What should you buy: Apple's BeatsX vs. AirPods

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2017
With BeatsX now in stores, AppleInsider takes a closer look at the new W1 chip-equipped wireless earphones and how they compare with Apple's flagship AirPods.









The design differences between the two units are obvious. As we noted in our AirPods review, Apple's wireless earphones were crafted to serve all listeners as a one-size-fits-all device based on the already successful EarPods. Because the individual earbuds are molded from hard plastic, some users might find the design too small or too large for their liking. It also means the acoustic seal might vary from one listener to the next.

BeatsX, on the other hand, takes a more traditional approach by including four interchangeable silicone eartips for an adjustable fit. A pair of "earwings" also comes with the unit to snug BeatsX into a user's ear when exercising or performing other strenuous activities. In addition to fitting a wider range of ear types, the eartips offer an enhanced acoustic seal as compared to AirPods.

Something to take into consideration, however, is that Apple's latest Beats product is a tethered design, like the recent Powerbeats3 model. While the Flex Form connecting cable is highly malleable, users will always have a cable touching their neck. The tether does have its benefits, however, as users can simply take out both earbuds and let them dangle when not in use. Magnets built into the BeatsX earbuds also allow them to snap together for necklace-style wear and easy storage in the provided soft case.

Since AirPods is a totally wireless design, its carrying case serves double duty as a portable charger. With BeatsX, charging is accomplished through a standard Lightning cable that connects directly to one of two component pods located on both ends of the tether cable. Apple integrated a Fast Fuel feature with the Beats unit that nets users 2 hours of playback time from a 5-minute charge.

Moving on to pairing, BeatsX features Apple's new W1 chip, so the pairing process is identical to AirPods. Simply power on the earphones near an iOS device and tap "connect." From there, BeatsX is automatically provisioned for use on any iOS 10.2 or macOS Sierra device linked to a user's iCloud account.

On sound, BeatsX features the audio company's signature bass-heavy reproduction, though mids and highs are surprisingly well tuned. The overall sound profile is more dynamic out of the box than AirPods, which produce a flatter, more even sound signature. That said, we found AirPods to be much louder than its BeatsX cousin, perhaps due to driver impedance or a firmware-limiting volume cap.

There is a definite difference in sound quality between the two, so we suggest buyers visit an Apple store to experience them first hand before making a decision.

For more reviews, news, tips, features and more, subscribe to AppleInsider on YouTube.

We're also interested in your questions! If you want to know anything about BeatsX, chime in on our forums and we'll address it.

Where to buy

Adorama, an authorized Apple reseller, has BeatsX earphones in all four colors for $149.95 with free shipping and no tax outside NY and NJ. B&H, another Apple reseller, expects to ship AirPods in three to five weeks, which is shorter than Apple's reported six-week wait. B&H will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ as well. For detailed availability and current offers, please visit our iPhone Accessories Price Guide.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    You've sold me on the BeatsX!  :)
    cescowilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 24
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,287member
    Somebody got a manicure and polish!

    Oh, yeah, the headphones are cool, too.
    edited February 2017
  • Reply 3 of 24
    Article says bass heavy and the video he says lows, highs, and mids are all tuned very well. I have the BeatsX and they do not sound bass heavy to me even when I listen to bass heavy music, it reproduces very well.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 24
    Airpods/Earpods are non-starters for me as they simply do not fit my ears. 

    Bought a pair of BeatsX for myself and... 

    I find the sound quality is still not quite as good as comparably priced wired in-ears but the convenience of not having to deal with a headphone cable and Lightning to 3.5mm adapter makes this an acceptable tradeoff . Setup and use is super simple. 

    The robustness of the connection at home is incredible. No disconnects, dropouts or noticeable audio degradation even when I am in a separate room from my iPhone. That said, have yet to use them on a crowded commuter train.

    Battery life seems to be very acceptable - listener fatigue set-in after 3.5 hours at moderate volume and I still had ~ 60% battery life remaining.

    They are not quite at the same level as say V-Moda Zn's but they are the first set of Bluetooth headphones that I didn't mind spending $150 on. 

    Oh, and a redemption code for 3-months of Apple Music is a nice freebie. 

    jimbalayawatto_cobrafastasleep
  • Reply 5 of 24
    Great review, Max. Very professional. As usual. :)

    Beats look a little old school with all the dangly wires. I have the airpods and use for trail running. Never have had one even come close to falling out. :)

    I heard a term used by a reviewer at MacWorld that describes how the AirPods fit. "They seem to 'perch' in the ear. They are so light."

    Also, many reviews I've read neglect the fact that having the AppleWatch increases the controls. Play, pause, skip ahead, next tract, last track etc. 

    So you need the iPhone, AppleWatch and the AirPods and you are golden! What I really like is I can go for a run with just the AppleWatch (running app) with music/podcasts and the AirPods and leave my iPhone in the car. Love it.
    patchythepirateRayz2016jfc1138jfc1138radarthekat2old4funredgeminipaNaiyasdewmejahblade
  • Reply 6 of 24
    Come on Apple, give us AirBuds next! Try as I may, the Pod style does not and never will fit my ears. I'm using Apple in-ear buds which stay in place through the listening period and once these wear out BeatsX will be my next purchase. Question: is there a microphone in the cable like the wired Apple earphones?
    rf9analogjack
  • Reply 7 of 24
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,202member
    cesco said:
    Question: is there a microphone in the cable like the wired Apple earphones?
    Yes. Note, he doesn't directly mention the mic, but he does say that you can hold down a button and then use Siri to make requests.
    irelandcesco
  • Reply 8 of 24
    rf9rf9 Posts: 67member
    Play/volume controls on the wire are a big advantage to BeatsX.  It's one of the biggest complaints or AirPods.
  • Reply 9 of 24
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 317member
    The dangly wires on the beats can be viewed as ether an asset or a liability, depending on your perspective. Since they seal so well, you'll likely need to remove one or both periodically, and the wire lets you hang them around your neck without loosing them. And +1 to having play/volume controls on the headphones. I know you can use a watch or voice commands with the AirPods, but not everyone has an apple Watch, and people already look at me funny, even when I'm not talking to my headphones.

    I would fully expect the Beats X to be more expensive than a comparable wired pair of headphones. Design, materials and manufacturing costs are all higher - something you'll never completely get away from with BT headphones (unless those costs become less than the cost of a 3.5mm plug)

    Has anyone used these with video? Are there any synching issues with video playback?
    edited February 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 24
    Having used a pair of AirPods since before Christmas (yes, I was one of the fortunate ones who ordered within an hour of them being available), I find them to be comfortable to the point of forgetting I have them in my ears after a few minutes. Before the firmware update that was recently released, I had connectivity problems a few times, i.e., they'd cut off in the middle of a phone call [using a 6s], but that seems to have gone away since the update. 

    I have significant hearing loss in my left ear, so I use the accessibility settings to send higher volume to my left ear and in mono as well. The proximity sensor seems to work most of the time, but it is not perfect. When I take one of the pods out of my ear, whatever I'm listening to usually pauses but not always. This is not a big issue, more like a minor annoyance. Voice quality through AirPods, such as making phone calls, seems to be excellent judging by the feedback from those on the receiving end of my calls. I drive a fairly noisy Sprinter conversion van, and my wife says the AirPods get rid of almost all the background noise. 

    Because of hearing loss, obviously, I'm not an audiophile, but I find the sound quality to be good to excellent. Siri works well most of the time; sometimes I use "her" to change volume, which works, but I mostly use her for initiating calls and such. Doubling-tapping to invoke Siri, takes getting used to, as it takes sharp taps to get the accelerometers to register the tapping, but I get the double tap right at least 3/4 of the time. 

    All-in-all, I'm happy with my AirPods. In fact, amazed how much electronics Apple is able to pack inside such small devices...which reminds me how nice the charging / storage case is. As others have noted, it is typical Apple - rounded, smooth feel; lid pops open easily and closes securely because of magnetic latch, and the pods get "sucked" into the case by magnets so they are securely held in place. At first, it was awkward pulling the pods out, but after a few days, I am able to just pop them out easily without thinking. 

    Very happy with AirPods and highly recommend them to anyone who likes EarPods and needs a wireless connection. This reminds me how wonderful it is to not have to mess with wires. I'm not the most patient person on earth when it comes to untangling things, so not having wires to tangle with everything and get snagged by doorknobs, things in my van, around the house, makes life calmer and more enjoyable. 

    [Oh, and the only time I have lost an AirPod was sitting at my desk when I dropped one on the floor. It bounced off my foot to places unknown. Thanks to having installed the iOS 10.3 beta a few days before, I was able to use "Find My AirPods" to locate the lost pod. Obviously, this feature works and is invaluable.]
    irelandlostkiwiwatto_cobrapscooter63
  • Reply 11 of 24
    irelandireland Posts: 16,907member
    Having used a pair of AirPods since before Christmas (yes, I was one of the fortunate ones who ordered within an hour of them being available), I find them to be comfortable to the point of forgetting I have them in my ears after a few minutes. Before the firmware update that was recently released, I had connectivity problems a few times, i.e., they'd cut off in the middle of a phone call [using a 6s], but that seems to have gone away since the update. 

    I have significant hearing loss in my left ear, so I use the accessibility settings to send higher volume to my left ear and in mono as well. The proximity sensor seems to work most of the time, but it is not perfect. When I take one of the pods out of my ear, whatever I'm listening to usually pauses but not always. This is not a big issue, more like a minor annoyance. Voice quality through AirPods, such as making phone calls, seems to be excellent judging by the feedback from those on the receiving end of my calls. I drive a fairly noisy Sprinter conversion van, and my wife says the AirPods get rid of almost all the background noise. 

    Because of hearing loss, obviously, I'm not an audiophile, but I find the sound quality to be good to excellent. Siri works well most of the time; sometimes I use "her" to change volume, which works, but I mostly use her for initiating calls and such. Doubling-tapping to invoke Siri, takes getting used to, as it takes sharp taps to get the accelerometers to register the tapping, but I get the double tap right at least 3/4 of the time. 

    All-in-all, I'm happy with my AirPods. In fact, amazed how much electronics Apple is able to pack inside such small devices...which reminds me how nice the charging / storage case is. As others have noted, it is typical Apple - rounded, smooth feel; lid pops open easily and closes securely because of magnetic latch, and the pods get "sucked" into the case by magnets so they are securely held in place. At first, it was awkward pulling the pods out, but after a few days, I am able to just pop them out easily without thinking. 

    Very happy with AirPods and highly recommend them to anyone who likes EarPods and needs a wireless connection. This reminds me how wonderful it is to not have to mess with wires. I'm not the most patient person on earth when it comes to untangling things, so not having wires to tangle with everything and get snagged by doorknobs, things in my van, around the house, makes life calmer and more enjoyable. 

    [Oh, and the only time I have lost an AirPod was sitting at my desk when I dropped one on the floor. It bounced off my foot to places unknown. Thanks to having installed the iOS 10.3 beta a few days before, I was able to use "Find My AirPods" to locate the lost pod. Obviously, this feature works and is invaluable.]
    The best info on AirPods I've seen thanks. And 3/4 times, although you'd get used to this expected issue, is not nearly good enough. Would you send Apple some feedback to tell them you've an issue with activating Siri? With a tweak here and there I believe the firmware could be changed to improve reliability and work with the user more and not against. A slight increase it sensitivity for the second tap may be the ticket.
    edited February 2017
  • Reply 12 of 24
    Can't help seeing those white looping Beats cords as a pair of huge droopy ears.



    cesco
  • Reply 13 of 24
    cesco said:
    Come on Apple, give us AirBuds next! 

    I can't believe they didn't do that. When walking in the city if I use in ear buds even if I'm not listening to anything just to block out the cacophony. I had an idea some time ago of a product that was a faux pair of in ear ear-phones with fake wires coming out that you could feed under your shirt so it looked like a pair of headphones but was in fact simply a set of ear plugs that didn't make you look like a dork with ear plugs.

    However now that Apple has made it OK to walk around looking like a dork anyway with their air pods, I am more excited than ever of marketing the concept of simple ear plugs that are designed to resemble high end wireless buds.
    cesco
  • Reply 14 of 24
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,267member
    Not sold on the BeatsX either.  Cable seems unecessarily long, and those extra bulges in the cable don't seem to be giving much better battery life than the competitors.  Sticking with my BackBeat Fit set, which are waterproof to boot.

    Shame, the W1 easy pairing sounds great (i switch between iPhone and Watch quite a lot), but it's only one feature.
  • Reply 15 of 24
    Nice video as usual, I think the Airpods are the way to go for every day convenience. But I dream of a hybrid that are completely wireless but are also "in-ear" and seal like the beats x with different ear tips for different ear sizes
    Soli212Tam
  • Reply 16 of 24
    xbitxbit Posts: 174member
    I'm still waiting for a pair with ANC. Hopefully it won't be too long. :)
  • Reply 17 of 24
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,202member
    crowley said:
    Shame, the W1 easy pairing sounds great (i switch between iPhone and Watch quite a lot), but it's only one feature.
    1) It might be one feature, but it's a really good one, especially if you use multiple Apple devices, and one of those devices is Watch.

    2) It's too bad there's no Siri command for "Switch AirPods to Watch/iPhone/iPad/Mac."
    212Tampscooter63
  • Reply 18 of 24
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,267member
    Soli said:
    crowley said:
    Shame, the W1 easy pairing sounds great (i switch between iPhone and Watch quite a lot), but it's only one feature.
    1) It might be one feature, but it's a really good one, especially if you use multiple Apple devices, and one of those devices is Watch.

    2) It's too bad there's no Siri command for "Switch AirPods to Watch/iPhone/iPad/Mac."
    Wait, what?  Why do you need to switch, I thought it paired with all of them?  My existing headset can handle two pairings, and it just switches to whichever one is playing audio (or sticks with the most recent active pairing if it is playing audio), do the AirPods not do that?
  • Reply 19 of 24
    ireland said:
    Having used a pair of AirPods since before Christmas (yes, I was one of the fortunate ones who ordered within an hour of them being available), I find them to be comfortable to the point of forgetting I have them in my ears after a few minutes. Before the firmware update that was recently released, I had connectivity problems a few times, i.e., they'd cut off in the middle of a phone call [using a 6s], but that seems to have gone away since the update. 

    I have significant hearing loss in my left ear, so I use the accessibility settings to send higher volume to my left ear and in mono as well. The proximity sensor seems to work most of the time, but it is not perfect. When I take one of the pods out of my ear, whatever I'm listening to usually pauses but not always. This is not a big issue, more like a minor annoyance. Voice quality through AirPods, such as making phone calls, seems to be excellent judging by the feedback from those on the receiving end of my calls. I drive a fairly noisy Sprinter conversion van, and my wife says the AirPods get rid of almost all the background noise. 

    Because of hearing loss, obviously, I'm not an audiophile, but I find the sound quality to be good to excellent. Siri works well most of the time; sometimes I use "her" to change volume, which works, but I mostly use her for initiating calls and such. Doubling-tapping to invoke Siri, takes getting used to, as it takes sharp taps to get the accelerometers to register the tapping, but I get the double tap right at least 3/4 of the time. 

    All-in-all, I'm happy with my AirPods. In fact, amazed how much electronics Apple is able to pack inside such small devices...which reminds me how nice the charging / storage case is. As others have noted, it is typical Apple - rounded, smooth feel; lid pops open easily and closes securely because of magnetic latch, and the pods get "sucked" into the case by magnets so they are securely held in place. At first, it was awkward pulling the pods out, but after a few days, I am able to just pop them out easily without thinking. 

    Very happy with AirPods and highly recommend them to anyone who likes EarPods and needs a wireless connection. This reminds me how wonderful it is to not have to mess with wires. I'm not the most patient person on earth when it comes to untangling things, so not having wires to tangle with everything and get snagged by doorknobs, things in my van, around the house, makes life calmer and more enjoyable. 

    [Oh, and the only time I have lost an AirPod was sitting at my desk when I dropped one on the floor. It bounced off my foot to places unknown. Thanks to having installed the iOS 10.3 beta a few days before, I was able to use "Find My AirPods" to locate the lost pod. Obviously, this feature works and is invaluable.]
    The best info on AirPods I've seen thanks. And 3/4 times, although you'd get used to this expected issue, is not nearly good enough. Would you send Apple some feedback to tell them you've an issue with activating Siri? With a tweak here and there I believe the firmware could be changed to improve reliability and work with the user more and not against. A slight increase it sensitivity for the second tap may be the ticket.
    Ireland, glad you found my comments useful.

    As for the issue about double-tapping the pods, I realized the reason I was having issues was I was blindly (duh, can't see my own ears) attempting to make the double-tap. Sometimes I'd hit the pod, and sometimes I'd miss. While on a long walk yesterday, while listening to podcasts via AirPods, I realized all I had to do to make the double-tap reliable and easier to accomplish was to locate the stem between my thumb and middle finger, then tap with index finger. This way, I'm tapping on the bud all the time, whereas before I was sometimes tapping on the stems...or not tapping the pod accurately. My new method works well. 

    I just tried an experiment regarding range of the BT signal. I'm working in a small medical clinic this morning, and I started a podcast using my AirPods, left my iPhone 6s on my desk, then walked down the hallway until I heard sound cutting out or stopping altogether. Amazingly, with the signal having to pass through several walls, a couple of which are of cinderblock construction, and offices with various medical equipment in them, the AirPods have a range of about 60 feet, which I'd never have expected. 

    On my trip to work this morning, which takes about 75 minutes, I listened to podcasts via AirPods, and they functioned perfectly without a single hiccup. 

    So, again, if you find EarPods comfortable and good enough for your listening pleasure, there's a 99.8% chance you'll be happy with AirPods. 
  • Reply 20 of 24
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,202member
    crowley said:
    Soli said:
    crowley said:
    Shame, the W1 easy pairing sounds great (i switch between iPhone and Watch quite a lot), but it's only one feature.
    1) It might be one feature, but it's a really good one, especially if you use multiple Apple devices, and one of those devices is Watch.

    2) It's too bad there's no Siri command for "Switch AirPods to Watch/iPhone/iPad/Mac."
    Wait, what?  Why do you need to switch, I thought it paired with all of them?  My existing headset can handle two pairings, and it just switches to whichever one is playing audio (or sticks with the most recent active pairing if it is playing audio), do the AirPods not do that?
    It does auto-pair with all your devices via iCloud, but it doesn't switch devices automatically (as far as I know). I can't be using my iPhone and then switch to my Watch for built-in music when I'm ready to go for a run without having to use the Watch to manually force the connection from the iPhone to the Watch.
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