To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Iterative improvements

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £180
inc. VAT

The Beats Studio Buds Plus make subtle upgrades on their predecessor and sound very good but are ultimately a little underwhelming


  • Vibrant audio
  • Decent ANC
  • Distinctive transparent colourway


  • No equaliser controls
  • Limited control customisation
  • No Hi-Res codec support

While Apple’s AirPods hog much of the true wireless limelight, the tech giant’s subsidiary Beats produces popular earbuds of its own. Its latest release, the Beats Studio Buds Plus, are a solid successor to the original Studio Buds and deliver pleasing audio in an attractive true wireless package.

They’re not quite the same smash hit their stablemates the AirPods Pro 2 are, however, with the absence of some notable features, limited customisation options and a higher price tag than their predecessor dampening their appeal.

Check price at Apple

Beats Studio Buds Plus review: What you need to know

The Studio Buds Plus are active noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds from Beats, an audio manufacturer founded in 2006 and an Apple subsidiary since 2014. They look near-identical to the original Beats Studio Buds but have seen upgrades across a few different areas.

The buds now operate over Bluetooth 5.3, though codec support is still limited to SBC and AAC, so those in search of Hi-Res streaming options will need to look elsewhere. As was the case with the original Studio Buds, the Plus model supports Spatial Audio but only when listening to compatible tracks via Apple Music.

The vents located on the front and back of the buds have been revised to increase airflow through the system, reducing the build-up of in-ear pressure while also providing benefits to audio quality and noise-cancelling performance. Additionally, the three microphones on each bud are three times larger than they were on the Studio Buds, helping deliver more effective noise cancellation and a more impactful transparency mode.

There’s still no support for Qi wireless charging but battery life has received a big boost, with the buds themselves lasting nine hours with ANC off (up from eight hours) and the charging case holding three full charges rather than two, meaning you’re looking at roughly 36 hours without active noise cancellation engaged. Turn on ANC and those figures drop to six hours in-ear and 24 hours total, which is pretty good going. There’s fast charging, too, with five minutes banking you one hour of listening.

Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Price and competition

Available in either ivory, black/gold or stylish transparent colourways, the Beats Studio Buds Plus have a list price of £180, which is £50 more than the original Studio Buds cost when we reviewed them, though they did see a price increase to £160 shortly after launch.

The Studio Buds Plus sit towards the upper echelons of the true wireless market, albeit a rung below the most expensive earbuds we’ve reviewed, including the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 S2 (£349), NuraTrue Pro (£299) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (£280).

They still face plenty of competition in their price bracket, however, with countless earbuds fighting it out for mid-range supremacy. Beats has its own alternative in the Beats Fit Pro, fitness-focused earbuds that support Spatial Audio with head tracking via Apple’s H1 chip, which is also found in the Apple AirPods Pro 2 (£250).

Other impressive options include the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro, which offer Hi-Res audio on Samsung devices for around £169, and the LDAC-compatible Huawei Freebuds Pro 2. Despite originally retailing for £250, Sony’s flagship WF-1000XM4 earbuds are now regularly available for around £180, and are currently our favourite noise-cancelling earbuds overall.

Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Design and comfort

When it comes to design, the addition of “Plus” to the Beats Studio Buds name doesn’t mark any obvious changes to the form factor. They remain small, chunky earbuds that weigh 5g apiece and sit inside a 49g pill-box shape charging case with dimensions of 73 x 25.6 x 51.5mm (WDH). Aesthetically, the new Transparent colourway, which gives you a glimpse into the earbuds’ internals, is something of a masterstroke and will rightly attract a lot of attention. Our black and gold review sample is still strikingly sleek but far less eye-catching.

Four sizes of eartips are provided to help you achieve a stable and comfortable fit and I had no problems with how the buds felt in my ears during shorter listening sessions. I did, however, start to feel a slight ache in my tragus after around three hours of continuous wear. Their boxy shape meant achieving an optimal seal took a little manoeuvring, but once in place I had no issues with stability, even during exercise.

Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Setup and features

Setting up the Beats Studio Buds Plus on both Apple and Android devices posed no problems whatsoever – in fact, they’re up there with the easiest earbuds to pair I’ve ever used. The support for one-touch pairing on both operating systems provides a pain-free experience that’s almost instantaneous. Better still, there’s support for ecosystem pairing across all Android/Chrome devices registered to your Google account and/or iCloud pairing with every device associated with your account. Such integration with both Apple and Android devices is quite rare in the headphones space and certainly very welcome.

Typically, earbuds need to be using one of Apple’s proprietary chips to make use of that iCloud connectivity feature; however, the chipset on the Studio Buds Plus is Beats’ own. And while ecosystem pairing is certainly a step in the right direction, some of our criticisms of the Studio Buds related to Apple integration still stand. Without Apple’s chipset, spatial audio is restricted to use with tracks mixed in Dolby Atmos on Apple Music, and there’s no support for head tracking. You won’t be able to share audio either, and there’s no adaptive EQ tech to make use of, although the Studio Buds Plus do support hands-free Siri.

As with the original Studio Buds, controls come courtesy of depressable “Beats” buttons found on the outside of the earbuds. These worked consistently well and didn’t elicit any discomfort when pressed in, unlike the budget Sony WF-C500 I reviewed recently. By default, a long press on either bud cycles between ANC being on or off (as well as transparency mode if toggled on in the app), though you can customise this to have one bud summon your phone’s voice assistant or have the left and right buds increase and decrease volume.

That’s the extent of your customisation options and these fall a little short of what I’d expect from buds costing what the Studio Buds Plus do. It’s always frustrating to have to choose controls to miss out on, and doing so stings that much more when cheaper options such as the Redmi Buds 4 Pro offer a far broader range of controls.

The Studio Buds Plus’ accompanying app on Android is pretty barebones, too: besides the “Locate My Beats” section, there’s no functionality bar renaming your buds in the Android app. The iPhone controls, which are found in your device’s settings, fare a little better: besides those two functions, you can also pick between noise cancelling modes, do an eartip fit test, customise the aforementioned on-ear depressible buttons for ending a call (either one press or two) and customise what the press and hold action does. It’s a shame that these features are not mimicked across platforms but, irrespective of that, there’s not much in the way of additional functionality to be found on either OS application.

Disappointingly, some more common features aren’t present either. There’s no wear detection to auto-pause audio when you remove the buds from your ears, which is a tool I’d expect from earbuds at this price point. Bluetooth multipoint is notably absent, too.

Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Microphones

Testing the microphone setup next to a busy road, I was impressed by how clear my voice sounded amid a stream of traffic. The road noise was loud enough that the active noise cancelling system was struggling to keep it at bay, and yet in a recording, my voice was articulated without any background noise besides the occasional tweeting of nearby birds.

When using the earbuds on Google Meets and for phone calls, those I spoke to were glowing in their praise of the Studio Buds Plus. I was heard clearly and without any issues, marking the Studio Buds Plus out as an excellent option for those who spend a lot of time in meetings or chatting on the phone.

Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Active noise cancellation

I was less impressed with the active noise cancelling system, though it was competent enough overall. The original Studio Buds were able to hush a busy office or commute so that volume could be decreased by a couple of notches, and the same applies here, though I expected more given that Beats states a 1.6x improvement to ANC performance.

With ANC engaged and the sugary pop tune “Beautiful” by A.G. Cook playing as low as 30% volume, I felt suitably isolated from office chatter. Even with the music off, most discussions around me were reduced to unintelligible levels.

The Victoria Line was a tougher test, however, and I struggled to hear fine details in D.Dan’s rhythmic techno track “Post Kyiv” at around 65% volume, with similar results besides a busy road. In day-to-day life, the ANC works well enough but it’s a step down from class-leading options such as the AirPods Pro 2 and Bose QC Earbuds II.

It’s worth noting that the choice of eartip and how you position the Studio Buds Plus in your ears makes a much bigger difference to sound attenuation here than on most earbuds. This is due to their adaptive system, which adjusts the level of attenuation based on how the buds fit. The buds are able to compensate for differences in how snugly they’re wedged in your ear canals, and I certainly noticed different results based on the tightness of the seal.

The Studio Buds Plus’ adaptive qualities don’t extend to changes in the level of external noise, however, unlike the Beats Fit Pro and many other premium true wireless earbuds. Having an ANC system that adjusts automatically to suit different environments can be useful but I didn’t feel its absence too keenly here.

Check price at Apple

Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Sound quality

Audio performance is the Studio Buds Plus’ strongest suit, with the buds delivering a pleasingly balanced presentation that makes for an enjoyable listen across a wide range of musical genres.

Punchy breakbeats rang out over echoing piano tones on “Sunstroke” by Chicane, and these were nicely detailed and well separated to provide a convincing sense of space despite a relatively narrow soundstage. The Atmos-enhanced version of “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran sounded great, with additional richness and texture compared to the normal mix. The AirPods Pro 2 offer a more immersive Spatial Audio experience, but the margins aren’t as big as you might think.

When playing vocal-led tracks such as “Runner” by Alex G, the V-shaped sound profile of the buds became apparent. The artist’s vocals receded into the background compared to the blend of piano keys, guitar strums and drum kicks but not so far as to completely disrupt the overall balance. Vocals on airier songs such as “Unfold” by Melody’s Echo Chamber can get a little lost among instrumentation, but on the whole the default sound signature is well judged.

And that’s just as well, as there’s no way to alter the audio. As plug-in-and-play earbuds they perform well with most genres, but for those that want vocals closer to the forefront of their listening experience, or perhaps a heftier bass response, this lack of customisation will be a sore point. This is a longstanding issue with Beats earbuds and is unlikely to change any time soon, so if you can’t live without EQ presets or the ability to create your own EQ, these aren’t the buds for you.

Check price at Apple

Beats Studio Buds Plus review: Verdict

The Beats Studio Buds Plus are capable earbuds that prioritise satisfying audio and ease of use above all else. Their sound signature suits most genres of music very well while competent noise cancelling, a fairly comfortable fit and impressive microphone performance make them a decent choice for day-to-day use. They also look great, particularly the transparent colourway.

However, the absence of some key features and severely limited customisation options leave them trailing behind the best buds in their price range. There’s no Bluetooth multipoint for those with Apple devices, no wear detection, on-earbud controls are limited and you’re stuck with how the buds sound out of the box. If noise cancellation, comfort and sound quality were out of this world, it would be easy to overlook those omissions. But, while the Studio Buds Plus are above-average performers in those areas, they fail to excel in any of them save sound quality, and even then, there’s no support for Hi-Res audio.

Though the Beats Studio Buds Plus are an improvement on their predecessor, iPhone owners would be better off saving up an extra £50 for the Apple AirPods Pro 2. And those outside of the Apple ecosystem should opt for the Sony WF-1000XM4, which are currently available for the same price as the Studio Buds Plus.

Read more