What I love about the design
The Powerbeats Pro are pretty much unmovable. They fit snugly around the ear; they really don’t move at all, even when running and working out. There’s no bounce or awkward pull when you change directions, they’re not big enough to get caught on anything – even t-shirts, if you don’t want to take them off before changing!
The design itself is pretty noice – they certainly aren’t ugly by any stretch. Sometimes earbuds can look a little 'year 2000 bluetooth-y' but the Powerbeats don't, and they come in a range of colours.
And possibly most importantly – the shape of the earphones creates minimal sweat drip into the ear canal. My sweaty friends, I know you feel me on this one. Every other exercise bluetooth headphone I have used required me to remove them at least five times on a run to either wipe my ears or the earbuds, which is not enjoyable on any level. The genius part of the design is that the earbuds face upwards when fitting into the ear canal (so sweat doesn’t run downwards).
Both pieces have a volume control. Hallelujah. The ‘b’ button is fairly easy to press and double-press to skip tracks, or triple-press to skip back.
What I don’t love about the design
The Powerbeats fit well with sunglasses, but sometimes that extra space between the ear can force the hard plastic into your ear, which can start to ache (but this is not something I experience too often, to be fair).
Also, the thing I mentioned about the upwards pointing earbuds – well, it makes them a little awkward to put on, until you get used to the process of putting the bud in the ear canal and simultaneously pushing the ‘hooks’ over the back of the ear while almost screwing the earphones onto your ear (er, that made it sound harder than it is).
This is not really a big complaint, but you can’t wear them in bed unless you lie on your back. They’ll push uncomfortably into your ears if you turn your head.
What I love about the sound
The Powerbeats Pro truly blew my mind the first time I cranked them up. Like I said earlier, I am very picky about my headphones. I find many earbuds are lacking in mid-range tones (in my opinion, the most important thing) – not the Powerbeats. To me, the sound is full and luscious. Beats By Dre products are often too bassy for my liking, but I don’t think these are too boomy. They just sound warm and full-bodied. I haven’t experienced much, if any distortion.
I use the biggest earbuds that come with the earphones, and while they don’t quite form a soundproof seal in the ear canal, they do a fairly good job of isolating most noise. For example, when running, you can’t hear your footsteps or breathing, but you can hear if a car is driving past so you still maintain a sense of spacial awareness. I'm never bothered by the terrible music pumping through the speakers at my local Anytime Fitness, that's for sure.
What I don’t love about the sound
They could be slightly more crisp and bright in the upper ranges. I wouldn’t say cymbals sound muffled, but the treble is clearly not as refined and accurate as the midrange. Sometimes I wish they were completely noise-isolating, but it's just not that sensible for running on busy streets.
What I love about the features
First of all, the battery life. Oh, how I love the battery life. The official figures say 9 hours of listening time. Now, I don’t think I’ve ever got quite that many hours out of them, but they comfortably make it through a trip to the gym, the gym sesh, the trip home and a long run afterwards – at least. If you’re like me though, you’ll constantly be storing them in the charge case out of fear of losing the vibe mid-workout. The only time that’s happened to me is when I didn’t realise one of the earphones wasn’t sitting in the charge case quite right, and it was extremely frustrating not knowing what was happening, until I figured out you can hold the case open and a cute little window will pop up on your phone to tell you how much charge each earpiece and the case have.
When coupled with the charge case, you can get around 24 hours worth of play time. Not only that, but just five minutes of charging in the case when the battery is low can get you up to an hour and a half of playback.
Secondly, the sweat-proofing! Although the Powerbeats Pro are only IPX4 rated (splashproof, but can’t handle direct water jets), I have never had an issue with sweat.
The case - it just FEELS expensive and classy. It’s a solid little piece which sounds like a jewellery box when it closes.
What I don’t love about the features
There’s no battery monitor. Yes, you can put them in the case and open it and see the battery levels, but really, they should give you the option to see it in the top right of your iPhone.
This next one is a love/hate thing for me – the sensor on each earphone pauses playback as soon as it’s removed from your ear, and then restarts it once it’s back in place. This is handy when you quickly want to say ‘hey’ to somebody without fiddling with any buttons, you just remove the earpiece. Unfortunately, sometimes you just want to remove an earpiece to hear something without stopping your music or podcast. Also, the sensor goes a bit whacky if one earpiece is sitting in your pocket, because it keeps pausing playback.
And finally, while the bluetooth pairing is about as easy and streamlined as I’ve ever experienced, I guess it is a little odd that the earphones need to be in the case in order to pair with a device. Not a big deal, but when you combine it with the fact that the Powerbeats Pro do seem to have occasional connectivity issues, it becomes annoying. When I say occasional, I mean I’ve had them stop working and require a re-pairing three times in the two months I’ve owned them.
The case – it’s a little chunky. It’s not something I would like to have in my pocket, but the earphone battery life means you can get through a day without having to actually use it.
In conclusion, I love these earphones. They’re sleek, the sound quality is excellent for in-ear buds (no, they do not match my over-ear editing cans), they’re light, they don’t fall off, they stay charged for ages, phone calls sound clear, and they don’t make you look like a wanker. They absolutely destroy AirPods for sound quality.
The only other thing is, you certainly pay for the quality. The Powerbeats Pro retail for $349.95 AUD, which will rule them out for some people straight away. They are expensive any way you dice it... but in my opinion, they are absolutely worth the splurge if you want a top-line workout headphone with all the daily usability of AirPods.