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I needed the headphones for conferences, editing videos, and just getting my groove on to start what was going to be one of the busiest work weeks of the year. So my first task when I arrived in Las Vegas was to make my way to the local Apple store and buy a no-frills pair of AirPods Pro.
Lo and behold, when I got to the store, I was guided to a headphones section right beside the Genius Bar. It was there when I was suddenly reminded that the Beats by Dr. Dre brand was still thriving and surviving, nine years after Apple had acquired it. The darker packaging of its various earbuds models made them stand out from Apple's light-themed boxes. I bit.
To be clear, the real clincher for me was the near-equal feature parity for both iOS and Android users. "Is Apple, a company notorious for building one of the most robust ecosystems of products and services, really selling a pair of earbuds that works just as well on Android as it does on iOS?" I asked myself.
Fast forward to this month when I got the chance to test out Beat's newest headphones, the Studio Buds Plus. Besides an undeniably charming transparent colorway, there are not too many design changes between these and 2021's Studio Buds. I'm not mad about that because the key reasons why you'd want to buy the original Studio Buds, including fantastic Android support and fit in the ears, remain with the newer model.
Instead, Beats put much of its focus on the less flashy features that are just as high-valued like battery life -- now six hours per charge and up to 36 hours total with the case -- and an improved active noise cancellation (ANC). The Studio Buds Plus also come with extra small ear tips, similar to the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen). The smaller size is not for me, but I know it's an invaluable benefit for others.
With the matte-frosted, all-rounded charging case, I found the Studio Buds easy to manage and slip into pockets. How fidgety earbuds cases are is a bonus to me, and these ones are up there. While there's no wireless charging with this model, which is a bummer for a $169 pair, I'll take the USB-C charging over the AirPods' Lightning any day of the week. Beats remain the only earbuds Apple offers with USB-C support, which is another reason why they're ideal for Android users.
As far as audio performance goes, I'm quite satisfied with the Studio Buds Plus. They're not as bass-heavy as I remembered Beats headphones being, and I'd love it if there was an equalizer or option to raise the lower frequencies via the Beats app, but the emphasis on trebles and mids still makes pop, electronic, and, of course, hip-hop tracks exhilarating to listen to. If you enjoy being able to hear most, if not all, the vocal and instrument layers in your music, then these get the job done.
Where the Studio Buds Plus falls short for me is in ANC, though I'm benchmarking it against the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and AirPods Pro (2nd Gen), both of which cost at least $60 more. Whether I'm strolling at the park or commuting on a bus, there's bound to be a bird chirp or passersby that cuts through the audio, weakening the immersion. But is it a $60 difference in noise-canceling? Not at all.
In fact, I'd say the transparency mode on these buds makes up for the ANC. For how absorbed we are in our personal tech, I'd argue that spatial awareness is more important than ever. And if you're considering a pair for working out or jogging outdoors, then the ambient listening feature should serve you well.
Ultimately, these are fantastic earbuds for both Android and iOS users. The fact that I can flip open the charging case and both my Android and iPhone display fast-pairing prompts is hard to come by and not taken for granted. And for the same price as the regular AirPods, the Studio Buds Plus not only have cushioned ear tips for better passive noise cancellation and comfort but support tap gestures for greater control than the AirPods' squeeze system.