Beats Electronics headphones are now commonplace, and models bearing the distinctive lower-case "b" can be seen wrapped around the necks—and jammed into the ears—of an awful lot of consumers. With the launch of the stylish Beats Studio Wireless model, we wondered whether these new Bluetooth headphones could justify their lofty $380 price tag.
Like Bose, Beats can be a polarizing brand, with tons of fans and tons of detractors. But Beats helped to create the celebrity-endorsed headphone market, and today the fastest-growing segment of the headphone market is the premium-price range, with models costing $100 or more. So if you care as much about how your headphones look as you do about how they sound, Beats may be on your short list of 'phones.
Entering the wireless Bluetooth fray are the Beats Studio Wireless headphones, which also include active noise reduction. With some Bluetooth headphones, we see a tradeoff in sound quality for the convenience of wireless operation. If you're a Beats detractor, then you may be sorry to hear that the Studio Wireless model Beats is a very-good-sounding headphone that does a nice job of reducing outside sounds. Our full review of this model—and about 150 other headphones—is available in our latest headphone Ratings.
If you like the Beats look, then you'll find the Beats Studio Wireless to be a stylish, distinctive-looking headphone. You can choose from colors that range from staid (matte black) to striking (glossy royal blue, pictured). Of course all are festooned with the now-familiar Beats lower-case "b" logo on the earcups. The Beats Studio Wireless offers wireless and wired operation, and controls generally let you switch tracks without pulling out your music player. The headphones have an integrated microphone, plus volume and music controls, and the ability to wirelessly answer or disconnect calls when using a Bluetooth-enabled phone.
The company claims that the rechargeable battery has a 12-hour life when used in Bluetooth mode, and 20 hours when you're connected via a cord. You can monitor battery life either using the LED indicators on the earcup, or via an icon if you're using an iOS device. The headphones, which can be charged via USB or the included AC adapter, come with two rubbery, red cables —one with the inline controls, the other without—plus an attractive carrying case.
These headphones have a closed design, so in addition to using active noise cancellation they also muffle some external sounds and limit the amount of sound that escapes from the headphones. The headphones can be used solely to cancel external noise, without music playing. In this mode, the level of active noise cancellation automatically increases to provide a higher level of noise reduction. But the headphones work only with the noise-cancellation turned on, so if the rechargeable battery dies, the headphones won't work at all.
In our tests we found that the Studio Wireless headphones provided very good noise reduction, especially on lower-frequency noise—not quite as good as the very best models, such as the SMS Audio Street by 50 ANC ($280), the Bose QuietComfort 15 ($300), the PSB M4U 2 ($400), or even the much less expensive Monoprice Noise Canceling Headphones ($110)—but better than most. We did notice a very faint hiss in quieter musical passages where there wasn't any higher-frequency content to mask it.