The Beats Studio Buds + (or Studio Buds Plus, if you prefer to type things out with letters) are new and improved versions of Beats's 2021-released Studio Buds. The "Plus" models look almost identical to those earbuds, but have some major internal upgrades. They pack improved sound, better active noise-cancellation and transparency modes, better mics for call quality, longer battery life and other new features as well.
But let's be honest...the real reason you'd buy them is their super-cool transparent design.
If you're not familiar, the Studio Buds + are essentially AirPods Pro alternatives. Apple owns Beats, and therefore the two companies are able to share technologies. The Studio Buds Plus and AirPods Pro are both noise-canceling wireless earbuds that can connect to your iPhone in mostly the same way. However, the Studio Buds Plus don't have an Apple-designed chip, so they don't have all of AirPods Pro's special features (more on this below). But the good thing is, this allows the Studio Buds to work well with both iPhones and Android smartphones.
Beats Studio Buds +: What We Think
The Studio Buds + are arguably the best wireless earbuds that Beats has ever made. If you get them in their new transparent finish, they're also one of the coolest-looking wireless earbuds that I've ever tested.
That said, they aren't that much different than their predecessors, the Studio Buds. Sure, they sound better and do a slightly better job with active noise-cancellation and transparency modes, but they don't have a new design (aside from the transparent finish) or all that many new features.
These new earbuds are mostly about the see-through look
Beats is offering the Studio Buds + in a couple finishes, including black and ivory (off-white) — but if we're being honest, it's really all about the new transparent finish. Beats has seemingly followed the lead of other gadget manufacturers making see-through gadgets — the most obvious is Nothing, which has two wireless earbuds, the Ear (Stick) and Ear (2), with transparent designs — and I'm here for it.
The review unit that I've been testing looks cool. Like, real cool. Not only are the wireless earbuds transparent — so you can see where the various mics, magnets and vents are located — but the case is transparent, and looks even cooler because you can see deeper into it.
Battery life is the other big upgrade
Without noticeably changing the size of the case or earbuds, Beats has managed to improve the battery of the Studio Buds + quite significantly. Each of the new earbuds has a nine-hour battery life (or six hours with ANC/transparency turned on), and the charging case can recharge both earbuds three times over.
Compared to the first-generation Studio Buds, the new models get about an hour extra of listening time per earbud. And the charging case can hold up to 36 hours of juice, which is significantly more than the 24 hours of the original Studio Buds's charging case.
Basically, if your biggest problem with the Studio Buds was their battery life, the Studio Buds + will most likely fix that.
These Studio Buds + sound better than their predecessors
Beats has done quite a bit internally to the Studio Buds + to improve sound quality. It gave each earbud custom-built transducers with a new two-layer design that, according to Beats, helps it deliver cleaner bass with ultra low distortion. And after testing the Studio Buds + for the last couple days and comparing them to the original Studio Buds, you can notice a difference.
I've been listening to Ed Sheeran's new album - (Subtract) lately, and my biggest observation is that the second-generation earbuds don't sound quite as tinny as the original Studio Buds. The bass doesn't feel quite as aggressive, either, and does sound more natural. I wouldn't say that the difference is night-and-day, but you can hear it.
It's worth noting that when listening to Apple Music, the Studio Buds + do support spatial audio and Dolby Atmos. However, unlike the newest AirPods Pro and AirPods 3, since they don't have Apple's special chip nor are they integrated with the same sensors, the Studio Buds + do not support spatial audio with dynamic head tracking. So they're not able to deliver quite the same immersive experience.
They have improved noise-cancellation and transparency modes, but it's still not elite
Beats improved the noise-cancellation and transparency abilities of the Studio Buds +. Each earbud is equipped with a new venting system, 3x larger microphones and a more powerful processor that, according to the company, helps the Studio Buds + "deliver up to 1.6x more powerful active noise-cancellation and up to 2x better transparency than [the original Studio Buds."
When comparing the two while walking around my neighborhood and in-and-out of noisy rooms, the difference is there — but it's only slight. The Studio Buds + are better, but it's not a crazy difference. When compared to the second-generation AirPods Pro, Apple's newest wireless earbuds still are the clear winner in both categories.
They're $80 cheaper than the AirPods Pro
The Studio Buds + are the most advanced wireless earbuds that Beats has ever made. They cost $170, which is $20 more than the original Studio Buds (which will continue to be sold), but they're still significantly cheaper than Apple's $250 AirPods Pro. So if you're looking for noise-canceling wireless earbuds with a lot of the same features and interfaces as AirPods Pro, the Studio Buds are a solid budget option.
That said, the Studio Buds + feel like one of the better mid-range wireless earbuds. There are quite a few better wireless earbuds for noise-cancellation and sound quality. If you're willing to spend a little more, you'll probably like the flagship models by Apple, Sony, Bose and others even more.
They work well with both iPhone and Android
Beats has to walk to a fine line that leverages its relationship with Apple without completely alienating its Android users. Like the Studio Buds, the Studio Buds + do this by not being integrated with an Apple-designed chip and thus being able to have both iPhone- and Android-specific features.
For iPhone, the Studio Buds + support fast-pairing and hands-free "Hey Siri." They also support Apple's Find My network so you can see their last known location on the Find My app. And they support instant iCloud pairing, so all your Apple devices (not just your iPhone) will be able to more quickly recognize them.
For Android, the Studio Buds + support fast pairing and Google's Find My Device. If you have a Chromebook and an Android smartphone, the Studio Buds + support multi-point Bluetooth pairing for seamless audio switching between the two devices.
These Beats still don't offer wireless charging
One of the biggest omissions with the Studio Buds + is that, like the original Studio Buds, they don't support wireless charging. This feels like a big bummer, as wireless charing is a pretty standard feature of premium wireless earbuds — and at $170, the Studio Buds + are the most expensive wireless earbuds Beats now makes.
That said, if the Studio Buds + did support wireless charging, it would likely also have a pretty big magnet on its charging case's back. And that might look not-so-cool with its transparent design.
What are the alternatives to the Beats Studio Buds +?
Obviously, there are a lot of wireless earbuds to choose from these days. When looking for alternatives for the Studio Buds +, Beats makes three other wireless earbuds. It will continue to sell the first-generation Studio Buds, which are $20 cheaper but are basically inferior to the Studio Buds + in every way.
Then there are its two fitness-focused wireless earbuds. The Beats Fit Pro are its newest pair, which have an earwing design and are one of my favorite wireless earbuds for running. And then there's the Powerbeats Pro, which have an ear hook design (that wraps around your ears) and are pretty large. Both of these wireless earbuds have an Apple-designed chip, but the Powerbeats Pro are older (released in May 2019) and don't support as many new-age features, such as support spatial audio with dynamic head tracking.
All that said: if you have an iPhone and you're looking for even better sound quality and noise-cancellation, the second-generation AirPods Pro are definitely still the pick of the bunch.