We test Beats’ first foray into the world of wireless earphones with the PowerBeats 2.
The Beats name has been paving its way in the audio space since 2006, but the world of wireless is fairly fresh ground for the company and the new PowerBeats2 are its first set of wireless earphones. Let’s see how they shape up.
Beats PowerBeats2 Wireless design: Cool comes first
There’s a consistent aesthetic across all of Beats’ products usually putting the iconic ‘b’ logo front and centre, certainly true on the PowerBeats2. Going wireless has meant that over the original PowerBeats, the second iteration features much bulkier looking earbuds, but they’re actually rather elegant to wear, sitting close to your head in an unobtrusive manner.
Available in five colours (including options intentionally designed to work with Nike’s latest colour palettes), these in-ears certainly appear to have more of a unisex design appeal over other Beats cans.
Each ear is comprised of an angled bud attached to a larger housing with clean edges leading around to a flexible ear loop at the front. The anti-tangle cable that joins the left and right ears if offset by a nice accent colour (in our case red) and features an adjustable loop at its midpoint.
The left side of the wire features a three-button remote for music, volume and call control that also houses an inline microphone, whilst the left ear itself has a power button and an LED notification light for battery and pairing indication which is either white or red. On the underside is a rubberised flap that hides the microUSB port for charging.
Beats PowerBeats2 Wireless comfort: Little adjustments
Being a premium product, users will find four different replaceable silicone buds in the box to fit all sorts of ear sizes. We used the default sizes and they sat well, even at the gym.
As we mentioned earlier, the main buds are angled to size more comfortably and securely in the ear canal and the ear loop is there to add a little extra support too. We would have liked more easily adjustable ear loops as although they are flexible, you can’t angle them to help hold the earpieces closer to your head. This is a minor gripe however.
The inline remote/microphone placement could have been put a little closer to the left ear as you can’t see it whilst wearing the PowerBeats2 so better forward placement would have helped. Thankfully the remote itself features clearly raised areas for each button, meaning it takes moments to feel for the right control when you want it.
Beats PowerBeats2 Wireless audio quality: Don’t talk, listen
As we discovered with the Solo 2 headphones, the latest revision of Beats on-ears and in-ears appear to offer a more balanced audio experience than the first-generation bass-heavy sound that divided audiophiles initially.
That doesn’t change the fact that the PowerBeats 2 push out great bassy sounds, but the highs are also nice and sharp, the mids are a little flat oddly, but that might be to do with the seals, which don’t complete block out background noise, something Beats actually highlights as a feature in the product description.
“Add power to your workout playlist. Dual-driver acoustics power music through each ear bud delivering Beat’s signature sound for a great listening experience, all while letting in ambient noise to keep you safe on the road with a customized fit.”
Part of what give the PowerBeats their name is the dual driver design, which would account for the great highs and lows. This all refers to music playback however. Whilst these Bluetooth earphones also work as a hands-free alternative for taking calls, voice quality in and out of the PowerBeats2 is pretty mediocre. Expect to hear your recipient clearly, but have them asking you to repeat yourself every now and then.
Beats PowerBeats2 Wireless battery life: Lighter on the ears
Battery life can fluctuate wildly depending on usage, but we managed a movie, a few YouTube videos and a healthy dose of Spotify between charges. Commuters (using it twice daily) should expect to plug the PowerBeats2 in for juice every three days and hold charge well. On the whole it’s not stellar and whilst it isn’t terrible either, for the price, we’d like to stay wireless a little longer than what’s on offer.
Charging itself takes place through a microUSB port on the underside of the left ear. that’s concealed by a rubber flap, reminding you of the PowerBeats2 IPX4-certified resistance to sources of moisture like rain or sweat. There’s also a colour-matched microUSB lead in the box to charge it up via your computer’s USB port if you wish.
Whilst powered on, a white light means that there’s plenty of juice left, a solid red light means there’s one more hour’s worth of playback in the PowerBeats2 and a blinking red light means you’re on your last 15 minutes.
One bonus is that a 15-minute charge will replenish and hour’s playback, great if you forget to top them up before heading out somewhere.
Beats PowerBeats2 Wireless verdict: High priced, but very nice
We’re fans of Bluetooth headphones and the PowerBeats2 Wireless prove to be a solid offering. They’re consistently strong across the board, with a nice, clean design, balanced sound, a comfortable fit, usable battery life and hey, they’re inspire by Lebron James.
There’s undoubtedly room for improvement (with the earphones, not LeBron), but the overall experience was one that we enjoyed. The only sticking point being the price. At £169.95, they surpass many other great Bluetooth headphones, some with additional features like media playback controls, active noise cancellation and vibration motors.
With that in mind, those who are already a fan of the brand looking for some Beats that they can really move around in should seriously consider, otherwise step back and look around before laying down the cash.