The same way you’d struggle to simply order ‘a coffee’ in a hipster coffee shop in east London, you need now to be much more precise when shopping for a pair of wireless headphones. Much like the tall-skinny-coffee-caramel-Frappuccino and its ilk, Bluetooth headphones now come in a welcome, if potentially confusing, array of shapes and specifications.
The Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless are a good example of that: they’re wireless, but not true wireless. Allow us to explain.
The Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless earphones are, of course, wireless, offering Bluetooth connectivity, but they have a flexible cable between the buds – this is no longer a given, thanks to the advent of true-wireless earbuds, which really are free of all external wires.
As well as the flexible cable linking the earphones, which can be tightened to your neck like a drawstring, the Powerbeats3 Wireless buds have ear hooks that, naturally, hook over each ear. These earphones are aimed at active users, whether gym-goers, runners or cyclists, so the hooks ensure you really shouldn’t need to worry about them falling out of your ears.
We’d suggest you experiment with the fit of the neckband though. If given too much slack, we found the cable prone to sticking to sweaty skin.
You get a choice of four eartips, the standard carry case and a micro USB charging cable. There’s no Lightning connection, which is perhaps a little strange now that Beats is part of the Apple family.
For a pair of headphones such as this, the features and fit are every bit as important as the sonic performance – absolute sound quality isn’t the main focus if you’re in the gym. We’re happy to report the Powerbeats3 Wireless deliver on these fronts: the hook and neckband design means they really won’t fall out of your ears, and we found it easy to get a good fit with the eartips. Noise isolation is good but still allows for a little outside noise, which is useful for active use.
Battery life 12 hours
In-line remote/mic Yes
Driver Size 10mm
Cable length 130cm
Weight (including cable) 29g
The Apple connection is stronger inside the headphones, with the inclusion of Apple’s W1 Chip. It’s this chip that you have to thank for the seamless, super-quick connection to any iOS device, and the ability of the Powerbeats3 Wireless to charge for one hour of use in just five minutes.
Android users should be reassured that the standard Bluetooth connection works perfectly smoothly, too, and the earphones’ 12 hours’ of battery life should prove plenty for even the thirstiest of users. It places them towards the top of the pile for wireless battery life, too.
They promise to be sweat- and water-resistant, so while you shouldn’t sling them in the wash, they’ll be fine if you do that extra mile on the treadmill (or if your train is a bit hot).
There’s a mic and in-line remote so you can take calls and control your music. You can’t miss the connection button, which doubles as play/pause and skip-track-forward or skip-track-back control, depending on the number of times you press it. The volume controls either side are missable, but that’s no bad thing once you know they’re at your disposal.
If you’re expecting bags of bass, you’d be right. Beats has moved on from its ‘bad old days’ of offering oodles of fat bass and not a lot else, thanks in part to Apple’s involvement, but there’s no denying the brand still favours a bassy delivery.
We don’t mind that – especially for noisy environments where it might help cut through the chatter. But on some tracks the heavyweight delivery does spill across the sonic spectrum leading to a lack of detail and dynamics compared with the class-leaders in this field, such as the Sennheiser Momentum Free.
Unlike those, though, there’s no hint of brightness to the treble here. And in isolation, there’s plenty to like about the sound. Voices for the most part sound smooth, and you won’t be left wanting more power. Whether playing classical, rock, pop or electronic, other than that cumbersome bass, there really isn’t too much to complain about.
Drake’s God’s Plan delivers lashings of bass, which starts to jar, but can still keep your head nodding thanks to crisp drums and an otherwise well-rounded sound. MJ Cole’s Mercy sounds spacious and delicate before it skips into life. With Thom Yorke’s Has Ended, the Beats keep a good grip on the hard-to-grasp atmospheres, the bass weight helping to add some meat to the track.
Our performance-per-pound mantra applies to more than just sound quality, and the Powerbeats3 Wireless deliver on form and function, almost without fault. And if that gets you halfway across the purchasing line, we wouldn’t let the sound put you off, provided you don’t mind some bass in your face. Not to your taste? Luckily for you, just like your cup of Joe, there are plenty more options to choose from…
- Sound 4
- Comfort 4
- Build 4
10 of the best tracks to test your headphones
See all our Beats reviews