Beats Studio Pro review: Upgraded sound makes all the difference | Engadget

    After almost six years, Beats is back with new over-ear, noise-canceling headphones. A significant update from the Studio 3 Wireless, the new Studio Pro is a familiar formula that’s been reconfigured from the inside out. A second-generation version of Beats’ own audio chip powers this new model, delivering improvements to active noise cancellation (ANC), spatial audio with dynamic head tracking and wired audio modes via USB-C connection. Small design tweaks and slightly better battery life are also on the spec sheet, while the price remains $350 for Beats’ flagship headphones.


    To refresh the aesthetics, Beats enlisted the help of Samuel Ross, a fashion and product designer who has worked with Hublot, Nike, Oakley and others. The result is an updated look with new colors, materials, packaging and branding. While the tweaks are subtle and the folding design remains the same overall, there are a few notable changes to point out. First, Studio Pro is available in four new colors and even the black option now has a matte finish. Where the headband hinge used to have a contrasting color for most of the variants, that’s now a tone-on-tone finish and the model name has been removed. The iconic lowercase “b” logo remains on both sides, though.


    • Improved sound quality
    • Above average voice performance
    • Transparency Mode
    • USB-C audio


    • Still not the most comfortable
    • No automatic pausing
    • No multipoint connectivity for iOS

    Beats Studio Pro

    Another key change is to the earpads. Beats and Ross opted for a seamless design here, with cushions made of a new UltraPlush memory foam, though they’re still wrapped in leather. Beats is clear the clamping force from previous Beats models remains the same, unfortunately and the weight hasn’t changed. Indeed, the new ear pads help to a degree, but after about an hour of use, I start to feel the pressure that’s been an issue with Beats headphones for years.

    Since Beats headphones first debuted, the company’s models have become mainstays for gym goers and pro athletes. You won’t catch warm-ups for many professional sports events without at least one person wearing Beats headphones. Still, the company hasn’t issued a proper IP rating for sweat and water resistance. Beats says it’s confident the Studio Pro will be just fine for workouts, but it’s also clear that earpad replacements won’t be available through the company. You’ll need to find a third-party supplier should they get too grimey.

    Physical on-board controls are back on the Studio Pro. On the outside of the left ear cup, a multi-function button in the center handles single, double and triple taps to control music and calls. A long press here will activate your voice assistant, even though the headphones support hands-free Siri on Apple devices. Above and below this center button are the volume controls, while the noise modes are toggled with a double press of the power button on the right ear cup. If you’re in USB-C audio mode, two taps of that button will cycle between three EQ presets specifically designed for wired use (Signature, Entertainment and Conversation). A line of five LEDs below the power control blinks when you’re in pairing mode and gives you a battery life estimate with a single press when the headphones are powered on.

    Software and features

    Beats Studio Pro review

    Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

    Beats continues its move away from Apple’s audio chips with the Studio Pro. These headphones contain the company’s own second-gen platform instead, but a lot of the features that Apple silicon offers are still here. Hands-free Siri, one-touch pairing, iCloud pairing, Apple Watch hand-off and Find My compatibility are all baked into iOS. Multipoint pairing and automatic switching between devices isn’t available on iOS, iPad and Mac right now, but Beats says it may arrive later. There’s no need to download a separate app on iOS to access the settings though, they’re also available in the Control Center. For Android users, the Beats app offers one-touch pairing via Google Fast Pair, automatic connection to Android or Chrome devices through your Google account, seamless device transitions, Find My Device, customization and widgets.

    Beats has added Transparency Mode to the Studio Pro, giving its over-ear headphones a very useful tool that was missing from the Studio 3. The company’s audio chip also powers Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking. While the previous model supported immersive sound, it didn’t offer head tracking or the ability to personalize audio, the latter of which Apple debuted last year.

    For the first time, Beats has enabled USB-C wired audio on the Studio Pro. In addition to listening to high-resolution and lossless tunes, you can also take calls while the headphones are actively charging. The Studio Pro has a built-in digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that can accommodate sample rates up to 24-bit/48kHz. That’s enough to handle the high-res streaming from Apple Music, Amazon Music HD and Tidal. Beats has also included three USB-C sounds profiles for wired listening: Signature, Entertainment and Conversation. As the names suggest, each one is tailored to music, movies/TV shows and calls, adjusting the frequency curve for what the company thinks is the best in each scenario. And yes, there’s still 3.5mm playback, which can be used with ANC and Transparency Mode as needed.

    Sound quality

    Beats Studio Pro review

    Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

    Inside, Beats swapped out the drivers for new 40mm units. A two-layer diaphragm combines with micro vents and fine acoustic mesh to streamline the airflow and minimize distortion. The company says the new drivers can provide “near-zero” distortion even at high volumes, which is an up to 80 percent improvement from the Studio 3. That claim holds true as the Studio Pro doesn’t distort when you crank it up to the eye-watering full volume. However, what the new components have done to improve clarity while providing a more balanced sound profile is more impressive.

    In its early days, Beats had a reputation for being too heavy-handed with the bass. While that hasn’t been the case for a while, the company still has a propensity to highlight low-end. For the Studio Pro, there’s still ample bass when a track calls for it, but that boom doesn’t come at the sacrifice of mids and highs – or more importantly detail. Even the driving thump of the kick drum on TesseracT’s “War of Being” has noticeable texture throughout the song. It’s not just a repetitive boom.

    Overall, the attention to clarity and the even-handed tuning across the EQ curve gives the Studio Pro quite immersive sound out of the box. Everything seems open and airy, with even the instruments in chaotic metal tracks remaining perfectly discernible. Turn on something softer like Charles Wesley Godwin’s Live From The Church or Nickel Creek’s Celebrants (country and bluegrass, respectively), and you immediately hear the layers of acoustic instruments and finer detail unique to each. Those records can sound like you’re in the room while they’re being recorded on the best-sounding headphones, and there’s a sense of that on the Studio Pro. As you might expect, this latest Beats model excels with hip-hop tracks. The droning bass lines on albums like Killer Mike’s MICHAEL lay a thick foundation for the rest of the song to be built.

    While Spatial Audio returns, chances are it won’t sway your buying decision. The integration is similar to previous Beats and Apple earbuds and headphones, with Personalized Spatial Audio added in this time around. The technology still simulates the sound of 64 speakers, capable of moving with you if you have head tracking enabled. If you’ve experienced Spatial Audio before, you know exactly what to expect: slightly louder, more airy tunes where the technology’s immersive nature can vary from album to album and genre to genre. When it hits though, like on Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow,” older tracks have new life. With boygenius’ The Record though, I can’t tell the difference when Spatial Audio is on. I’m also less sold on the dynamic head tracking Beats added on the Studio Pro.

    Beats Studio Pro review

    Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

    Then there are the new USB-C EQ profiles. When you’re connected to a computer or other compatible device, ANC and Transparency mode are disabled. Instead, the power button on the Studio Pro cycles through wired presets for music, entertainment and calls. That 5-LED array below the power control indicates which profile you’re on and will be essential until you memorize the audible tones for each one. Signature and Conversation work best for music and calls respectively, while I’m less impressed by the Entertainment setting. All three are fine, but those two are the ones I found myself coming back to in wired mode. Like Spatial Audio content in Dolby Atmos, mileage can vary listening to lossless tunes via Apple Music. Some albums are noticeably better with wired USB-C, while others sound nearly identical to streaming over Bluetooth.

    Although Beats doesn’t quantify with a number, it says ANC performance is improved on the Studio Pro when compared to the Studio 3. Fully adaptive active noise cancellation uses outward facing mics to monitor your environment while inward pointing units catch any sounds that might sneak through due to fit. The company explains that the ANC boost is also partially due to updated microphones all around as they have higher sensitivity and a better signal-to-noise ratio. While the Studio Pro doesn’t beat the noise-blocking powers of Bose or Sony, the ANC on the Studio Pro is noticeably better than the Studio 3 – especially for things like television noise and human voices. And similar to the previous model, the latest Beats headphones analyze audio up to 48,000 times per second to maintain pristine clarity.

    Lastly, let’s discuss Transparency Mode. While I welcome the inclusion here over not offering ambient sound at all, I did have higher hopes. It works fine, but lacks the natural clarity of Apple’s AirPods Max or AirPods Pro. I thought Beats might come close since it works closely with Apple on several aspects of its products, but that’s not the case. Apple remains truly unmatched when it comes to Transparency Mode. It often sounds like you’re not even wearing headphones at all, mostly due to how natural your own voice sounds fed back through those devices.

    Call quality

    Beats Studio Pro review

    Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

    Beats says you can expect up to 27 percent better voice clarity than the Studio 3 Wireless, thanks to voice-targeting microphones and a machine-learning algorithm. The company explains that it trained the system on over 7,000 hours of “real-world environments” in order to create a setup that can “precisely hone in” on your voice. Those are lofty claims for sure, and part of them hold true.

    The Studio Pro is great at cutting out constant background noise, like a fan or A/C unit. Neither of those came through on calls when I was sitting right underneath one or the other. It’s better than the speakerphone-like quality most headphones and earbuds offer, but it isn’t pristine.

    Battery life

    When it comes to battery life, Beats says you can expect up to 40 hours with ANC off. That’s the same figure it promised on the Studio 3. However, with noise cancellation or Transparency Mode enabled, the company offers two hours more than the previous model at 24 hours. There’s still a quick-charge feature here, dubbed Fast Fuel, that gives you up to four hours of use in just 10 minutes.

    During my tests with the Studio Pro, I still had 23 percent battery left after 25 hours of use with either ANC or ambient sound active. That’s also doing a mix of music, podcasts, streaming TV and taking calls. I powered the headphones completely off several times during that span as well and I plugged them in via USB-C for a few minutes to test those modes.

    The competition

    Beats Studio Pro review

    Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

    When it comes to flagship headphones at this price, Beats’ biggest competition remains Sony and Bose. Sony’s 1000X line has been our top pick for best wireless headphones for years, as the company’s mix of stellar sound, powerful noise cancellation and a literal truckload of handy features is unmatched. With the latest version, the $400 WH-1000XM5, the company simply packs so much into their headphones that many others can’t compete. The Bose 700 is that company’s best option, which is currently available for about $10 less than Sony’s 1000XM5. Bose doesn’t come close to Sony in terms of features, but it does do slightly better when it comes to ANC performance. If blocking out distractions is your primary goal, the 700 is worth a look.


    While Beats didn’t completely redesign its over-ear headphones for the Studio Pro, its latest model is a significant update. The company did well to incorporate features and technology other companies have introduced over the last five years, and its relationship with Apple continues to enhance its products. The improvements to ANC and sound quality alone are good, but the fact that the company was also able to add in a wired USB-C audio, upgrades to Spatial Audio and better voice performance while keeping the price the same is notable. There’s no doubt these are still premium headphones, but the Studio Pro positions Beats to better compete with the likes of Sony and Bose in a number of areas where it used to fall short.

    Beats Studio Pro is available to order today in black, brown, navy and Sandstone color options for $350. The headphones will be available at Apple retail stores and other resellers starting tomorrow, July 20th.

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