Beats Flex are wireless “all-day” Bluetooth headphones with USB-C charging that are both sweat and water-resistant. They have the Apple/Beats look going for them, and they offer great sound quality, but they are light on additional features. However, for their low $49 price, they’re still pretty competitive.
Beats Flex are wireless headphones where the buds are tethered to a flexible neckband. The end of each side of the neckband has an end-cap that houses the battery, buttons, and technology. The cable is flat linguini style and the neckband portion is thicker and with some reinforcement to mostly keep it shaped for your neck. The round and smooth pebble-like edges on everything is very Apple-y.
The controls on the neckband end-caps are not the most intuitive, but they’re easy enough to get used to. There’s a volume rocker on one side, a play/pause/multi-function on the inside of the same side, and a power/pair button on the other side. The design is comfortable enough and easy to wear, but I found the neckband to be less convenient and get in the way. My preference would just be a cable that hangs under my neck or around the back of my neck. The neckband got in the way during activities with a lot of movement (especially crunches!). The linguini cord goes where it wants to and ends up rubbing against our chin.
Yes, these are “budget” headphones, but Apple didn’t skimp on the audio quality. They have a lot of range and clarity with good range. There’s even real bass that gets nice and low. They come with 4 silicone ear tips for an air-tight seal in your ear, so most will find the audio quality much better than Apple’s standard AirPods. They have a much more natural sound signature to them. We wouldn’t be surprised if some find the audio quality to be as good or better than AirPods too, just because of this tight seal. The more expensive PowerBeats would be the closest comparison, but those have a little extra detail and oomph. Considering the price difference we’re really impressed with the Flex’s audio quality.
The microphone clarity is also great, but it lacks the noise-reducing and voice isolating qualities of the more expensive PowerBeats. In a relatively quiet environment, your phone calls will sound great.
Apple — make up your mind about USB-C! These are the first USB-C headphones in the Beats line up. They do not charge with a lightning cable. In fact, there’s only a USB-C to USB-C cable included so hopefully you own a power adapter with a USB-C port. Hopefully, this is a sign that Apple will soon ditch lightning cables altogether so that we can have one USB charging standard to rule them all. Fortunately, there’s an impressive 12-hour battery packed into these headphones, and even more impressive is the Fast Fuel feature that gives you 1.5-hour of battery life from a 10-minute charge.
The sound is our favorite quality of the new Beats Flex. There’s not a ton of frills, but they do what they need to pretty well. There’s supposed to be an auto-play/pause feature when the buds snap together with their built-in magnets, but it didn’t work on our pre-release version. Apple’s built-in W1 chip makes for quick-and-easy pairing and syncing with iPhone. There’s no “Hey Siri” built-in, no carrying case, no wireless charging, and they lack the more advanced microphone and voice isolating technology. That said, they sound great, offer good noise isolation, a great battery, and are both sweat and water-resistant. Plus, USB-C charging is more future-proof than any other Apple headphones right now. They’re great for the price if you’re looking for everyday headphones that sound good and last through workouts. The only big catch we found is the headband design can be awkward.
Beats Flex is currently available from Apple.com for $49.99 and available in a fun Yuzu Yellow or Flame Blue, or a timeless Beats Black and Smoke Grey.