When apple unwrapped its second-generation airpods, the distinctive white bluetooth earphones that have become cultural landmarks, I was disappointed. I wanted a pair of waterproof and sweatproof airpods that could withstand workouts and unexpected storms. We finally got it with the AirPods Pro, but in the meantime the Powerbeats Pro came along to put Apple’s excellent audio technology into a true pair of workout headphones.
Powerbeats Pro combine sweat and water resistance, a low-profile design, and exclusive Apple-Y integration, making them a no-brainer for iPhone workout enthusiasts. They are quite expensive, but they are worth it. so much so that they’ve made several of our best pick lists, including the best headphones, the best wireless headphones, and the best wireless headphones.
Reading: Best headphone for the gym
- Read our hands-on review of the beats studio buds
- beats powerbeats pro vs. jabra elite active 75t: which wireless headphones win?
- the best bluetooth speakers of the moment
price and availability of powerbeats pro
- beats powerbeats pro (black) on amazon for $199.95 (opens in a new tab)
The $199 Powerbeats Pro is available to buy now through Apple or Best Buy. at launch, the headphones came only in black, with ivory, moss, and navy options released later. Now you can regularly find the Powerbeats Pro for around $150; Check out our Black Friday headphone deals page for the latest deals.
also note that the new beats fit pro wireless earphones offer many of the same features as the powerbeats pro, plus a few extras. our duel between beats fit pro and beats powerbeats pro will help you choose between them.
powerbeats pro review: setup
If you’ve used a pair of non-apple or beats bluetooth headphones, you know the usual setup exercise: turn on the headphones, put them in pairing mode, open bluetooth settings, and tap the device name to connect to your phone. some wireless headsets, like jabra’s elite active 65t and jaybird’s run xt, have apps that give you deeper controls after pairing, but that initial power on/pairing process doesn’t change.
That’s where apple perfected the bluetooth headset setup. i unlocked my iphone xs and opened the powerbeats pro case, and my phone instantly showed the powerbeats animation. I tapped on connect, and that’s it. I’ll never have to turn on the headphones; they automatically know when I put them in my ears.
You can turn off automatic ear detection in bluetooth settings by tapping on your powerbeats name and turning off that setting. that will prevent the audio from automatically playing when you put on the headphones.
powerbeats pro review: design and comfort
powerbeats pro attaches to the powerbeats line’s signature around-ear hook, which offers stability while you exercise. that’s the key now that the powerbeats buttons are completely cable free, without a cord behind the neck to hold them.
I noticed that the earloop is less flexible than the powerbeats3 version, which makes it more difficult to slide around the ear. I had to use both hands to insert each earbud each time I put them on, to make sure the tip was sitting properly in my ear and that the hook didn’t get tangled in my hair. otherwise, the hook was perfectly comfortable, even when wearing my glasses.
powerbeats pro earphones come with a set of medium size silicone tips and three additional options in small, medium and large sizes.
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It took a bit of trial and error to figure out which tips fit best. on a subway ride, the smaller tips let in too much ambient noise (tourists chatting, trains screeching). but when running, the medium tips stuck out too far from my ears, causing an insecure fit. I eventually settled on the smallest of the four options, which created a better seal than the others, but still wasn’t perfect. your mileage will vary, of course; headset fit is incredibly personal.
powerbeats pro review: controls
Each earbud has identical controls, so you can listen with one earbud on and still pause and play songs, take and reject calls, activate Siri and control volume. if you take off a headset, the music will stop, but you can resume it.
The controls are incredibly easy to find, even without being able to see them. this is crucial for exercising. just run your fingers over the earpiece and look for the b logo. Press once to pause or resume playback, twice to skip a track, and three times to go back, and press and hold to activate Siri. the volume control is located at the top of each button.
Like 2nd generation AirPods, Powerbeats Pro use Apple’s new H1 chip, which allows both earbuds to connect to your phone. because neither earphone has priority, each one is constantly paired and you can charge one while using the other. the powerbeats pro connected to my iphone almost instantly; I could hear the distinctive “bloop” of the pairing noise even before the first earbud was firmly in my ear canal. my first generation airpods, with apple’s older w1 chip, take a few seconds to connect to my phone, and that’s after both buttons are in my ear.
powerbeats pro review: fitness performance
i haven’t had any issues with the wireless earbuds without hook, but the hook on the powerbeats pro made them feel more stable, especially when running outside on windy days; they didn’t move at all.
also survived a collision. a fast-walking pedestrian turned a corner and collided with me while running down a sidewalk. the left earphone fell off; but the hook stayed around my ear, so I was able to quickly regroup and keep running (after we exchanged apologies, of course). not sure if other earbuds, like jabra’s elite active 65t or apple airpods, would have stuck.
I also used the powerbeats pro for running while wearing my glasses. I didn’t experience any discomfort, but I felt the temples of my glasses push the tip of my ear out a bit, just enough to lessen the impact of the bass.
I also liked the addition of hands-free siri, which meant I could have siri summon playlists while running (although my command came out breathless). I didn’t have to wait for Siri to recognize my voice before continuing with my command; When I immediately followed “hey siri” with “play today’s hits”, apple’s virtual assistant quickly understood and carried out my command.
powerbeats pro review: audio performance
a common complaint about beats headphones has been that the audio has too much bass. that’s less of a concern with powerbeats pro, which produces well-balanced audio.
Other bluetooth headsets, including jabra’s elite active 65t and jaybird’s run xt, allow you to use their respective apps to customize the sound: bass for running, prominent voice for acoustic tracks, and so on. But Powerbeats Pro makes every song sound precisely in tune—no manual app controls required.
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the heavy beat of Peaches’ “boys wanna be her” didn’t overpower the guitar hook; each played off the other when leaked through the pro. the voices, combining chants, chants and sighs, were perfectly distinctive. the drop in beat towards the end of billie eilish’s “bad boy” is absolutely great in a big spinning studio, but it sounded just as amazing on my powerbeats, great motivation for abs synced to that beat. Eilish’s acoustic “I Love You,” a bittersweet song full of voice-overs, sounded as beautiful on Powerbeats Pro as “Bad Guy” was motivating.
Powerbeats don’t offer full noise cancellation, but I don’t expect that feature from a pair of sports earphones. I could still hear traffic and kids playing in the park as I ran through Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. but the headphones offer noise isolation, which is useful for phone calls. Answering a call is as easy as pressing the multifunction button on either earbud. While discussing after work plans with my husband while at the office, I couldn’t hear my co-workers chattering.
powerbeats pro review: battery life and charging case
I used the powerbeats pro for four days, averaging a few hours a day, as the buttons kept me company during workouts and commutes and helped me drown out my co-workers to focus on typing on my desk. every time I put the pro headphones in my ears, they were 100% charged, and I still haven’t plugged in the case that powers them up between uses.
The charging case itself is huge, which is the biggest problem I have with it. the thick, square disc fit in the front pocket of my levi’s, but just barely. it seemed ridiculous. he reminded me of my makeup compact, except he’s at least a third larger (and, you know, square). I wish Apple had glued a mirror to the inside of the top cover so the case could do double duty for quick lipstick checks.
Other completely wireless running headphones, including the elite active 65t and run xt, come in much smaller packages. even the plantronics backbeat fit 3100, which sports a similar hook design, comes in a slimmer charging case.
The design inside the case is a bit odd, with a deep, arched groove. the main body of the earphones sits magnetically on either side of the slot, and the ear tips slide into a smaller oval slot in the center of the case. I still haven’t gotten the earbuds right in the case, but at least the magnets serve as a helpful guide.
But I appreciate the giant battery inside the case that provides up to an additional 18 hours of battery life. that, combined with the 9 hours in each earbud, means you can squeeze in up to 27 hours before charging the case. after two days of use, the case was reduced to 60%. by the third day, the case had dropped to 40%, but the powerbeats were fully charged and there was more battery left to drink.
apple includes a black lightning cable in the box. charging the case for 5 minutes adds another 1.5 hours of music playback. a 15-minute charge gives you 4.5 hours. If the earphones and case are dead, it will take 2.5 hours to fully recharge. if only the earphones are dead, 90 minutes will fully recharge them. You can always see the battery percentages for both the case and each earbud from your iPhone’s spotlight screen by swiping right from the home screen.
powerbeats pro review: verdict
If you’re looking for a pair of sweat-resistant earphones that you can wear at the gym, on the trail, on the train, or at work, the Powerbeats Pro are worth a look. The Jabra Elite Active 75T is cheaper, but it lacks an ear hook for added stability. Powerbeats Pro also offers Apple’s magical seamless integration with other Apple products, so using Powerbeats Pro with an iPhone is a much better experience than using any other pair of headphones.
If you don’t need headphones to work out, the 2nd generation apple airpods are the best buy for everyday use. Because they don’t offer a sealed fit, you hear more of the outside world, and the distinctive white headset is more comfortable for long conference calls or music streaming sessions at my desk.
the powerbeats pro is a premium and expensive product for athletes and gym lovers. If you fall into those categories and have an iPhone, these are the fitness headphones to buy.
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