Beats Studio Wireless Headphones review: A pricey Bluetooth headphone with premium sound

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MSRP: $365.95

The Good The Beats Studio Wireless is a very comfortable over-the-ear wireless headphone that offers excellent sound for a Bluetooth headphone and features active noise-canceling technology. The headphones fold up into a more compact form factor and battery life is decent at 12 hours of wireless listening. They also worked well as a wireless headset for making cell-phone calls.

The Bad Expensive; if the integrated rechargeable battery dies, the music dies.

The Bottom Line While it'll cost you a hefty $380, the Beats Studio Wireless is an excellent wireless Bluetooth headphone.

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8.3 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Sound 8
  • Value 6

It's easy to confuse the Beats Studio (2013) headphones with the company's Studio Wireless over-the-ear headphones. That's because the two headphones look nearly identical, the big difference being the latter model includes not only active noise-cancelling but Bluetooth technology, which allows for wireless streaming from any Bluetooth-enabled device. Oh, and at $379.95 (AU$479), the Studio Wireless costs $80 more.

Both these headphones are based on a new "re-imagined" design of the original, uber-popular Studio, which didn't impress audiophiles and had other faults. These new models are lighter and built more sturdily. They also boast softer earcups and seem very comfortable (I know people who run in them), offering a snug fit and a fairly tight seal without feeling too tight.

I tested Studio Wireless for several weeks and came away really liking it. Soundwise, it measures up to many of the top Bluetooth headphones, and it's a big upgrade over the older on-ear Wireless in every way. The big question, of course, is it worth $379.95?

The answer really depends on whether you're OK with paying a premium for the Beats brand. But more on that in a minute.

Design and features

The Studio Wireless comes in six colors -- white, blue, red, titanium, and black (matte or glossy) -- and is better constructed than the original Beats Studio . For what it's worth, I like the look of the the matte black and blue models best (I started with a glossy black review sample, which I later swapped for a matte black sample).

While these are premium headphones, they are made mostly of plastic, but their finishes help them seem a little more swanky than the original Studios. The glossy models do attract fingerprints, which is why the headphones come with a small cloth for buffing them (the buff cloth is now becoming a common accessory for this type of high-end plastic headphone).

Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphone (Matte Black 2013)
The Beats Studio Wireless fold up into a more compact package. Sarah Tew/CNET

Like the standard Studio (2013), this model has no "visible" screws, which is good, because those tiny little screws on the headband of the original had a habit of unscrewing themselves and falling out. However, when you break the headphones down -- they fold up (though not flat) to fit in a nice carrying case -- you'll notice Torx screws on the joints on each side of the headband. That joint does have some metal in it and snaps nicely into place when you unfold the headphones.

Beyond that carrying case, you get a few other extras, including both a straight cord for wired listening and one that integrates an Apple-friendly remote and microphone for cell-phone calls. (The remote features may not work with non-Apple devices, but the microphone will.)

Unfortunately, the cords come in red for all models, so there's a little bit of color clash when, say, you get the blue model and end up with a red cord. For $379.95, you should probably get cords that match the color of the headphones. Still, these are wireless headphones, and the vast majority of people will stow away those extra cords (except maybe the USB cable) and never use them, so color won't matter too much. However, it is worth noting that the headphone' internal battery has to have some charge for the headphones to work, wireless or wired.

Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphone (Matte Black 2013)
Even though this is a wireless headphone, you do get extra cords (and a USB cable). Sarah Tew/CNET

On the inside, there's a new, "improved" DSP (digital signal processor) and software that Beats has, for marketing purposes, dubbed the Beats Acoustic Engine. These are active noise-canceling headphones, and they come equipped with two modes of "adaptive" noise cancellation. According to Beats, one mode is for music listening and offers "balanced" adaptive noise cancellation between your music and your environment, and the other mode offers stronger noise cancellation for when you're disconnected and just want to shut out the world (you can't play your music in this mode).

To power the Bluetooth and noise-cancellation circuitry, there's an integrated rechargeable lithium battery that you juice up via a Micro-USB connection (a cable is included -- again red). Battery life is rated at 12 hours of wireless listening and 20 hours of wired listening. A five-light LED "battery fuel gauge" under the power button on the right earcup indicates how much charge is left, and if you have an iOS device, a tiny battery gauge appears on your device next to the Bluetooth icon in the top right of your screen (as it does with all Bluetooth audio devices).

Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphone (Matte Black 2013)
On the right earcup there's an LED battery-life indicator below the power button. Sarah Tew/CNET

Like other stereo Bluetooth headphones, this model has a built-in microphone, and I thought the Beats Wireless worked very well as a wireless headset for making cell phone calls. Callers said they could hear me reasonably well, even when I was walking on the noisy streets of New York City on a fairly windy day.

The circular call answer/end button (with the Beats logo on it) is the middle of the left earcup and doubles as a one-button remote for music playback. Tap it once and it pauses your music. Tap it twice quickly and it advances to the next track. Three quick taps sends you back a track. Volume controls are also on the the same earcup, above and below the one-button remote.

Last but not least, there's an auto on/off feature for automatic shutdown once you unplug the headphones if you have them in corded mode. But beware of leaving them connected to your phone in Bluetooth mode and not turning them off. They will most likely run out of juice overnight.