Beats Flex assessment: Wire apart, higher sound than the AirPods for less than $50

The inline microphone was moved down the twine on the left facet. 

David Carnoy/CNET

This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

When the brand new iPhones had been unveiled on Oct. 13, many assumed the rumored AirPods Studio — lengthy anticipated to be Apple’s first over-ear headphones — can be introduced alongside them. That product has but to see the sunshine of day, however we did get a brand new headphone that day: The brand new Beats Flex is a reincarnation of the BeatsX, the once-popular neckband-style headphone. It is out there for buy this week for simply $50 (£50, AU$80), or half of what its predecessor had been promoting for. 

With the brand new iPhone 12 fashions no longer including wired EarPods headphones within the field, the Flex is an reasonably priced Apple-friendly wi-fi various to the AirPods, which begin round $130 for the standard version with a wired charging case. The excellent news is that they sound higher than the unique BeatsX and commonplace AirPods. In addition they work properly for making calls. The unhealthy information? Their design is passe in a world now dominated by true wi-fi earbuds.  


  • Price is correct
  • Improved sound, voice calling and battery life
  • Rock-solid wi-fi connection
  • Auto-pause magnetic buds
  • Simple pairing with Apple units
  • Android app for Android customers

Do not Like

  • They’ve wires
  • No carrying pouch included
  • No official water-resistance (no IPX certification)
  • Ear ideas do not have built-in wings to lock buds in your ears

Sure, these are “wired wi-fi” headphones — with a cable connecting the left and proper earbud — at a time when budget true wireless earbuds are widely available for $50 or less, a few of that are surprisingly good. For lots of people that pesky wire is a dealbreaker and I personally hadn’t often used a neckband-style headphone for a few years, so it was a little bit of an adjustment to return to it.

However some individuals just like the idea. You’ll be able to depart the earbuds dangling from round your neck, carrying them like a pendant. Gone is the worry of dropping an AirPod and shedding it. Going from listening to not listening to the earbuds requires merely lifting them to your ears — or pulling them out. And neglect about having to drop them in a charging case whenever you’re not utilizing them.

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Whereas the Beats Flex appears to be like just like the BeatsX, there are a few notable design adjustments. For starters, the inline microphone and management module has been eliminated and included right into a module decrease on the left facet of the twine to match the place of the battery and energy module on the correct facet of the twine. In consequence, the earphones really feel higher balanced and you do not have that impulse to tug the microphone nearer to your mouth whenever you’re making calls.

The buds, that are light-weight and customarily snug to put on, magnetically clasp collectively. Your music mechanically pauses once they’re clasped and unpauses whenever you pull them aside. Some individuals have complained that the BeatsX’s magnets weren’t robust sufficient, however the Flex’s buds adhere collectively properly, so the magnets look like stronger.   

Some of the opposite key upgrades embody new acoustic drivers for improved sound, an upgraded microphone for improved voice calling and 12-hour battery life, up from eight hours. And get this: The Flex is the primary Apple headphone to have USB-C charging, with a 10-minute cost supplying you with 1.5 hours of playback. (All different present beats merchandise use Lightning or Micro-USB charging.) Beats calls this fast-charging characteristic Quick Gasoline, however many headphones provide a quick-charging characteristic. And like the brand new iPhones, there’s no charger in the Beats Flex box both, so you will have to have a USB-C charger available, too. 


The brand new microphone.

David Carnoy/CNET

You get 4 different-sized ear ideas that can assist you get a good seal, which is essential for optimizing sound high quality (you do must push the buds into your ear canal). I want the earbuds included a fin or wing just like the BeatsX did so you could possibly lock them in your ears as you’ll be able to with Jaybird’s X4 or Tarah earphones, that are at the moment on sale for round $50 as they’re phased out. (The Flex sounds higher than these fashions and it has higher voice calling capabilities and battery life. However the Jaybirds, regardless of having bigger buds, do match higher.) 

I believe Beats, after together with mainly the identical ear ideas for years, may get a bit of extra modern in that division. That is my largest criticism, though I used to be additionally a bit disenchanted the Flex does not include any form of carrying pouch just like the BeatsX did — you simply must variety roll it up and put it in your pocket or bag. 

One different factor: These aren’t sweat- or water resistant — they haven’t any IPX score. That is additionally true of the usual AirPods, which loads of individuals put on whereas working and figuring out with out ailing impact. The Flex needs to be OK for mild exercises — I labored out with them on the fitness center however did not sweat a lot — however Beats would steer you towards its Powerbeats Pro if you happen to actually need true sports activities earbuds.

The Beats Flex has Apple’s older W1 chip, not the H1 discovered within the second-gen AirPods, AirPods Professional and the Beats Solo Pro. Nonetheless, the W1 provides you Apple’s easy-pairing characteristic with any of your Apple units which might be synced to iCloud. It additionally means that you can swap between Apple units, test battery standing or use Audio Sharing with a good friend utilizing Beats or Apple headphones (with the W1 chip). In the meantime, the Beats Flex is surprisingly Android pleasant: the app for Android gives further options together with fast pairing, battery ranges and firmware updates.


The grey and blue variations shall be out there in early 2021.


The Flex sounds higher than the BeatsX and the usual AirPods: You get a bit of cleaner sound and extra bass than the AirPods, primarily as a result of Flex’s noise-isolating design. I preferred the BeatsX’s sound nevertheless it has a bit of treble push — generally known as presence enhance — that would result in some listening fatigue. The Flex is extra balanced sounding, and whereas the earbuds do not produce as a lot bass because the Powerbeats Professional or sound as dynamic, they’re smoother-sounding and so they appear open, with a reasonably large soundstage.

I additionally discovered them good for making calls. The individuals I talked to stated I sounded clear and the noise discount outdoor in noisier environments was good. You’ll be able to reply and finish calls with the button on the left module, the place there’s additionally a rocker swap for quantity management. Whereas enjoying music, tapping the common management button twice skips tracks ahead. I do not know if the Flex fairly measures as much as the AirPods for making calls nevertheless it’s shut.

Whereas I am unable to say I am personally prepared to return to wires, the Flex is a stable neckband-style model pair of earbuds that I principally loved utilizing. In the event that they’d come out at $100 and even $75, they might’ve been a tough go from me. However at $50 they’re price contemplating, particularly if you happen to need Apple-friendly earbuds and do not need to shell out extra for AirPods.

Beats Flex key specs

In response to Beats:

  • New acoustic drivers.
  • Magnetic earbuds mechanically play music once they’re in your ears and pause once they’re hooked up round your neck.
  • Upgraded built-in microphone helps scale back wind noise.
  • USB-C charging.
  • 12 hours of listening time.
  • 10-minute Quick Gasoline charging provides you 1.5 hours of playback.
  • On-device controls let you regulate quantity, handle music, take calls and activate your voice assistant.
  • Beats app for Android customers.
  • Price: $50 (£50, AU$80).
  • 4 coloration choices: Beats Black, Yuzu Yellow (out there now); Smoke Grey and Flame Blue (out there early 2021).

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Anil Kumar

Anil Kumar Gadgets writes for Review Tech smartphones, wearables, headphones and speakers based in Delhi for 360 Tech News. Anil Gadgets is a reviewer for 360 Tech News and has written in detail about smartphones, software updates and upcoming devices.

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