You won’t find them anywhere on the Beats website, having been pushed out by newer products like the Beats Studio Pro and Beats Studio Buds+, so why are we reviewing the seemingly outdated Beats Studio 3 wireless over ear headphones? Because they’re still available at every electronics retailer, and Amazon sells thousands of pairs each month. So how do they sound, what special features do you get from these old school headphones and overall are they still worth it nearly a decade after their launch?
Beats Studio 3
The real selling point of the Beats Studio 3 in 2023 is the retro-fresh design and kaleidoscope color options. Newer and similarly priced noise-cancelling headphones from the competition will outperform the Beats Studio 3 in the ANC department but if pure sound is all that matters to you, these are still a solid choice for current-day listening.
- Great sound quality
- Travel case included
- Feel outdated
- Noise cancelling is only okay
- Hinge pinches fingers
- Uncomfortable fit
Nine years ago, Apple made the big announcement to acquire Beats Electronics and Beats Music. Fast forward to 2023 and we still have Beats products on the market which is maybe surprising since Apple has their own lineup of headphones and speakers. Perhaps Apple wanted to keep their premium products with the usual Apple fit and finish and high price tag while Beats maintains its original hipster-rapper image. That subtle distinction may be step one in helping you decide if Beats headphones are for you, but there’s more to it than that. With its $349 USD ($439 CAD) price these are expensive, yes, and will fall into the premium headphone niche (but they’re still not as eye-watering as AirPods Max, or even Beats’ newer Studio Pro). Let’s see how this pair of headphones fares in a pretty crowded market.
What’s in the Box?
The Beats Studio 3 wireless headphones comes with a carrying case and a 3.5mm RemoteTalk cable. The included micro-USB charging cable is just a little reminder as to how long the Beats Studio 3 has been around, and it’s definitely giving me retro flashbacks—and not in the good way. You also get a quick start guide and a warranty card.
The power button on the headphones is small and incredibly hard to find with your fingers, which wouldn’t be a problem except it’s also used for engaging the noise cancellation.
On the left earcup you get a mercifully larger multi-function button which will answer calls, play-pause, and adjust volume.
Watch my video review of Beats Studio 3 headphones
Apple released the original Beats Studio back in 2008 and Beats Studio 3 way back in 2017 and while headphones can grow into being timeless pieces if they have impressive audio quality, it’s still important to know what features you’ll be getting to see if you can squeeze out every ounce of performance per dollar.
Fit & comfort
The beats studio 3 headphones feel fairly sturdy and fold down to a smaller profile for travel. The hinges seem crisp but easy to maneuver, and not like they’re going to snap a day or two after the warranty expires.
The earcups feel a little on the small side, and though my ears are normally sized, the cups encircle them right to the edges, which for me became a bit constricting and uncomfortable. Ditto the tight headband: Beats have a strong ability to clamp around the head and while it makes them more securre, I felt the pressure in my jaw and found I was often nudging the Beast Studio 3 around my head for relief and a less constricting fit.
The ear cups have a visible seam and the faux-leather wrap on them feels quite dated when compared to newer over-ears I’ve worn.
In short, I personally am not a huge fan of the fit of these.
Apple W1 Chip
Having built-in Bluetooth, the Beats Studio 3 wireless headphones is a pair of headphones you can pair up with iOS, Android, and Windows devices. However, you won’t be getting your best bang for the buck unless you have an iOS device.
Borrowing from Apple’s older AirPods products, the Beats Studio 3 has a built-in Apple W1 chip. This proprietary chip improves power efficiency, Bluetooth stability and eliminates the occasional stutters you’d normally get from Bluetooth pairing as long as you pair it with a supported Apple device (running iOS 10 or later).
While the W1 chip is certainly better than nothing, the chip is a bit dated once you compare it with the H1 chip found in the AirPods Max or the H2 chip present in the AirPods Pro 2. I wouldn’t call the W1 chip a dealbreaker (and if I’m being honest, only about 2% of shoppers probably even understand what the chip does or why it might matter anyway) but if you can’t find the Beats Studio 3 on sale, you’ll essentially be paying a big price for something that lacks cutting-edge technologies like spatial audio and other audio improvements.
Active Noise Cancelling
Active Noise Cancelling or ANC of beats headphone studio 3 is the key reason why this is priced the way it is, so make sure you really need this feature. ANC uses digital signals to detect and cancel out ambient noise (while you also get passive noise isolation from the padded over-ear cups)
I’m glad to say the noise cancelling is okay for this vintage, and even if you are trading away some battery life. You can turn it on by double-clicking the power button, which is all but impossible to feel and I often had to take the headphones off to locate it.
I test ANC out in two ways; I engage it and use it with no music or audio playing so I can hear how well it’s working without competing audio. Then I try it with sound playing.
With audio off and ANC engaged I got an okay amount of noise blocking, but it’s actually not the greatest, mainly because ANC technology has come a long way since 2017. On its own merits I’d give the ANC a 7/10, but compared to newer gadgets like AirPods Max and others from Jabra, they’re lacklustre at best.
Let’s get to the key feature of beats headphone studio 3 you care about; the sound. Fortunately Beats Studio 3 sound great, which probably explains the long lifespan of these headphones. The musical minds behind the Beats brand created them to match tech used in the recording industry, and you can tell.
With an outstandingly balanced and finely-tuned sound, they sound exceptional. The bass is both full and snappy on tracks like Beyonce’s Crazy in Love, and vocals simmer cleanly along the top.
Switching to Mariah Carey and Snoop’s Say Somethin it was easy to hear lots of the subtleties in the music, like the tight and raspy snare, or deep breaths.
Keeping up the old school tracks to match the vintage of the Studio 3’s, I rounded out my old school vibe listening test with St Germain’s So Flute, and caught all the buzzy, breathy peeps in detailed glory.
Coles Notes: Beats Studio 3’s have aged like fine wine in the sound quality department.
The old school throwbacks continue: Beats Studio 3 headphone comes with a 3.5mm cable which might be a little useless considering most modern devices don’t even have a headphone jack. But if you are still rocking an older iPhone or iPad, you can take advantage of the added controls found on this cable. The RemoteTalk cable features dedicated volume buttons as well as a multipurpose center button for answering or declining calls. Holding that center button can bring up Siri too. But again, for most of us buying this product today, it will probably stay wrapped up in the box.
Although the microUSB port might put some potential buyers off, the Beats Studio 3 at least boasts decent battery life. With the ANC feature turned off, Apple claims you can get close to 40 hours. Using ANC cuts the battery life in half which is a significant cut but still a decent amount of juice, even for commuters or long haul travellers. Possibly a moot point since a short 10-minute charge can add 3 extra hours of non-ANC playback.
Overall Thoughts: Beats Studio 3
The real selling point of the Beats Studio 3 wireless headphone in 2023 is the retro-fresh design and kaleidoscope color options. Newer and similarly priced noise-cancelling headphones from the competition will outperform the Beats Studio 3 in the ANC department but if pure sound is all that matters to you, these are still a solid choice for current-day listening. Keep in mind they will also likely become even more obsolete with the expected launch of a Studio 4 at some point, but then you’re bound to see the remaining Studio 3 stock offered at fire sale prices, so I’m willing to bet this review will still be handy.
So on the pro side of beats studio 3 headphone; we’ve got great sound, fun colour options and included ANC. When it comes to the Cons, the fit isn’t the most comfortable, and the materials feel quite dated. Plus the ANC is no longer top of game.
My assessment is if you’re a Dr Dre fan and these are a must-have brand for you, then snatch them up, because they sound great. If you’re looking for the full package and modern technology with high end features that make you forget the high price, you’ll want to wait for the Studio 4.
Imagine a Beats Studio 4 with USB-C, the H2 chip, and other Apple-esque sprinkles thrown in. That could very well be something worth paying top dollar for, especially if you find the AirPods Max too costly to stomach. If you want a piece of history, the Beats Studio 3 is a decent buy if you have an iPhone or iPad and can find the headphones at half price.