I can tell you the exact moment I was sold on Beats by Dre’s extraordinary Studio3 wireless headphones.
I was walking down Fifth Avenue, my blue Studio3 headphones hugging my ears as I listened to a new podcast featuring Nerdist CEO Chris Hardwick and Adam Savage. As I walked, I noticed a guy walking in the opposite direction with his fingers jammed in his ears. He was grimacing. What, I wondered, was his deal? I double-pressed a tiny button on the Studio3’s right headphone and I heard it. It came slowly at first as the Adaptive Noise Canceling (ANC) tech wound down, and then roaring through. I pulled the headphones off my ears and the sound from outside was deafening.
I put the headphones back on, double-pressed the ANC button again and listened as the ear-splitting cacophony drained away. I heard only muffled sounds and when I started the podcast again, it was all I heard.
Beats by Dre Studio3 wireless Bluetooth headphones represent the first major update to one of the company’s most iconic models since Apple acquired Beats in 2014.
The $349 headphones look pretty much like they did three years ago, though there are some new colors: Shadow Gray, Porcelain Rose, Matte Black, White, Blue, and Red. More important, they’re filled with excellent new technology, including Apple’s W1 communication chip (but not the new W2 chip Apple just introduced in the Apple Watch Series 3; guess that’ll have to wait for the Studio4’s). That power-sipping chip means the Studio3 headphones could play for up to 22 hours, more than double the play time of the previous model.
For me, the chip meant that, after an overnight charge via a microUSB port (the charging cable is included), I could connect the headphones to my iPhone simply by turning them on by holding the power button down for a few seconds and placing them near the phone. On screen, an image of the headphones appeared along with a large “Connect” button. Once I selected that, the screen showed remaining battery life by percentage. Once paired with one device, they’re available for any device on the same iCloud account.
The Beats by Dre Studio3 headphones arrive folded up in their artificial-leather case. It’s a little bulky to carry with you everywhere. At least Beats smartly provides a metal snap hook that you can attach to the case and your backpack.
The over-the-ear headphones unfold and adjust easily. In addition to the power button, which doubles as the ANC enable/disable button, the left headphone has two hidden buttons. The Beats logo at the center of the left side is a large play/pause/call pickup button and the quarter-inch ring around it is for volume. Sadly, there are no gesture controls like you can find on Parrot’s $400 Zik 3 Wireless headphones.
I wore the headphones for hours at a time. The cushions create a good seal on my ears and the 9.17-ounce headset felt comfortable. My lack of hair meant that I could feel the connecting arch resting on top of my head. Even with the cushion up there, I didn’t like how that felt, but those of you with full heads of hair likely won’t notice this at all. My only other complaint is that my ears did feel a little sweaty after extended wear, but then that’s all over-the-ear headphones, isn’t it?
I listened to a wide variety of audio content, everything from movies to games to music to podcasts. I listened to rock, pop, alternative and more.
On podcasts like Marc Maron’s WTF and Syfy’s Syfy25 (that Adam Savage podcast), it felt like I was sitting in the same room as the hosts. I swear, I could hear their lips smacking. On movies, the headphones make good use of the stereo sound, providing solid spatial presence for a surround-sound feel.
With music, I could make it ear-splittingly loud, but even at lower volume, I heard details I’d never noticed before. At the start of David Bowie’s “Dollar Days” off the Blackstar album, I could hear the rustling of bills. In song after song, I could pick out each instrument; everything was distinct, nothing was muddy. The sound achieved impressive highs, a solid midrange and head-thumping bass.
No more noise
With the Studio3, Beats introduces something it’s calling Pure ANC. The proprietary Adaptive Noise Cancelling technology goes, according to the company, beyond traditional ANC, constantly adapting to changing environmental conditions. It listens to outside noises, adjusts for sound leaks caused by an inconsistent seal with your head and compares the sound you’re hearing with the clean wave file and adjusts the sound to make sure they still match.
It’s hard to know if the Beats Studio3 headphones are effectively doing all that, but I can tell you that I am impressed with how well the ANC worked. Along with the stunning jackhammer demonstration, the headphones completely cut out all the chatter and train noise during my commute.
When I turned the music off and just walked around with the headphones on, the only thing I heard, or maybe more accurately felt, was the vibration of my feet hitting the pavement.
There were times when I could feel the ANC adjusting, it was like an air-pressure change, but that feeling never took me out of the aural experience.
The more I used Beats Studio3, the more I wondered how I would ever go back to using Apple AirPods. I like them, but the sound experience doesn’t even compare to over-the-ear ANC-enhanced headphones. That’s not surprising, and I do get other benefits with Apple’s tiny AirPods. They’re a lot cheaper, tiny, comfortable and easy to carry. More importantly, they automatically pause the audio when I remove one from my ear. The Studio3 headphones have no such awareness.
I also made phone calls with the headphones. It worked smoothly and the microphone cleanly picked up my voice. The headphones also work with Siri. So, I can say, “Hey Siri,” and hear the response through the Studio3 headset.
As for battery life. I’ve charged the headphones once since I got them. They still have more than 40% battery life left. 22 hours does not seem like a stretch. I could get almost double that if I turned off ANC, but, then, why would I?
Beats by Dre Studio3 Wireless Headphones
Amazing noise-cancelling technology • Great battery Life • Very comfortable
No gesture controls • Pricey
The Bottom Line
The Beats Studio3 headphones are one of the best Bluetooth wireless models we’ve ever tested.