It doesn’t take much to make a great pair of truly wireless earbud headphones.
And last long.
Four simple ingredients that virtually everyone, including Apple & their AirPoos, just love to fuck up in one way or another.
Beats have decided to do things a little differently with their new Powerbeats Pro though. Instead of hitting just a couple of the notes they’re tearing this karaoke bar of amateurs down, banging out tunes that hit them all like a pro.
Who needs Sir Ive anyways?
At first gander the Powerbeats Pro will appear extremely familiar. They’re almost identical in shape & size to my beloved Powerbeats 3 headphones and you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve simply “cut the cord” and removed what linked the two ear pieces together.
It takes digging a little deeper to find there’s more than just a few subtle changes that set the Pros apart from their conjoined sibling.
To begin with there are controls for volume and playback on both earpieces now. Without the cord to house them they needed a new home and because you can operate them one at a time they’ve doubled down and put them on both. Unlike the AirPods, Beats have opted to retain physical buttons, which I prefer. These offer a tactile response that in the world of touchscreens and smartphones is now all too absent. On top of the earbud arms are your volume control, whilst the Beats logo on their side acts as a button that pauses, plays & moves tracks forward & back depending on how often you press it.
…they’re not perfect but they’re the closest headphones to being so that I’ve found.
On the inside of the arm you’ll find a sensor to detect when they’re actually in your ears. One that, like the AirPods, pauses your music when you remove them.
The same arm, which is noticeably thicker than its predecessor’s, also houses the Pro’s battery before leading into their trademark over-the-ear, malleable, hook.
This is identical to the Powerbeats 3 in both form and function. Easily moulded to conform to any ear shape the Powerbeats Pro continue a now long tradition in being both the most comfortable and best fitting in-ear headphones I’ve worn.
Of course the biggest difference for the Pros is the inclusion of their charging carry case. The Powerbeats Pro have a much larger clamshell case than what you see with most wireless buds. This is largely in part to the Powerbeats’ over-the-ear hook but for me wasn’t a large issue.
Charge time is around 20 minutes, which in return gets you up to 9 hours of playback. The case can extend playback up to a 24 hours before it itself will need to be plugged in for some juice. Sadly Beats have towed the Apple line on this one and insist on including a Lightning port to charge their case. It’s my one nit-pick about them. Why these don’t charge wirelessly or at the very least via USB-C I’ll never know.
Well that’s not true, they make more money this way, it’s just really shitty for us.
Setup & use
If you’ve connected a pair of AirPods you already know how to do the same with the Powerbeats Pro. For those that haven’t, allow me to educate you…
Open the case. You’re done.
When in proximity to your iOS device the Apple provided H1 chip inside the Powerbeats Pro’s seamlessly handles the headphone’s connection with your device. A screen pops up asking if you’d like to connect the headphones and after accepting the prompt, you’re good to go.
They can also be used with your Android device or with your computer too. That of course isn’t quite as straight forward, but it’s hardly difficult either and is just a matter of following the normal Bluetooth pairing process.
From then on it’s simply a matter of popping one or two of the Pro’s earpieces in and punching that play button. If you’re only wearing one and decide to put the other in the music will sync up and start playing through both. Removing either will cause it to pause as it thinks you’d like to do this thing our parents did called “have a conversation”, or perhaps you’re at least pretending to be polite when ordering your almond milk chai. Side-thought; how do you milk an almond?
Naturally they also include a microphone for taking calls, which does a commendable job considering it lacks the “beam” technology included in the AirPods. For those using their headphones to take the occasional phone call they’ll be fine, but they’re not my recommendation for those on the phone a lot of the time.
How ‘dem Beats but?
Look, it doesn’t matter how cool, or how high tech any pair of headphones are unless they actually sound good right? Thankfully I’m happy to report the Pros sound just as good, if not better, than the Powerbeats 3.
Naturally, being in-ear headphones, they sound better off the bat, just because they provide a decent seal to block some outside noise. Some people take umbrage with that design though and if that’s you I’m sure you already know these aren’t for you, but for everyone else the included array of tip sizes that will undoubtably provide a fit to suit most people.
Personally I still prefer to use Comply tips as I find they provide an even better seal, but that’s totally a personal choice and doesn’t greatly affect the sound quality the Powerbeats Pros provide.
Armed with my trusty headphone testing playlist there was no one genre that particularly stood out as being blatantly poor. Being a Beats product they’re tuned with a focus on bass meaning those that enjoy electronic/dance or RnB will always get more from them, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well they stood up with rock, classical and jazz.
Even Queens of the Stone Age’s Go With The Flow and Radiohead’s Paranoid Android, which I feel suffered on the Powerbeats 3, rose to the occasion and delivered a better rounded sound. For tracks that really let the Pros shine check out Gambino’s Bonfire or Kanye’s N**as In Paris.
Too many bones?
Apple will sell you a pair of Powerbeat Pros for A$399. ‘Dems a lot of bones, but I’m going to say they’re entirely worth it – for the right person.
It’s a lot of cash to go throwing about but if you own(ed) a pair of the Powerbeats 3 you already know how good these are. You also know how annoying that cord was between the earpieces and that’s gone now so really you’re the prime market for grabbing a pair.
For everyone else that needs convincing, they’re not perfect but they’re the closest headphones to being so that I’ve found. They’re comfortable, are great fitting & secure whilst working out, as well as very importantly sound incredible. Add all those together and you’ve got yourself a very compelling case for the ideal pair of everyday-wear pair of headphones.