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The Powerbeats are the latest workout-friendly headphones from Beats (and Apple)

I’ve got the power — New exercise buds arrive on March 18 after extensive leaks. Jeff Dunn – Mar 16, 2020 12:00 pm UTC The new Beats Powerbeats in-ear headphones. Beats They come in red, black… Beats …and white. They’ll cost $149, $100 less than the Powerbeats Pro and AirPods Pro. Beats They charge via…

I’ve got the power —

New exercise buds arrive on March 18 after extensive leaks.


  • The new Beats Powerbeats in-ear headphones.


    Beats

  • They come in red, black…


    Beats

  • …and white. They’ll cost $149, $100 less than the Powerbeats Pro and AirPods Pro.


    Beats

  • They charge via a Lightning port and have Apple’s H1 wireless chip.


    Beats

Beats on Monday announced Powerbeats, its latest Bluetooth earphones. The new model is the successor to Powerbeats3 Wireless, which the Apple subsidiary launched in 2016. Like that pair, the Powerbeats—which are not called “Powerbeats 4”—are primarily aimed at gym goers and active use. They’ll arrive on March 18 for $149.

The reveal should come as no surprise, as the Powerbeats have been leaked extensively over the last two months. One Twitter user even spotted them in stock at a local Walmart in New York over the weekend.

Beats is positioning the Powerbeats as a lower-cost version of the Powerbeats Pro, a pair we’ve recommended in the past. Whereas the Powerbeats Pro are completely devoid of wires, the Powerbeats have a more traditional neckband design with a cable between the earbuds. Still, both pairs feature Apple’s H1 wireless chip, which allows for a more intuitive setup and pairing process with iOS and iCloud devices. This also gives the Powerbeats hands-free Siri support—through the “Hey Siri” command—as well as a Class 1 Bluetooth radio, which should help them maintain a steadier wireless connection with longer range.

Early ears-on impressions

I’ve spent a couple of days with the Powerbeats in advance of Monday’s announcement. My first impression is that they’re indeed similar to the Powerbeats Pro in both audio quality and design. There’s an emphasis on bass, as per usual with Beats headphones, but it’s not overdone. There’s plenty of digital signal processing (DSP) going on to keep distortion to a minimum, something that has been a hallmark of many recent audio products from Apple. I haven’t necessarily been wowed by the sound profile so far, but nothing about it has been offensive, either. It seems fine.

The general shape of the Powerbeats is nearly identical to that of the Powerbeats Pro. Both have a flexible “hook” design made of silicone and hard plastic, which keeps them secure and relatively lightweight in the ear. Like past Beats earbuds, the Powerbeats don’t totally seal off the ear canal—it’s more like a three-quarters seal—so you’ll likely hear some outside noise while wearing them. That might not be a total negative with headphones made for the gym and running outside, though. The cable connecting the earbuds is nicely short and rounded, which has kept it from jostling against my neck as aggressively as other workout earbuds’ cables when I’ve been on the move.

While the Powerbeats Pro’s true wireless design lets them mirror volume and playback controls on both earbuds, the Powerbeats relegates them to the right earpiece. (The left houses a power button.) The earphones have an IPX4 water-resistance rating, so they can withstand splashes but aren’t designed to be immersed in water like an IPX7-rated set such as the Jaybird Tarah Pro. A Lightning charging port is left exposed on the bottom of the right earbud, but Beats says the device is safely sweat-resistant anyway.

The Powerbeats advertise 15 hours of battery life per charge, which would be a healthy amount if accurate. (For reference, we got around 11 hours per charge out of the Powerbeats Pro in testing.) Beats says a five-minute charge will result in one hour of playback time. Four sizes of ear tips are included in the box, as well as a carrying pouch and a USB-A to Lightning cable. There are two beamforming mics built into the Powerbeats to help with call quality, though we haven’t yet tested those for ourselves.

The lower price does mean Beats has sacrificed a few features. There’s no active noise cancellation or “Transparency” mode a la the AirPods Pro. The earphones won’t automatically pause your music when they’re removed from your ears, either.

The Apple audio family

Beats continues to exist in a somewhat strange position within Apple. The brand is far too popular for Apple to subsume, yet Apple-branded headphones like the AirPods and AirPods Pro compete directly with its own subsidiary. A long-rumored launch of Apple-branded noise-cancelling headphones would only further that.

But as more and more Beats products feature tech like the H1 chip and the Lightning connector—things that are most useful to people who also buy iPhones and iPads—the more Apple can use its audio lineup to nudge people toward the rest of its hardware family. The Powerbeats still work fine with Android phones, but without a universal connector like the 3.5mm jack on every mobile device, wireless headphones have slowly started to integrate ecosystem-specific features. Either way, Apple seems more than happy to have you buy a pair of Beats if it means you don’t buy from Bose, Sennheiser, and the like. The overall pie for wireless headphone sales is still growing rapidly.

Beats for years had a reputation for selling cheap, bass-bloated junk. Its post-acquisition output, while not always on the level of a Sennheiser in terms of sound quality, has been strong enough to make that unwarranted. While it’s too soon to say whether the Powerbeats are worth buying, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they turn out to be a decent value for iPhone users in need of new workout earphones.

Listing image by Beats

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