Beats Studio3 Wireless review
The active noise cancelling headphone game has been run by Bose and Sony for a while now. But the Apple-owned Beats brand has a few pairs of active noise cancelling cans, too. Can the Beats Studio3 Wireless stack up to its competitors?
Editors note: this article was updated on April 23, , to address other alternatives and include technical information.
Related: Best Beats Headphones
Who are the Beats Studio3 Wireless for?
- Bass-heads should get these headphones. In other words, these are for die-hard Beats fans.
- iPhone users who want to take advantage of the W1 chip features.
Whats it like to use the Beats Studio3 Wireless?
The headphones are made entirely of stiff plastic, though the matte finish feels good in the hand.
The Beats Studio3 Wireless headphones are made of soft, matte plastic, which is really smooth to the touch. Theyre not as much of a fingerprint magnet as you might suspect, and the plush ear cups are nice. I can wear these for hours at a time before my ears begin to hurt, though the leatherette gets hot after a few hours. The same cant be said of the headband: its made of a hard, grippy plastic that tugs on my hair.
Start here: Ultimate headphone buying guide
You can quickly compact the headphones for travel, and the headband is adjustable. The Studio3 Wireless feels stiff and you can feel the headphones stain against minor torsion. Luckily, they do come with a hardshell carrying case that I would recommend using if you decide to pick these up.
These have a few different buttons and, despite the symmetrical look of the headphones, they’re all located on the left side (save for the power button). Clicking the “b” logo on the left ear cup once will pause or play music, twice will skip to the next song, and three times will return to a previous song. You can also press and hold the button to access your phones smart assistant. Above and below the “b” logo is where you’ll find the volume up and volume down controls.
How do you connect the Beats Studio3 Wireless?
The button on the left ear cup is painfully and unapologetically plastic and sounds cheap every time you click the button.
The Beats Studio3 headphones support the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs and have Class 1 Bluetooth and Apple’s very own W1 chip. If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, you’ll automatically be able to use them with all of your iCloud devices without needing to re-pair to them. If you’re on Android, you’ll have to pair the good old-fashioned way by opening up your Bluetooth settings, but even that is pretty seamless. Connection strength is also strong regardless of the operating system. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be better on iOS, for obvious reasons. Yet, roughly half of my testing was done on my Pixel 2XL, and I didn’t experience any annoying skips either, so that’s good at least.
Now I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I watch a lot of YouTube, and the Studio3 Wireless offer no delay on both iOS and Android. I guess this sucks if you’re a huge fan of old kung-fu movies, but this is good news for the rest of us.
The connection strength was solid and there were no noticeable skips or issues on iOS or Android.
On the bottom of the left ear cup is the mm input, so you can plug in the included audio cable with a mic and remote. And before you ask, no, it doesn’t end in a lightning cable and, no, it doesn’t come with a dongle, which makes perfect sense. Moving over to the right ear cup, you’ll find that it looks exactly the same but does absolutely nothing. It’s just the logo. Under that, you’ll get the power button and five small LED lights that let you know roughly how much battery is left. Double-tapping the power button also lets you toggle the active noise cancelling on and off, so long as youre on an iOS device. To toggle noise cancelling with an Android, you need to download the Beats app. Then at the very bottom is a micro USB port, which isn’t a USB Type-C because, reasons.
Hows the active noise cancelling performance?
Editors note: this review will soon be updated with an isolation chart.
Now, these are active noise cancelling, which is kind of the point of getting these headphones. You can turn the ANC on or off in two ways: one is by clicking the power button twice, and the other is in the actual Bluetooth settings app on iOS. On Android, you don’t have this option, but ANC can be toggled if you download the Beats app. The headphones by default always have the ANC on, and it adapts to the amount of sound going on around you.
Related: Best noise cancelling headphones
How long does the battery last?
Beats claims a battery life of 22 hours with active noise cancelling turned on and 40 hours without. For reference, Bose claims about 20 hours of constant playback on their QC35 headphones. In our testing here we got 10 hours, 12 minutes on % volume with ANC turned on, so it isn’t hard to see how you could push these well beyond the 22 hours unless you want to blow out your eardrums.
Do the Beats Studio3 Wireless sound good?
The only button on the right ear cup is the power button on the bottom, which also lets you turn off or on active noise cancelling if you double tap it.
Editors note: this review will soon be updated with a frequency response chart.
When it comes to headphones that I’m going to be using for hours at a time on plane rides and commutes, I want three things: comfort (which I already spoke about), battery life (which is pretty good), and sound quality. If I’m taking a hour plane ride, chances are that I’m going to be staring wistfully out of the window at some point, reminiscing and listening to my favorite Bon Iver song, as we all do. At that point, sound quality becomes really important.
Lows, mids, and highs
Now, these headphones are notorious for favoring bass. The lower frequencies are heavily emphasized, to the detriment of basically everything else. The one example that I could point to, which demonstrates this perfectly, is the song Never Look Back by Slow Club which starts off with some slow finger snaps that get overtaken significantly when the bassline comes in. That really shouldn’t happen. The vocals that come in at about the same time also don’t benefit from the bump in bass. Besides just an overall lack of clarity in vocals, the underlying melody is given way more presence than it should have.
In typical Beats fashion, bass notes are amplified over all else.
So if you listen to the song, this will be easier to understand, but around seconds in, the main melody comes in, which is a female vocal layered on top of another vocal singing that same melody at a lower register. With these headphones, that secondary melody is more or less equal in output to the main melody which, by definition of being a secondary melody, shouldn’t be the case.
The highs are hardly any better and feel like an afterthought. During the chorus of the song Hello Cruel Worldby Dent May, the cymbals are supposed to be rhythmic in the way that they overlap each other, but they end up sounding more like flat hi-hats with no decay.
Should you buy the Beats Studio3 Wireless?
Though the plush ear pads are comfortable, the grippy plastic on the bottom of the headband is annoying to wear.
I have a hard time recommending these. The Studio3 Wireless feel like they were haphazardly thrown together just to try and take a piece of the ANC market currently being ravaged by Bose and Sony. They offer sound significantly worse than both the QC35’s and the Sony WHXM4, a build that feels like it’ll crack if you bend it too much, and, though the ANC is decent, it isn’t better than its alternatives.
I’m usually a little more lenient with Beats products because I know they’re going to sell anyway, but the Studio3 Wireless are bad. For a pair of headphones named “Studio” you should never, ever, ever use these in the studio. Save your $, you don’t need these.
Related: Best wireless Beats headphones
What should you get instead of the Beats Studio3 Wireless?
Beats Studio3 Wireless vs. Sony WHXM4
The Sony WHXM4 headphones are some of the very best ANC headphones in the business.
If you have $ to spare on a pair of headphones, I definitely recommend you get the Sony WHXM4 over the Beats Studio3. Their active noise cancelling performance is one of the very best available, they offer Bluetooth multipoint amongst other features, and their sound signature is much more accurate than the Studio3. If you want to save a bit of cash, go for the older Sony WHXM3.
Related: Best Beats alternatives
What about the Apple AirPods Max?
The Apple AirPods Max dont have folding hinges which is a bummer, but the ear cups do rotate 90 degrees to lie flat.
The Apple AirPods Max is even more expensive than the Beats Studio3 Wireless, but Apples debut ANC headphones come packed with advanced hardware and software. Each ear cup houses an H1 chip for maximum processing power, and the headset supports Spatial Audio, which is great for virtual media like movies and games. It isnt perfect though, and you can read our in-depth review here.
Am I enjoying these Beats too much? I’ve asked myself that question a few times in the last couple weeks. For years, I’ve listened to audiophiles rail against Beats by Dre headphones, saying they were all style, no substance. For the money, they just didn’t sound very good and put too much emphasis on a bass-heavy sound.
Sure enough, the first thing I noticed about the Beats Studio3 Wireless was that low, heavy sound signature. They tend to drag down mid-frequency sounds (most vocals and instrumentation) a bit and do emphasize bass and heavy drum sounds more than the competition. The Beats difference was especially pronounced because the last set of headphones I used were the Focal Listen Wireless, which tended to do the opposite, yanking sounds up the audio spectrum toward the higher end of things.
So yeah, the bass is strong with Beats, but is that really such a bad thing? I got used to it pretty quick, and I've grown to enjoy the warmth and woof they add to many tracks. The Studio3 sound better than any Beats I’ve ever worn, and more than hold their own against many wireless noise-canceling headphones on the market. The longer I wear the Studio3’s, the less I care about what I’ve ever heard (or heard) about Beats.
Dig These Bassy Beats
In the last few days, I’ve listened to new albums by rock bands like Sloan and The Longshot and they rocked just as hard on Beats.
Dancier and more rhythmic tracks sound especially amazing. Kimbra’s new album and Lizzo’s recent string of singles popped especially well on the Studio3, which do a good job of cradling audio in a nice bed of bass without getting too overpowering, while creating an immersive soundstage. Is it exactly how these artists intended their music to be heard? Probably not, but it doesn’t sound bad.
Beats have come a long way—and if you’re an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac user, these are some of the best headphones you can own for reasons beyond sound.
A New Class of Bluetooth
The Studio3 may look nearly identical to the Studio2 Wireless from , but Apple has redesigned their insides. You’ll notice that most if you try to pair it with an iPhone. And I use the word “pair” loosely. Really, if you turn these headphones on in close proximity to your iPhone it will bring up a nice popup (with a picture of the headphones) and ask if you want to connect. Hit yes, and the Studio3 Wireless will seamlessly recognize all Apple devices connected to your iCloud account. Pairing is the most annoying part of almost every Bluetooth device, but here it’s a cinch.
This is mostly thanks to the proprietary W1 chip Apple stuck inside, the same as what you'd get in its Airpods. That W1 chip has other benefits, too. It doubles battery life when synced with an iPhone, giving you up to 20 hours (even more if you turn off active noise canceling) and it has Class 1 Bluetooth connectivity, which is so strong that I sincerely struggled to find a place in my entire apartment complex where I lost connection. Four flights down? No problem. Separated by three rooms with shut doors? Not a single blip. Taking an elevator while my phone is sitting inside a closet with multiple doors shut? Full connection. Sidewalk next to the street? Yep, it worked.
Beats' active noise canceling tech is left me very impressed. Called Pure ANC, it uses the two onboard microphones to monitor and adapt to environmental sounds many thousands of times per second. Many noise canceling headphones noticeably distort audio or have a faint hum to them, but I didn't notice any added noise with these Beats.
The other day I was happily listening to them at a coffee shop, typing away at something or another on my computer when a waitress came up, bent down, looked at me, and tapped her finger on her wrist. I took the Studio3 off and realized that rock music was blaring—precisely how this cafe likes to let everyone know it’s closing time. Most people had left, but I didn't even notice. Trips on the subway and jaunts down the street have been similarly quiet. I haven't tested them directly against the Bose QC35, but they sure are better than most wireless headphones and hugely improved from older Beats designs.
The noise canceling is also better than the Plantronics Voyager UC and BackBeat Pro 2 I’ve grown to love. The Studio 3s crush these headphones when it comes to cancelling noise, but lose in the features and comfort department. Both of the aforementioned Plantronics have rotating earcups that sit better on my shoulders and the ability to auto pause when I take them off. The Beats didn't do either of these things, making them less convenient and more uncomfortable around my neck.
I found it odd that even if you skip Bluetooth in favor of a mm cord, you still need at least some battery charge to play music. Luckily, these headphones charge relatively fast—10 or 15 minutes of charge will net you a few hours of playback time.
While far from perfect, the Studio 3s retain the industrial design and sound that made Beats famous. I was especially surprised by how soft and cool the ear cushions remained, even after extended use. Ample padding in the headband keeps the headphones in place and doesn’t put too much pressure on my skull. Comfort aside, I found them to sound a lot clearer than older Beats by Dre even if the bass is exaggerated. So, they're comfy, sound pretty good, and you get some top-notch tech: the noise cancellation and Apple W1-boosted Bluetooth are both standout features.
Though they're listed for $ on Apple.com, many large retailerslike Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy—list the Studio3 Wireless for $ While they're not the cheapest, they're competitive with top rival devices from companies like Bose.
Like the Solo3 Wireless, the Studio3 Wireless probably won’t silence Beats critics, but they will silence that pesky closing music so you can jam out 'till the bitter end.
Beats Studio 3 Wireless review: bifurcating ecosystems
Whenever you hear or read the word “wireless,” it’s most often followed by the word “freedom.” Wireless freedom. That’s what we are promised by headphone makers, wireless charging evangelists, and even gaming mice specialists. The shedding of wires has always been a literal and symbolic liberation of the user from a layer of technological friction. Almost always.
We’re now living in the sort of topsy turvy world where the latest wireless tech actually locks us in more than it frees us. Say hello to the $ Beats Studio 3 Wireless, the latest update to the Beats line to feature Apple’s superb W1 wireless chip as well as newly upgraded noise canceling. They work fantastically well with other Apple products — seamless syncing, stable Bluetooth connection, long battery life — but only with other Apple products. Try using them with a Google Pixel, a Chromebook, or a Windows PC, as I did, and you’ll find most of their strengths diminished. As my colleague Nilay Patel wrote recently, the future of headphones is shaping up to be a realm divided by the wireless tech that was once our liberator.
The big challenge of assessing the Beats Studio 3 is that they’re two fundamentally different pairs of headphones depending on whether you have them hooked up to an iPhone or an Android device. But before I get to those performance matters, let’s look at the universal aspects of comfort and design.
Whatever color of Beats headphones you choose, even the murdered-out black-on-black option, they’re still unmistakably Beats headphones. This over-ear Beats Studio 3 model shares an obvious design affinity with the smaller and less expensive on-ear Solo range, though it classes things up a little with matte rather than glossy finishes. In terms of materials, plastic rules supreme, as it always has done with Beats headphones. But take note: not all plastic gadgets are terrible, and the old reputation of Beats headphones for being poorly constructed exercises in selling crap through branding are long gone. As with the Solo 3 I reviewed last year, the Studio 3 provide decent build quality that should stand up to a reasonable amount of abuse.
The one major downside to the Studio 3 design is wind noise. Noise-canceling headphones are supposed to be all about ensuring tranquility and an escape from the world around you, but I found a consistent (and disruptive) wind noise coming in from the outside on windier days in London. The only solution to overcome this is to turn your head sideways, which may or may not be a viable option.
Close to the Studio 3’s $ price are the $ noise-canceling Bowers & Wilkins PX that I just reviewed and loved. The PX are vastly superior to these Beats cans when it comes to construction durability and quality of materials, but the Beats advantage is a collapsible design. You can fold the Studio 3s into themselves and tuck them into the nice, hard-wearing pouch that Beats provides. I find that setup a lot more portable and straightforward than the less flexible B&W alternative. But then Beats faces up to yet another formidable rival in the shape of the $ Sony XM2, the successor to the critically acclaimed X. The XM2 also collapse down, and they have a more rigid case, and they have superior noise canceling.
The Studio 3s have a cozy and comfortable feel and can be worn for extended listening sessions. Not everyone will love the way they make contact with the entire ear — the B&W PX, for instance, wrap snugly around the ear, making more contact with the head — but there’s a purpose behind this design choice. The Studio 3s have a ton of passive noise attenuation, which is to say that even when wearing them on your head without any tech being active, they do a good job muffling external sounds. This close contact also means they function a lot like simple ear muffs — which is brilliant in cold winters and kind of a nightmare in the summer heat.
If you’re comfortable with the greater intimacy of the Beats 3 design (and undaunted by visions of sweaty summer listening), there’s really very little to fault about these headphones’ fit. They don’t cause any uncomfortable hotspots of pressure at the top of the head, their headband is easily adjustable and doesn’t create unsightly divots in your hairstyle, and their weight of g (9oz) makes them effortlessly portable. I’m also a fan of the simple control scheme on the left ear cup: it has just three buttons, two for volume adjustment and one for pausing and skipping between tracks.
The W1 wireless chip is the hero and the villain of the Beats Studio 3 story. Without it, these headphones are at best a marginal upgrade over their predecessor. But with it, they join the ranks of wireless accessories that simply sing when plugged into the Apple ecosystem. Syncing with an iPhone? Instant. Syncing with an iMac? Close to instant. Playing back music from iTunes? You can remotely control it with the Studio 3. Because, of course, why wouldn’t things be so sweet and seamless?
But if you’re not a total Apple acolyte what you get is a fresh compendium of unnecessary headaches. I’ve been testing the Beats Studio 3 with my usual set of gear, which presently consists of a Pixel 2, a Chromebook Pixel 2, and a selection of Windows PCs alongside my iMac. With each non-Apple device, I had a hell of a time getting the Studio 3 to just show up as available for pairing in the Bluetooth menu. And, you know it, the actual pairing process was only successful about half the time.
The same iMac where iTunes operation is nice and straightforward with the Beats Studio 3 is also the stage of my great frustration when trying to listen to Spotify or Tidal. The Studio 3 controls default to iTunes, so more than once I’ve wanted to stop a Tidal track, pushed the button on the headphones, and launched iTunes instead. It’s like Apple is actively hostile to anyone not subscribing to its complete set of provided apps and services.
My biggest quarrel with the Beats Studio 3, though, comes with respect to their Bluetooth performance. There’s a Class 1 Bluetooth radio inside these headphones, which is the sort that consumes more power to ensure a stronger connection, but that meant nothing when I was using them with the Pixel 2. I had repeated and persistent dropouts while traveling with the Studio 3 on the London underground. I know for a fact the Pixel 2 is not the problem, because I used the same device with the Bowers & Wilkins PX, and I was impressed by just how far Google had advanced its Bluetooth performance over the original Pixel. The problem is simply that Apple doesn’t care to support this usage scenario. It wants you hooking up to iPhones and iPads, where the Studio 3 wireless connection is flawless. Another downside for wireless enthusiasts: the Beats Studio 3 don’t support advanced codecs like Qualcomm’s AptX HD, which is supported by the Bowers & Wilkins and Sony rivals to these headphones. It’s all Apple, and only Apple.
Battery life follows a similar trajectory to the above. It’s supposed to hit a satisfying 22 hours when connected to iOS devices with noise canceling on, or as high as 40 hours with the noise canceling disabled. I didn’t get anywhere near that with my Android devices, reaching probably 12 or 14 hours before needing to charge back up. Oh, and the joys of charging this Apple peripheral with a MicroUSB cable. Apple, the same company that haughtily declared the headphone jack obsolete on phones, persists in shipping Beats headphones with the decidedly retrograde MicroUSB port on them. Right now, I can use the same charger to refuel my MacBook Pro, Pixel 2, and Bowers & Wilkins PX, but if I actually went all in on Apple’s ecosystem, I’d need three different cables.
Sound quality is usually the all-important thing with headphones, but that’s not really the case with noise canceling sets. What you’re looking for with them is something that’s good enough, something that conveys and the emotion and the impact of the music without worrying too much about its purity or realism. Even the B&W PX, my current pick for best-sounding noise-canceling cans, feel quite harsh and less than optimal when listened to in a quiet environment. Within this context of low expectations, the Beats Studio 3 perform adequately.
I’d characterize the Studio 3 sound as bottom-heavy and quite bloated. It’s like the mid-range has sagged down into the bass, and a lot of tracks lose the refinement of their recording in the process. I’m especially unimpressed with the quality of female vocals, such as in Halsey’s “Heaven in Hiding.” There’s a lack of fullness and finesse, it’s all rather clumsy and brutish. But here’s the thing about that: most of the finesse that I care about wouldn’t be meaningfully detectable in a noisy environment anyway, so you can’t criticize Beats too heavily for its choice of tuning.
The thing I found pleasing about the Beats Studio 3 is that they still carried through the dynamism and emotive nature of the music. Listening to Kanye West’s Yeezus while commuting on the bus, I couldn’t help but feel like these headphones were designed specifically for that task. Hell, they probably were. If you’re into hip hop and heaving electronic bass lines, if you don’t care much for high-end extension and sparkling highs, these headphones will serve you well. I still consider the Bowers & Wilkins PX a clear leader in terms of sound quality and musicality among noise-canceling sets, but these Studio 3 cans hold their own rather decently. I actually find them more emotionally engaging than the Sony XM2s, which may sound like sacrilege, because the Sonys have a more precise and composed tuning, but that’s just how I feel. (More on that in the Sony XM2 review to come).
As to the Beats noise canceling, it’s fine, but it doesn’t rise above that. When you don’t have anything playing, it’s a distractingly loud white noise, though when you do it obviously disappears along with most other things in your environment. I think Sony has hands down the best and most effective noise canceling tech at the moment, and the Beats Studio 3 don’t really rival it. I can hear a lot more of the train noise on the London underground with the Beats headphones than I can with the Sony alternative. Even so, drowning out the hubbub of an open-plan office or some other simple task shy of taking a long-haul flight is no problem for the Beats cans.
The Beats Studio 3 are the most prominent example to date of a pair of headphones that is dependent on the ecosystem it’s in to perform at its best. I don’t like it, but I think this trend will continue and deepen over time as smart assistant integrations become more common and worthwhile things to have.
If all the gear in your life is made by Apple, these are an uncomplicated purchase decision. I’d buy the Studio 3 just for the W1 ease of wireless use, which really is the ultimate solution for the vast majority of our chronic Bluetooth connectivity problems.
If you happen to use an Android phone or a bunch of Windows PCs, the proposition becomes much trickier. Beats wins on practically none of the major parameters of comfort, design, or performance. It’s decent in all, but without the W1 augmentation, it’s a master of none. I can’t recommend the Studio 3 to anyone outside the Apple ecosystem, and that’s as uncomplicated as my recommendation for those within it.
- Satisfying bass thump
- Collapsible design
- Comfortable, cozy pads
- Flawless operation with Apple devices
- Battery life and Bluetooth suffer when not connected to Apple devices
- Sound lacks refinement, vocals lack fullness
- Competitors in same price bracket have more premium build
- MicroUSB is an anachronism, especially in Apple ecosystem
Buy for $ from AppleBuy for $ from Best Buy
Beats Studio3 Wireless review: Beats' best headphone looks the same, performs better
Update, June 1,
Check out CNET's best headphones for more information on competitive products.
The original review of the Beats Studio3 Wireless -- first published November 30, and otherwise mostly unchanged -- follows.
When you've got a good thing going, why rock the boat?
That's the philosophy behind Beats' flagship noise-canceling headphone, the Studio3 Wireless, which costs $, £ or AU$ Aside from a few new color options it looks virtually identical to its predecessor, which was released four years ago.
My first reaction to seeing the "new" high-end Beats was probably the same as yours: "Wait, it has exactly the same design as the one that came out in Really?"
Yes, really. Thanks to some stitching tweaks, the earpads are slightly softer, which makes it a touch more comfortable, but that's about it.
Dig a little deeper, however, and changes inside abound. The new Beats is a better performing headphone on several fronts, including sound, battery life and noise canceling.
I wasn't able to crack the headphone open to see those changes, but Beats says it has completely redesigned the guts or DNA of this headphone, with not only new drivers but new circuitry that includes Apple's W1 chip found in other Beats wireless headphones -- the PowerBeats3 Wireless, the Solo3 Wireless and the BeatsX -- and Apple's AirPods.
That W1 chip makes connecting the headphone to Apple devices dead simple and also helps deliver better battery life. It's now up to 22 hours with wireless and noise canceling on, double that of the previous model.
Battery life numbers vary with volume levels, so you may not get quite that amount, but I was able to consistently hit at least 20 hours of playback and sometimes more before I had to recharge (that's slightly better than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II battery life). Turn off noise canceling and that number goes up to 40 hours. Meanwhile, the Beats Fast Fuel feature gives you three hours of playback from just 10 minutes of charging.
Yes, this headphone works with non-Apple Bluetooth audio devices -- I paired them to a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, for example -- but their special pairing feature is limited to Apple devices running iOS 10 or later, WatchOS 3 or later or MacOS Sierra or later.
Stepped-up sound quality and stronger noise canceling
Aside from the battery life, the two big upgrades here are to the sound quality and noise canceling. I compared this new Studio Wireless to the older version and this model sounds slightly cleaner, with better bass definition and a bit more natural sound. It's not a huge difference -- we thought the Studio Wireless sounded good -- but it's noticeable.
Beats' sound is well known for bass bloat, but on the Studio Wireless that's a thing of past. These are relatively well-balanced headphones. There's plenty of bass but it's not overpowering or boomy. In fact, the bass was arguably a little more articulate than the bass on Sony's WHXM2, which is one of the best-sounding Bluetooth headphones.
That Sony has a little bit more transparency and may be the better headphone to listen to over longer listening sessions. But the Beats was arguably the more dynamic, exciting headphone. For instance, it brought a little more energy to Rag 'n Bone Man's "Human" track. And the Beats is going to be a good fit for those who listen to a lot of EDM and hip-hop. Or as fellow CNET editor Ty Pendlebury remarked, "It's really good headphone for people who listen to pop music."
Compared to my current favorite in this class, Bose's QuietComfort 35 II, it's something of a toss-up for sound quality. The Bose has a bit more open soundstage and I felt I could hear separate instruments more distinctly. But the Beats' treble sounded a bit sweeter. They're both enjoyable headphones to listen to, but I rated the Bose higher mainly because it's a little more comfortable and folds flat to fit in a more compact carrying case.
I personally think Beats' headphone's inability to fold flat for travel is a weakness. I rarely used the carrying case because I found it too bulky. If there's a design upgrade Beats needs to make, it's to add another hinge. Most other premium wireless noise-canceling headphones (Sony, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins PX) folds flat, which allows for a slimmer case that fits better in your bag.
The upgrade in noise canceling is more pronounced. Beats' new proprietary noise cancelling technology, which it's calling Pure Adaptive Noise Canceling or Pure ANC, is constantly monitoring your environment and calibrates the noise canceling to the sound around you, whether it's plane, train, restaurant or wind noise.
Similar to Sony's MDRX and new WHXM2, the headphone also has a microphone on the inside of each earcup to calibrate the noise canceling to the fit of the headphone, adjusting for "leakage caused by hair, glasses, different ear shapes and movement of your head as you go about the day," company reps told me.
Beats says the W1 chip is what allows the adaptive noise canceling to be always monitoring the world without draining the battery.
I mainly used the headphones in the streets of New York and on the subway. While the noise canceling is a slight step behind those of the Bose's and Sony's, I was still pretty impressed. It's significantly more effective than the previous model's noise cancellation. It's almost as good at muffling voices in a open office environment as the Bose QC 35 II, but the Beats has a very faint hiss, while the Bose doesn't. You won't hear that hiss when your music is on, but turn the music off and you hear it.
It's also worth mentioning this headphone works well as a headset for making phone calls. As you're talking, you can hear your voice, which keeps you from talking too loudly. Callers said they could hear me clearly.
Am I disappointed Beats didn't upgrade the exterior design of this headphone? Yeah, a little. While Beats claims it was very pleased with the headphone's acoustic design and ergonomics and wanted to unlock its full potential with new components, I think there's some room for improvement on the design front.
Fold-flat gripes aside, this was and still is a comfortable, durable headphone that's enjoyable to listen to and worked reliably with rock-solid Bluetooth performance. Beats has taken a good wireless noise-canceling headphone and significantly increased its performance. It may not be better than competing models from Bose and Sony, but I still liked it a lot. Of course, it would be nice if it cost a little less.
Studio3 Wireless key specs
- Redesigned acoustic components and an upgraded manufacturing process
- Integrated Apple W1 chip, which enables one-step Bluetooth connection to iPhone via proximity pairing. Additionally, iPhone users can switch between devices logged into the same iCloud account to easily move from an iPhone conversation to watching a movie on your MacBook. (The headphone also works with Android and other Bluetooth-enabled devices.)
- Nearly double the battery life of the Beats Studio3's predecessor, totaling 22 hours of wireless playback with Pure ANC on
- Turning Pure ANC off you get up to 40 hours of nonstop playback in low power mode without sacrificing audio quality
- Fast Fuel feature gives you up to three hours of playback after just 10 minutes of charging via the included Micro-USB cable (headphone must be powered to use)
- Class 1 Bluetooth provides optimal connectivity for fewer drop-outs and extended range from your iOS or Android devices
- Built-in controls and microphone allow you to make calls, skip songs, control your volume and activate Siri
- Pure ANC uses advanced algorithms to continuously monitor your listening environment, so that it can best block out ambient noise -- not only on an airplane, but also in a noisy café or a busy office
- Pure ANC also evaluates fit and adjusts for leakage caused by hair, glasses, different ear shapes and movement of your head
- Additionally, Pure ANC simultaneously checks what you're hearing while noise canceling is applied against the original music content to adjust and ensure optimal audio fidelity
- The headphone comes in four base colors (white, red, blue and matte black) and two special-edition colors (shadow gray and porcelain rose)
3 review studio beats
Beats Studio 3 Wireless review: Who let the bass drop?
Beats Studio 3 Wireless review: Who let the bass drop?
“A stellar design suffers from mediocre ANC and a lack of low-end oomph.”
- Excellent design and controls
- Very comfortable
- Great non-ANC battery life
- Easy pairing with Apple products
- Underwhelming bass
- Poor wireless call quality
When the $ Beats Studio 3 Wireless debuted in , we didn’t get a chance to review them. If we had, we might have come to the same conclusion as other reviewers: That these are a really decent set of active noise canceling (ANC) headphones.
But in the personal audio world especially the wireless headphone world three years is an eternity. In that time, Sony, Bose, and pretty much every other major brand has launched new top-tier wireless ANC headphones in Sony’s case, two new top-tier models while Beats has been content to let it all ride on the Beats Studio 3 Wireless.
Given what the competition has been up to, can Beats still justify the Studio 3’s high price? Or have these Beats been beaten?
Let’s take a look.
What’s in the box?
The Beats Studio 3 Wireless are a big set of headphones and they arrive in a big box. Fortunately, it’s % cardboard and you won’t find any hard-to-recycle materials like foam or plastic inside.
In addition to the Studio 3 headphones, you get a zippered hard-shell carry case, a Micro USB charging cable, and a mm analog audio cable with an inline set of remote buttons and a mic.
Beats also throws in a small carabiner clip in case you want to attach the carry case to a backpack or purse.
I’ll be honest: I was never a big fan of Beats’ earliest designs, with their glossy white, red, or black headbands. It always seemed to me that they were meant to call attention to those who wore them not something I tend to seek.
But the Studio 3 are available in several color choices including my review unit’s blue a hue just slightly lighter than navy, with a satin finish. It’s tasteful and subdued, with small chrome accents on the hinges and earcups just to remind you that these are not an $80 set of headphones.
But the best part of the Studio 3 Wireless is their fully integrated headband and earcup pivots. It’s a design that is unique to Beats and it gives these headphones a sleek and minimalist look. It also creates a very slender profile, keeping the Princess Leia effect to a minimum.
This theme of visual simplicity carries through to the controls, which are effectively invisible. The left earcup houses play/pause, call answer/end, track skip forward/back, and voice assistant access from the central “b” logo, while volume is controlled by the plastic ring that circles the logo.
The only other control is the tiny power button on the right earcup which does triple duty as power, Bluetooth pairing, and ANC on/off. Right below that button is a five-LED strip of lights that serves as a quick reference for remaining battery life.
Like many full-size headphones, the Studio 3 fold up for storage, but the earcups do not pivot to lie flat. This makes them a tad bulky and explains why the carabiner clip is included the hard travel case is bulbous-shaped and not easy to stick in a backpack unless you’ve got lots of extra room. Despite the fact that the earcups don’t lie flat, the Studio 3 are more comfortable when worn around the neck than many over-ear models I’ve tried once again, their minimalist design is an asset.
The Studio 3 nail the balancing act, with a fit that is both very secure and very comfy.
My only small gripe when it comes to the design of these cans is the headband’s padded underside. It’s covered in a grippy silicone rubber surface that keeps the Studio 3 from moving around, but that material is a dust and debris magnet that requires regular wiping with a damp cloth to keep it clean.
Comfort, controls, and connections
The Studio 3 Wireless aren’t the lightest full-size headphones you can buy that honor probably falls to Sony’s WHXM4 but they are certainly among the most comfortable.
The trick to headphone comfort is managing the delicate balancing act between headband padding, clamping force, ear cushion (size, shape, and padding), and the materials used.
The Studio 3 nail this balancing act, with a fit that is both very secure and very comfortable. You may have seen folks working out or even jogging with these cans on, and while that isn’t a choice I’d make, the Studio 3 make it possible something I can’t say about the majority of full-size headphones I’ve reviewed.
You may notice some weird dents in the ear cushions in the accompanying photos ignore them. The headphones had been left in their case for a long time before I removed them and about an hour after I shot these photos, they had bounced back.
The controls are also very well-executed. I’m a fan of physical buttons; in my experience, they just work. Touch controls even the best ones can lack responsiveness. The Studio 3’s buttons are not only big and easy to find and use (amazing given they’re seamlessly embedded in the earcup pivot), but they’re also precise. There’s no guesswork press, click, done.
Yes, there’s quite the audible clicking sound when you use them, but I’ll take a momentary click noise if it means I don’t have to repeatedly tap a touch control.
There are only two things missing: A wear sensor that automatically pauses your tunes when you remove the headphones would be awesome (Apple’s AirPods,AirPods Pro, and the WHXM4 already have this) as would a hear-through (passthrough) mode that lets you pipe outside sounds in for a while.
Wireless range on the Studio 3 is superb much better than the majority of wireless headphones.
As with all Apple-made headphones that use the W1 or H1 wireless chips, Bluetooth is a joy on the Beats Studio 3 Wireless. To pair them, you simply power them on a few inches away from an unlocked iOS device running iOS 10 or newer and you’ll be instantly notified that your Studio 3 are ready to go just tap once and you’re done.
There’s no Bluetooth Multipoint (which lets you keep them connected to two devices at once), but Apple’s take on this feature is almost as good, letting you switch between Macs, iPhones, and iPads with just a click.
The Studio 3 are also compatible with Apple’s audio sharing feature, which lets any two W1- or H1-equipped headphones or earbuds listen simultaneously to content from an iOS device. This feature will be coming to more devices with Bluetooth Audio LE, but for now, it’s an Apple-exclusive.
Sadly, audio sharing, easy pairing, and device switching are not supported on Android devices.
As a Class 1 Bluetooth device, wireless range on the Studio 3 is superb more than feet when outdoors much better than the majority of wireless headphones. I was able to leave my iPhone in the house and still had a reliable signal when I was standing across the street in front of a house two doors down.
Battery life for the Studio 3 Wireless is either so-so or excellent, depending on how you plan to use them.
With ANC on, you’ll get about 22 hours worth of playtime, which is just a tad better than the $ Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones at 20 hours, but not as impressive as Sony’s $ WHXM4, at 30 hours.
However, if you don’t use the ANC function (which appears to devour battery life), you’ll get an excellent 40 hours, which is two hours more than the Sonys.
The quick-charge feature is about average, with 10 minutes of plug time netting you 3 extra hours of playtime.
Speaking of the plug, the Studio 3 use the Micro USB format, not the newer and more common USB-C connection. That’s hardly a deal-breaker, but for most folks, this means one more cable to remember when you hit the road.
The Studio 3 Wireless have what Beats calls “true” ANC, which the company claims “continuously pinpoints, isolates, and cancels exterior noise in real time to play sound the way it was intended.” That sounds great, but in reality, I’d say the ANC is about average, and certainly not as good as what you’ll find with either the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones or the Sony WHXM4.
With no music playing, the ANC produces a noticeable hiss, preventing an enjoyable way to just grab some peace and quiet.
Background sounds are definitely reduced with ANC on, and Beats is right about one thing there’s no discernible change in audio quality between on and off modes.
However, with no music playing, the ANC produces a noticeable hiss, which prevents these cans from being an enjoyable way to just grab some peace and quiet. Why trade the sound of an airplane’s engines for a low-key hiss?
I also noticed the ANC mode struggled to compensate for windy conditions, sometimes inadvertently amplifying the wind sound instead of canceling it.
The good news: The Studio 3 Wireless do an excellent job of passive noise isolation, making ANC a nice but not critical feature.
The bad news? That passive noise isolation is so good, it makes me wish even more for a passthrough mode especially during phone calls.
I’d always thought of Beats as a bass-forward company, something that has definitely been true of its other products like the Powerbeats Pro.
So it came as a total surprise that the Studio 3 Wireless don’t fit that mold at all.
This is the same complaint we had with the Solo3. It’s not just that the bass isn’t the key ingredient in their sound signature, I’d go so far as to say it has been forced to take a back seat to the midrange and highs.
On the one hand, there is bound to be a group of folks who like the idea of a less boomy set of Beats perhaps fans of the famous “neutral” or flat EQ that audiophiles praise.
But I don’t count myself among them. I like copious amounts of all frequencies so that when I listen to a deep, sorrowful track like Hans Zimmer’s Time, I get that hair-raising, feel-it-in-your-guts low-end bass. On the Studio 3, that kind of bass is simply absent, and with no ability to alter EQ, you can’t compensate by adjusting other frequencies.
Before you take this as a sign that you should put the Studio 3 in your “other” consideration column, it’s worth noting that while these cans will disappoint bass heads, they still produce excellent, detailed sound in the mids and highs.
For vocal-heavy music, especially the kind created by the biggest divas of our time, like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, or Adele, the Studio 3 deliver energy and clarity.
And if you like it loud, these cans are happy to oblige, without a hint of distortion all the way up to pain-inducing thresholds of volume.
So despite Beats’ roots as a brand embraced by (and promoted by) legendary hip-hop and rap artists, these particular Beats headphones are better-suited to genres that rely a little less on lowdown thump.
I recently reviewed the BeatsX, a set of wire-connected Bluetooth earbuds, and praised them for their call quality. My belief is that their inline mic placed close to the mouth is the secret to that success.
I’m now even more convinced after doing a few calls on the Studio 3 Wireless, which can’t hold a candle to the BeatsX.
The Studio 3 appear to have no trouble with amplification, as voices were perfectly audible as far as loudness goes, but clarity is another matter.
Most of the time, it sounded like I was listening to my caller through a few layers of fabric. I could sense what they were saying, but it took a lot of effort.
Granted, my chosen location was something of a torture test a very busy street with a lot of truck traffic but even during the lulls in vehicular activity, it was never a great experience.
The silver lining, I suppose, is that thanks to the included analog cable with inline mic, if getting better call quality matters, it should be as simple as plugging that cable in and hitting dial.
With excellent design, great controls, and terrific non-ANC battery life, the Studio 3 Wireless are still a great choice for those who don’t place a high priority on big bass, whisper-quiet ANC, or wireless calling. But for $, you really need to value what they have to choose them over the competition.
Is there a better alternative?
Yes indeed. I’ve mentioned the $ Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones and the $ Sony WHXM4 throughout this review, and I think they both provide arguments to leave Beats-town. Pick the Sonys if you care about customization, comfort, and sound quality; pick the Bose if ANC and call quality are on the top of your list.
How long will they last?
The Beats Studio 3 Wireless come with a one-year warranty from Apple, which can be extended with an optional AppleCare purchase. Under normal use, I think they will last for many years, though you can expect battery capacity to diminish over time. Overall, they are very well built, with top-notch materials and durable metal parts for high-use areas like the hinges and sliders.
Should you buy them?
Yes, but I think you should wait until you find them on sale for $ or less. If you’re among the Apple faithful, some of the Apple-only wireless features might be worth the Studio 3’s high price. But make sure you understand and are OK with the areas of weakness specifically call quality and a lack of low-end bass before you lay down your cash.
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The Beats Studio 3 Wireless are Beats’, and therefore Apple’s, premier full-size wireless headphones, enduring as the brand's flagship over-ear headphones since their release in
These over-ear headphones provide good comfort, great wireless connectivity, and excellent battery life; for excellent noise cancelation and sound quality you might want to look elsewhere, though.
The Beats Studio 3 are $ / £ headphones you have to take as a complete package, rather than relying on the quality of their core parts – and even though better noise-cancelling headphones (like the Sony WHXM3, for example) have come onto the scene, there's still a lot to like about these Beats cans.
The Beats Studio 3 Wireless look very similar to the previous generation of Studio Wireless headphones. Those in the know will spot them from 20m. Abstract the design from the brand, though, and it’s actually tasteful.
These Beats headphones stick fairly close to your head, which is one of the key factors in stopping full-size pairs looking silly. Unlike early Beats, some versions are almost monotone too.
Our all-black pair is about as low-key as Beats headphones are likely to get any time soon. Those after a punchier or gaudy look can have it with other finishes that include classic Beats red with silver highlights and white with gold trim.
In other words, these Beats headphones can still make you look like an extra from a rap video if that’s the aim.
There’s nothing new to see here in terms of build. Most of the Beats Studio 3 Wireless frame is plastic. The pads use synthetic leather that, while soft, looks fake from 2ft away.
Unless you’re desperate for headphones made of real leather, aluminum or Alcantara, it doesn’t matter too much, though. Beats has been criticized for the build of its headphones over the years, but the Beats Studio 3 Wireless seem perfectly well-built to us.
The plastics don’t creak too much. And there’s a well-judged bit of resistance in the fold-up hinge of the headband that stops the stems from flapping around like broken arms with normal use.
The Beats Studio 3 Wireless are also very comfortable. Oval cut-outs in the pads give enough room for most ears, and over-ear headphones like this avoid the ear fatigue problems common among on-ear headphones, like the Beats Solo 3 Wireless and the new Beats Solo Pro.
Connectivity and battery life
Apple’s W1 chip is one of the key changes in the Beats Studio 3 Wireless. This is a custom wireless chipset that takes the wrinkles out of the connection process when hooking up with an iPhone or iPad.
When you turn the Beats Studio 3 Wireless on, you’ll see a pop-up prompt appear on your iPhone with a spinning 3D model of the headphones. You just tap a button on this pop-up to connect. iOS 13 already has a great interface for reconnecting to normal Bluetooth headphones, but the W1 chip makes the interaction seem more direct.
Since the Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones were launched, Apple has improved its wireless technology to bring us the H1 headphone chip, as seen in the new AirPods Pro and the Powerbeats Pro.
The H1 chip is still very good though; it also lets you see the headphones’ battery per cent from the app you’re using to stream, which is handy.
Battery life is great, although with all features engaged stamina is similar to the Bose QuietComfort 35’s. You’ll get 22 hours with wireless and ANC, or 20 from Bose. Switch active noise cancellation off and the Studio 3 Wireless will last up to 40 hours: fab.
Like the last Studio Wireless pair, there’s also a little 5-LED indicator by the power button to let you see a rough guide of how much juice is left before you even put them on.
As has become the norm for Beats headphones, wireless performance is just about perfect whether you use an iPhone or an Android. This isn’t something only just get with Beats/Apple. Sony and other manufacturers also fantastic blip-free wireless these days, but it’s still worth celebrating.
The controls on the left cup can also be used for Androids and iPhones (one Android phone struggled, but that’s likely Android’s fault). A central Beats logo button acts as play pause, and changes tracks with multiple taps, while the buttons above and below alter volume. Beats has sensibly stayed away from “fancy” gesture or capacitive controls. They’re usually fiddly and rain can stop some working.
Pure ANC (Active Noise Cancelation) is another tweaked feature of the Beats Studio 3 Wireless. The Studio series has had active noise cancellation since , but this new version claims to put an extra layer of smarts between noise and your ears.
It is, seemingly, designed to avoid distortion caused by cancellation of louder sources. We’ve heard such distortion in pairs from less experienced noise cancelling headphone makers when taking the London Tube, standing next to the door, but haven’t heard any such distortion from the Bose QuietComfort
Pure ANC also doesn’t solve one of the biggest issues with ANC headphones out in the real world: wind noise. This is where wind whistles around the pinhole mic, which the noise cancellation attempts to correct, in doing so only creating more noise. The Beats Studio 3 Wireless are slightly more susceptible than some to wind noise, but it affect just about all ANC headphones to some degree.
The Beats Studio 3 Wireless’s noise cancellation is reasonably effective, providing the main benefits of making cities less stressful and stopping engine noise from ruining your music. However, the Bose QuietComfort 35’s cancellation is still significantly better.
Passing cars aren’t “turned electric”, reduced to a light whoosh, and the effect isn’t eerily detaching like Bose’s. However, it's good enough that you don’t have to turn the volume up in noisy environments.
Pure ANC also leaves these headphones with a slight low-mid frequency noise bed. Some active noise cancellation headphones sound like digital tinnitus, but the Beats Studio 3 Wireless are more like a record player in terms of this background noise.
Some pairs are a little quieter, but this sort of noise is not at all distracting as soon as there’s any audio coming through the drivers. Don’t worry about it, unless your ears are truly anal.
Beats has marketed “Pure ANC” to sound better than just about anything out there. It isn’t, but it's perfectly decent all the same.
There’s some of the same effect in the Beats Studio 3 Wireless sound. Buy them, put them on, play a tune or two and very few people are likely to be too disappointed.
The Beats Studio 3 Wireless do not sound overly bassy or juvenile. Beats pairs are no longer the headphone embodiment of people who speak mostly in reality TV slang that changes too quickly to sink into the Oxford English Dictionary.
There’s sound width similar to some of the best travel-friendly headphones, and the Studio 3 Wireless have quite a forward presentation. This makes key parts of a mix seem close to your ears, making sure the sound isn’t too relaxed.
Relatively conservative low or “sub” bass is one potential surprise of the Beats Studio 3 Wireless. The Sennheiser Momentum and Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 are more aggressive here, making kick drums stand out and seem more powerful.
So are the Beats Studio 3 Wireless more “in da Starbucks” than “in da club”? Not quite.
These headphones have another kind of bass emphasis. It’s a thickness in the upper bass and low mids rather than a sub-bass gut punch.
You might think of it as a fat, warm or full tone, which is what leaves a certain bassy aftertaste even though the Beats Studio 3 Wireless are not overloaded with genuinely low frequencies. In a lot of situations this works quite well. Podcasts aren’t underpinned by a bass rumble but voices still sound robust.
Switch to vocal-lead music, particularly that with a gravelly old crooner like Leonard Cohen, and you can hear how this strategy is not perfect. Certain parts of the Beats Studio 3 Wireless’ low-mids end up saturated to the point they sound like wet cardboard, engorged and lacking texture.
This gums up the sound, stopping music from sounding properly separated. It can also seem resonant with certain songs, which is abrasive to the ear.
We’ve heard this mid failing before in Beats headphones and noted how it makes the soundstage seem constrained, even though the problem is in the “middle”, not the top and bottom.
This effect is largely absent in the alternatives from Sennheiser, Plantronics, Bose and, most damningly, the $99 / £85 Urbanista Seattle Wireless. The Beats Studio 3 Wireless sound better than the Urbanistas in other respects, but that a headphone a third the price has more coherent mids is not good news.
The Beats Studio 3 Wireless also have slightly safe treble that lacks a little bite compared to some at the price. But this is very minor compared with the somewhat cloying low mids.
If you’re not too picky about audio, you’ll love the Beats Studio 3 Wireless. They look good, are comfortable and sound decent while releasing the pressure valve of city life with active noise cancelation.
Add great battery life and an Apple W1 chip and you have headphones that are very easy to get on with, particularly if you own an iPhone.
However, there are sound issues you just don’t hear in other good headphones at the price. It’s not boomy bass but a tire of blubber sitting between the bass and mids makes the Beats Studio 3 Wireless less articulate and open-sounding than most alternatives.
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Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.
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Beats Studio3 Wireless review: A worthy Bose QuietComfort 35 contender?
Beats headphones have unfairly earned a reputation over the years for favouring marketing spiel over sound quality, but since its Apple takeover, it’s been all change. Last year’s Beats Solo3 were great headphones – despite the on-ear design – they were comfortable, sounded pretty good and, thanks to the presence of Apple’s clever W1 Bluetooth chip, paired with iPhone and iPad completely seamlessly.
With the Beats Studio3 Wireless, Apple is adding the same benefits to its top-end over-the-ear headphones, and in the process go head-to-head with the most popular, pricey wireless ANC headphones on the block: the Bose QuietComfort
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Beats Studio3 Wireless review: What you need to know
Just like last year’s Solo3, the Beats Studio3 Wireless are Bluetooth headphones with active noise cancellation (ANC). That means they monitor ambient sound and play a sound wave along with your music to cancel it out.
The Beats Studio3 Wireless’ main distinguishing feature – certainly over its rivals – is the presence of the Apple W1 Bluetooth chip, which allows it to pair by simply holding the headphone next to your iPhone or iPad and allows for seamless switching via iCloud, with any other Apple devices.
Otherwise, they’re regular noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones, albeit with a rather impressive battery life. Beats say you get up to 22 hours with ANC and Bluetooth enabled and up to 40 hours worth of wireless connectivity without ANC.
READ NEXT: The best wireless earbuds to buy
Beats Studio3 Wireless review: Price and competition
The Beats Studio3 Wireless cost £, which is quite an investment for a pair of headphones, but it seems this is a price that manufacturers are settling on as a sweet spot for their flagship wireless headphones.
As such, there’s a pretty broad selection of rivals. At £, the best noise-cancelling headphones around are the Bose QuietComfort 35 and just behind them for noise cancellation, but with better sound quality, are the Sony MDRX and the Bowers & Wilkins PX. These are all excellent headphones, so the competition is hard-fought.
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Beats Studio3 Wireless review: Design and key features
It should not be understated how brilliant Apple’s W1 Bluetooth chip is. It turns what could otherwise be a rather fiddly, fussy procedure into an absolute breeze.
The first time you pair them with an iPhone or iPad, it’s like watching Dynamo perform some kind of incredible magic trick right in front of you. Hold the Studio3 near your phone, tap ‘Connect’ on the pop-up and, hey presto, everything’s taken care of.
What’s more, if you own other Apple devices, this is the only time you’ll ever need to set them up. So long as your iCloud account is active and your other devices are connected using the same Apple ID, they’ll be set up for you automatically – even your Apple Watch.
This is no proprietary tech, though. The Beats Studio3 Wireless work well with other devices, too. In fact, I found they paired much quicker than your average wireless headphones with Android phones and Windows laptops alike and range is excellent as well. If you happen to pop into another room and leave your phone or tablet behind, they’ll likely keep playing music without the signal dropping out.
But they’re not without their foibles. There’s no power-off or power-on tone, which means if you want to be certain you’ve turned them off, you’ll need to remove them and watch as power LEDs all wink out in sequence when you hold down the power button. There’s also no quick way of using the Studio 3’s external microphones to patch in the outside world as you can with the Sony MDRX. If you really want to listen to the in-flight safety announcements, you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way: by taking the headphones off.
Design-wise, however, there’s not much these headphones get wrong. They fold up nice and neatly and feel comfortable on your head and around your ears. And it's good to see that they have a mm headphone jack, so you can carry on listening when the battery dies.
The controls are intuitive and easy to locate: the left ear cup hosts a central pause/play button behind the Beats logo and there are volume controls embedded into the plastic ring surrounding it. The LED status lights, such as they are, aren’t too bright or garish and there are no touch-sensitive controls in sight.
Build quality appears to be excellent, too, with a steel band providing the headphones’ endoskeleton and scratch-resistant matte plastic adorning the finishing touches.
I was supplied with the dark grey and gold version for this review - a surprisingly subtle combination - but the Studio 3 are also available in all-red, pink, white and all-black - and all models look very pretty indeed.
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Beats Studio3 Wireless review: Sound quality and noise cancellation
Along with seamless Bluetooth pairing, the Studio3 Wireless has a couple of neat tricks up its sleeves. The extra power provided by the W1 chip means the headphones can add an extra layer of processing, meaning noise cancelling should be ultra effective. There’s also what Beats calls “leak protection”, whereby the internal microphones are used to compensate for those times when the earpads can’t create an airtight seal around your ears - when you twist your neck to look behind you, for instance.
These two extra goodies go together to provide highly effective noise cancellation. It isn’t quite as good as the Bose QuietComfort 35 at creating that eery bubble of silence – you can still hear the hiss of the noise cancellation wave in quiet environments – but the flipside is that there’s less of a sensation of pressure created by the ANC than with the Bose.
Sound quality is decent, too, but again it can’t quite match its rivals. That said, there’s nothing horribly wrong with the way the Beats Studio3 kicks out music. There isn’t too much bass, trebles are reasonably crisp and mids are perfectly balanced, but there isn’t the sense of space and scale you get with the Bose, Bowers & Wilkins or the Sony MDRX.
Listened back to back with the Bose QC35 and it’s easy to hear the differences. There’s just more depth, drama and emotion to music listened to on the Bose. Although again, there’s no fundamental flaw here, just that the sound quality produced by the Beats Studio3 is a little flat by comparison with its rivals.
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Beats Studio3 Wireless review: Verdict
If you’re really interested in the best possible sound quality and noise isolation for £, I’d advise you to forget about ANC headphones altogether and opt for a pair of wired earphones instead. If you spend the same amount of money you'll get much better sound quality than this.
If you prefer over-ear cans, though, and you’re an iPhone owner, the Beats Studio3 Wireless are still a worthwhile purchase. Bluetooth pairing is seamless, battery life is very good and they’re nicely designed as well.
For everyone else, the decision is pretty easy. Go for the Bose QuietComfort they sound better and deliver more effective noise cancellation.