Leading the pack – TechCrunch
The thing that makes headphones extremely difficult to examine is that no two pairs of ears are exactly the same. Heck, no two ears are exactly the same, period. As someone prone to the pain of using the wrong set for an extended period of time, I can understand the importance of finding the right pair.
When the Beats Fit Pro first leaked, I had my doubts. On the design side, they more or less resemble the Studio Buds of the Apple subsidiary released this summer, with one major difference: the wings. Wings, wing tips, ear tips, fins, whatever you call them, I hate them. I respond viscerally to their sight, in fact – weird, pointy little things that you’re supposed to get stuck in your ears.
Now, I admit that a lot of this is a holdover from the test of training headphones a few years ago. Back then, the fenders were, for some fault, hard plastic things that were as sharp as they looked. And while I can appreciate from a stability standpoint how such a feature works for, say, a long time, I largely try to avoid putting sharp objects in or near sensitive parts of my body – except when absolutely necessary.
Despite my initial hesitation, I am happy to report that my concerns have been exaggerated. The Fit Pros are comfortable. As surprisingly. The buds themselves are quite small, with the ear tips adding scale to the design. They are no different from the Powerbeats Pro in this regard, but they are able to do their job with much less plastic. The key to the success of spikes is their size and shape and, just as important, the fact that the silicone they are made of is malleable, which means they keep things still without digging into the surrounding cartilage.
I’ll stop before calling them the most comfortable headphones I’ve tested. Honestly, this distinction probably belongs to their older brother, the Powerbeats Pro. Although this design is large and somewhat heavy, the ear hook shifts the weight and pressure of the heads. And although the Fit Pros weigh only 11.2 grams, it can still wear you down after long stretches.
They also do an admirable job of keeping things in place. I recently started running again and tried all kinds of headphones (with limited success). When we think about keeping the headphones on while training, we (I think naturally) tend to focus on physical movement. What we tend to ignore is how it combines with sweat, making it both difficult to keep heads in place and difficult to fumble around for adjustment.
The Fit Pro excelled at it better than any other bud of the recent vintage on this front. If you’re primarily looking for a pair of gymnastic buttons, these are hard to beat (so to speak). The wing tip meets the bud to form a physical button. It is meant to be pressed on the edge furthest from the tip. Pressing down in the middle will apply more pressure to your ear. A single press will play / pause / answer a call, skip a track forward twice, rewind three times and a long press toggles between ANC and transparency modes.
These types of physical buttons are required for the workout headphones. The touch becomes a bit delicate when you sweat. The biggest downside on this front is that the relatively small size results in accidental button presses if you need to adjust them during training. But even so, they are way ahead of most headphones for this purpose. It’s also a nice change from the Studio Buds, which I found extremely difficult to hold in place while running.
It should be noted that attaching the wing tip to the button means that it is neither removable nor user replaceable. It’s a bit disappointing. It would be great to be able to remove the tips at the end of a workout, although that would likely compromise their structural integrity – and that’s just another thing to lose. But if the wing tip is damaged, you will have to send the whole thing back (if it’s under warranty). Apple / Beats does not sell this separately.
The sound is good here – quite similar to what you get on other Beats. That is to say, it is heavy in bass. If you’re looking for a pair of heads to, say, enjoy the subtle undertones of jazz, I’d recommend something from Sony. Rather, they’re “let’s play on a bloated playlist and go for a run” headphones – and there is certainly a place for that. The active noise cancellation is also excellent. It did a good job blocking out ambient street noise and bad gym music, especially when I traded in a large pair of silicone ear tips.
Being owned by Apple, it’s probably no surprise that Buds work best with iOS devices. This is largely due to the inclusion of the H1 chip. In addition to quick pairing and automatic device switching, you will benefit from the Find My functionality and Spatial Audio. This last bit, which is also available on various AirPods, uses headtracking to redirect the sound of the audio. This means a more speaker-like experience for listening to music and assigning the location of voices based on screen placement in FaceTime. I’ll be honest, this sounds like something new at the moment. Android users, on the other hand, should download the Beats app for the full experience.
One of the unexpected results of going through the loops at the ends of the wings is that you get a much smaller charging case. The Powerbeats Pro case is a monster. The Fit Pro isn’t small at all (it’s still a lot bigger than AirPods), but it’s actually small enough to carry around in a pocket. And thanks to some hardware advancements, you actually get more combined battery life on the Fit, at 27 versus 24. The buds themselves are rated at six to seven hours, depending on usage. The case takes around 90 minutes for a full charge, via USB-C – a distinct advantage for those of us who aren’t big fans of Lightning. Points lost, however, for the exclusion of wireless charging.
Interestingly, the Fit Pros are not actually a replacement for any other member of the Beats family. Power Beats Pro, Studio Buds, and all connected units remain. There is a bit of redundancy here, but Beats has always played it a bit faster and more loser than its parent company on that front.
At $ 199, they’re somewhere between the Beats Studio and the Powerbeats Pro. But for most people in most cases (especially those who train frequently) they are the best bet of the bunch. They are on preorder today and start shipping on November 5th.