It’s no secret that Beats by Dre headphones and audio products have not been a top choice for audiophiles over the years. However, I’ve been testing the top of the line Beats Studio3 ($349.95; amazon.com) for a few weeks at my house, on the train, in the depths of the NYC subway, around that great city and even at the office.
Suffice it to say, the Studio3 wireless headphones have come a long way from when the brand was under Monster. These are on par with the likes of the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs, and with a suggested retail price of $349.95, they’re not cheap.
Beats aims to provide exceptional sound in a comfortable design with not too many features. You’ll find Pure Adaptive Noise Cancellation, which uses microphones to block out low-frequency sounds. However, you won’t find an app filled with features that might be daunting to use. The Beats Studio3s home in on great sound with features that you’ll use in a comfortable and vibrant design.
With headphones that last up to 40 hours on a charge, you’ll want them to be comfortable. Like many over-ear headphones, the Beats Studio3s are a mostly matte plastic build with plenty of soft padding along the headband. This way they’re comfortable for extended jam sessions. In my testing, I found the softness of the headband extended to the ear cushions with added breathability. On a warmer day or sitting in a room with the heat on, my ears sweat a bit, but the padding allows them to cool down.
Beats sticks with the iconic design that has been worn by athletes and influencers alike, but adds some flare in the form of new color waves. The Studio3s come in defiant black-red, midnight black, desert sand, crystal blue, matte black, gray, white, red, blue and shadow gray. I’ve been testing out the latter and it looks nice, especially with my gold iPhone XS Max or prism white Galaxy S10 E.
Bottom line is that the Studio3s check the box when it comes to comfort, and the many different color options allow you to find a pair that speaks to you.
A boom, boom, boom, boom
Similar to the iconic design, Beats is known for putting a heavy emphasis on bass. While there is a unique mix that puts a little focus on those low tones, I found it be a well-balanced experience. In a similar vein to having no companion app, there are no extra modes for listening on the Studio3s. You get what you get out of the box, and that’s not a bad thing.
I threw a variety of genres at the Studio3s, ranging from the Beatles to Ed Sheeran and back to Bruce Springsteen to Christina Perri. While there was a noticeable emphasis on bass, I found that it worked for many tracks and wasn’t that overpowering. Furthermore, high and mid tones like guitars, piano, vocal and electronic notes came through clear. This was true for tracks off studio albums as well as live editions. If anything, a live version of “Born to Run” makes you feel like you’re in the arena.
Beats has worked hard to create a great-sounding pair of headphones. There isn’t much extra mixing or particular compression technologies going on here. Beats is just trying to play the file as it was recorded and is streamed from your device to the Studio3s.
One mode for Pure ANC
Unlike the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs, the Studio3s don’t offer different levels of noise cancellation. Instead, there is one mode for Pure Adaptive Noise Cancellation, and it performs well. You can turn it on or off by double pressing the power button. It does turn on by default when you turn the headphones on.
The technology itself is pretty impressive. The Studio3s have two microphones that pick up ambient noises and voices, along with a software element that analyzes the sound. That way it can remove heavy sounds like the engine of a plane or train. It lets you focus on the music, and the music is all that you’re presented with. On lower volume tracks, or with no music playing and ANC on, you will hear some white noise.
Apple’s W1 chip, class 1 Bluetooth, and an audio jack
Since Apple owns Beats, the Studio3s get to have the latest and greatest tech from the tech giant, including Apple’s W1 chip for easy pairing and switching among devices in that ecosystem. When you first unbox these headphones, just power them on and hold them next to your iOS device like an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. A little window will appear showing the Studio3, in your chosen color, twirling around and asking you if you want to pair. Click “accept” and these will be linked with your iCloud account and available for quick switching across your Apple devices. It’s a seamless experience and it just works.
But fear not, contrary to somewhat popular belief, Beats play nicely with any Bluetooth-enabled device. So yes, you can pair these with an Android device like a Pixel 3 or Galaxy S10+ from Samsung. I found that class 1 Bluetooth to be pretty stable and offer a wide range of connectivity, up to around 20 feet.
Also, if you’re lucky enough to still have a headphone jack on your device, you can plug the Studio3s into it.
Long battery life
Beats says with noise canceling off, you can expect about 40 hours of battery life, and that was pretty close to what I got. So that would mean you can listen for a little under two days; on average, with off and on listening, I got around three days before needing to charge. With noise canceling on, Beats estimates around 20 hours, and at most I was able to get 18½, with some pauses with the headphones being turned off.
Even so, the Studio3s support fast charging via the included micro USB cable. And yes, I wish this was a Lightning connector, but maybe in the next version. For about 12 minutes of charge time, you can get about three hours of listening, which is very clutch.
So while I don’t feel like Dr. Dre, I am walking away very impressed by the Beats Studio3 headphones. I think the brand as a whole has grown up from its younger days, across design, hardware and the sound quality. There’s still an emphasis on bass, but not an overemphasis that results in a horribly balanced mix.
I think most users will like listening on the Studio3s and enjoy how the music is presented, no matter the genre. Plus, the long battery life and quick charge functionality are a big bonus, along with Apple’s W1 chip and Pure ANC being included.
At $349.95, the Beats Studio3s are on the higher end of the headphone spectrum, but they’re competitive at that price.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.