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Beats Studio Buds vs. Apple AirPods Pro 2: Which should you buy?

We pit Beats' Studio Buds against Apple's AirPods Pro. Here are the key reasons to buy one over the other.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor

The title for best-sounding wireless earbuds is a never-ending debate, but there's no denying that Apple's latest AirPods Pro is the most popular choice on the market. Having its dedicated column on the Apple website and an valuation that overshadows entire business entities, the AirPods Pro is both influential and fundamentally great-sounding.

But if you're shopping for a pair of earbuds -- whether on Apple's website or at a store -- don't be surprised to find stocks of Beats Studio Buds nearby. The infamous Beats label, which once lived on the ears of every walking athlete and celebrity, was acquired by Apple in 2014. Since then, Apple has been selling Beats-made headphones and earbuds in its own stores. 

While Apple doesn't push its $150 Beats Studio Buds as much as it does the $250 AirPods Pro, that doesn't mean you should count out the former when it's time to shop. In more ways than one, the Beats competitor may be more favorable for your needs. Here's the breakdown.


Beats Studio Buds

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)

Sound features

Spatial Audio, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and Transparency Mode

Personalized Spatial Audio, ANC, and Transparency Mode   


Bluetooth 5.2

Bluetooth 5.3





Up to 8 hours of playback (24 hours with the charging case)  

Up to 6 hours of playback (30 hours with the charging case)


Proprietary Beats chip





You should buy the Beats Studio Buds if...


1. You want the most inclusive user experience 

While Apple's AirPods Pro are undisputedly the better earbuds for iPhone users, they're not the most welcoming to those on Android. For example, key features like Spatial Audio and the ability to control the earbuds via an app are disabled when you connect them to an Android device. On the other hand, the Beats Studio Buds not only have a dedicated Android app for controls but support Google's Fast Pair technology, allowing you to connect to the earbuds with a flip of the charging case lid.

Not to mention, the Studio Buds charge via USB-C, a more universal standard than the AirPods' proprietary Lightning.

2. You have a budget (and a color preference)

Those who favor a little more character and affordability will find the Beats Studio Buds appealing. Available in six colors, including Ocean Blue, Sunset Pink, and the infamous Beats Red, the Studio Buds bring a vibrancy that the AirPods Pro lack. Depending on your colorway of choice, the earbuds' charging case follows suit. 

Also: The 7 best wireless earbuds you can buy

This isn't the only hardware difference between the Beats and AirPods, though. The Studio Buds are sculpted to fit in the curvatures of your ear, not needing any stems or hooks to keep them snug. And it all comes packaged for $150, $100 less than the latest AirPods Pro.

3. Tap-based gestures are more of your speed

For runners and more active users, there's nothing worse than being in the zone, only to pause your music because you accidentally pulled an earbud out as you were trying to control it. Compared to the AirPods Pro's squeeze-based gesture controls, the Beats Studio Buds operate on taps and holds, requiring less effort to play, pause, skip tracks, and pick up phone calls.

You should buy Apple's AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) if...

AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) in the hand.
Christina Darby/ZDNET

1. You want the best-sounding earbuds from Apple

The 2nd-gen AirPods Pro are arguably better sounding than the Beats, and that's thanks to the enhanced dynamic drivers within each bud, capable of producing a more complete sound stage while keeping mid-to-high frequencies loud and clear. Are they more expensive than the Studio Buds? Absolutely. But for the superior, out-of-the-box sound quality and more effective noise cancellation, the AirPods' asking price is justified.

2. Clear microphone quality is desired

For years now, Apple's AirPods Pro have been at the top when it comes to microphone quality. They've basically a work-from-home essential at this point, with many users relying on them for video meetings and phone calls. ZDNET's own Christina Darby tested the earbuds back in September and found the microphones more than capable of isolating her voice from the bustling sounds of New York City. It doesn't get any better than that right?

Also: The best AirPods Pro accessories you should buy

3. You often lose your earbuds

We've all been there: the emotional distress of misplacing a pair of earbuds. With the latest generation of AirPods Pro, Apple has integrated a speaker within the charging case, allowing it to play a chime at your command via the FIndMy app. It's a neat addition that you might not use all the time but is there when you do.

Alternatives to consider

The third-generation of standard AirPods sell for significantly less than the Pro models but are just as worthy of your consideration. Like the Pro, the earbuds support Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking, have an adaptive EQ to fine-tune various audio experiences, and sit in a case that can charge via MagSafe. 

For those who want even better wireless earbuds for working out, I'd point you to Beats' Fit Pro. The latest model comes with even more colors than the Studio Buds and is just as compatible with both iOS and Android devices. Most importantly, there's a rubber hook stemming out of each bud that gives them a snug fit in your ears.

The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 sit right between the Studio Buds and AirPods Pro 2 at $180 and, frankly, offer the best of both worlds. That includes active noise cancellation, a premium sound, squeeze-based gesture controls, and support for both iOS and Android.

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