Listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks on the go is something most of us do every day or at least every week. It feels like we’re all on a mission to find that ultimate set of headphones or earphones that’ll allow us to enjoy the audio content wherever we are and whatever we’re doing.
The latest entrant is the Beats PowerBeats Pro earphones. Back in 2014 Apple announced it was buying Beats Electronics and that means the Beats products are now able to leverage the engineering efforts of different Apple teams. The PowerBeats Pro are unlike many other earphones as they contain Apple’s H1 chip that gives it many of the features of the Apple Earpods, just with great sound.
After spending a couple of weeks with them, it’s time to evaluate if the premium purchase price is worth the extra money.
Curves in all the right places
Unlike Apple’s Airpods, these headphones will never fall out of your ears. The PowerBeats Pro use a design that clips over your ears to hold them in place, even while working out. This clip design isn’t necessarily intuitive and takes a couple of days to get familiar with, before ultimately being a smooth process to move them between your ears and charging case.
I reviewed the all-black design colour which is fairly subtle and works with most outfits, but if you prefer something a little different, Beats do offer a few colour variants. These colours include Ivory (white), Navy (blue) and Moss. The last of these is the most unique, Moss isn’t typically found in gadget colour selections, it’s not green and it’s not brown, it’s somewhere in between, making moss a fairly accurate name for the colour. Personally, I love the black and white over the alternatives.
Once in your ears, these earphones feel great and that’s largely thanks to a design attribute that accommodates multiple tips for a great fitment. While we all have ears, they actually differ substantially in size and therefore fitting an in-ear product comfortably is not a one-size-fits all deal.
The main earphone and control surface wraps down on a 45-degree angle which I actually like as a design element. This allows convenient access to the buttons on the device to control playback.
Something that’s not immediately obvious in the design of the product is that these can be used independently of each other.
How do it perform ?
The biggest question with a product like this is how do they perform audio-wise? With the right ear tips on and the PowerBeats Pro in your ears correctly, they sound amazing. The best test you can do for this is to fire up some music that you’re really familiar with. A number of streaming services like Spotify offer high-quality streams and that’s plenty to test the audio quality of these earphones.
I’m a big fan of electronic music, particularly dubstep when writing or walking, in a weird way, despite the high BPM, it helps me relax and focus. Deadmau5 is a favourite, as are playlists that feature his music. Naturally being a Beats product, the lower frequencies are impressively delivered, offering plenty of bass, actually not a little, a stupid amount of bass.
The Nero Remix of Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff from the 5 years of mau5 album is the perfect example of this. Most of my audio experience at the desk has typically been through over-the-ear headphones to achieve this level of audio experience, but somehow Beats have managed incredibly powerful bass, crisp, clear vocals and great mids the keyboards and another assortment of instruments on the track.
This is just one example, track after track, I continued to be amazed by what I was hearing. The Powerbeat Pros sound like the audio is being fed into your ears from outside, rather than being played inside your head like many in-ears. While not completely noise isolating, I actually really enjoyed the audio quality and in terms of EQ, you’ll need to rely on your phone to manage that as there’s no Beats App to compliment or control the PowerBeats Pro.
Stand out features of this display.
Wireless headphones have to be up to the task of playing audio for a serious developer or gaming session and to be honest, I could even see lots of bike riders or even athletes using these as they run. Thankfully a massive 9 hours of battery life is available from a single charge. This 9 hours also works well for those who only use them an hour or so per day, like going for a nightly walk, this means you’re only charging once a week which is a great attribute.
When it does come time to charge, the PowerBeats Pro charging case, you can drop your earphones in for additional charges, powering them to as much as 24 hours of combined playback. This works great if you’re travelling and want to throw the case in a bag (it’s quite large, so won’t fit in your pocket). If you’re after that quick fix and forgot you charge your PowerBeat Pros, just throw them in the case for 5 minutes to get 1 and a half hours of playback. This happened to me on more than one occasion and goes a long way to alleviate the most annoying part of wireless products.
Beats understand you may use these in a range of conditions, like outdoors or at the gym and have made the earphones sweat & water-resistant. This is particularly impressive when you realise there’s an always-listening microphone that provides hands-free access to your favourite voice assistant.
The earphones have dual volume controls, that is a volume rocker on each side, this makes it great for those times when you’re carrying something and can’t reach with one hand. This is most likely a symptom of the simplified, mirrored design given these earphones can work independently of each other, but also feels like someone at Beats was thinking about using these in the real world.
Without a doubt, the PowerBeats Pro is the easiest product to connect via Bluetooth and I’ve used a lot, probably hundreds of Bluetooth devices. As the label on the case suggests, leave the earphones in the case to connect, go to Add Bluetooth device on your phone and they just show up, then tap and they connect, place them in your ears and start playing music. It’s the way Bluetooth should always have worked, but Beats have actually nailed it.
Not everything’s perfect
If there’s a perfect pair of headphones or earphones, I haven’t found them, despite having tried dozens of them. One of my biggest gripes with the PowerBeats Pro is the lack of capacitive touch buttons. Many of the earphones I’ve used before feature the simple tap, rather than press to interact and control music playback. When you press the buttons on the PowerBeat Pros, the earphone presses into your head, not the most comfortable thing and this could be improved with a simple switch to capacitive touch.
The other annoyance is the charging cable. You may get 9 hours of battery life from these, but ultimately you’ll need to charge. When you do that, you’ll need to use the Lightning to USB-A charging cable. If you’re an Apple user, then chances are you have lightning cables laying around, but if you’re an Android user that likes these earphones, you’re more likely to have a USB-C cable. In a future generation of the product, I’d like to see Beats offer 2 versions, a USB-C or Lightning connector, either that or include both connectors in the charging case.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
The Beats PowerBeats Pro is available from BeatsByDre.com directly, through Apple, or through retail outlets like JB Hi-Fi. In terms of pricing, like many Apple products, it’s fairly fixed, so shopping around doesn’t necessarily yield you a great deal in this case.
The PowerBeats Pro costs A$349.95 and for that price, you really have to want the exact feature set available here to justify the price. You also better like the design as there’s no hiding them.
I really wish these earphones had USB-C rather than lightning, I wish the charging case was smaller, but honestly, none of that changes how great the PowerBeat Pro sounds and how long the feature list is.
The price is obviously a premium price, but I think by now, most people expect that from Apple and Beats. If you want great sounding earbuds, you’re going to have to pay up.
If you’re someone who’s active, or just wants a really comfortable audio solution, then you should definitely consider these. If Beats consider switching the controls to capacitive touch, then it’d be a no brainer, I’d recommend it to anyone who can stomach the dollars.