A satisfying update over the original with improved noise-cancellation, sound, and battery life. There are areas where the Beats Studio Buds+ could be better, but they hold their own among tough competition from the likes of Sony and Jabra.
- Improved noise-cancellation over original
- Clear, spacious audio
- Excellent call performance
- Improved battery
- Feature parity on Android and iOS
- Patchy performance in busy signal areas
- Slightly loose fit
- More expensive
- No support for higher-quality Bluetooth codecs
- Android and iOSSupports Find My Earbuds, one-touch pairing and device switching on Android and iOS
- Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos3D audio support for Apple Music subscribers
- Updated venting designImproved venting for better comfort, sound, and noise-cancellation performance
The rebirth of the Beats brand has seen it drop two very respectable efforts in the Studio Buds and Fit Pro. With the Studio Buds+, Beats has the opportunity to cement its ‘new’ approach in the headphone market.
And ‘better’ is the buzzword for the Studio Buds+. Better noise-cancellation, better call quality, and better sound.
The original was much liked, but I felt it had a few flaws, so the expectation is whether Beats has found a formula to challenge the likes of Bose, Sennheiser and Sony, and perhaps even its cousin in the Apple AirPods Pro 2.
- Revised multi-function button
- Same design as original
- Slight movement during use
At first glance, the Studio Buds+ looks exactly like the original. The charging case is a mirror image, and the earphones are virtually identical: same size, same sculpted appearance, same use of a clicky, physical multi-function button on its end.
What you might overlook is the appearance of vents intended to help in two ways. One is to increase comfort as the venting design relieves in-ear pressure. The second is to allow air to flow through to the transducer to induce more movement for a better sound and more effective noise-cancelling and transparency performance.
Do they feel more comfortable? With the right ear-tips, they feel more secure. The default ear-tips of the earphones moved about, which affected audio quality and ANC. Moving to the large ear-tips and the fit was more stable, the (passive) noise-isolation was better, and as a result so was the noise-cancellation.
But I still find the Studio Buds+ moved about in my ear, not as much as the original but enough that they need an adjustment every now and then. Jabra’s true wireless range offers a better fit than the Studio Buds+.
Operation feels as good as it did on the original, with the (revised) multi-function button covering playback, track skipping (twice to go forward, thrice to go back), and noise control with a press and a hold. Beats has included volume control from the get-go, but it needs to be enabled in the app and comes at the expense of operating noise-cancellation.
It seems an unnecessary fudge to choose between the two, and for some reason, on Android at least, volume control is independent of Android’s global volume. So, if you set the volume level on a smartphone, the volume can be decreased from that level, but you can’t raise it above. If the volume is set low and you want it louder, you’ll need the smartphone to do so.
Finishes cover black/gold, ivory and a striking transparent version that’s muscling on the Nothing Ear (2)’s territory.
- Improved noise-cancellation
- Excellent call performance
- Slightly better battery life
Beats has thrown out a lot of numbers and figures to show how improved the Studio Buds+ are over the previous model, from 1.6x more active noise-cancelling, to 2x improved transparency.
In reality, the Studios Buds+ are perceptively better at suppressing noise than the original. Used on a plane from Berlin to London, and switching between old and new Studios, the Buds+ reduced more of the cabin and engine noise, which sounded more distant with the new pair.
Below ground on the Tube, on the Northern Line at least, it did require some volume assistance to get rid of the tunnel wind noise at its loudest moments, but for the most part it effectively reduces wind noise across most of the journey.
I do find the noise-cancelling relaxes its grip when walking about as the fit can get slightly loose. Perhaps it’s the shape of my inner ear but even though Beats has upgraded the ANC to be ‘adaptive to fit’, it performs best when it’s snug and secure. Switching to the transparency mode and that’s effective in terms of clarity and detail it filters through.
Battery life is claimed to be better than the original with 9 hours per bud and 36 in total with the charging case (noise-cancelling off), and 6 and 24 hours with ANC on.
From my battery tests with ANC/transparency mode on, I’d say that’s about right. An hour of streaming on Spotify brought the battery to 86/87%, so six hours plus is possible at default volume levels. Higher, and you may find it falls to around or below the 6-hour threshold.
Fast charging is supported, with a 5-minute charge fueling the buds for another hour. Wireless charging still isn’t supported. Not a bugbear for me, but for some that might be inconvenient.
Android users get an individual app whereas iOS users benefit from system level integration through the Control Centre feature (or by heading to the Bluetooth settings). Like before, there’s pretty much parity between Android and iOS users with one-touch pairing (Google Fast Pair), ‘Find My’ support if the buds go missing and device switching on iOS (via iCloud) or registered Android/Chromebook devices (via Bluetooth multipoint).
The only significant difference is hands-free Siri on iOS. Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos is supported through Apple Music, which is on both iOS and Android platforms.
The clearly laid out ’app’ features firmware updates, battery levels, switching between the noise-control levels, and some customisation, though on that front it’s slim pickings compared to the Sony Headphones Connect app.
As mentioned in the ‘Design’ section you can customise controls for noise control or volume, and along with that change call control settings and which side is the active bud when one is taken out. There are no EQ options or ability to tweak noise-cancellation and transparency levels.
Wireless support is Bluetooth 5.3, with support for SBC and AAC, so there’s no room for Hi-res audio codecs such as LDAC. The wireless performance is patchy in busy signal areas, walking though the concourse at Paddington train station there were several prominent hiccups and more sketchy moments at Earl’s Court and Victoria stations.
Call quality, however, puts in a stronger performance. Voice clarity on both sides is good, and there’s very little noise. The person on the other end remarked they sounded as good as a pair of over-ears, which is a great result for a true wireless.
- More spacious, slightly punchier sound
- Balanced approach to the frequency range
In the review for the Studio Buds, I described them as “surprisingly natural in tone and well-balanced across the frequency range” and the Studio Buds+ are the same with a little more confidence.
These earbuds were tested with the large ear-tips, but performance shouldn’t differ too much, if at all, across other ear-tip sizes. Like the original, the Studio Buds+ sound a little reserved and small at default volume levels but it doesn’t take too many nudges up the volume pole for them to find their footing and expression.
The onus is on clarity – lots of it – throughout the frequency range, and a tone that favours neutrality with its levels of precision and detail.
The soundstage is wider on these earphones than the original, and the benefit is not just more ‘space’ but clearer separation between instruments, voices, and other elements, which aids the Studio Buds+ retrieval of detail. I found them a more detailed and energetic listen than the similarly priced Beats Fit Pro.
The Studio Buds+ approach to bass is similar to before with an extra ounce of more weight to beats in TNGHT’s Higher Ground and Jorja Smith’s Addicted. Unlike the Beats by Dre efforts of old, there’s no attempt to favour bass frequencies above all others. This is a more measured approach to handling low frequencies, which are consistently clear, punchy, and varied depending on the track.
If you’re a bass hound, you’ll want to look towards the (more expensive) Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II for extra power and energy, though to my ears the Beats sound a touch clearer.
Higher frequencies are given clarity and detail even if they feel slightly rolled off and smoothed out with a listen to GoGo Penguin’s Raven. Perhaps more ‘bite’ at the top end would give them more in terms of conveying dynamics across the frequency range, but in terms of dynamism (the difference between quiet and loud) I found the Studio Buds+ to be respectable. Compared to the Sony WF-1000XM4 there’s not much difference between them, and again the Beats arguably have an edge in terms of clarity.
Indeed, the midrange, especially with voices is a tad clearer and sharper on the Beats than the Sony’s richer presentation; but the WF-1000XM4 ekes out more dynamism from vocals for a slightly more natural and compelling take. The Beats stand up well to other premium earphones even if they aren’t the flashiest in their audio performance
Should you buy it?
If you use you buds frequently for calls: Subtly better audio and improved noise-cancellation are all plusses, and the Studio Buds+ offer a great clarity and minimal noise for calls.
If you find yourself in busy signal areas a lot: The wireless performance of the Studio Buds+ is patchier than expected with frequent audio break-ups.
The Beats Studio Buds+ are more of the same but better. Some may feel underwhelmed but the clue to Beats’ approach is right there in the name.
The noise-cancellation is an improvement, the audio is better in some subtle ways, and battery life edges ahead of the original. Is that necessarily worth the hike in price? The Studio Buds+ swim in more dangerous waters with competition that includes Beats’ own Fit Pro, but I’d say the Studio Buds+ are competitive.
There are still a few issues. The buds still move about in my ears which can affect the ANC performance, and wireless performance is sketchy in busy signal areas. There’s no room for higher-quality Bluetooth codecs either.
Nevertheless, this is another solid outing for Beats. Perhaps not enough to fully challenge the best wireless earbuds but satisfying enough for those after a premium pair of earbuds for less than £200.
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Tested across a month
Tested with real world use
Battery drain test performed
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Yes, the Studio Buds+ feature Apple’s Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos if you’re an Apple Music subscriber.
The Beats Studio Buds+ support SBC and AAC. There’s no compatibility with higher-quality codecs such as aptX Adaptive and LDAC.