Beats Flex review: Not true wireless earbuds, but a good $50 AirPods alternative

The inline microphone was moved down the twine on the left aspect. 

David Carnoy/PJDM

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Over the previous few years, I obtained a trickle of electronic mail asking me when Beats’ may launch an upgraded model of its once-popular BeatsX neckband-style headphones. Reality be advised, I did not assume I might ever see a model 2.0, however now it is arrived with a brand new title — the Beats Flex — and a less expensive $50 (£50, AU$80) price ticket, or half of what its predecessor had been promoting for. 

With the brand new iPhone 12 fashions no longer including wired EarPods headphones within the field, the Flex immediately turns into an reasonably priced Apple-friendly wi-fi various to the AirPods, which begin round $130 for the standard version with a wired charging case. The excellent news is that they sound higher than the unique BeatsX and customary AirPods. In addition they work nicely for making calls and have higher battery life than the unique. The dangerous information? Their design is passe in a world now dominated by true wi-fi earbuds.  


  • Value is true
  • Improved sound, voice calling and battery life
  • Rock-solid wi-fi connection
  • Auto-pause magnetic buds
  • Straightforward pairing with Apple units
  • Android app for Android customers

Do not Like

  • They’ve wires
  • No carrying pouch included
  • No official water-resistance (no IPX certification)
  • Ear ideas do not have built-in wings to lock buds in your ears

Sure, these are “wired wi-fi” headphones — with a cable connecting the left and proper earbud — at a time when budget true wireless earbuds are widely available for $50 or less, a few of that are surprisingly good. For lots of people that pesky wire is a dealbreaker and I personally hadn’t usually used a neckband-style headphone for a few years, so it was a little bit of an adjustment to return to it.

However some folks just like the idea. You possibly can depart the earbuds dangling from round your neck, sporting them like a pendant. Gone is the worry of dropping an AirPod and dropping it. Going from listening to not listening to the earbuds requires merely lifting them to your ears — or pulling them out. And neglect about having to drop them in a charging case if you’re not utilizing them.

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Whereas the Beats Flex appears just like the BeatsX, there are a few notable design adjustments. For starters, the inline microphone and management module has been eliminated and integrated right into a module decrease on the left aspect of the twine to match the place of the battery and energy module on the appropriate aspect of the twine. In consequence, the earphones really feel higher balanced and you do not have that impulse to drag the microphone nearer to your mouth if you’re making calls.

The buds, that are light-weight and customarily comfy to put on, magnetically clasp collectively. Your music routinely pauses once they’re clasped and unpauses if you pull them aside. Some folks have complained that the BeatsX’s magnets weren’t robust sufficient, however the Flex’s buds adhere collectively properly, so the magnets seem like stronger.   

Some of the opposite key upgrades embody new acoustic drivers for improved sound, an upgraded microphone for improved voice calling and 12-hour battery life, up from eight hours. And get this: The Flex is the primary Apple headphone to have USB-C charging, with a 10-minute cost providing you with 1.5 hours of playback. (All different present beats merchandise use Lightning or Micro-USB charging.) Beats calls this fast-charging function Quick Gasoline, however many headphones supply a quick-charging function. And like the brand new iPhones, there’s no charger in the Beats Flex box both, so you will have to have a USB-C charger available, too. 


The brand new microphone.

David Carnoy/PJDM

You get 4 different-sized ear ideas that will help you get a good seal, which is essential for optimizing sound high quality (you do must push the buds into your ear canal). I want the earbuds included a fin or wing just like the BeatsX did so you possibly can lock them in your ears as you’ll be able to with Jaybird’s X4 or Tarah earphones, that are presently on sale for round $50 as they’re phased out. (The Flex sounds higher than these fashions and it has higher voice calling capabilities and battery life. However the Jaybirds, regardless of having bigger buds, do match higher.) 

I feel Beats, after together with mainly the identical ear ideas for years, might get a bit of extra modern in that division. That is my largest grievance, though I used to be additionally a bit upset the Flex would not include any type of carrying pouch just like the BeatsX did — you simply must sort roll it up and put it in your pocket or bag. 

One different factor: These aren’t sweat- or waterproof — they don’t have any IPX score. That is additionally true of the usual AirPods, which loads of folks put on whereas working and understanding with out ailing impact. The Flex needs to be OK for mild exercises — I labored out with them on the fitness center however did not sweat a lot — however Beats would steer you towards its Powerbeats Pro if you happen to actually need true sports activities earbuds.

The Beats Flex has Apple’s older W1 chip, not the H1 discovered within the second-gen AirPods, AirPods Professional and the Beats Solo Pro. Nonetheless, the W1 provides you Apple’s easy-pairing function with any of your Apple units which are synced to iCloud. It additionally permits you to change between Apple units, verify battery standing or use Audio Sharing with a buddy utilizing Beats or Apple headphones (with the W1 chip). In the meantime, the Beats Flex is surprisingly Android pleasant: the app for Android affords further options together with fast pairing, battery ranges and firmware updates.


The grey and blue variations will likely be accessible in early 2021.


The Flex sounds higher than the BeatsX and the usual AirPods: You get a bit of cleaner sound and extra bass than the AirPods, primarily because of the Flex’s noise-isolating design. I preferred the BeatsX’s sound however it has a bit of treble push — typically known as presence increase — that would result in some listening fatigue. The Flex is extra balanced sounding, and whereas the earbuds do not produce as a lot bass because the Powerbeats Professional or sound as dynamic, they’re smoother-sounding and so they appear open, with a reasonably huge soundstage.

I additionally discovered them good for making calls. The folks I talked to mentioned I sounded clear and the noise discount outside in noisier environments was good. You possibly can reply and finish calls with the button on the left module, the place there’s additionally a rocker change for quantity management. Whereas taking part in music, tapping the common management button twice skips tracks ahead. I do not know if the Flex fairly measures as much as the AirPods for making calls however it’s shut.

Whereas I am unable to say I am personally prepared to return to wires, the Flex is a stable neckband-style fashion pair of earbuds that I largely loved utilizing. In the event that they’d come out at $100 and even $75, they might’ve been a tough go from me. However at $50 they’re price contemplating, particularly if you happen to need Apple-friendly earbuds and do not need to shell out extra for AirPods.

Beats Flex key specs

In response to Beats:

  • New acoustic drivers.
  • Magnetic earbuds routinely play music once they’re in your ears and pause once they’re connected round your neck.
  • Upgraded built-in microphone helps cut back wind noise.
  • USB-C charging.
  • 12 hours of listening time.
  • 10-minute Quick Gasoline charging provides you 1.5 hours of playback.
  • On-device controls let you alter quantity, handle music, take calls and activate your voice assistant.
  • Beats app for Android customers.
  • Value: $50 (£50, AU$80).
  • 4 colour choices: Beats Black, Yuzu Yellow (accessible now); Smoke Grey and Flame Blue (accessible early 2021).

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David Carnoy