The best Beats headphones 2021: which Beats are really worth buying?

Find the best Beats by Dre headphones for you, for all budgets, from the in-ear, over-ear and on-ear models

Best Beats headphones 2021, Beats Studio Buds in red, black and white on green background
(Image credit: @graphicalryan)

When it comes to finding the best Beats headphones, the choice of fashionable yet functional cans is now positively intimidating. There are lots of different options to choose from, so it can easily be confusing to work out which Beats by Dre offering you actually need. The brand has grown significantly since Apple bought Dr Dre’s headphone empire back in 2014 and over the last few years, the headphones themselves have had a serious overhaul as Apple has integrated its own tech into the mix. 

And, just because Beats is now owned by Apple doesn’t mean that Android users miss out on the best Beats headphones. There are all kinds of fun functions in the Beats Studio Buds especially that are ideal no matter which side of the smartphone fence you’re on. 

They’re not one of our favourite best wireless earbuds for nothing, y’know. And, as you can see in the list below, there are now Beats available at all budgets, so you will definitely find just the right Beats headphones for you, whether you want some of the best noise-cancelling headphones, best cheap headphones, best running headphones or something else – Beats has a great option in all cases.

Beats are always popular on Black Friday, and we're sure that we'll see some discounts among the best Black Friday deals. You'll find the current lowest prices on all the models we've featured right on this page – but we do also have a separate best Beats deals page you could keep bookmarked.

What are the best Beats headphones?

If you’re just looking for a pair of in-ear buds for general commuting and heading out and about, the Beats Studio Buds have a great balance of functionality and price. There's good noise cancellation, great smart features for both iPhone and Android, and a nice design.

If you want in-ear wireless buds for cheaper, the Beats Flex are a great budget set  they're just not true wireless.

And, if you’ve got some money to burn, and you’re looking for a pair of on-ears to mute the world with active noise-cancelling, you can’t go wrong with the Beats Studio3.

If you’re specifically on the hunt for some workout headphones to block out everyone’s ludicrously heavy breathing in the gym, you’ll want our five star sweat-proof favourite, the Beats Powerbeats Pro.

The best Beats headphones: the list 

Beats Studio Buds in red on white background

(Image credit: Beats)

The best Beats headphones for most people

Specifications
Battery life: 5hrs (buds only), 20 hours (including case)
aptX: No
AAC: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great for iPhone & Android+Good sound and ANC
Reasons to avoid
-Can only pair with one device

For a brand previously known for being on the more luxury end of the price scale, the Beats Studio Buds are a lovely surprise. These true wireless earbuds have a suite of excellent features at a great price point that largely undercuts the competition. Impressive active noise-cancelling is just one of the many benefits here.

Thanks to the lack of an Apple-specific chip, both iPhone and Android users will be happy to see speedy pairing as well as 'Find My' app support for both iOS and Android.

If you’re plagued by touch-sensitive buttons on in-ear headphones, the Studio Buds also dodge that particular bullet with the B logo as a physical button that you’ll never accidentally press. Add in three sizes of silicone ear tips to make sure you get the right fit and these are impressive buds. 

Oh, and they sound great too. The sound is a little less expansive than the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ or Panasonic RZ-S500W but, as we say in our Beats Studio Buds review “The highs and mids are well balanced, so you’re able to hear everything clearly. The highs are detailed without being too bright and the mids are rich enough that you won’t feel like anything is missing.”

If you want to know how they compare to the cheaper Beats buds option, here's our specific Beats Studio Buds vs Beats Flex guide.

Bests Studio3 on white background

(Image credit: Beats)

2. Beats Studio3 Wireless

The best Beats headphones for noise cancellation

Specifications
Charge: 22hrs with ANC, 40hrs with ANC off
aptX: No
AAC: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great noise cancelling+Brilliant battery life 
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best noise cancelling on the planet

If only a set of over the ear cans with active noise-cancelling will do for you, then the Beats Studio3 Wireless headphones are more than happy to oblige. We were pleasantly surprised upon trialling these last year to find that the noise-cancelling - named ‘Pure Adaptive Noise Cancelling - by Beats' is excellent. It's bettered by the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort 45, but it's up there.

The Beats Studio3 come in three colours so you can choose between fashionable white with gold, grey with gold, and a sleek matte black option but the best part of these Beats isn’t their slick lines. 

The fact that you’ll get 22 hours of battery life with ANC turned on and a whopping 40 hours if you don’t need to turn off the rest of the world is a bonus. There’s also Beats’ life-saving Fast Fuel system which means you’ll get three hours of audio from just 10 minutes of charging time. Exactly the kind of numbers we like when we realise we haven’t charged our headphones before leaving the house. With excellent sound, a sleek design, and strong ANC capabilities, these Beats are the best in the range for making your surroundings disappear. We have a guide to Beats Studio3 Wireless vs Beats Solo Pro, if you want to compare just the two ANC over-head options.

Beats Flex on white background

(Image credit: Beats)

The best cheap Beats headphones

Specifications
Battery life: 12hrs
aptX: No
AAC: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Useful neckband+Great for iPhone+Comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-Connecting cable is too long

Not all Beats cost the Earth and the Beats Flex are an excellent example of the brand balancing functionality with an affordable price. These are the confusingly named ‘connected wireless’ earbuds which means there’s no cable between your phone and the buds as they connect happily via Bluetooth, but there’s a neckband that keeps the two together. 

While some prefer true wireless, the Beats Flex are a great option if you just want to take one out to order a coffee and not worry about where to put your stray bud without losing it.

Where the Studio Buds are geared for both Android and Apple users, the Beats Flex are weighted heavily in the direction of iPhone owners with Find My functionality, the ability to switch between active Apple devices, and Audio sharing with other Beats and AirPods. But that doesn’t mean Android owners can’t enjoy the intuitive inline controls and the handy feature that means the music automatically turns off when you take out a bud. 

The sound quality is weaker than others on this list, inevitably, but as our full Beats Flex review says, they're a great option for the price, made even greater if you’ve got an iPhone.   

Powerbeats Pro in blue on white background

(Image credit: Beats by Dr. Dre)

The best Beats headphones for exercise

Specifications
Charge in each bud: 9hrs (buds), 33 hours (case included)
aptX: No
AAC: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant fit+Great sound+Great controls 
Reasons to avoid
-Some might find the bass too boomy

If you’re looking for the Beats we’ve officially coined “better than AirPods and the ultimate workout earbuds” then look no further than the T3 Platinum Award winning Powerbeats Pro. 

Not only is there sweatproofing and controls on both buds for gym bunnies but the fit is magnificent too if you’re on the treadmill or pounding the pavements. As we say in our Powerbeats Pro review, “Powerbeats Pro seem almost literally unshakeable, and the over-ear hooks sit happily next to glasses or sunglasses.”

But you don’t just have to be doing cardio in the gym every day to appreciate these true wireless wonders. The charging case might be significantly bigger than the competition but so is the audio. 

As we also say in our review; “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.” There’s no active noise-cancelling here but the snug fit and audio quality means you’re not going to miss it massively. They really are that good. 

Beats Solo Pro headphone family on white background

(Image credit: Beats By Dr. Dre)

5. Beats Solo Pro

The best Beats noise-cancelling for less

Specifications
Charge: 22hrs with ANC, 40hrs with ANC off
aptX: No
AAC: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Good value+Great audio+Impressive ANC
Reasons to avoid
-No 3.5mm port 

Just because the Studio3 Wireless headphones are here doesn’t mean that Beats previous ANC offering should be ruled out. The Beats Solo Pro still have plenty of benefits and some retailers are now occasionally selling them at exceptionally attractive sub £200/$200 price points. The ANC is impressive and, just like the Studio3 Wireless, there’s a solid 22 hours of ANC battery power and 40 hours if you aren’t muting plane or commuter noise. 

As well as six colour options, the Solo Pros offer up a handy unfold to turn on option, and a solid sound profile. Beats’ famous bass is here but there’s an excellent balance, meaning mids and vocals sound great too. Oh, and the H1 chip means it’s a dawdle to switch between Apple devices.     

Beats Solo3 on white background

(Image credit: Beats )

6. Beats Solo3 Wireless

The best Beats wireless headphones for great battery life

Specifications
Charge: 40hrs
aptX: No
AAC: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant battery+Good connectivity+Punchy audio
Reasons to avoid
-No active noise cancellation

The Beats Solo3 Wireless are a couple of years old now but if you’re looking for a battery life that won’t die on you halfway through a Transatlantic flight, these 40hr behemoths will treat you right. Again, they’ll work fine for Android but dedicated Apple features include Audio Sharing for wirelessly sharing audio to other Beats headphones and AirPods. 

There’s no active noise cancellation and if you aren’t set on a pair of Beats, you might want to consider the competition to see what’s out there for the same kind of price, but solid audio quality and comfort combine with that battery life to make a dependable, if still slightly expensive set of cans.   

Powerbeats in red on white background

(Image credit: Beats by Dr Dre Powerbeats)

7. Powerbeats

The best Beats for exercise with a neckband

Specifications
Battery life: 15hrs
aptX: No
AAC: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great audio+Good fit+Innovative features
Reasons to avoid
-Not true wireless

If you don’t quite want to shell out the extra for the Powerbeats Pro but still want a great set of earbuds for heading to the gym, the revamped Powerbeats make for a strong offering. So strong in fact that we rated them five stars and gave them a T3 Platinum Award in our original Beats by Dre Powerbeats review

First off, there’s fifteen hours of dependable charge inside but, most importantly, there’s a sound quality that’s not too far off the Powerbeats Pro and a snug fit for gym trips. Price wise, you’re looking at around the same price as the AirPods but the Powerbeats have that all important sweat-resistance and if you’d prefer the cable between the buds for the gym, these are a great slightly cheaper alternative. 

There’s also Beats’ lovely Fast Fuel system for when you only remember to charge them half an hour before you leave for the gym.   

Beats EP on white background

(Image credit: Beats)

8. Beats EP

The best wired Beats on a budget

Specifications
Wired/Wireless: Wired
Reasons to buy
+Good audio+Great design
Reasons to avoid
-No active noise cancellation 

The Beats EP have been Beats stalwart wired option for a few years now. A sub £100/$100 pair of cans, they’re sitting in an affordable sweet spot with a good solid sound and a comfortable design that looks the part too. There’s an industrial simplicity that will appeal to many with the metal headband and though 3.5mm jack… though this means you might need to use a USB-C or Lightning adapter for connecting to your phone. 

Beats' staple impressive bass is here in spades, but not at the expense of the rest of the audio experience. Cranking up the volume doesn’t distort music, and you can enjoy a rich soundscape here for the price. If you want all the smart tech to play well with your iPhone though, you’ll have to grab one of the other pairs on this list.  

Louise Blain
Louise Blain

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in technology, gaming, and entertainment.  She has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland and is the presenter of BBC Radio 3's monthly Sound of Gaming show. She can also regularly be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, and The Evolution of Horror podcast as well as writing for GamesRadar and NME. Louise loves finding ways that tech can make our lives better every day and no, she doesn't have enough smart lighting yet.