Beats by Dr Dre has been a standard for quality sound and music listening within the mobile accessories industry for a while now, which led to Apple purchasing the company from Dr Dre back in August 2014.
In the years since, Apple has been slowly incorporating some of the design cues and tech behind the Beats by Dr Dre company into its own products. B the process, Apple has pretty much left the Beats by Dr Dre business seperate from the main company, to allow it to continue to develop new devices.
So when the Beats by Dre and Apple announced the new PowerBeats Pro wireless headset, we wanted to see what they were and how these would perform when out and about. I’ve tried them out when commuting to and from work in Sydney, during my physio appointments and so I am able to take calls while wheeling or using my walking crutches around home or out and about.
What’s in the box?
The PowerBeats Pro earphones come in an interestingly small package, to help conserve resources and reduce the carbon footprint Apple is all about.
Inside there is a small black hard case which is used to help charge the earbuds. The earbuds are housed inside. Underneath is a 1.2 metre USB charging cord which comes with sadly Apple’s proprietary lighting charger connector. Why the company decided to choose this over say a USB-C cord is a little bit bamboozling, especially when Apple now uses USB C quite a bit.
There is also additional rubber ear holder which are pretty standard with any headphone set along with instructional and products booklets explaining how the earbuds work.
Sadly though, there is no AC adaptor, only the cord. I had a spare iPad charger at home which I used to help charge the earphones, but you can use virtually any USB port to charge the earphones via the case, such as a battery pack or your laptop/PC also.
The PowerBeats Pro come with the Apple H1 chipset, the exact same Chipset that is used in Apple’s second generation AirPods.
The Earbuds connect wirelessly over Bluetooth.
While simple to set up, by simply holding down the button located inside the case where the earbuds charge, there were times where reconnecting to my Galaxy Note 8 or even my iPad Pro was required; connectivity would either drop out of only connect to one earbud quite often.
This required me to place both earbuds back into the housing/charging case and reconnect via pressing the Bluetooth connection button, then waiting for the charging light on the front to change to a single white light.
As to why this sometimes occurs I am unsure and I did place a request for comment about this to Apple/Beats by Dr Dre and their PR for comment,but I am yet to hear back.
What does it do?
Essentially, the Beats PowerPro wireless earphones are made to listen to your music, wirelessly while having the ability to make and take calls on the go.
The Beats PowerPro wireless earbuds can connect to the Google Assistant when connected to Android devices and for iOS devices, will connect to Siri. Connecting to the Assistant was easily done by completing a long press on either earbuds and waiting till you hear a different ding sound (not the one you might be used to when activating the Google Assistant normally).
The Assistant could, in most cases, hear my instructions well, though when outside in a noisy environment this was a small issue where it did fail.
There is also the ability to control the volume of your calls and music via the volume controls located on the top of each earbud, along with the ability to play, pause, skip or move back to your music tracks or podcasts via the Beats button located on the side of each earphone.
The PowerBeats Pro are comfortable and snug to wear and this did surprise me given normally I have had issues with other Bluetooth wireless earphones – like my Xiaomi AirDots and Cygnett Bluetooth Earphones.
The one thing I did like is when you take one ear bud or both out, the music or media being played stops, meaning you’re not required to hit the button on the sides of the earbuds before taking them out. Now if only the same could be said when placing the earbuds into your ears… Auto play anyone?
What doesn’t it do?
So for one thing – the earbuds certainly are not noise cancelling. Listening to music on medium to about 75% high volume, I could still hear the train announcements both on the platform and on the train while commuting between home and other appointments. If you’re after true noise cancelling wireless earbuds, then you might want to look elsewhere.
The other issue I have is the lack of knowledge of how much charge the earbuds had. The only place I did find this, other than placing back into the wireless charger and placing on charge was my iPad Pro, which when connected would give me a charge percentage. For Android smartphone users like myself, the lack of charge notification is an issue and I would have thought Apple would have had an app for this, but sadly that is not the case.
The last issue which I mentioned was that the earbuds charged via a proprietary Apple lighting charger cord. So it’s probably worth trying to get your hands on a spare lighting charger just in case you go away and forget the cord. The lack of USB-C charging cord is certainly a little perplexing. Also, the lack of the ability to wirelessly charging say on a wireless charger is also missing, given this is an option on Apple’s iPhone and other tech these days.
Ok so I have one thing to disclose before I continue on in this section is that I am a tragic pop music diva, so the music that I would generally listen to whilst having some dance and R ‘n’ B songs I have in my playlist, the majority is pop (think Kylie or Lady GaGa).
So based on this, the music was clear and certainly when it came to some strong or deep base song, the Beats PowerPro wireless earbuds did perform exceptionally well and did surprise me.
However one thing to keep in mind is that these earphones are not noise cancelling, so you can still hear some outside noise around you while listening to your podcasts or music on the go, which is sad but also understandable.
This is the one area I did have issues with sadly. I answered a call, albeit from my mum (in my defence, who wouldn’t answer a call from their own parents) and my mum did have difficulties hearing me, despite almost shouting at times.
On a second attempt, I decided to answer a call from my partner who again had found issues hearing me through the headset. It was like I was far away to them both and it had me a little perplexed.
Even syncing to my Mac Mini, Mac and iPad Pro, I had similar issues during FaceTime and Skype calls with the PowerBeats Pro and this is disappointing given they are sold as wireless headphones you can listen to both music, movies, TV and make calls with your mobile device.
After my attempts to make calls, my conclusion is, the PowerBeats Pro didn’t do very well and made me think that during the design and build of the earphone during the production stage, there wasn’t enough emphasis on possible third party background noise research done to improve the quality during the calls.
Also, in a noisy environment, making or taking calls can be an issue. I found the not everyone could hear me and when they could, it was a bit of a mixed result.
Should I buy it?
Honestly, I’ve been a bit mixed on this because they are quite good headphones. However, for the price Apple is asking for these earbuds, I don’t think they are really worth it given the alternatives that are currently out there.
The only way these earbuds do work is simply because of the name behind them and I can see the typical iFan paying out for these possibly over the AirPods which do retail for a little less – not much but they are a close alternative than looking like a cyberman gone wrong.
That said, there is a lot to like about the PowerBeats Pro by Dr Dre/Apple, especially if you’re an iFan or more gym excerise junkie.