AirPods 3 vs. Beats Studio Buds: Which should you buy?

Airpods 3 And Beats Studio Buds
Airpods 3 And Beats Studio Buds (Image credit: iMore)

When Beats Studio Buds came out in June 2021, they were clearly the better wireless earbuds compared to the second-generation Apple AirPods. Now that the AirPods 3 have emerged, however, the distinction is not so clear-cut. These new AirPods are equipped with the latest Apple H1 chip, which comes with an ensemble of new and very cool features that work beautifully with iOS 15. The new AirPods 3 still don't include some key benefits that are offered by Beats Studio Buds, however, such as active noise cancelation (ANC).

AirPods 3 vs. Beats Studio Buds: Key differences

Airpods 3 Vs Beats Studio Buds

Airpods 3 Vs Beats Studio Buds (Image credit: iMore)

Although both models are wireless Bluetooth earbuds, these two products offer very different features, and so they appeal to different markets. The chart below outlines just how very different these two earbuds are. From chipsets to inner-ear fit, almost every spec is distinct.

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Header Cell - Column 0 AirPods (3rd generation)Beats Studio Buds
TypeWireless Bluetooth EarbudsWireless Bluetooth Earbuds
ChipH1 headphone chipMediaTek TWS chip
Battery life6 hours8 hours
ChargingMagSafe wireless chargingUSB-C wired charging
Active noise cancelationNoYes
Ambient noise modeNoYes
Live ListenYesNo
Spatial AudioYesYes, with limitations
ControlsForce touch sensorMulti-function button
ColorsWhiteBlack, White, Red
CaseMagSafe Wireless Charging CaseUSB-C Charging Case
Weight4.3 grams5 grams
MicrophonesDual beamforming microphonesBuilt-in microphone with wind reduction
Voice assistant"Hey Siri" hands-free voice assistant"Hey Siri" hands-free voice assistant

Here you can see that the Beats Studio Buds boast a longer battery life, active noise cancelation, USB-C wired charging, and three color choices. On the other hand, the AirPods 3 are built with the Apple H1 chip and all the technological advantages that come with it. Choosing between the two will likely come to your own sound needs or environment, so let's break down the comparison, point by point.

AirPods 3 vs. Beats Studio Buds: Beats Studio Buds offer bang for buck

Airpods 3 Vs Beats Studio Buds Close

Airpods 3 Vs Beats Studio Buds Close (Image credit: iMore)

At the time of this writing, the Beats Studio Buds are currently going at a discounted price of $130, significantly more affordable than the hefty $179 price tag for the AirPods 3. In fact, it's safe to say that for the quality of sound and range of benefits you receive with the Beats Studio Buds, they offer an excellent value for the price.

Granted, the AirPods 3 do come with a lot of cool new features and the much-celebrated H1 chipset, but they are still rather expensive for a pair of wireless earbuds that don't offer ANC. In my opinion, the Beats Studio Buds are the better deal when it comes to price, especially when they go on sale for $130.

AirPods 3 vs. Beats Studio Buds: Beats wins on options, but Apple delivers improved comfort

Airpods 3 Versus Beats Studio Buds

Airpods 3 Versus Beats Studio Buds (Image credit: iMore)

Visually, the two earphones have distinctive styles. The AirPods keep the long-stemmed shape that has become ubiquitous with Apple users since 2016. The third generation has a new contoured shape that slips more easily into the average ear and provides a comfortable fit for most people. In contrast, Beats provides removable ear buds that come in different sizes for a more precise fit. This is necessary for accurate noise cancelation, but not always as comfortable as the contoured AirPods shape.

AirPods might be a better and more comfortable choice, but keep in mind that the comfy contoured shape does not stay in the ear as securely as an ear-tip design.

The way you use your earbuds will likely dictate which style you prefer. If you find yourself listening to music or podcasts all day long, then the Beats Studio Buds will probably cause some ear fatigue and discomfort after extended use. This is to be expected with any in-ear earbud design. The AirPods will be better and more comfortable in this circumstance, but keep in mind that the comfy contoured shape does not stay in the ear as securely as an ear-tip design. That means the AirPods might not be ideal for extreme sports or exercise. If it's a super secure fit you want, Beats are the way to go.

The Beats buds do provide three color options, however, which is refreshing when compared to the ever white AirPods. With the recent release of a more colorful line of Mac computers and the beautiful color choices offered for the AirPods Max, I was hoping that more vibrant options would be coming out for all Apple products. This is not the case for AirPods, however, which are still offered in one uninspired shade of white. The Beats Studio Buds are also offered in white, but also black and a bright tone of Beats Red.

AirPods 3 vs. Beats Studio Buds: AirPods 3 bring all the new-fangled tech

Airpods 3 Beats Studio Buds

Airpods 3 Beats Studio Buds (Image credit: iMore)

Both of these earbuds are top of the line, so you're going to get top-quality sound out of either choice. The big differentiating factors here are the listening modes offered by the Beats versus the smart features that come with Apple's H1 chip in the AirPods.

The Beats Studio Buds are going to give good sound, and they are known for a deep, punchy bass. Since they offer both ANC and transparency mode, you can choose how you want to listen. For anybody who works around a lot of distractions and ambient noise, you'll enjoy the ANC included with the Beats, a feature that is sadly lacking in the AirPods 3.

If ANC is absolutely necessary, then you're going to need the Beats Studio Buds, but the AirPods 3 come with some pretty impressive technology of their own.

If ANC is absolutely necessary, then you're going to need the Beats Studio Buds, but the AirPods 3 come with some pretty impressive technology of their own. For one thing, they are equipped with adaptive EQ technology, which means that the AirPods actively listen to the sound that you're receiving and adapt it to provide the best listening experience for the size and shape of your ear. That's pretty impressive, but when paired with Spatial Audio that supports dynamic head tracking, you have a truly immersive audio experience. This type of interactive sound can be enjoyed with any content that supports spatial audio in Apple Music, Apple TV, Netflix, and several other providers. Beats Studio Buds do support spatial audio, but only on specific Dolby Atmos tracks in Apple Music, not for video streaming or other content. They also don't support adaptive EQ or dynamic head tracking.

A few other features that were brought to AirPods 3 with the H1 chip include auto-pause functionality (the sound automatically pauses when you take an AirPod out of your ear), seamless device switching, and audio sharing. These newest features are not currently supported by the Beats Studio Buds. Because of all the bells and whistles, the AirPods 3 probably come out on top in terms of overall performance, even if they don't have ANC.

AirPods 3 vs. Beats Studio Buds: Which should you buy?

Look, I can't tell you what to buy. I will say that I'm a bit of a sucker for new tricks and techy innovations, so I tend to lean towards the newest and coolest. For me, I would go with the AirPods 3 if only to try out that Adaptive EQ technology and dynamic head tracking with Spatial Audio. The auto-pause functionality and seamless device switching is even more icing on the cake since it allows me to do more with my iPhone, but that's just me.

You are not me, and you may be in great need of earbuds that include ANC, especially if you work in a loud environment. If that's the case, you'll definitely want the Beats Studio Buds. Since these earbuds are also more affordable, they are also the better choice for budget-conscious shoppers. As I always say in any comparison, you have to run down the pros and cons of each choice for your own listening needs and lifestyle. Whichever earbuds you go with, you can count on excellent sound and industry-leading quality.

Jaclyn Kilani

Jaclyn Kilani is a content writer at iMore. She's a longtime Apple addict with a flair for creating (written works, design, photos; you name it!) on her devices. Jaclyn has also worked in the marketing sector for over 16 years, dabbling in a bit of everything from writing to graphic design and digital marketing. In her heart of hearts, however, she is a born writer and an avid reader who adores everything about the written word. Someday she may even churn out a book or two.

Throughout her career, Jaclyn has also developed something of an addiction to all things Apple. Her professional and personal life is enhanced by an ever-growing collection of iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, Apple Watches, and even AirTags. Luckily, this expensive habit is of great use to her work at iMore, where she writes with authority on Apple products and the accessories that go with them.