The Powerbeats Pro launched last year―right around the time we published our round up of the top wireless earbuds on the market. If we had gotten hands-on time sooner, they certainly would have made the cut as one of our favorite wireless earbuds on the market.
So when we got our hands on the recently rumored fourth generation Powerbeats, we couldn’t wait to compare the sound quality of the two. Although Beats has reverted the device to a retro neckband design, the model offers comparable sound quality to the wireless Powerbeats Pro and for $100 USD less than the standard $250 USD.
Many would give the device a hard pass solely based on its neckband design, but the band itself is not only hardly noticeable in practice, it also keeps the earbuds comfortably secure in your canals. The Powerbeats come with three different eartips, but we kept the default cushions in for its tight seal.
Although both the new Powerbeats and the existing Powerbeats Pro are billed to both utilize the same balanced audio, we found the noise isolation to be slightly better with the Powerbeats. Even the bass feels slightly more powerful than the Powerbeats Pro at times; this is more than likely due to the eartips, which felt thicker than usual.
We also used the default eartips for the Powerbeats Pro, but unlike the new Powerbeats, some ambient noise still leaks in. Songs like “Wassup” by Lil Uzi Vert thump and rattle, however, his crisp vocals also shined through without being drowned out. The new Powerbeats also deliver up to 15 hours of battery life, six hours more than what the Powerbeats Pro give you if you’re listening at a reasonable volume.
Beats says both products are IPX4 sweat-resistant and splashproof, and have identical piston drivers and digital signal processing. They even boast that both products use the same Apple H1 chip for easier paring across all shared Apple products, as well as the hands-free Siri feature for iOS, where you can just say, “Hey, Siri,” to activate Apple’s voice assistant. However, there are a few small design changes between the two.
For example, the newer Powerbeats have a physical power and Bluetooth button on the left bud, as opposed to the Powerbeats Pro that automatically turns on outside the charging case. On that note, the Powerbeats do not have a charging case and come with a ridiculously short 6-inch USB-A to Lightning cable that plugs into the right earbud. Beats boasts that a five minute charge will result in 30 minutes more playback when compared to the Powerbeats Pro, and also says it has a 15-hour battery against the Powerbeats Pro’s 9 hours. However, we still prefer the comfort of a charging case, allowing us a 24-plus hour experience.
As a headset it also gets the job done. Phone calls come in well, and according to folks on the other end of the phone, our voice came in loud and clear–even as a train passed overhead.
To summarize, we recommend the $149 USD Powerbeats, especially as an upgrade from the Powerbeats 3 Wireless. We even see it as a good alternative to the Powerbeats Pro if you’re unwilling to shell out another $100 USD for the true wireless experience. However, if you already have the Powerbeats Pro, this is a step back in terms of design and quality of life.