BEATS X REVIEW: APPLE’S NECKBUDS FOR THE EVERYDAY
These aren’t wireless wireless earbuds. They’re neckbuds. And until I gave them a try, I’d never been much of a neckbuds believer. I’m the guy who wears full-size wireless headphones almost everywhere — including the gym. And if I’m without my V-Modas or Bose QC35s, I’ll pull my trusty $10 Panasonic ErgoFit earbuds from my bag. So I’ve never really seen a compelling need for anything that neckbuds stand for. But companies like LG, Jaybird, and Samsung (plus countless cheap Amazon brands) are finding success with them, so clearly there’s something to this. And after a week or so of trying out Beats X, I think I get it. They’re effortless, comfortable, free of cord tangle, reliable, and usually sound good enough (if never anywhere near great).
My favorite thing about the Beats X is that I don’t feel like an utter doofus wearing them. The AirPods never fit my ears well, but even before I came to that frustrating conclusion, I didn’t feel great about having an electric toothbrush head sticking out of each ear. The Beats X shy away from the worst neckbud design offenses. There’s no ugly, hard plastic semi-collar that goes around your neck like LG’s Tone lineup. These are much more in keeping with the style of Jaybird’s sport earbuds. The two earbuds are joined by a long cable. The neckband area is semi-rigid, but sits comfortably and contours nicely around the back of your neck. It also stays put during runs and other movement.
The two sides are nearly symmetrical, which means these earbuds are weighted perfectly and won’t slip to one side or the other. Near each of your shoulders you’ll find little plastic housings that contain the Beats X electronics and help maintain that anchored fit. The one beneath the left earbud includes a Lightning port for charging. Goodbye, Micro USB! The inclusion of Lightning makes Beats X feel like the first Beats earphones that Apple had a real say in. A full charge takes around 45 minutes, and Apple claims you’ll get two hours of listening just by plugging in for five minutes when the battery is low.
Also on the left side — closer to your ear — is an inline three-button remote for controlling volume, skipping tracks, handling calls, and activating Siri (or Google’s Assistant on Android). The mic worked very well for me; Siri almost never missed words and no one had any complaints about how I sounded on the phone.
The plastic housing on the right side is where the power button is. When you’re not actually listening to the earbuds, they can latch together magnetically and rest centered at your chest. That was the case for me, but I’m 6’1″, so the cable will probably prove annoyingly long for some. Particularly when running, all that slack can cause the cable to bob up and down at the side of each cheek or rub against your chin. You could count this grievance in favor of the AirPods, but I like the security of a cable — especially when it’s light enough to wear all day and forget about. Unfortunately, there’s no auto-pause feature when you remove one of the Beats X earbuds. Apple’s keeping that exclusive to the AirPods for now.
The Beats X definitely wear well, and setup (with an iPhone) couldn’t be much simpler. Power them on near an iPhone and you’ll see the familiar pop-up that AirPods (and other new W1-enabled Beats headphones) trigger. Pairing is quick, and the Beats X quickly show up on my iPad and MacBook Pro, too. Fit is another big plus. Inside the box you get four sizes of eartips plus some secure-fit wingtips. But I never needed any of those because the default out-of-the-box ear tips fit my ears remarkably well. The seal was so good that I never bothered trying the other fits or adding on the wingtips. These stayed in fine for a 5-mile run without any help. (Beats X are not officially sweat-resistant like the Powerbeats 3, though, so don’t get them soaked.) That kind of immediate, great fit is pretty unusual for me; I’m a big baby about earbuds that cause even the slightest level of discomfort.
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