In Review

Beats X vs Apple AirPods: Which is better?

They're cheaper and less flashy than Apple's offering, but are the Bluetooth headphones any good?

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Apple shocked fans last year when it released the iPhone 7 without an audio port, meaning customers either had to use a Lightning adaptor for their existing headphones or seek out a wireless pair.

The tech giant has released its own solution to the omission of the headphone jack, the wire-free AirPods, although it now has a rival from the company's own sub-brand Beats.

Called the Beats X, the Bluetooth headphones are connected by a thin silicone band that sits behind the user's neck when worn. Much like the AirPods, the Beats X can be connected to iOS 10 devices via a single tap using iCloud, while its Fast Fuel feature has two hours of battery life from a five-minute charge and eight hours of power from a 45-minute charge.

The Beats X and Apple AirPods offer similar features with very different designs, but which is best?

Here's what the critics think:

Design

As Apple's AirPods aren't connected via cord, they often "don't feel secure" and they only come in one size with no additional earbuds, says the Daily Telegraph.

The Beats X with its in-ear design and connection cord, however, "fit perfectly" and there are four additional earbuds included in the box if the default pair don't fit properly, adds the paper.

While the AirPods are stored in a compact charging case, the Beats X get a more conventional carry pouch with removable "wingtips" for a secure in-ear fit, says Trusted Reviews. What's more, the earbuds can be magnetically snapped together to prevent tangling.

Users will be able to pick up calls and control the volume of their music via the small controller attached to the silicon cable, reports Gizmodo, which feels that's a big advantage over the AirPods, which force users to control the volume using Siri voice commands.

The site also found that the battery system, which sits in the "chunky bits" of the headphones, is "nice and light", but says the charging case that comes with Apple's pods is a better solution than the Lightning cable needed for the Beats X.

Sound quality

The Verge praises the Beats X's "excellent noise isolation" that is a "night-and-day" difference from the AirPods, with the latter often letting in distracting sounds from "noisy environments".

What lets the Beats X down is its "shrill and metallic" sound quality, adds the website. It may be more bass-laden than the AirPods, but a mixture of "cable noise" and inconsistent sound equalisation can be annoying.

Alphr agrees, claiming that the Beats X can sound "muddy" and "slightly distorted" on generic tracks. Fans of heavy rock may not enjoy the "limp" quality.

Where the Beats X excels is with dance music, as the headphones appear to have been engineered to "emphasise bass and treble" over mid-range frequencies, the site adds. This is "in keeping" with the company's philosophy, although the headphones will only appeal to those with a certain taste in music.

In the past, Beats headphones often sounded "mediocre" due to "bloated bass" drivers and a "lack of detail", says Cnet.

But while the Beats X has a more pronounced low-end and a "slightly richer sound" than Apple's AirPods, they "can't be accused of having too much bass" – although whether that is good or bad "is totally a personal preference".

The treble, however, can be a little intruding, adds the site, which is particularly noticeable with "high-hat strikes and tambourine shakes". This "sibilance" can also be heard in the upper mid-range frequencies, making some instruments "sizzle" and hiss, it says.

Price and verdict

At £129.95, the Beats X is a slightly cheaper option to the £159 AirPods, says TechCrunch, although they aren't as "flashy" as Apple's own-brand headphones.

While the Beats X are "notably pricier" than several other wireless headphones on the market, adds the site, they offer a "good overall" experience and are a "more conventional" solution to Apple's primary offering.

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