The first rule of wireless headphones is you do not talk about wireless headphones. Wait, that’s not it. The first rule is that your wireless headphones cannot require a cable to run to your phone. That’s the only rule, actually; everything else is open to interpretation. Which is why Beats and Apple are experimenting with every size and shape of wireless headphone to find that right mix of comfort, size, battery life, sound quality, and cool factor.
The new $150 BeatsX are the cheapest of the company’s options. They’re wireless, but not like the AirPods or even the Solo3 or Powerbeats3. They’re what you might call neckbuds: a band around your neck, connected to two tiny earbuds. When you’re not wearing them, they dangle like a chunky rubber necklace. The upside is the buds themselves are light and simple and nearly impossible to lose. The downside is that these wireless headphones don’t feel all that wireless.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a pair of earbuds more comfortable to wear for hours at a time. The BeatsX come with four tip sizes, plus two sizes of wing attachments that hold the buds more firmly in place. One size will definitely fit your ears. (I used the wings, but lots of people won’t need or want to.) The whole package weighs virtually nothing, and what weight there is goes around your neck. I wore the BeatsX for several hours at a time without so much as a twinge of soreness or strain on my ears.
The in-line mic and controls are terrific, both for phone calls and music. There are magnets on the non-business-ends of the earpieces, so the two buds snap together when you don’t have them crammed into your ears. This feels like a gimmick at first, but really does help keep them untangled and out of your way when they’re dangling down your chest.
If you’re an iPhone user, the BeatsX are easy to pair (just hold them near your phone) and charge (use your Lightning cable). If you’re an Android user, both of those things will be a lot more annoying. The battery lasts six or seven solid hours, and a five-minute charge at least gets me through my 45-minute commute.
There’s just a lot of stuff here. The flexible part that goes around your neck snags in my shirt collar, and the cable from neck to ear was apparently designed with giraffes in mind. It looks weird, it tickles my chin, and it sort of defeats the purpose of wireless headphones to have so much cable still in my face. If I could shorten everything, I wouldn’t mind the neck-wrapping setup, but as is the BeatsX get in my way a lot
Apple’s pairing and connecting mechanism is really easy, but still a little confusing. You have to find the tiny power button on the neckband, press it but not for too long, and then just sort of wait for things to happen. It usually works, but you never really know why or when.
Other Beats products have scaled back the super-bass sound a bit, but the BeatsX oontz their little hearts out. They’re amazing for hip-hop and workout music, but overkill for other stuff. I’m not blown away by the sound quality at all; even the new Powerbeats have a bigger, more dynamic and accurate sound. These just drop the bass through the floor and hope you won’t notice anything else. Maybe this is just me, but having all the controls on the left side feels really weird. Apple’s EarPods put them on the right, and trained me to expect them there. It’s probably just me.
6/10 – The price is right, and they feel great, but the BeatsX are a little too cable-y and a little too bassy.