While many triathletes are likely familiar with Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro ear buds, many might not realized that Apple also owns Beats, which puts out some pretty spectacular sports-friendly earbuds, too. While many might remember the company as “Beats by Dre” (Or Beats by Dr. Dre.) since it was originally founded by the hip-hop star and audio engineer Jimmy Iovine back in 2007 (the company’s first headphones came out in 2008), Beats was bought by Apple in 2014 (for $3.2 billion, no less).
So what on earth does all that mean for us triathletes? Well, while Apple might have been more interested in grabbing the Beats Music service (which has become Apple Music), they didn’t give up on the Beats earbuds and headphone products, which were considered amongst the best on the market. If you’re part of the Apple universe, the fact that some of the top new products from Beats feature the Apple H1 chip means you get features like one-touch pairing, an eartip test to help you get the perfect fit, automatic switching between Apple devices, audio sharing and hands-free access to “Siri.” (If you’re an Android phone user, fear not – there’s a Beats App for Android that will do many of the same things for you, too.)
Still wondering why a triathlete should give a … hang in there. I am almost there. In addition to a long history of developing products that were all about the music, Beats also had some earbuds that you’ve no-doubt seen a lot of at the gym – the Powerbeats Pro, which are wireless earbuds that have secure-fit earhooks that just won’t budge while you’re pushing to the limit. Add sweat and water resistance to those Powerbeats and you can enjoy your music to its fullest during even your toughest sessions.
Apple has some pretty amazing ear buds for working out, too – the AirPods Pro, which retail for $329. For those who want to save a bit of cash, the newly released third generation of the AirPods feature a lot of the same features as the Pro and retail for $239. So where on earth do these new Beats Fit Pro earbuds, which retail for $250 fit in the mix?
What you get with the new Beats Fit Pro are ear buds with many of the same features as the AirPods Pro, but utilize an innovative wing-tip design that ensures they won’t fall out of your ears while you’re working out. While that hasn’t exactly been a problem we’ve seen ourselves or heard about from others using AirPods Pro earbuds, once we put the Beats Fit Pro buds in our ears we knew exactly what the Beats engineers had achieved – a secure fit in a very compact earbud. These are a lot smaller than the Powerbeats Pro, even smaller than the AirPods Pro, but have managed to maintain impressive sound quality, and are also sweat and water resistant. At just 5.6 g per ear bud, these pack a lot of punch in a small package.
With the company’s long history on the music front, the Beats engineers were sure to keep the Beats Fit Pros balanced sound-wise. Play some of your favourite music and you can really hear the difference – the custom acoustic platform is derived from a proprietary transducer designed specifically for these ear buds. Add to that the same Spatial Audio you’ll find in the Apple AirPods models and you get an incredible listening experience. The sound adjusts as you turn your head, providing a real “surround-sound” experience.
There are three listening modes – Active Noise Cancelling (ANC), Transparency – a must-use as far as I’m concerned for use while walking, running and other outdoor activities, and, when you have those two off, Adaptive EQ, which “automatically tunes the low and mid-frequencies to the shop or your ear for superior sound quality and a consistent listening experience.” The noise cancelling capabilities here are strong, and, when you have a chance to enjoy your music in a quiet spot, the adaptive EQ mode sounds pretty awesome, too.
Talk time, controls and Power
Those who aren’t planning on just listening with the Beats Fit Pros will be happy to hear that they perform extremely well when it comes to talking, too. There are three microphones per earbud and an accelerometer that figure out when you’re talking and helps filter out any noise around you. The controls are really easy to use – you simply press on either bud to manage calls, control music and adjust listening modes. It’s really nice to have a button that clicks – this is one area in which the Beats Fit Pro tops the AirPods models.
In terms of power Beats says you should get six hours from each bud on a single charge, with an additional 21 hours from the charging case. We haven’t had a chance to really test out those numbers, but based on just under a week of playing around with them, those times seem pretty accurate.
AirPods vs Beats Fit Pro
Yeah, I knew you’d ask. This is a tough one. If you’re primary use for your earbuds is going to be working out, you probably want to go with the Beats Fit Pro. The wingtip design really does work – these things didn’t budge during even the hardest bike and weight-training sessions I put them through. (Sorry – a hip injury means I haven’t put them to the test on that front, but our sister publication, Canadian Running Magazine, claims these are “the brand’s best running earbuds yet.”)
That wingtip design, though, does make these a little less comfortable than the AirPods, especially the AirPods Pros. If you are planning on wearing your earbuds for super long periods of time, you might want to splurge the extra cash and stick with the higher end Apple product. Also, remember that “custom acoustic platform” I was talking about earlier? The Beats Fit Pro is definitely a bit more bass heavy. Some will prefer the AirPods sound, for sure. The AirPods (both models) also have a much sleeker case and support wireless charging. That’s a big plus for a lot of people.
Those looking for some colour options, though, will be drawn to the sportier Beats Fit Pro, which are available in four colours, Beats Black, Beats White, Stone Purple and Sage Gray, all with a colour-matched case. That case is much more prone to scratches than the AirPods cases, too, which might be a consideration for some.
Does that help in terms of making a decision? The bottom line is that you won’t go wrong with any of Apple’s products here – whether you stick with the Apple AirPods, the AirPods Pro or the Beats Fit Pro. For working out the Beats Fit Pro sure is an awesome set of earbuds, and they are still extremely comfortable for pretty much any other uses, too. For triathletes who are looking for something a bit different that also meets up to their rigorous workout demands, these earbuds are definitely worth a look.
The Beats Fit Pro are available for pre-order here in Canada now, and will start shipping on Jan. 28.