My biggest problem with headphones is that I have too many of them. Gone are the days of having one pair to last you years on end, If you can avoid the removal of your headphone jack you might last a while, but the reliance on Bluetooth brings better models ever to the market. Now owned by Apple, Beats are the masters of this, producing a never-ending stream of better models of each version of their headphones. The Powerbeats have seen little improvement other than the introduction on the W1 chip since launching in 2013. Six years later sees the most significant update to the line ever, incorporating a new Apple chip and making them truly wireless.
The Powerbeats Pro builds on the technology, and hopefully, the success of Apple own AirPods. Incorporating the security, convenience and power saving of the new H1 chip (signifier changed from W to H). Something that no other manufacturer has access to, nor has been able to complete with fully as yet.
The claim from Beats is that the Powerbeats are the most popular fitness headphone in the world. A bold claim, and arguably hard to prove – take a look next time you’re at the gym or out for a run, and you don’t see many of them. However, I am a massive fan, owning all versions to date.
Upon unboxing the Powerbeats Pro, the surprisingly high build quality is evident. Often criticised for their use of plastic Beats haven’t changed their ways much, but the surface feels premium and worth the price tag. These are of course more than £200, and for that money you get almost double the battery, all be it in a comically large carry case.
Simply opening the case allows for quick paring to iOS and macOS devices, and once completed, the connection will sync to all your iCloud devices. Of course, you’ve heard all this before; we saw this on both generations of AirPods and older Beats headphones.
Where Powerbeats Pro stand out is usability that suits the fitnesses market perfectly. They seal well in the ear, and the ear hooks mean that you won’t have any issues with them moving around during even the most rigorous of exercise. If you’ve ever tried to run with wired headphones, you will know how freeing it is to have nothing flapping around or pulling on your ears. This new wave of genuinely wireless headphone is revolutionary to those that have spent many years having to run a cable down your top. Once you use these, you won’t be going back any time soon, and this alone is worth the price tag.
Sweat resistance is stated by Beats but only for the earbuds themselves. So don’t get caught in any downpours or spill anything on the case – this issurprising given how robustly they are made. Everything is all sealed off from the elements leaving just charging pins and buttons exposed. You read that right, not a touch interface or reliance on voice commands insight. Tactile buttons the same on each ear to change the volume and play/pause. You can also hold the centre B button down to activate Siri if you wish – but don’t forget with the W1 brings with it Hey Siri support.
She will hear you loud and clear for all your voice commands, but obviously, you’ll need a data connection to do this. I’ve been running phone free with a connection to my Apple Watch and even letting Siri read my incoming messages out for me. The microphone is surprisingly clear for the few calls I have taken on them while working out, but no reassurance that I was running was needed. It’s obvious you are on hands-free, but not distracting to the person you’re talking to, they are leaps and bounds ahead of the already pretty good Powerbeats3.
I want to say that these are the only headphones you will ever need, but if your ear is tuned to listen to the very best cans, you are going to have to compromise. They are never going to win any awards for sound quality given that most of the time in use you are moving around somewhat energetically. The sound is much improved over previous versions, with a tremendous dynamic range with a slight emphasis on bass.
They are a delight to listen to music and spoken word such as podcasts. Some downplay the sound of all Beats headphones, but the Powerbeats more than any other, I would argue they don’t need to sound perfect. However, the Powerbeats sound better than acceptable, much better than the previous version.
What I particularly like is that some sound from outside gets through despite the useful sealing tips. I’m not a fan of completely isolating headphones when exercising, being able to hear traffic and people around you is a must. The Powerbeats Pro also pause your music when you take one out your ear, which comes in especially useful when telling someone to re-rack their weights.
This all detracts from the fact that these could, and should, be considered more than just workout headphones. They deserve much more than to be thrown into your gym bag or only used occasionally, they are real AirPod competitors. Both the sound and fit are much better than Apples own version, but they give up a little ground on the overall design.
I couldn’t ever see myself replacing my Airpods with these, but I won’t be wearing anything else for activities. I can’t state enough how much of a revelation running with no wires is. I have ears that won’t keep Airpods or indeed any other earbuds in, so Powerbeats are almost my only option. It’s rare I would recommend an upgrade on headphones even if you have the last version – but for everyone on the fence – you need these in your life.
The Beats PowerBeats Pro come in black, white, navy or green, costing £219.95.