You wouldn’t think there would be that many different ways to make a wireless headphone. But in recent months, as every company with an Amazon profile has scrambled to put something in your ears with fewer cables and more capabilities, every imaginable color, shape, and size has been tried. Most of them are so big they’re hard to wear, or so small their batteries only last through half a Brian Eno track. But Beats, which has been making wireless headphones a lot longer than most, knows what it’s doing.
The new Powerbeats3 Wireless earphones look just like the Powerbeats you already know from all those commercials. They’re not exactly understated; nothing from Beats ever is. And they don’t have the same sort of futuristic vibe you get from the totally wireless AirPods, either. But if you’re looking for a pair of headphones you can wear all day, every day, no matter the weather or your activity, these are pretty tough to beat.
In addition to the buds that jam into your ear canals, the Powerbeats3 have big adjustable hooks on both sides that wrap over your ear to keep everything secure. As a result, they’re the most stable, comfortable wireless headphones I’ve ever tried. I can wear them all day without pain. The in-line remote is handy and useful, and the microphones in both buds are excellent for phone calls and Siri.
If you use Apple devices, the included W1 chip makes pairing absurdly easy and rock-solid, just as it does with AirPods and the Solo3 on-ear headphones. In two weeks of using the Powerbeats3, I’ve only had the audio drop out once, and only for an instant. The extra Bluetooth power means I can walk three rooms away and still be connected. The battery lasts at least the 12 hours advertised, which means I’ve only been charging them about once a week. They sound a little Beats-y, with big highs and lows that make everything a little more dramatic than it needs to be, but the mids come through really nicely and even out the sound a bit.
Pairing the Powerbeats3 is really easy, but sort of opaque: you press the button on the headphones, hold them close to whatever device you’re pairing, and… wait for something to happen. It almost always works, but it’s still too much mystery. (If you pair it with any non-Apple device, it’s just like any other set of headphones.) The play/pause button on the remote is just mushy enough that I can never tell if I’ve actually pressed it. If you’re looking for true sound isolation, look elsewhere: the Powerbeats3 go into your ear, but not quite far enough to drown out the world. In Apple’s world of USB-C and Lightning, it’s dumb that these headphones charge with Micro USB. And, like all Beats products, the Powerbeats3 are both very expensive ($199) and very conspicuous.
8/10 – You’re paying a little too much for the Beats brand and getting a little too much of that Beats sound, but these are fantastic workout headphones—and great for everything else, too.