Price (RRP): $199.95
My quest for the perfect portable earphones for my iPod Nano continues. Wireless has become all the more important since I dropped the Nano the other day, the impact distorting the earphone connection socket so that the play/pause inline remote buttons no longer work on regular earphones.
So what about the BeatsX? The new wireless earbuds from now-Apple-owned Beats? After years of whinging to anyone who’d listen about how bad Beats headphones sounded, I found myself extremely impressed with the Beats Solo3 headphones. Apple’s management has certainly paid dividends with regard to sound quality. (The previous association is still marked by the name in the Beats website’s URL: beatsbydre.com.)
Will they provide what I’m after in earphones?
These are earbud phones, with the earbuds tethered to each other and to the other working parts by a rubberised ribbon-shaped cable which Beats calls “Flex-Form”. Altogether they stretch 860mm from one end to the other, but the central section has a memorised bend which wraps it gently around the back of your neck. The earpieces are magnetised so they can hold each other, back to back, when not in use.
There are two 45mm long thickenings of the cable which sit just forward of one’s neck. The one on the right has a power/Bluetooth button, with a tiny LED in it, while the one on the left has a Lightning socket for charging. A short USB to Lightning cable is provided, but it’s assumed you’ll have your own power adaptor or computer to plug it into. I assume that the rechargeable batteries reside in those two thickened sections.
There’s also a line remote control about 120mm from the left earpiece with play/pause and volume up/down and a small hole for the microphone for hands free phone use. The play/pause button can also be used for answering and hanging up on calls and for talking things over with Siri.
Apple might have improved the sound of Beats, but happily it hasn’t tried to impose the hard, hurtful, insecure earbuds it provides with its own products on Beats. The BeatsX earbuds are tipped with soft silicon pieces which nicely conform to one’s ears. Three other sizes are also provided, along with clip-on “wings” which can be used to kind of hook the earbuds into the folds and bumps of your ears for greater security.
As it happens, the tips already fitted to the earpieces were the perfect size for me, and security was excellent so I felt no need to change anything.
Apple says that the battery will last for up to eight hours of use and has included a “Fast Fuel” feature which allows enough charge to be added in five minutes to last for two hours. I timed a full charge from empty as taking around forty minutes.
The earphones use Apple’s W1 chip, which also appears in the Beats Solo3 and the Apple AirPods. This allows quick automated pairing with Apple devices running iOS 10, and sharing of them across all devices attached to your account. But they can also be paired with any Bluetooth devices, such as my humble iPod Nano, along with Android phones, notebook computers and so on.
I could not find a word by Beats on its website about which audio codecs are supported. Normally I’d assume that no mention of AAC or aptX means that they rely on the more basic SBC alone, but since Apple is so keen on AAC, I suspect that is also likely supported.
A small pouch is provided for holding them. They are available in white, grey, black and blue.