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Beats Studio Pro: So close to being my dream headphones

The latest release from Beats is the perfect middle-ground headphones for Android and Apple users, as their unique cooperation with Android and iOS is a nice touch.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
Beats Studio Pro headphones in Deep Brown against a wooden table
Jada Jones/ZDNET

Since Beats was acquired by Apple in 2014, the company's release cycle has been stagnant, to say the least. But, when new products are released, they're typically the only ones owned by Apple that appeal to both iOS and Android users.

Since the release of the Beats Studio 3 in 2017, a lot has changed with the Beats Studio lineup's design. The Studio Pro are devoid of the flashy, self-branded, chrome metal plating that used to be on older Beats headphones and, instead, sport a more muted and mature matte finish.

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I've been testing the latest model of the Beats Studio Pro, and the rich Deep Brown color and minimalist design make them the most aesthetically pleasing headphones I've ever seen. But, the big question here is how do they sound, and whether or not they're worth the $350 asking price. Here's what I think.

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I tested the latest model of the Beats Studio Pro, and the rich Deep Brown color and minimalist design make them the most aesthetically pleasing headphones I've ever seen. Usually, the Beats Studio Pro retail for $350, placing them on the higher end of the headphones price range. 

This year's Studio Pro feature smoothed-out hinges, more subtle colorways, and improved ear cup materials. There are some meaningful changes on the inside of the headphones, too.

For one, the pair now offer noise-canceling and transparency modes, the latter being a first among Beats' over-ear headphones. 

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The Studio Pro are compatible with spatial audio for iOS via Bluetooth and can deliver lossless audio playback when connected to a device via its USB-C port. You can even listen losslessly while charging the Studio Pro when they're connected to an Android phone.

I will note that there's no multipoint connection for Apple devices, though the Studio Pros can intelligently switch between an Android device and a Chromebook.

USB-C-connected listening also unlocks Entertainment and Conversation audio modes, which enhance the listening experience for movie-watching and voice calls, respectively.

Beats Studio Pro headphones in Deep Brown against a wooden table

The Deep Brown finish is discretely unique.

Jada Jones/ZDNET

However, lossless audio playback, headphone charging, and Entertainment and Conversation modes via USB-C are incompatible with an iPhone (even with a USB-C to Lightning adapter, based on my failed attempts). So, to access these features, you'll have to connect the Studio Pro to your iPad or Mac instead.

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The active noise-canceling (ANC) on the Studio Pro is fantastic, but I'd compare it to the level of over-ear headphones that cost at least $100 less. Without music playing, the ANC does a great job effectively blocking soft whirring noises, like a distant lawnmower or an overhead fan but isn't as effective at blocking sharper noises, like a clicking pen or typing on a keyboard.

I listened to "Can You Hear The Music" from the Oppenheimer film score after connecting the Studio Pro to my MacBook Air, and it sounded as riveting as when I watched the movie in a theater. 

To be clear, whether you consider yourself to be an audiophile or not, the difference between lossless audio and traditional high-quality formats is not as dramatic as it seems. You'll also need to be using a music streaming platform that supports the audio format, which most services require you to join premium-tier plans for.

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With the feature turned on or not, the Studio Pro sound very good. They produce bass in a controlled manner, and turning up the volume doesn't lead to unwanted audio distortion. When I listened to Michael Jackson's You Rock My World the bassline and background harmonies were discernible and enjoyable.

That said, the custom 40mm drivers in the Studio Pro deliver a sound so balanced that it can feel muted and dull for some. You're not getting the same heart-pumping, bass-heavy output as older Beats headphones with this year's model.

Beats Studio Pro headphones in Deep Brown on a glass table
Jada Jones/ZDNET

It doesn't help that there aren't many direct ways to adjust the EQ settings for the Studio Pro, if at all. The headphones are not compatible with Apple's native headphone audio level settings, and part of the reason may be the Beats' lack of Apple's H1 chip. So, your only option is to tweak the EQ settings in your preferred music streaming app.

Phone calls sound very clear on the Studio Pro, and I had no problem hearing or being heard by the person on the other end.

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The Beats Solo 3 headphones I've owned for about four years sport a synthetic leather material that, after all this time, has begun to rip and detach from the metal part of the ear cup. That's why I was glad to see that the Studio Pro don a new ear cup cushion material that Beats calls UltraPlush, which is memory foam covered by faux leather. 

Beats Studio Pro headphones in Deep Brown in Jada's hand

The Beats Studio Pros are fitted with UltraPlush ear cups.

Jada Jones/ZDNET

The UltraPlush offers more comfort, but the ear cups are slightly smaller than that of other over-ear headphones I've tried. I'd say the Studio Pro tow the line between an on-ear and over-ear fit, prompting me to take a break earlier than I would with other over-ear headphones.

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With transparency mode or noise canceling on, you can listen to the Studio Pro for about 24 hours, or 40 hours with neither setting active. Apple says Fast Fuel charging can lend you four hours of juice on a 10-minute charge, and that's in line with what I was seeing.

Bottom line

The Beats Studio Pro are a great pair of over-ear headphones that offer some luxury features to both Apple and Android users. It's hard to find such qualifications when buying audio products from the Apple store. 

For their original $350 price tag, I would have passed on the Studio Pro because they're missing high-end features like multipoint connection and wear detection. But if they're on sale, I would 100% recommend them. If you're looking for a pair of casual, great-sounding, comfortable, and inclusive headphones, the Studio Pro have the right sound, look, and idea.

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