PSA: Powerbeats Pro Is Like a High-End Version of AirPods in Every Way (Even More So Than AirPods Pro, In My Opinion)
I’ve been thrilled since purchasing Powerbeats Pro earlier this year. I was on the fence because I wasn’t expecting the sound quality to match the price, but ultimately decided they’d become a better option to motivate my workouts than any of the alternatives.
Let me start off by saying that the sound quality is just about reference-quality and virtually flawless. (The Verge pointed out that there’s excess energy in the treble, which I find brings extra detail and excitement out of most songs.) I was vocal about being absolutely underwhelmed with the mediocre sound quality of Beats’ previous release, which was the Studio3, so the fact that I can’t really fault the sound is quite the accomplishment. The bass range is even and extends down to 10Hz, and there’s no noticeable distortion at any volume level. This is the best quality bass of any Beats product, and one of the best of any IEM on the market. It’s powerful, tight, and authoritative without providing extra low-end to songs that weren’t mixed for it. More importantly, the mid-range (vocals/instruments) is detailed and quite natural and the treble range is non-fatiguing. I can listen at 74% without becoming fatigued for much longer than I could to AirPods, which boost all of the high-end frequencies to compensate for a lack of bass extension, or really any of my audiophile headphones. I push it to 80% when I want to be motivated and feel the bass “in my chest.” The dynamic range on these is impressive as well, it can go from as quiet to as loud as the artist intended.
There is one major caveat that I need to point out, which is that the sound quality that Powerbeats Pro is capable of delivering depends on a perfect fit with both the ear hooks and the ear tips. Thankfully the default medium tips were perfect for me, but I had a terrible fitment with the ear hooks out of the box — which was incredibly frustrating. They would audibly flail around and ironically weren’t totally stable. I wear glasses but found that wasn’t entirely the reason. I’ve had to adjust the ear hooks multiple times, which are premium and malleable but even then I still don’t get a perfectly consistent fit and I have to take care every time I put them on.
Now that I‘ve been getting a better (though still not perfect fit with the ear hooks) I can confidently say that Powerbeats Pro has replaced AirPods for me in every way. They’re more comfortable, sound much better and more balanced and have a semi-open design that lets in the perfect amount of ambient noise where I can listen to music while still being aware of my surroundings. 9 hours of battery life lasts practically all-day (some days I don’t even want to take them off, especially when I have a good fit) and the call quality is just as good if not better.
AirPods Pro, which I’ve tested during two in-store demos, has sound quality that’s decidedly more dull across the entire range. (Although I’m sure I would have a more favorable impression of them If I did an at-home trial, objective measurements do line up with that opinion.) I personally hate the sensation of Active Noise Cancellation and the feeling of being fully isolated from my surroundings so AirPods Pro wasn’t even really a consideration for me. Transparency Mode works well but I didn’t want to live in a digital bubble all the time — I’d rather pause the audio and be able to hear people naturally like I can with Powerbeats Pro or AirPods.
I found that I could distinctly feel AirPods Pro in my ears and that the fit of Powerbeats Pro is generally more comfortable and transparent. I coincidentally took a phone call during my demo and didn’t like being isolated during it. Purely opinion but I find Powerbeats Pro to be more stylish than AirPods Pro. The cherry on top is that Powerbeats Pro has roughly double the battery life, which I didn’t think would matter to me since I only planned to use them for ~ 2-hour workouts but they’ve since become my headphones of choice for music listening around the house.
With a second-generation Powerbeats Pro potentially on the way and the current-generation discounted to $199, my parting words are that Powerbeats Pro is so much more than a fitness in-ear monitor. It’s an almost excellent audio product that would be virtually flawless if the ear hooks were perfectly stable.
(I’ve found the sound quality does match the price point. Powerbeats Pro bring out almost as much detail as my high-end headphones in songs that I know well. Rtings confirms all my observations. It’s like wearing over-ear headphones but they’re truly wireless with a transparent fit, when I’m stationary at least.)