Tuesday, July 23, 2024
How-tos

How to choose between the AirPods Pro and Beats Fit Pro


Some iPhone owners end up buying Apple’s AirPods Pro without a second thought and without seriously scoping out the competition. Considering how good they are, that’s not the worst thing. But maybe you’ve found yourself comparing the AirPods Pro with another pair of Apple earbuds, the Beats Fit Pro, and can’t decide which is the right pick for you.

As the name implies, the Beats-branded Fit Pro are geared toward exercise and gym use. But I know friends and colleagues (like deputy editor Dan Seifert) who have used them more casually simply because of their secure, stable fit. Many earbuds on the market have wing tips integrated as part of their design, but Beats really nailed the execution on the Fit Pro. The wing tips are pliable and can keep the earbuds comfortably anchored in your ears for long stretches at a time.

A pair of AirPods in an open charging case

$200

Apple’s latest AirPods Pro take after the last-gen model but include swipe controls and a new H2 chip that allows for improved noise cancellation. They also come with a water-resistant charging case that offers support for Apple’s robust Find My network.

Both sets of earbuds offer active noise cancellation, water and sweat resistance, and a slew of Apple-only features like hands-free “Hey Siri” voice commands, audio sharing, automatic device switching, and head-tracking spatial audio. Obviously, those things go out the window if you’re using an Android phone, although the Beats do a commendable job supporting both mobile platforms.

$145

The Beats Fit Pro earbuds have integrated wing tips that help keep them secure during runs and workouts. They also have excellent noise cancellation, and their sound has just the right amount of bass and kick to keep you motivated.

Sound quality

Winner: AirPods Pro

I thought that the Beats Fit Pro sounded better than the original AirPods Pro, but the second-gen model has flipped this around. Apple made substantial upgrades to audio performance across the frequency range. They’re more dynamic, the bass has been refined, and there are other benefits like better instrument separation. The second-gen AirPods Pro offer a superior listening experience in pretty much every regard and are up there with the best wireless earbuds.

Noise cancellation

Winner: AirPods Pro

The newer AirPods Pro offer substantially better active noise cancellation compared to the first-generation pair and the Beats Fit Pro. Apple advertises it being up to twice as effective, but that depends on your specific use case and environment. I’ve used them on a few flights now and have no complaints. These noticeably outperform their predecessors in quieting the world around you.

Aside from the more powerful ANC, the AirPods Pro also have an improved “adaptive” transparency mode that’s designed to reduce the loudness of sudden noises like sirens or nearby construction when you’re outside and want to preserve a sense of your surroundings.

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Battery life

Winner: Draw

The Beats Fit Pro earbuds can last for up to seven hours of continuous playback, slightly edging out the six hours you get from the AirPods Pro (with ANC enabled in both cases). But the AirPods charging case holds more extra juice than the larger-sized Beats case. And it supports wireless charging to boot, which the Fit Pro do not.

Stability

Winner: Beats Fit Pro

Whether you’re about to kick off an intense workout or just have trouble with other buds gradually falling out of your ears, there’s no topping the wing tips on the Beats Fit Pro. They don’t wrap around your ears, which makes them more glasses-friendly than the Powerbeats Pro. And the flexible material largely prevents any soreness that can happen when other wing tips press into the folds of your ear.

Apple does get credit for including four sets of ear tips with the AirPods Pro (now including an extra small set) instead of the three you get from Beats. But if you want the most secure fit from the AirPods Pro, you’ll likely end up swapping those silicone tips out for foam replacements anyway.

The Beats Fit Pro have flexible wing tips that keep them securely anchored in your ears.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Water and sweat resistance

Winner: AirPods Pro

You’d think Beats would take this one, but not exactly. Both pairs of earbuds are rated IPX4 for water resistance. That means they shouldn’t have any problem handling heavy sweat or splashes of water (like rain). Just don’t submerge them.

However, Apple extends that same durability to the second-gen AirPods Pro carrying case, while Beats doesn’t make any claims about the Fit Pro case offering water resistance. This might not matter to you at all, but if your activities will expose the case to the elements, it’s worth keeping in mind.

Controls

Winner: AirPods Pro

The AirPods eke out a win here thanks to the new volume controls on the second-gen set. With those, you can swipe on the touchpad of either stem to adjust volume, whereas you need to use Siri (or your phone directly) to change anything on the Beats Fit Pro. You can reassign the press-and-hold action on the Beats to cover volume, but then you lose out on switching between ANC and transparency modes. Some people might prefer the physical, clicky button on the Beats, but the AirPods Pro controls are more comprehensive. 

The AirPods Pro have onboard volume controls, which the Beats Fit Pro earbuds lack.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Software features

Winner: AirPods Pro

The AirPods Pro and Beats Fit Pro go tit for tat with many Apple software tricks. They both do spatial audio, automatic device switching, one-tap setup, syncing across iCloud devices, and audio sharing.

But the second-gen AirPods Pro extend their lead with precise Find My location tracking thanks to the U1 chip built into the case. You can easily track them down just like an AirTag — and a speaker built into the case helps to pinpoint their location. They also support more accessibility features like conversation boost, though you do get live listen from the Beats Fit Pro.

Ecosystem flexibility

Winner: Beats Fit Pro

Do the AirPods Pro technically work with Android phones? Well, sure. But you’d better be okay with how Apple’s buds function out of the box — because you won’t be able to tinker with much.

Beats goes the extra mile with a dedicated Android app for adjusting settings, updating firmware, and checking battery life for both buds and the case. Android is an afterthought for the AirPods team, but Beats is at least trying to extend an olive branch and provide a good experience.

Price

Winner: Beats Fit Pro

At regular retail cost, Apple’s AirPods Pro cost $249, while the Beats Fit Pro are priced at $199.99. Both models are often on sale for less, but typically you can still find the Beats at a lower price than the AirPods. I think the AirPods justify that extra cash with better sound, ANC, and wireless charging, but those improvements might not matter to people who just want a set of reliable earbuds for the gym or while training for a marathon.

The AirPods win out in many ways, but the Beats Fit Pro still maintain their own unique appeal.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

From a pure sound quality and noise cancellation perspective, the AirPods Pro are going to be the better buy in many cases. They might look the same as the original pair, but Apple has made meaningful enhancements with the second-generation model.

But it’s not a clean sweep of the Beats Fit Pro. If your ears aren’t a great fit for the AirPods, all the features and fancy tricks in the world don’t matter. The wingtips on the Beats buds will keep them locked in place even during rigorous activity. And while the sound and ANC are a step down from Apple’s newer flagship earbuds, the Fit Pro earbuds are still more than good enough at motivating you through the final stretch of a fierce workout.

And hey, at least you actually get some variety when it comes to color.



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