Apple’s Powerbeats Pro totally wireless headphones are simply the best gym and sports headphones on the market right now. If you’re in the market for a great pair of everyday headphones that keep up with you at the gym, Powerbeats Pro checks all the boxes. True wireless? Check. Water and sweat resistant? Check and check. Comfortable fit that won’t fall out? Amazingly, yes. Plus they offer great battery life, great audio, and an excellent mic for calls.
If you’re looking to see how Powerbeats Pro compare to Apple’s AirPods, we wrote about it here.
Design and Fit
The concept of true wireless, or “totally wireless” gym headphones has been a conflicting combination for us. On one hand, there’s no cord to get in the way of exercise. On the other hand, the gym is where you’re most likely to have a bud loosen out of your ear, so a cord may be the only thing keeping you from losing it. Fortunately, Powerbeat’s iconic ear hook design is what easily puts the Pros ahead of almost any other true wireless sports headphones. It’s a lightweight pair of headphones (even 17% lighter than previous models) that very comfortably locks in to place around your ear. The ear hooks offer the perfect amount of flexibility so that they’re adjustable but still stable. They really offer and ergonomic and lightweight design that makes them incredibly easy to put on and comfortable to wear.
Our go-to gym headphones before testing the Powerbeats Pro were the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100s, which are true wireless and rock a similar ear hook. By design, BackBeat’s only come with one ear tip that’s sized to fit in any ear. There’s no seal in your ear, so it gives you an airy experience designed to hear your surroundings. This is fine when ambient noise is important for your safety, but is difficult to deal with in the everyday situations when you want to focus on the music and get in the zone. In contrast, the PowerBeats Pros come with 4 silicon ear tip options, including double flange ear tips. Because their earhooks do such a good job of keeping the buds in your ear, the ear tip can be optimally be chosen based on the best seal, airiness, and bass experience.
In addition, since these are headphones designed for sport, we’re glad that Apple went as far as getting them IPX4 rated for sweat and water resistance.
Battery life and case
There’s only one real criticism we have with Powerbeats Pros and that’s their large charging case. While the buds are really light and considerably small, the ear loop design requires a larger housing than any other true wireless buds. That said, the carrying case will still fit in most pockets, but at over an inch and a half thick, it’s a bulge.
The great news is that the buds themselves pack a seriously impressive 9 hours of battery life, so you actually get away with going out for the day without the case. A 9-hour battery is basically unheard of for true wireless headphones, and with the case, it’s over 24 hours. You’ll need the case to charge the Powerbeats, and it utilizes an included lightning cable.
From within iOS, you can see the battery life of the case and each individual bud, otherwise, you have to interpret battery life from a single LED on the case. There’s a quick charge feature “fast fuel” that will give you an hour and a half of battery on a 5-minute charge.
Features and usability
True wireless earbuds are usually easier to turn on/off than other Bluetooth buds, but they’re all much trickier to pair and use. Apple solved this and made the Powerbeats Pro the simplest earbuds to set up and use. To that effect, they will pair using proximity. Just tap the case button and wave the case near your iPhone or NFC enabled Apple device. Once initially set up, they turn on and pair automatically when removed from the case. They shut when you put them back in, and they’ll also go into standby from inactivity. They auto-play when you put them in your ear, and auto-pause when you take them out.
There is a built-in volume rocker and multi-function button on each bud. This means either bud can control volume, play music, skip tracks, access Siri and handle phone calls — and with no complicated tap/touch/hold/swipe combinations. The buttons and controls are simply perfect.
Apple put a new processor in these buds called the H1 Headphone chip which enables a handful of unique features. The recently launched AirPods 2 are the only other headphones to have the H1. Once set up, the Powerbeats Pros will likely pair quicker than any other pair of Bluetooth headphones you’ve ever used. They’ll also switch from device-to-device faster, and answer calls faster. If “Hey Siri” is enabled on your iOS device, the headphones can always listen for any “Hey Siri” commands and near instantly answer questions like “Hey Siri what’s the weather?”.
The built-in microphones are impressive too. This is apparent just from saying “Hey Siri” in a loud environment. There are two beam-forming microphones in each bud and the headphones even have a built-in accelerometer to target your voice and filter out noise. The phone call quality is excellent. The range and connectivity are well above par too. They use the latest in Bluetooth, Bluetooth 5.0 with “Class 1” connectivity. Each bud is individually paired to the device, and there’s no “primary” bud. Since each bud has all the controls built-in, either bud can be used in single mono-mode.
While optimized for Apple and iOS devices, Powerbeats Pros are still a normal pair of Bluetooth headphones. They’ll work with pretty much any device that supports Bluetooth. Of course, you’ll lose a few of the nice-to-have features including “hey Siri” support, proximity pairing, and detailed battery information, but otherwise, it’s not such a big deal and they still make for an excellent pair of gym headphones.
If you’re expecting the head-thumpingly powerful bass that Beats are known for, you’ll be surprised to learn that Powerbeats are much more balanced and conservative on the bass. The audio quality is crisp and high quality, and well balanced with strong and clear mid-range audio.
The audio profile is pretty unbiased too, which makes them a treat for basically any genre of music. They did leave us wanting a tad more bass, but we found that this can be partially controlled with the ear tip you choose. We also found the quality and detail to be comparable to Apple’s AirPods, but we found AirPods a bit warmer and Powerbeats a bit brighter. Regardless, they’re a really easy and enjoyable pair of buds to listen to.
We couldn’t be happier with Powerbeats Pros as our new everyday earbuds. They’ve really helped take our gym sessions to the next level. Going full wireless without sacrificing a secure fit has been liberating.
While we said the only criticism we have them was the size of the case, we’re also not so thrilled with their $249 price tag. That said, while they’re expensive, they’re also noticeably higher quality than most Bluetooth earbuds we’ve reviewed, including all of the true wireless headphones in that price range. Apple’s Powerbeats Pro are currently available in a choice of ivory, moss, navy, or black.