Remember the original Beats Studio?
Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s first foray into the world of headphones was an iconic pair of cans - so a successor was always going to have a lot to live up to. Of course, with Apple now on board and helping out with the hardware, that was never going to be a problem.
That silicon has been put to even better use here: the Studio 3 is also bringing a new take on noise cancelling along for the ride.
Noise cancelling: THE SOUND OF SILENCE
Beats calls it Pure ANC, and says it goes a lot further than regular noise cancelling to make your albums sound fantastic.
Basically, it uses fancy-pants algorithms (and multiple microphones) to listen to the environment around you, instead of using the single frequency technique you’ll find in other noise-cancelling cans.
Extra mics inside the ear cushions even check for leaks caused by your hair, glasses, movement of your head and even different ear shapes, so nothing gets between you and your music. As a specs and contact lens-wearer, I can confirm it works as advertised.
Finally, audio estimation monitors your tracks, 50,000 times every second, to make sure the music you hear still matches the incoming signal from your phone, fixing any differences so the ANC isn’t impacting the sound quality.
Y’see, noise cancelling can sometimes leave unwanted artefacts in your audio, and headphones with ANC rarely sound the same when you switch the cancelling off. Guess what? That’s not a problem here.
After a week spent listening to my regular playlists and toggling Pure ANC on and off, it really was tricky to spot any difference in sound quality. I've listened to plenty of ANC headphones where you just wouldn't want to use 'em without noise cancelling turned on, but with these, you can safely turn the tech off and your music will sound exactly the same.
Low frequencies are no bother at all, working wonders on a plane journey to silence the engine roar, and it copes well with noisy office environments too. Listen hard and you can still make out loud noises like doors slamming, so you’re not entirely closed off from the outside world, but it comes very close.
Even impressive is how it handles wind noise. Give it a few seconds and Pure ANC detects excessive air blowing into the outside microphones, before cancelling it out. Of course, wind is rarely constant, unless you’re standing in a hurricane, so the effect cuts in and out when you’re walking or waiting on a train platform, but it still goes a lot further than most ANC headphones can manage.
Connectivity: WIRELESS WONDER
Apple’s W1 chip still has all of its familiar party tricks, too, creating the best Bluetooth connection around if you have an iOS device in your pocket.
The Studio3 has seamless switching between Apple devices, and pairing is as simple as bringing headphones and handset close together: a prompt appears onscreen and you’re good to go.
Got a MacBook or iPad, too? If you’re signed into the same iCloud Drive account on all your devices, the headphones are automatically paired with them as well. It’s much easier, and faster, than traditional Bluetooth.
Wireless range with W1 is significantly better than basic Bluetooth, too, so you can walk around the house and keep your music playing, even if you leave your phone on the sofa.
Battery life: Longer than long haul
That custom silicon is amazingly energy efficient, too. Battery capacity hasn’t really changed from the Studio 2, but the W1 manages to squeeze an extra ten hours of playback out of every charge.
All told, you’ll manage 22 hours of noise-cancelling music, which is enough to get you through the longest transatlantic flight and still have juice left to get you through the customs queue.
If you’re in a quiet location, you can almost double that amount again by turning ANC off. Beats reckons you’ll manage 40 hours, and based on my listening, that seems right on the money - if anything, it’s a slightly conservative estimate.
When it is finally time to top up, Fast Fuel recharging can get you three hours of playback in just ten minutes.
The Studio 3 sticks to traditional microUSB charging, instead of switching to Lightning. The company might be owned by Apple now, but not every Beats customer owns an iPhone, so it’s a sensible move - even if we’d have liked to see reversible USB-C instead.