If you're looking for a new wireless Bluetooth headphone, you've probably looked at one of the two big names out there: Beats and Bose.
Both theand the headphones are $149 in the US, share similar specs and design. How do you decide which one's right for you? (International pricing is slightly different for both: the BeatsX is £130 in the UK and AU$200 in Australia, while the Bose goes for £140 and AU$249).
Whether you're working out in the gym or just using them to soundtrack your daily commute, these headphones are designed for being active. We're going to take the two neckbuds and compare how they look, how they sound and how they perform on the go.
Design and durability
Unlike truly wireless earbuds, both the Beats and the Bose have a wire to connect them together. The Beats buds are magnetized so they clip together when not in your ear, while the Bose has a detachable clip on the wire that secures it to your clothes.
Bose claims to be water and sweat resistant, while Beats is not officially labelled as such.
Here's what we like and dislike about the design of each.
- It's smaller and lighter in the ear than the Bose
- Tip selection is extensive. You get three different designs in varying sizes
- It's comfortable to wear around your neck when not in use
Bose SoundSport Wireless
- It sticks out of the ear more than the Beats
- You only get three different sizes of wing tips in the box
- Buttons on the remote are easy to feel and use without looking
Both stayed put in our ears when running as long as we chose the right wing tip. We didn't feel like either would fall out easily. If you're going for the Beats though, you may want to go with a darker color option because they collect dirt and makeup.
Connectivity and controls
Both Bluetooth earbuds work with iOS or Android. The BeatsX has Apple's W1 chip that makes them faster to pair with newer iOS devices. Just press the button on the wired remote and wait for a pop-up to appear on your iPhone. It's that easy. The Bose has NFC so you can tap and pair with Android phones.
To test the range of the headphones, we took a pair each out onto a soccer field to see how far we could get from the phone before the signal dropped out. While our test was not scientific, it gave us a good real-world indicator of how far they can get.
After doing this test multiple times, the Bose generally got further from the phone than the Beats before the sound cut out completely (slightly before the halfway point on the field). While the Beats cut out earlier, playback was intermittent and kept cutting in and out. When we turned to face the phone and walked backwards, the Beats pulled further away from the Bose -- but let's be honest, this isn't how you'd actually walk.
Both headphones have a remote on the wire to adjust the volume, accept or reject calls, skip tracks and even summon your assistant.
Want good sound isolation? Beats has the edge here as they block out ambient noise better when you wear with the in-ear tips. Bose has a more open design so you hear more of the outside world.
But sound can be subjective so here's what we liked about each.
- Lexy: I appreciated the sound isolation so I didn't have to have the volume cranked up so loud when I was on the bus. But I found the Beats sounded a bit flatter overall than the Bose which were slightly clearer and had better bass.
- Vanessa: The in-ear tips allow you to really immerse yourself in the music, but if you're on the go this may not be a good thing. Outside of the office, I would change out the tips for the less intrusive option and then the sound quality wasn't as good.
- Vanessa: The design on these feels like the best of both worlds, you can still hear the outside world when running or biking without sacrificing sound quality.
- Lexy: I found they had more definition between mids and bass than the Beats, even if I had to turn the volume up a bit more to compensate for outside noise
Battery life and charging
Beats has the edge when it comes to battery life: 8 hours compared to 6 hours on the Bose. Beats also charges faster. It uses Apple's Lightning port and will give you two hours of playback with just a 5-minute charge. The Bose uses Micro-USB and only give you about one hour of playback after charging for 15 minutes.
But Bose is better about letting you know how much juice you have left. It has an audio alert that tells you as as soon as you turn it on and an LED that changes color from green to amber to blinking red when you're running low on juice. The Beats also has an LED indicator that changes from white to red, but it's tiny, so you're better off checking on your phone. And auto-power off doesn't work consistently -- so many times we'd forget to turn them off and end up draining the battery completely.
Bose also comes with a companion app so you can see the battery level and change the auto-time off duration.
And our winner is?
Lexy: Sound quality is my number one priority, so I would probably go with the Bose despite the bulkier design. The open design and the sweat resistance are also a plus for working out.
Vanessa: I like the fact that I can wear the Beats around my neck all day, and the fact that I can charge them for 5 minutes and still use them on my commute to work, so for me these would be a lot more practical.
Thereceived a slightly higher overall rating by our CNET editors, but the best one for you really comes down to your specific needs.
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