Beats Studio 3 Headphones - Review
The Beats brand has long held a reputation “style over substance”, but the Studio 3 Wireless headphones buck that trend - and so they should for the price.
The first thing you’ll notice when unboxing the Studio 3’s is the hard case that they are contained in. It’s surprisingly robust, easily able to be tossed in a rucksack before a long journey, and it’s not likely to get crushed at the bottom of the bag.
Once you’ve opened the case, you’ll be met with the familiar Beats design. Love it or hate it, you can recognise it from a mile away, and we’re fond of the understated grey design of our review unit - but those looking for a bit more pizzazz will surely find something they like, given the wealth of colour options available.
The Studio 3’s are also all-plastic, but that’s not necessary the drawback you may expect. They’re solidly built but thankfully aren’t too heavy on your head after a long listening session. In fact, unlike the earlier Solo 3 model, we were able to listen for upwards of five to six hours without feeling like we needed to give our ears a rest.
A big part of that is down to the pads, which have cutouts big enough for most ears. It separates over-ear headphones from on-ear headphones and ensures they remain comfortable.
One of the big draws of the Beats Studio compared to the Solo range has always been noise-cancelling, and while the recent addition of the Solo Pro changes things slightly, the over-ear nature of the Studio 3 makes it ideal.
Pure Active Noise Cancelation (or ANC) monitors the sound outside of the headphones so that it knows to pump that sound out. That’s a very reductive way of looking at it, but in practice, it works really well. In a busy office, it removed the hum of air-conditioning and general conversation, while on a packed train it removed the sound of the carriage almost entirely - whether streaming music or podcasts. ANC is optional, so you can just double-tap the power button to turn it off.
It’s not as impressive as the ANC on some Bose headphones but arguably lets in just the right amount of noise so you can stay aware of your surroundings. That’s entirely up to your preference, of course.
Next to the power button, there’s a 5-LED battery level indicator, while the Beats logo acts as a play/pause button. You can change tracks by pressing multiple times, but the button is the one place where these headphones feel less than premium - it’s plasticky, and whether you’ve got ANC on or not, it sounds “cheap”.
While these headphones fold, they don’t swivel outwards when they’re on your neck. Thankfully, the satisfying “click” as they lock into position makes up for that minor irritation.
With Apple buying Beats, the tech giant’s tech has begun to seep into the popular headphones. The W1 chip (as found in the popular AirPods) helps the Studio 3s pair instantly with an iOS device. Turn them on, hold them near your device, and a pop-up asks you if you’d like to connect. It’s simple but has other advantages too.
For one, it ensures pretty impressive battery life - 22 hours of wireless connectivity, with Active Noise-Cancelling, 40 hours without. You can monitor battery life in iOS, but these cans will work on Android devices too - you’ll just miss out on the pairing process that iOS owners enjoy. When you do run out of juice, you’ll need to charge via Micro-USB. It’s a shame these haven’t made the jump to the increasingly ubiquitous USB-C, but the included cable is at least a little longer than what you get with many headphones.
Also included in the box is a cable with inline controls for volume, plus a mic for conversations. Weirdly, it connects via a 3.5mm jack that’s angled 90-degrees - making it a little cumbersome for iPhone users who may need a dongle to connect.
Of course, none of this matters if they don’t sound any good, and we’ve got good news on that front. While Beats have carved a niche for loud bass, the Studio 3’s approach feels more measured.
Listening to heavier rock offers a satisfying kick, while bass-filled rap also works a treat. In fact, everything up to the high-mid frequencies sounds good, but treble drops off ever-so-slightly. Without a doubt though, these are Beats most well-rounded cans.
Even when enjoying a podcast, voices don’t sound lower than they usually do - something which had been an issue with Beats in the past.
The Beats Studio 3 are excellent headphones. They’re well-built, and for iPhone users, they’re likely the best over-ear headphones you can get. They also look great, although we’d have liked a more premium-feeling button.