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Here’s why I ditched AirPods Max and switched to Beats Studio Pro instead

Published Jun 24th, 2024 2:44PM EDT
Beats Studio Pro Headphones
Image: José Adorno for BGR

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Oh boy, I think I’m going to anger a lot of AirPods Max and audiophile fans with this one. Before you come with your pitchforks, I implore all of you to remember that not everyone is an audiophile and has different needs when it comes to headphones — that’s why there are so many choices!

With that in mind, let me tell you all why, after owning the AirPods Max since they launched, I’ve decided that the Beats Studio Pro are actually the over-the-ear headphones for me. Check out BGR’s Beats Studio Max vs. AirPods Max comparison for a deep dive, and keep reading here to see why I made the switch.

Beats Studio Pros are more comfortable for me

The most important thing I’ve figured out for myself when it comes to over-the-ear headphones is comfort. I was not expecting this. Until I came to this realization, sound quality was by far the metric I weighed headphones against each other, and all other metrics were tiny in comparison.

That changed, however, once I owned the AirPods Max for a while. I started to notice a trend that, despite trying to adjust them to get the best fit for my head, I would find myself taking them off after an hour or so due to discomfort. And the discomfort didn’t come from them pressing on my ears or being itchy or anything — it had to do with the pressure they put on the top of my head because they were just too damn heavy.

That might be the biggest issue with the AirPods Max. Due to their use of stainless steel and aluminum instead of plastic, they are the heaviest over-the-ear headphones when you compare them to the other popular models from companies like Bose, Sony, and Sonos. Apple really tried to engineer a way to offset their weight but, no matter what I did, I couldn’t find a fit that worked.

Beats Studio Pro in Navy Image source: José Adorno for BGR

The discomfort was so consistent that if I had a flight longer than an hour or two, I would find myself taking my AirPods Pro on the trip instead of the AirPods Max due to the comfort issue alone. That’s not a place you want to find yourself after dropping over $500 on a pair of headphones.

This is where the Beats Studio Pro beat the AirPods Max for me. Due to them sticking with plastic instead of stainless steel and aluminum, the headphones are much lighter and, for me, much more comfortable when wearing them for longer periods of time. I wore them for a five-hour flight across the United States and only took them off to use the bathroom — I never felt I had to take them off due to an issue with comfort.

Sorry, sound quality. It doesn’t matter how good you sound if you aren’t comfortable. For me, comfort is king.

You get a lot of the same features as AirPods Max

Despite Beats not being as closely integrated with Apple products as the AirPods Max, they’re still so tightly integrated that the couple of features you might miss out on are worth the sacrifice for me.

Of course, this tight integration exists because Apple owns Beats, so they ensure that Beats headphones work incredibly well and offer a lot of the same features as AirPods when connected with an Apple product like the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and even Apple TV.

For example, connecting my Beats Studio Pros to my iPhone was the same as connecting my AirPods Max — you get that sweet pop-up card with a simple “Connect” button. That’s it. No fiddling under the Bluetooth section in the Settings app like headphones from other brands. Just like AirPods, they store that connection in iCloud, so the headphones then become available for selection on all of your Apple devices. That also makes them compatible with Find My in case you ever misplace them.

Beats 2024 lineupImage source: José Adorno for BGR

The headphones also offer Personalized Spatial Audio, the audio technology that creates a surround-sound experience when you are watching compatible TV shows and movies or listening to compatible music. They also feature Transparency Mode — same as the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. Speaking of TV, they pop up as an audio option automatically on Apple TV when you turn them on — same as AirPods.

Beats Studio also works with Siri and have great noise cancellation that is comparable enough to AirPods Max that I didn’t notice a huge difference when on my flights. You can also control the audio features of Beats Studio Pro through the Control Center on iPhone and iPad, just like you can with AirPods.

The only thing Beats Studio Pro can’t do that AirPods Max can that I’ve run into so far is automatic switching between devices, but that’s not a deal-breaker for me.

USB-C and double the battery life

Not only do Beats Studio Pro share a lot of the same features as AirPods Max, but the headphones actually have features that its Apple-branded counterpart currently doesn’t.

The big one for me is USB-C. AirPods Max, despite all of the cheaper AirPods models like AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2 now offering USB-C, is still rocking the Lightning connector. While we are expecting AirPods Max 2 — which could come out this fall — to make the switch to USB-C, buying AirPods Max right now means you are stuck with the old connector.

Beats Studio Pro connected via USB-C with the Mac Studio Image source: José Adorno for BGR

As someone who has made the switch to USB-C on ALL THE THINGS, including my iPhone, iPad, Mac, Kindle, and more, I’m not about to carry around a Lightning cable just for my headphones. Yes, it’s that important to me.

The Beats Studio Pro also have double the battery life as AirPods Max. Right now, Apple says you’ll get about 20 hours of listening time with the AirPods Max. Beats Studio Pro, in comparison, boasts a listening time of up to 40 hours. Is that a huge deal if you’re wearing them around home and charging them is easy? No. However, that comes in handy when you’re traveling. I have already found myself with a dead pair of AirPods Max on the plane, and that’s the last place you want your headphones to be dead — especially if the plane doesn’t have a way to charge them.

They’re more portable, case and all

Oh yeah, I almost forgot about this last one. The Beats Studio Pro are also much more travel-friendly than the AirPods Max.

The AirPods Max have two key issues when it comes to using them while traveling. The first is that, unlike almost every other popular over-the-ear headphone that people purchase to use while traveling, the AirPods Max do not fold up. You can rotate the earcups to make the headphones more flat, but the lack of folding up into themselves makes them much more bulky to travel with.

Image source: José Adorno for BGR

The second issue is that when you do want to travel with AirPods Max, your default case is the one that Apple made, which I think everyone agrees is the worst case that has ever been designed in the history of headphone cases. It not only has been given the name “the bra” by the tech community, but it also only protects the earcups, leaving the entire headband exposed. It’s a travesty that spending over $500 on headphones gets you that case, and almost everyone should find a third-party option.

The Beats Studio Pro, as if in exact contrast, approaches travel differently. They do fold into themselves, making them easier to store in a bag when you’re traveling. Even better is the case. It’s small and, despite the size, contains space for your USB-C charging cable, your 3.5mm audio cable (handy on flights that have seatback entertainment but don’t have Bluetooth), and another pouch for a charging brick or another small accessory you want to store.

There’s just no comparison here. The Beats Studio Pro are built for travel and I experienced the difference on my most recent trip. It was fantastic.

The price difference seals the deal

All of the above was more than enough for me to decide that, at least right now, the Beats Studio Pro are the over-the-ear headphones for me. I find myself wearing them much more often and for much longer than I ever wore my AirPods Max.

As if all of those reasons weren’t enough, the last reason is the price. The AirPods Max still cost a whopping $549 all full price. You can find the occasional sale for them going for $449, but that still makes them the most expensive headphones in their class.

Beats Studio Pro beside AirPods Max
Beats Studio Pro vs. AirPods Max Image source: José Adorno for BGR

The Beats Studio Pro, in comparison, comes in at $349 at full price. That already marks a $200 discount compared to the AirPods Max, but they are frequently on sale for sale at a discount — you can sometimes save almost 50%. I personally picked up mine refurbished through Best Buy for $140, a complete steal for a pair of headphones of this quality.

While price shouldn’t be your only factor, being able to snag a pair of headphones this comparable to AirPods Max for potentially 25% of the price is a no-brainer, and that’s exactly what I did.

Let’s see what Apple does with AirPods Max 2

Of course, this could all change if Apple nails the release of AirPods Max 2. If the company releases the second generation at a cheaper price with lighter materials and they get all of the upgrades that are expected, I could find myself switching back.

However, for right now, there’s no comparison for me. For now, Beats Studio Pro are the only over-the-ear headphones I’ll be wearing. Great job, Beats.

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.