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Beats Studio Pro Review: Good, Not Great

Jul 21, 2023

Ryan Waniata

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They say you can’t please everyone, but that hasn’t stopped Beats from giving it a go. The wildly popular Apple offshoot has been nudging its latest offerings toward the middle of the aisle, offering ecosystem extras keyed in to both Apple and Android devices.

The new Beats Studio Pro headphones follow suit, providing features like one-touch pairing, device syncing, and a headphones finder no matter what kind of phone you keep in your pocket. That’s great if you’re the indecisive type, though I’m not sure how many people really switch phones often enough to make this more appealing than agnostic brands like Sony, which offer more features geared toward what you do, not which device you use.

In playing both sides, the Studio Pro skip some features—including staples at this price, like sensors for auto-pause. That can be tough in this very competitive market. On the bright side, Apple has leveraged its excellent ambient sound design for fantastic noise-canceling and (new for the series) transparency mode. Tack on solid sound and crystalline calling performance and the Studio Pro could be worth the splurge, especially if you love the classic Beats style.

The new Beats look a lot like the old Beats—that is, the Studio3 headphones (8/10, WIRED Recommends). As with the second-gen AirPods Pro (9/10, WIRED Recommends), the majority of upgrades are under the skin, which could be good or bad depending on how you feel about their predecessors.

The latest model comes in four stylish colors, including the groovy Chocolate model I reviewed, as well as Navy, Sandstone, and Matte Black. I love the style and the ultra-compact case, but the plastic exterior doesn’t always feel premium. That includes the three-button playback controls which are intuitive, but make a loud clank when clicked. It’s not nearly as smooth as the touch controls on Sony’s class-leading WH-1000XM4 (9/10, WIRED Recommends) and XM5 (9/10, WIRED Recommends), or other flagship models.

In that regard, the Studio Pro feel like a hipper version of Bose’s dressed-down QC45 headphones (7/10, WIRED Review). It’s not that I mind real buttons, but the execution just isn’t as elegant as the price suggests. The exception is the right-side power/ambient sound key, underlined by a slick array of status LEDs, though it can also be a bit hard to locate.

When it comes to the fit, the Studio Pro are tight and remarkably stable, almost like a helmet. They don’t offer the plush comfort of Sony’s XM4/XM5 models or Sennheiser’s Momentum 4, but the newly designed earpads offer good padding cloaked in soft “engineered” leather, and I was able to wear the cans for multiple hours with minimal complaints.

Unlike the Beats Fit Pro, newer Beats headphones and earbuds no longer utilize Apple’s in-house chipsets, instead utilizing the Beats Proprietary Platform.

This means the Studio Pro don’t offer Apple tricks, like audio-sharing with other Apple headphones or auto-switching between iCloud devices. But they do feature Apple exclusives, including one-touch pairing, hands-free Siri (“Hey, Siri”) control, and Find My compatibility to track down your device. You can also control basic functions in the iOS Settings pane.

Beats Studio Pro

Rating: 7/10

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Similarly, the Studio Pro provide Google Android features, including the same easy pairing and device finding through a separate Beats app for Android, as well as the ability to auto-switch between Android devices and Chromebooks.

That’s great if you’re all Android, but you don’t get the more versatile multipoint pairing I expect from a pair of phone-agnostic $350 headphones, which allows you to connect to and switch between any two Bluetooth devices, brand be damned. One point worth noting: Like the Studio3, the Studio Pro offer Class 1 Bluetooth connection for a seriously impressive wireless range.

Battery life is decent at 24 hours with ANC (40 hours without), though again it’s a bit below most competitors. The lack of auto-pause is the biggest miss, and something I really can’t account for at this price. It’s standard even in Apple’s baseline AirPods as well as most models in the Studio Pro’s class, with Bose’s QC45 standing as one of the few exceptions.

It’s not a huge deal for regular use, but for air travel auto-pause is extremely helpful in holding your place in a film or podcast as you jostle around the tiny cabin or try and order that micro ginger ale. Sony’s XM4 and XM5 go further, adding options like Speak to Chat, which pauses when you speak, and Quick Attention to quickly engage transparency mode when you hold your hand on the right earcup. They’ll even switch ambient sound modes based on location.

Add in a lack of other features like a multi-band EQ, and the Studio Pro can feel a bit last-gen.

There’s nothing last-gen about the Studio Pro’s ambient sound system, though, offering excellent control of your environment for a variety of use cases. That starts with great noise-canceling, which holds its own against competitors from Sony and Bose, and outdoes rivals like Sennheiser’s Momentum 4 Wireless.

Beats Studio Pro

Rating: 7/10

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While I wasn’t able to take them in the air, I tested the Studio Pro while visiting a big family gathering, including numerous adults, five dogs, and three young children (the partridge and the pear tree were probably also there but I couldn’t see them). The headphones handled the chaos with ease, providing sweet tranquility as I tapped away from a makeshift office. Like all good noise cancelers, they instantly knocked out ambient sounds like fans, the din of the outdoors, and even my own keystrokes, while quieting (though definitely not removing) dog barks and children’s screams all around.

Callers gave the headphones top grades, saying I sounded “crystal clear” even in a moderate breeze. The new transparency mode is also impressive, letting me easily carry on full conversations with family members with the headphones on. It’s not quite as natural sounding as the AirPods Pro (second-gen), nor does it offer the AirPods’ adaptive noise suppression, but this is one place where the Studio Pro outdo Sony’s XM4, which sounded cloudy and tunnel-ish in a direct comparison.

When it comes to audio performance, the Studio Pro continue the brand’s improvements of late, offering more balance while still providing the crisp upper register and hefty bass upon which Beats made its name. It’s a tenuous balance there; I wished I could back down the bass a few taps in heftier songs, while bassheads may wish for more thump. A bit of EQ could go a long way in expanding the Beats tent.

I really enjoyed the new 40-mm drivers, providing a relatively expansive stereo image and solid detail. Like Bose headphones, the sound is slick and stylized, but it’s also extremely accessible and lends itself well to a wide array of genres. I still prefer Sony and Sennheiser overall, especially because I can tune them to taste. I also heard some white-noise artifacts with ANC engaged at times, but overall I had few complaints over several days.

You can take things up a notch with the new USB-C mode, which lets you plug in for up to 24-bit/48-kHz resolution from services like Apple Music and Tidal. Even with Spotify, the headphones open up with more presence when plugged in, though I wish Beats provided a longer cable, and/or a USB-C to Lightning cable for iPhone. USB-C playback also offers the only form of EQ, with a few different presets to accentuate sounds like voices or movies, but to get there, Beats oddly disables ambient sound modes while plugged in.

The Studio Pro also offer the same head-tracking and spatial audio you’ll find on other flagship Apple headphones, perhaps compensating for the lack of auto-pausing. I’m not a huge fan of the tech in most use cases, but it does offer a nifty touch to movies on compatible apps like Disney+ and Netflix, making you feel more immersed and anchored in the space.

Overall, there are good reasons to pick up Beats’ latest cans, especially for tenured fans. The sound is better, the ANC has improved, and there are some cool extras whether you use Android or Apple devices. You can get more for your money elsewhere, but this is a solid upgrade, and especially if you grab them on sale, the Studio Pro are well worth considering.

Beats Studio Pro

Rating: 7/10

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