, but this is thanks to the Apple-optimised H1 chipset.

Apple makes this proprietary piece of Bluetooth hardware for Beats headphones and its AirPods. It further smoothes-out the connection process, and allows for extra smarts like that Siri integration.

I mostly use the Beats PowerBeats Pro with Android phones, though. They feel perfectly at home with one. Wireless performance is not completely flawless. I’ve heard a few nano-blips over perhaps 30 hours of listening. It’s not enough to annoy, but I’m slightly surprised they aren’t “flawless” like some.

There is one other odd quirk. These earphones have to be in their battery case to pair with a phone. This likely annoys me more than it will you, as someone who switches phones every week, but it’s certainly unusual.

Powerbeats Pro

The Beats PowerBeats Pro battery case is also among the least portable and petite of any I’ve used since true wireless earphones became a thing. It makes sense. Bigger earphones mean a bigger case, but bear this in mind if you want to carry the charger in your pocket.

Actual battery life makes this less of an issue. Most true wireless earphones last around four hours. The Beats PowerBeats Pro last nine hours, which is around the standard for a cabled wireless earphone.

There’s no magic here, of course. Bigger earphones mean more space for the battery, as well as a larger battery case. I still consider the SoundMagic E11BT the biggest recent leap in wireless earphone battery life (they last well over 24 hours).

Beats says you’ll get 24 hours of playback with the case, suggesting it provides just under two full recharges. The Beats PowerBeats Pro have “fast charging” too. A five minute blast is good for 1.5 hours’ use, which should do for a run or gym trip.

Powerbeats Pro

Beats PowerBeats Pro — Sound quality

The standard two criticisms of Beats headphones are they are too expensive, and have boomy bass that leads to a lowest common denominator sound. These PowerBeats Pro are arguably quite expensive still, but Beats now has a way provide a characteristic bass lift without obvious boominess.

It’s a simple solution. The PowerBeats Pro have a bass boost lower down the frequency spectrum, to avoid bleeding into the mids.

You get added pulsing power to beats and kick drums, but no obvious clouding of the sound as a result. This is similar to the Sennheiser Momentum series’s strategy, so I dug out a pair of Sennheiser M2 Momentum Wireless earphones to see if Beats has really “gone all Sennheiser”.

With certain tunes they don’t sound hugely different. That’s a Beats compliment. My only major complaint about the M2 Momentum is that they’re useless for running and gym work.

However, listen closely and you can hear other ways the Beats PowerBeats Pro sound is manipulated. And why they are not the best-sounding true wireless earphones around.

Beats matches the bass with some extra bite in the upper mids and treble. This helps promote the energy and vitality of vocals, and is a double-gold-XL insurance policy that no-one’s going to call the Beats PowerBeats Pro muggy or lacking in definition.

Powerbeats Pro

I think this is a great signature for runs, workouts and general casual listening. The higher frequency boost does add a hint of sibilance, but this and the bonus bass help the PowerBeats Pro deal with ambient noise. They also increase general presence and punch.

Compare the sound signature to the Sennheiser M2 BT’s and you hear how subtle it isn’t though. The higher boost gives the PowerBeats Pro’s upper mids a slightly synthetic timbre. And while these earphones don’t have a vacuum of lower mid range textural information unlike lesser earphones with an upper-mid boost, the Sennheisers are in the next league in terms of rendering a “realistic” vocal.

The bass boost is also too localised, or simple. You hear a little too much bass with too little tonal and textural information. Beats’s bass boost is improved, but still basic.

All this means is that despite the “pro” name, the PowerBeats Pro are not “audiophile” headphones, whatever that means these days. They are still a very pleasant listen, particularly for the gym training, runs and commutes.

Powerbeats Pro

Should I buy the Beats PowerBeats Pro?

If you love the idea of wire-free earphones but hate the current pairs’ battery life standards, the Beats PowerBeats Pro are pretty much perfect.

They last as long as some wired, or even full-size, wireless headphones. Sure, the charger case is big, but the compromise is worth it.

Sound quality is very good by Beats standards too, although they are better at delivering impact and vitality than fidelity and subtlety.

Verdict

The Beats PowerBeats Pro are some of the least annoying true wireless earphones ever. And they sound good too.

Score


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