The new Powerbeats Pro has it all, but is limited by an unforgiving fit
Sports and music go hand in hand in today’s era of wireless exercise earbuds, and nothing provides as much security as an ear hook as you pump those weights or put that boxing bag in its place. Certainly, there are small earbuds which will stay in place while you’re out jogging, but if you’re planning on wearing them for a long time or undertaking more dynamic sports, ear hooks are the ones for you.
The new Powerbeats Pro (£219/$275) seems to fit the bill, with the ear hook you’ve come to expect from Powerbeats headphones, the in-ear sound quality of traditional wireless earbuds and the Apple AirPods’ H1 chip.
While they’re not entirely on a level with the Bose Soundsport Free‘s audio quality, the Powerbeats Pros are excellent at high volumes. On the other hand, they can sound a little hollow if you’re not cranking it up, so if you want to carry through that driving bass Beats headphones are famous for, you have to be willing to go hard.
Having been produced by an Apple subsidiary, these ear hooks are unambiguously targeted towards iPhone users, who can charge them using a Lightning cable, automatically access ‘Hey Siri’ and effortlessly sync them to all their Apple devices. They can, of course, be used with an Android phone, but you’ll be missing out on some of their key features.
This nifty product also doubles as a handy accessory in the business world. After running or cycling to work with both ear hooks in, simply remove one and use the other like a Bluetooth earpiece, as seen on share traders or FBI agents. There is no master earbud, and both have controls, so you can use either or switch between them while one is charging. The call quality is also excellent.
For true wireless ear hooks, the Powerbeats Pro battery life is very impressive, each ear having nine hours built in. The battery case also accommodates an extra 24h, giving you some leeway in case you forget to charge them for a few days.
Despite all these positives, there is an area in which Powerbeats have dropped the ball. The in-ear design is unusual for exercise headphones, resulting in an unsafe fit for cycling or running outdoors. On the other hand, they’re ideal for wearing in the gym, blocking out the dubious musical choices the in-gym DJs often inflict upon their members. Furthermore, for their price, the Powerbeats Pro would more than likely be your primary pair of headphones, and the in-ear design makes them a lot more useful for commuting.
With this being the case, why no versatile foam ear tips? While four sizes are available, a lot of people’s ears are in an awkward middle range between two sizes. Malleable comply foam tips easily fix this problem, which also increases the adaptability of the ear tips and therefore, the number of users who can comfortably wear each size.
The rigidity of the hooks themselves is also an issue with this model. It’s highly likely that after a few months of wearing in they would become more comfortable, as the Powerbeats 3s are known to do, but in the interim, they pinch the ear hard and become intensely painful around the hour-mark. It’s difficult to see why the Powerbeats Pro would come with such rigid and unforgiving hooks when the Plantronics BlackBeat Fit 3100 hooks are so much more comfortable to wear right out of the box and fit a great many more ears.
To sum it all up, despite the fit issue, they have a good-to-excellent sound quality and an impressive battery life. Just make sure they fit you properly before you hand the money over so you can avoid months of discomfort.