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Accessory Review: Powerbeats Pro

Introduction

When Apple announced the Powerbeats Pro in April, I was excited. I had had my AirPods for around two years, and was noticing that my use time between charges was getting shorter and shorter. Also, they didn’t stay in my ears as securely as I would like, causing a reduction of sound quality as they moved around. I had purchased covers that would go over them to help with the fit and sound, but I couldn’t simply drop them in the case for charging, or put them in my ears when I needed them because the covers did not fit in the case. That ease of use, of course, is one of the selling points of the AirPods. I have dropped covers more than once, but somehow managed to not lose them for extended periods of time. Talk time, that is, the amount of time the battery lasts while you are using the AirPods in a call, wasn’t quite long enough for me either. Yes, I could use one AirPod at a time, switching them out as needed, but being used to earbuds and headphones with a wire connecting them, it was always easier to just have both buds in my ears, and I’ve gotten use to that. This led me to use my AirPods in the same way, putting both of them in my ears, even if I was just using them for a call. Then, something happened. I started coming across articles in my newsfeed speculating about new AirPods with a longer talk time, and grips to help them stay in your ears. Hey Siri support, and lower Bluetooth latency were also discussed as possible features. Could these new AirPods be what I was looking for? I wasn’t quite sure, but I was going to keep them on my radar.

The AirPods were finally announced and as we all know, they don’t have any grips, but they do have the lower latency, longer talk time, and Hey Siri support. They also have wireless charging, but that isn’t something I am all that fussed about. I seriously considered buying them anyway, even though I would still have problems with them staying in my ears. Before I had decided what I was going to do, Apple announced the Powerbeats Pro in April. They had everything I wanted in wireless earbuds. Ear hooks to help them stay in my ears, silicone tips to help with sound isolation, sensors to detect when you insert them in your ears so they can play and pause music, Hey Siri support via the H1 chip, and physical buttons to manage audio playback and answer/end phone calls. If that wasn’t enough, they have a rated play time of 9 hours, and talk time of 6 hours. Naturally, all of these features come at a price. In this case, it’s $249.00 in the US. Some might say that $249 is a lot to spend on wireless earbuds, especially considering that noise canceling is something the Powerbeats Pro does not do, but I didn’t care. I bought them. I’ve had them for a few days now, and I thought I’d post my initial impressions.

Packaging

The box features an outer sleeve that, when removed, reveals the box with the charging case resting in an indention on top, with the earbuds inside. This acts as a sort of removable lid. Under this, you’ll find printed instructions, the lightning charging cable witch I believe to be black rather than white, and a circular plastic container containing multiple sizes of replaceable tips.

The Case

Several reviews talk about the size of the charging case for the Powerbeats Pro, and I see why. It’s not exactly small when compared to the case of the AirPods, and it is a bit baulky, but it’s not really been an issue for me so far. The case is a clamshell style, with magnets to help keep it closed. There is a tactile Beats logo on the top of the case, and a rounded flat section on the bottom. Opening the case will reveal the earbuds. The “system button”, for pairing to non Apple devices, is located inside the case, on the bottom edge if it is facing you.

Connection and setup

The setup process matches that of the AirPods. For more information on setting up the Powerbeats Pro and AirPods, you can visit the Beats website, and for the AirPods, check out this Apple article. When switching devices, the Powerbeats Pro play a slightly different sound than the AirPods, but everything else is the same as you would expect. Interestingly, VoiceOver describes the Powerbeats Pro as AirPods when checking the battery status with the battery widget in iOS. This, however, is likely a bug which will be fixed in a future iteration of the operating system. 

The Earbuds

One of the first things you’ll notice about the earbuds when removing them from the case are the ear hooks on each one. These hooks are flexible, so you can adjust them to best fit your ears after you’ve inserted the earbud. The buds are made from a smooth feeling plastic, and are really light when placed in the hand. They feature two physical buttons. The volume button is on the top of the bud, and there is a Beats logo button on the side for managing audio playback and calls. You can also use the Beats logo button to bring up Siri, or another virtual assistant on non Apple devices. Because each bud features the same controls, you can use them independently of each other, or together, depending on your preference.

For charging, there are magnets that help guide the buds in place inside the case, making it really easy to remove them from your ears and drop them in the case to charge.

The earbud is mounted at a bit of an angle to assist with insertion and help with comfort, but it makes it a little more complicated for me to pull them from the case and put them in my ears. This may become easier as I use them more.

Removing and attaching the ear tips can be a bit of a challenge as well, as they will bend if you apply too much force when putting them on the earbuds. It helps to turn the tips inside out, grab the stem, and push it on the bud. Fold the tips back down, and you should be good to go. The Powerbeats Pro come with 4 different sizes of ear tips. The largest tips seem to work the best for me.

Sound

Before I describe the sound, let me start off by saying that sound is very subjective, and what I like or dislike about the sound of the Powerbeats Pro may differ from what you experience.

I’ve read some reviews that talk about how the Powerbeats Pro have a treble push, and that is definitely the case. It took me a while to get used to it when I first started listening to them. Beats is known for it’s bass, and you do get a great deal of it with the Powerbeats Pro, but it’s nice and controlled. The sound isn’t as thin as the Beats Solo 3 which are on ear headphones, and I found that to be a pleasant surprise. It does sound like there is a bit of a dip in the lower mid range, but all in all, these are great sounding wireless earbuds, and I really enjoy listening to them. I’ve listened to several different musical genres on them, and haven’t yet found any that sound bad on the Powerbeats Pro. I also didn’t experience any noticeable distortion when I set the volume to max.

Call quality is also pretty good. They sound very similar to the second generation AirPods. They support Wideband audio for calls, which is a must for me in Bluetooth headphones or earbuds.

If there was one thing for me to complain about regarding the sound, it would be that the Powerbeats Pro sound best with the Beats ear tips. I tried the tips from my AMBEO smart headset (the factory ones and the memory foam tips I bought to replace the factory tips,) but I was unable to get the same level of sound isolation that I do with the Beats tips.

Speaking of sound isolation, while they won’t block out all sound, they do block out enough for me to clearly hear what I’m playing, at least in a somewhat loud environment. That’s exactly what I want.

Battery Life

While the earbuds are rated for 9 hours per bud for audio playback, and 6 hours per bud for calls, I feel as though I get slightly longer than that, though I haven’t actually tested this. What I can say for sure, is they do last a lot longer than my AirPods ever did.

Conclusion

While the earbuds aren’t the easiest to pull from the case and insert into my ears, they take everything I loved about my AirPods to the next level. If you are looking for an amazing pair of wireless earbuds, and especially if you have Apple devices, I highly recommend the Powerbeats Pro if you routinely listen to music, podcasts, etc.

They are available in Black, Ivory, Moss, and Navy.

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iA Cast iA Cast Weekly

#iACast 136 – November New Tech Reviews

Show Description

On this episode, Michael, Aleeha, Jason, and Chris focus on the tech news of the past few weeks.

News

Apple releases the Beats Solo Pro.
Apple released AirPods Pro.
Apple TV+ has launched.
Google launches Google Play Pass.
Microsoft is set to discontinue the Cortana app for iOS and Android.
Disney+ is now live, and you can check out our DemoCast, where we show off the apps for both iOS and Android.
Apple releases the 16-inch MacBook Pro. You can listen to the sound of the built-in microphones and learn more by clicking on this Vector video.

Picks

Aleeha: Disney+
Jason: Apple TV+
Michael: AirPods Pro

Providing Feedback

We love hearing from you, so feel free to send an email to feedback@iaccessibility.net. You can follow us on Facebook, and Twitter. You can also find us on Reddit, and all around the web. Also, don’t forget to check out our YouTube page, and for all things iACast, check out our iACast page. If you’d like to help support us, you can do so via our PayPal and Patreon pages. If you wish to interact with us during our podcasts live then please do join us on our Slack channel.

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iA Cast iA Cast Weekly

#iACast 78: Headphone Showdown

On this episode of the iA Cast, Michael, Jason, Aleeha, Allison, Scott, and Matt discuss all of the headphones we use All podcast panelists use their equipment for recording, so each person will sound differently based on what they use.

Here is the news for this episode.

Here is what each person used for this episode.

Please give us feedback by emailing feedback@iaccessibility.net, or by following us at twitter @iaccessibility1. You can also tweet our hashtag at #iACast.

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iA Cast iA Cast Weekly

#iACast 28 – The Future is NOW

This podcast was recorded on December 1, 2016, and it is hosted by Michael Doise. Accompanying Michael on this episode is Jason Earls, and Jessica Smith.

This episode covers the following topics:

  1. Black Friday/Cyber Monday DealsIn this segment, we discuss our holiday spending and deals we found interesting.
  2. W1-Enabled HeadphonesIn this segment, we discuss Beats and Apple’s AirPods.
  3. Directv NowAll three of us subscribed to AT&T’s new Directv Now service. Listen to us compare its accessibility and ease-of-use to other services, and hear our opinion on the service as a whole.
  4. Why Unlimited Data isn’t Always GoodIf you can stream Directv Now as much a you want as an AT&T cellular subscriber, why isn’t that good for consumers? What about consumers with other networks? What about other services that want to compete with Directv Now? Hear us discuss these issues and more.
  5. iAccessibility NewsCheck out iAccessibility.net for all the details on app betas, our training program, and more.

We sincerely hope you enjoy the content covered in this episode of our podcast! We have more content in the editing process, and we can’t wait to share it all with you soon! Thank you for listening!

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My Pick For Best Tech of 2016? Beats Solo 3

When Apple announced the iPhone 7 at it’s keynote last year, they also announced several knew headphones as well. The AirPods that are much loved by the iAccessibility staff that have them, the Powerbeats 3, the BeatsX wireless earphones (not yet available as of this writing,) and the Beats Solo 3 headphones, which I will be focusing on. For more on paring a bluetooth device with W1 chip, we have a great article that does a wonderful job explaining the set up process, and how to connect them to multiple devices.

Battery Life

The Beats Solo 3s will last you up to forty hours on a single charge. I haven’t heard of that kind of battery life from any other bluetooth headphone. Beyond that, these headphones have what Apple calls “Fast Fuel.” This means that with just a five minute charge, the headphones can deliver up to three hours of use.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Okay, so this isn’t a cellphone commercial, but discovering just how far they would reach compared to a pare of headphones without the W1 chip almost felt like one. On my iPhone 6s Plus, I was able, with my phone charging up stairs, talk to a friend of mine outside, and even past the point my other headphones would disconnect. While I haven’t measured that distance, I probably could have walked all the way to the street, but didn’t fancy getting hit by a car.

Sound

Others have said that these headphones aren’t “audiophile grade headphones,” while others say they sound great. To me, they do sound really good for the most part. Music can sound a bit thin through them, depending on what you’re listening to. Wideband audio calls such as HD voice, FaceTime and Skype calls can sound a bit… I can only describe it as metallic, but it’s not something that is a big problem for me. Remember that sound is subjective, so something that might sound thin or metallic to me, might sound fine to you.

Conclusion

While I’ve not been one-hundred percent positive about these headphones, the things I’ve mentioned aren’t showstoppers to me. I think that the battery life and range improvements made possible by the W1 chip definitely give them a place in our best tech of 2016 series.