Beats Studio Wireless review: expensive headphones with lacklustre sound

Latest Beats Bluetooth headphones are all show and no punch, with average sound and limited controls.
Beats have always been big, bold, showy headphones that are as much a fashion statement as they are personal listening devices, but you might expect a company founded by a rapper would make sure the product sounds good too. Particularly when they cost £330.

Understated design

The new design of the Studio headphone line, first introduced in 2013, the Beats styling has been almost toned down a little.

The result is a much more classy, almost understated look. Still big, but in some colour schemes like silver they look decidedly premium instead of gaudy.

The outer shell is all plastic with an inner metal hinged band for adjusting the size of the headband, which collapses down for travel. A rubber strip under the headband pads the top of the head, while the soft leatherette ear cups sit snugly around the ear, making the headphones comfortable to wear without squashing your head or being too heavy.

The left-hand ear cup sports a slim 3.5mm headphones jack for wired connections when at a desk, as well as pause-play and volume buttons. The right-hand ear cup has the microUSB port for charging the battery, as well as the power button and battery level indicator lights – a small strip of five LEDs that light up when the power button is pressed.

Sadly there are no separate track skip buttons, instead relying on a double and triple press of the big "B" pause-play button, which doesn’t always work. The headphones jack is also very narrow meaning that most cables will not fit correctly forcing you to use the included headphones cable.

The included cable does have a music remote on it, however, for pausing music on an iPhone or Android when wired.

Battery life is rated at 12 hours for Bluetooth listening, which in my testing proved to be about right, and is decent for the current crop of large wireless headphones but by no means stellar. Frustratingly, you cannot use the headphones via cable when the battery is flat

Mid-bass and sharp highs

Previous variants of Beats headphones have focused on bass above all else, which certainly pleases some, but sadly, the new Beats Studio Wireless are style over substance when it comes to sound quality.
As a consequence anything with a solid bass line sounds a little muddy, although vocals are still relatively clear if a little sharp when listening to rap, contemporary soul or pop for instance.
Other music genres do not fare quite so well. For Instance, Jazz, Rock and Folk.
The pleasing nature of sound profiles, balance and quality are, of course, down to personal preference.

Noise Cancelling

As well as being wireless, the new Beats have active noise cancelling, which uses microphones on the outside of the headphones to detect ambient noise and emits sound waves to cancel them out blended with the music.
Combined with the relatively good sound isolation created by the thick, padded ear cups, the noise cancelling does an effective job of blocking out certain background sounds, especially the drone of trains, planes or automobiles. It is less effective at blocking out colleagues or people talking on the street.


The Beats Studio Wireless cost £329.95, which puts them in the top bracket for Bluetooth headphones, with most priced between £250 and £350. They’re premium looking and feeling, but they do not sound high-end.

Pros: Comfortable, fold up for travel, OK battery life, active noise cancelling, wireless, optional cable.

Cons: Cannot turn off noise cancelling, fiddly controls, weak sound, large profile, cannot be used cabled without battery.


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