portrait picture

TIMO ZIMMERMANN

balancing software engineering & infosec

Beats Studio 3

posted on Thursday 4th of April 2019 in

When it comes to headphones there are exactly two things I really like – Sennheiser and AirPods. Sennheiser headphones served me well for as long as I can remember and the AirPods with the W1 chip provide some comfort switching between devices I do not want to miss anymore. I still decided to give the Beats Studio 3 a try since I am hearing more and more good things about them and it seemed like Apple stepped up and tried making headphones out of the low quality fashion brand.

I was planning to write about this for some time and now Linus published a review of four premium consumer headphones, so I thought it is a good time to join the discussion, especially because I disagree with his statement about the bad sound quality.

Testing the Studio 3 was actually not a totally random decision, I had to send in my Sennheiser PXC 550 in for service to fix an issue with the Bluetooth connectivity. The service itself was as good as you would imagine – it took roughly five days after sending Sennheiser my headphones to have a brand new version of the PXC 550 delivered to me. I did not know how long this would take though and I really like the comfort of the W1 chip when switching between the four devices I use on a regular basis, so the Beats Studio 3 seemed like a good fit.

When it comes to headphones the use case should be the driving factor for your choice, not some random recommendation from someone on the Internet who uses them for something totally different. Currently I have three headphones:

While I enjoy listening to music I cannot really tell the difference between $300 and $3000 headphones. I can tell you if I like what I hear, if bass or heights are missing and I can compare the same track across headphones, but I surely do not have the highest or most refined standards.

The Beats Studio 3 caught my attention for a very simple fact: over ear, active noise cancellation and a W1 chip? That sounds like a combination of everything I love about the Sennheiser and the AirPods.

The unboxing experience, documentation and accessories are as you would expect when you are used to Apple products. The first thing you will notice when used to other headphones is that the Beats 3 are taking up a lot more space when folded than travel ready headphones from other brands.

Overall the headphones are not that comfortable to wear. They cover my ears, but I feel some pressure on the edges, they are simply not big enough. The PXC 550 are only slightly bigger, which is just enough to be comfortable. Another thing I noticed is that my ears are getting very warm wearing the Beats to the point where it feels uncomfortable and a bit sweaty. I usually wear headphones for 3-4 hours when in meetings and they became uncomfortable after 30-40 minutes, where I can get through a whole day with the PXC 550.

The build quality is also not what I would have expected from an Apple product. You hear a lot of squeaking noises when handling the headphones, surely not something you would associate with a premium product.

One of the most common critiques I hear is the lack of bass. The Beats are actually decently neutral headphones you can use to listen to music and talk to people without questions if the product was designed to suppress any frequency above 1kHz. Just because you expect far too much bass does not mean the latest version has to deliver on the mistakes made in the past. Overall I liked them for listening to music, this was actually a pleasant surprise.

For some reason the W1 chip does not seem to work the way it does in AirPods. Simply selecting the Beats from the audio selection screen did not always work. Sometimes they did not connect, sometimes they lost the connection and sometimes they simply did not show up. I never ran into those problems with the AirPods. It feels like this might have been a problem specifically with the ones I had, I cannot imagine Apple messing up their own chip that badly.

The active noise cancellation was actually fine. I could not hear my dog barking downstairs or my wife vacuuming the room next to my office when it was active. I can imagine it falling a bit behind on a plane since a vacuum right outside my office was still hearable.

So would I recommend getting the Beats Studio 3? It depends. If you can test them and they fit around your ears and you think they are comfortable to wear they are surely a decent choice. If you do not care for the W1 functionality I would get the PXC 550 or the Sony. Better ANC, in my opinion a better sounds quality and easier to transport.