Beats X: the best neckband earphones money can buy?

Apple's W1 chip comes to these fashionable neckband headphones - they're not for running, though

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T3 Verdict

Super neckband headphones - but if you want to run then get some Powerbeats instead.

Reasons to buy

  • +

    Super sound quality

  • +

    W1 pairing is ace

  • +

    They don't tangle

Reasons to avoid

  • -

    The neckband bounces around everywhere

Considering some AirPods? Then hold up a minute, because a terrific alternative is here, providing you don’t mind a cable around your neck. 

Beats X is the name of Apple’s new neckband earphones that were described at Apple’s launch in September 2016 as “light, comfortable headphones [that you can wear] throughout your day”. And Apple was right. The Beats X are certainly that.

Neckbuds are becoming popular as people look for a set of earphones they can wear throughout their day, providing both great sound quality for a commute but also enabling you to take work calls (yes, they’re a headset and mic) and generally stay alert.

So it’s important to clarify that, while these are wireless, you wear the cable around the back of your neck. As well as the earbuds at each end, the cable has three blocks on it. Firstly an inline remote for playback and call answering, secondly the battery with charge port and finally a block with the on/off button on.

Now, it’s important to state that these are aren’t designed for workouts. Instead look to Beats’ excellent Powerbeats3 sports headphones. We did try the Beats X on a treadmill, but the neckband isn’t designed to be thrown about and so becomes irritating and drops down to one side – it just doesn’t sit well when you’re exercising. 

But again, we’ll stress that this is not what they should be used for, not least because  Beats X also aren’t sweat-proof. Sweat is like Kryptonite for headphones, so it’s why you should stick to workout headphones for, y’know, working out.

The neckband is actually quite long and this can be an issue for those of us who have smaller necks – there is too much loop! But this will be a benefit to some. It’s not a problem when they’re hanging down because the ends of the buds stick together magnetically.

However, the neckband can annoy – it is a relatively thick cable with the three elements attached to it, so needs a bit of space. And that can case an issue if, for example, you’re wearing them and you put a coat on. It all gets a bit rucked up. We had a few issues with clothing-related woes and it’s where the relatively thick cable isn’t so great. It’s why we reckon these are headphones best used at sunny and/or warm times when you’re just wearing a T-Shirt.

That said, when you aren’t adjusting your clothing they are remarkably comfortable. They never tangle. They don’t look silly. And they work brilliantly with iOS (and quite well with Android). They don’t have any kind of hard collar.

Beats X don’t enable you to shut out the outside world completely like a pair of over-ears can, but you may think that’s a benefit. They provide a marked contrast to the AirPods where you are constantly aware of your surroundings. Again, you may think that’s a good thing. But it does impact your enjoyment of some music.

Utilising the same Apple W1 chip as in Apple’s latest gen iPhone and the Beats Solo 3 Wireless as well as the AirPods, Beats X is designed for seamless pairing with the latest gen iPhones – we found that while this works well generally, there are times when they don’t reconnect. We also found this with the AirPods, so it’s not unique to this product.

In terms of sound quality, Beats X have clearly been prepared for more general uses in mind rather than a lot of Beats’ bassier efforts. Bass is still more pronounced than many competitors and that’s fine, but it’s actually at the high end things aren’t so good. Some really pronounced notes can sound a little ear-splitting, even if you’re not actually playing at high volume. Therefore the sound won’t be to everyone’s taste and we’d recommend you try out a pair in store if you can. Call quality is excellent, while callers could hear us very well. We loved the ability to have a great-sounding headset yet   

Battery life is excellent for a headset like this, checking in at around eight hours. This is helped by the W1 chip undoubtedly,

One of the best things about Beats X is fast fuel, enabling a five minute charge to get the headphones back to a reasonably charge level (around 25 per cent). Unlike some of other of Beats’ recent headphones such as the Beats Solo 3 Wireless, Beats X uses a lightning cable to charge. That’s not an issue if you’re a regular iOS user, but it may mean you having to remember an additional cable if your phone has micro USB or USB-C.

T3 Verdict

We like BeatsX a lot as the easy-going lifestyle friendly earphones they’re meant to be. They’re light, comfortable, sound really good, and the W1 smart pairing is great with iOS. Recommended. 

Liked this? Why not check out The best running headphones for gym, exercise and pavement-pounding