Beats Powerbeats Pro review: better than AirPods and the ultimate workout earbuds

The best running headphones, the best true wireless buds and arguably just The Best Headphones you can buy

T3 Platinum Award t3-award-winner-2019
Beats by Dr Dre Powerbeats Pro review

T3 Verdict

Beats Powerbeats Pro are comfortably the best gym and running headphones ever but they are also great, musical true wireless buds that crumple all competition, including AirPods

Reasons to buy

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    Great fit

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    Great sound

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    Great connectivity

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    Great controls

Reasons to avoid

  • -

    Fairly great expense

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    Although Beats have toned down their bassy 'signature sound' of old, some might still find them a tad boomy

Beats Powerbeats Pro are definitely the best workout buds or running headphones that you can buy. If you need a longer endorsement, read on. I've seen some other reviews nitpicking about supposed issues with these true wireless Powerbeats, but I suggest you ignore those and buy these. Or at least pre-order them. Official Powerbeats Pro release date is June 8 2019. We just handed them a T3 Award – that's how much we like Powerbeats Pro. 

The only things that would prevent Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats (to bestow their full and rather unwieldy title) from ruling the world are their cost and potential customers' resistance to buds that sit right in the ear canal rather than just outside it. The omnipresent Apple AirPods are made by Beats' parent company, so perhaps the earbud market will be divvied up between two brands that are really just one company. Anyway, in terms of sound quality and noise blocking, Powerbeats Pro absolutely wipe the floor with their Apple cousin.

Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro: design

The Beats Powerbeats Pro from various angles in all 4 colours

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At a glance, these might look quite like previous Powerbeats. But where they tended to shift around in my ears, and didn't interact at all well with spectacles, Powerbeats Pro seem almost literally unshakeable, and the over-ear hooks sit happily next to glasses or sunglasses.

The buds are unique in that they push upwards and in to the inner ear, while the hooks support them from above. Some people might find this invasive but anyone who's used to in-ear buds will find them comfortable and secure. The only slight down side to this method of fit is that you can't just slide or 'screw' them in as you do with most such buds. After a week of use I still haven't found an elegant way of inserting them and getting the hooks over my ears, but that hasn't put me off.

Another handy little feature of the Powerbeats Pro is that there are music/call controls and volume controls on both buds. For normal use that might not be a huge boon but during workouts it's fantastic. No need to remember which bud to reach for to turn the music up, or skip your playlist's token ballad.

This ambidextrous approach continues with the pairing of these true wireless buds. Put in one bud and press play or talk to Siri, or take a call and it'll work. Replace it with the other and that'll work. Put in both and they'll pair like that and deliver stereo (or dual mono if we're talking calls and Siri) audio.

The Powerbeats Pro are obviously larger than most true wireless buds due to the hooks. And the need to fit in those hooks mean that the battery case is also larger than most true wireless rivals, and positively gargantuan compared to AirPods. However, the longevity that you gain as a result more than compensates. Beats claims 9 hours per charge, and 24 hours in total, by charging in the carry case, and that's what it delivers, I've found. You can also charge it for just 15 minutes and get hours and hours of extra play. It almost removes battery life as an issue, which is remarkable when you consider how limited most true wireless buds have been in that respect, up to now.

Aesthetically, Powerbeats Pro work. The colours are attractive, they don't protrude, the branding is fairly subtle. They're on point. 

Beats Powerbeats Pro as running headphones and workout buds

Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro: all other workout buds just got knocked the f**k out

The noise-excluding, unmovable yet comfortable fit is handy when listening to music anywhere but it really comes into its own in Powerbeats' natural environments, which are the gym, the road, and the running track. Although not the pool or open water – these are water and sweat resistant but not intended for liquid immersion or swimming.

As far as I can make out, nothing will shake the Powerbeats Pro. This promo video, where you see various elite athletes whirling around, while the buds stay perfectly in place, probably wasn't done with (a lot of) trickery. 

I've tried elliptical trainers, treadmills, running up hills, cycling on London's pothole- and speed bump-strewn roads, bodyweight stuff, including whilst sweating like a bastard, and nothing has loosened the Powerbeats' grip. Unlike even the very best other running/workout buds I've tried, you can almost forget you're wearing Beats' buds, no matter how tough the exertion. 

They're also clearly very sweat resistant, don't get mucky and are easy to wipe clean, anyway. They are quite simply the best running and gym headphones. If I'm nitpicking – which seems reasonable given the price – there is a tiny bit of boom at times when running hard, as your feet hit the ground. But all buds do that, and Powerbeats Pro much less than most.

Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro: sound quality

Beats by Dr Dre Powerbeats Pro review

Given the amount of time Beats has taken since the last incarnation of Powerbeats, you might have expected them to hone the security of fit for workout use. What might surprise you is how much they have improved the sound quality.

Prior to the Apple takeover, a lot of Beats headphones, for all their sales success, sounded remarkably mediocre. That changed with 2017's noise-cancelling Studio3 Wireless, which are easily a match for the likes of Bose's QuietComfort 35, and the audio improvement continues with the Powerbeats Pro. 

In fact, the combination of the way they fit – blocking out a lot of external noise, and preventing variations in sound quality caused by buds shifting in your ear – and the driver technology used, mean Powerbeats Pro sound as good in all conditions as any in-ear headphones of this price that I've tried.

Here's an interesting thing. My current absolute favourite in-ear buds are the £400 Flare Pro 2HD. They are a premium product produced by a tiny UK brand run by music lovers, and they employ a 'piston' driver that makes them capable of incredibly exciting sound. Well, guess what? These 'gym buds' use essentially the same type of driver. No, they don't hit the heights of the Flare buds indoors in a quiet environment, but Powerbeats are by no means disgraced by the comparison… and in many outdoor environments, the Beats can actually end up sounding better due to the better, more noise-blocking fit. During exercise there's no comparison, as Flare's buds are just not built for that.

Beats by Dre headphones used to be notorious for over-reliance on bass to the exclusion of everything else. Powerbeats Pro certainly don't lack bottom end, but there is so much more going on here. They sound massive and epic with rock, hip-hop, pop and electronic music – classic 'workout angry' music – but there is enough subtlety to carry off jazz, classical and acoustic sounds. Beats had Miles Davis' Kind of Blue on its playlist at the launch briefing. That would have been unbelievably stupid on most previous products of theirs but despite their name, Powerbeats stock in trade isn't only pure power. 

But they can kick ass, that's for sure.

Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro: release date, price

4 colours, £200

Powerbeats Pro in black will be available to pre-order from Apple in the UK on May 31 at 7am with availability beginning June 7. Please see Apple USA for American release details. Price: £219.95 (UK) or $219.95 (US). 

Powerbeats Pro in Ivory, Moss and Navy will follow 'this summer'.

Availability will initially be in the US, UK, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland 'and more'. 

It'll roll out in further countries worldwide from summer.

Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro: verdict

Powerbeats Pro: it's between this and Apple AirPods for total wireless world domination

Okay, I'll get one minor caveat out of the way first. For voice calls, Siri use and the kind of all-day wearability that a lot of people today look for from buds, Powerbeats Pro are good… However, their deep fit means they can't be used in the same way as AirPods (and the various AirPod imitators and rip-offs). You aren't left with much situational awareness with two Powerbeats Pro inserted, although you can opt to just use one at a time which does improve that.

For video, there's nothing better. Minimal latency, great sound.

For gym, sports and running use, if you have the money, buy Beats Powerbeats Pro. There is nothing to touch them. Once you've used true wireless when exercising, it's ever so hard to go back to even the most minimally wired buds, and Powerbeats Pro are by far the best workout-friendly true wireless buds. The way they fit means they cannot fall out and get lost. They won't move as you workout. They sound suitably inspirational. Fantastic. 

That's not the end of it, though. If you want true wireless buds for pure audio quality, there's also almost nothing to match this, and that is a pretty amazing outcome. Maybe Sony's or B&O's totally wireless buds are in roughly the same ballpark sonically, but both of those have irksome connectivity issues, worse controls, worse fit and way shorter battery life.

Seriously, Beats has knocked it out of the damn park with this one.