As of late, in-ear headphones have taken one of three designs. They’re either fully wired in-ears that connect the drivers to a 3.5mm jack; two fully wireless earbuds that connect to one another through Bluetooth; or two earbuds connected via a cable that wraps behind your neck. The BeatsX fall into the last category.
Having the two earbuds connected via a cable might not sound like the ideal solution to some – after all, a cable has the tendency to weigh the earbuds down – but it’s not without its advantages. First and foremost of those is the fact that they’re harder to lose than fully wireless earbuds. The second is that the wire between the two buds can provide a home to in-line controls and a battery, allowing the headphones to last longer between charges and allow you to communicate with Siri.
The in-line controls here are just the way we like them: basic but effective. You can use them the raise and lower the volume, pause the music, skip tracks and rewind. There’s also a built-in microphone that you can use to make calls – something we’ll touch on later in the review.
If you’re afraid the cable might feel uncomfortable, let us allay your fears – the BeatsX is absolutely one of the most comfortable pair of wireless in-ears we’ve ever worn. It conforms naturally to the neck thanks to the flat cable, and don’t really get in the way.
If you want to match your BeatsX to your gym bag, the headphones come in four colors: Black, White, Grey and Blue. While a pair of black headphones might make the most sense given the amount of sweat, dust and dirt they’re likely to attract in your bag, we can’t help but feel particularly attracted to the Grey and Blue variants – the black sheep of the group.
Call us whatever name you like – cheap, frugal, thrifty – but we expect a lot in terms of sound quality from a $149 pair of headphones. And while the BeatsX hits a few of the right notes – especially in terms of achieving tonal balance – it’s not quite pitch-perfect for the price.
But before we hammer home where BeatsX goes off-key, let’s focus on the high notes. The sound quality is actually relatively clear for a pair of in-ear drivers. You won’t find shimmering highs and sparkling mid-ranges here, but the sound is far from flat or hissy. What was more surprising was the overall balance Apple achieved here – mids, highs and lows are on the same keel. Highs and lows could’ve been even more pronounced than they are – but we never thought we’d live to see a Beats pair of headphones taking the middle ground.
Where the ‘phones falter is when it comes time to seal sound out. Even with a seemingly airtight seal, we could still hear most of the conversation going on around us. We weren’t expecting a Bose, but we don’t think it’s not too much to ask for some passive noise-cancellation.
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