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New Beats Studio3 Wireless sound better and last longer

While the third-generation of Beats flagship over-ear headphones look the same as their predecessors, they've been markedly improved on the inside.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
4 min read

When Beats updated its headphone line in 2016, there was one headphone that was conspicuously missing from the upgrade list: its flagship Studio Wireless over-ear headphone. Almost a year later, the new Studio3 Wireless is finally here (the "3" stands for third generation). It's $350 (UK 300, $AU450) and available now.

I got a chance to spend a little time with the new headphone before launch and my first reaction to seeing it was probably the same as yours: "Wait, this looks exactly the same as the previous Studio Wireless released four years ago. Really?"

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Yes, really. On the outside anyway, the headphone is virtually identical although this new model comes in new colors.

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The headphone comes in four base colors (left to right: white, red, blue and matte black) and two special-edition colors (Shadow Gray and Porcelain Rose).

Beats by Dre

The big changes are all on the inside. I wasn't able to crack the headphone open to see that but Beats says it's completely redesigned the guts or DNA of this headphone, with not only new drivers but new circuitry that includes Apple's W1 chip found in other Beats wireless headphones -- the PowerBeats3 Wireless, the Solo3 Wireless and the BeatsX -- and Apple's AirPods. 

That W1 chip makes connecting the headphone to Apple devices dead simple and also helps deliver better battery life -- it's now up to 22 hours with wireless and noise cancelling on, double that of the previous model. Turn off noise cancelling and that number goes up to 40 hours. Meanwhile, the Beats Fast Fuel feature gives you three hours of playback from just 10 minutes of charging.

Aside from the battery life, the two big upgrades here are to the noise cancelling and sound quality. I briefly compared this new Studio Wireless to the second-generation Studio Wireless and this model sounds cleaner with better bass definition and slightly more natural sound.

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The headphones fold up to fit in the same hard carry case that came with the previous model.

David Carnoy/CNET

The upgrade in noise cancelling is even more pronounced. Beats' new proprietary noise cancelling technology, which it's calling Pure Adaptive Noise Cancelling or Pure ANC, is constantly monitoring your environment and calibrates the noise cancelling to the sound around you, whether it's plane, train, restaurant or wind noise.

Similar to Sony's MDR-1000X and new WH-1000XM2, the headphone also has a microphone on the inside of each ear cup to calibrate the noise cancelling to the fit of the headphone, adjusting for "leakage caused by hair, glasses, different ear shapes and movement of your head as you go about the day," company reps told me.

Beats says the W1 chip is what allows the adaptive noise cancelling to be always monitoring the world without draining the battery.

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The stitching on the earpads has been tweaked to make the pads slightly softer.

David Carnoy/CNET

Am I disappointed Beats didn't upgrade the exterior design of this headphone? Yeah, a little. It seems like it could have done something to freshen it up a bit. But Beats claims it was very pleased with the headphone's acoustic design and ergonomics and wanted to unlock their full potential with new components.

I get that. This was and still is a comfortable, durable headphone, and with some stitching tweaks, Beats has made the earpads a touch softer, which is good.

The long and short of it is Beats has taken a very good wireless noise-cancelling headphone and significantly increased its performance. I can't tell you yet whether it's better than the competition from Bose and Sony, but look for our full review soon.

Studio3 Wireless key specs:

  • Redesigned acoustic components and an upgraded manufacturing process
  • Integrated Apple W1 chip, which enables one-step Bluetooth connection to iPhone via proximity pairing. Additionally, iPhone users can switch between devices logged into the same iCloud account to easily move from an iPhone conversation to watching a movie on your MacBook . (The headphone also works with Android and other Bluetooth-enabled devices.)
  • Nearly double the battery life of the Beats Studio3's predecessor, totaling 22 hours of wireless playback with Pure ANC on
  • Turning Pure ANC off you get up to 40 hours of nonstop playback in low power mode without sacrificing audio quality
  • Fast Fuel feature gives you up to three hours of playback after just 10 minutes of charging via the included Micro-USB cable (headphone must be powered to use)
  • Class 1 Bluetooth provides optimal connectivity for fewer drop-outs and extended range from your iOS or Android devices
  • Built-in controls and microphone allow you to make calls, skip songs, control your volume and activate Siri
  • Pure ANC uses advanced algorithms to continuously monitor your listening environment, so that it can best block out ambient noise -- not only on an airplane, but also in a noisy café or a busy office
  • Pure ANC also evaluates fit and adjusts for leakage caused by hair, glasses, different ear shapes and movement of your head 
  • Additionally, Pure ANC simultaneously checks what you're hearing while noise canceling is applied against the original music content to adjust and ensure optimal audio fidelity
  • The headphone comes in four base colors (white, red, blue and matte black) and two special-edition colors (Shadow Gray and Porcelain Rose)
  • Available for purchase starting today for $350 (UK 300, $AU450) at Apple.com
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The buttons and controls are the same. 

David Carnoy/CNET