Live Science Verdict
The Powerbeats Pro are tailor made for sport. Adjustable hooks sit comfortably around the ears to hold them in place through sprints and other high impact activities, while buttons on the buds make it easy to control your music without fishing in your pocket for your phone mid-workout. The sound quality is good, though not the best we’ve tried, and the absence of active noise cancellation is a shame. But, overall, these are up there with the best headphones for running.
Secure, comfortable fit thanks to ear hooks
Easy to control with buttons on the frames
No active noise cancellation
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There was a time when every sportsperson in the world seemed to have a set of Beats over their ears. The true wireless in-ear Beats Powerbeats Pro may look a bit different from these athlete-endorsed cans, but their reputation as some of the best running headphones remains.
And rightfully so. These headphones have the customary sleek design of their parent company (Apple) and we found they were incredibly comfortable to wear for everything from cross country running to CrossFit.
So, if you’re looking to lace up your running shoes and want a pair of headphones to help soundtrack your strides, we think the Powerbeats Pros are a great option.
Smart enabled/compatibility: Yes
Waterproof: Splashproof, IPX7
Battery life: 9 hours (up to 24 hours with charging case)
OS support: Yes
There is, however, one major omission that separates these earbuds from other top models; they don’t have active noise cancellation (ANC). With a choice of silicone tips allowing you to find a set that provides a good seal, they do a fairly good job of isolating the sound of your music, but this still can’t compete with the ANC of many of their competitors.
All in all though, the Powerbeats Pro are an excellent pair of running headphones, providing good sound quality, a great fit and unmatched comfort so you can rack up the miles without fear of a falling earbud.
Price and release date
The Powerbeats Pro have been around for a while now, with Apple releasing them in 2018 with an MSRP of $249.99 in the US or £219 in the UK. Three years on, they remain Apple’s premium sports headphone offering. And, at the time of writing, a new pair can be picked up for $199.95 on Amazon.
Set-up and design
If, like our tester, you have an iPhone, setting up the Powerbeats Pro is an incredibly smooth (enjoyable, even) experience. Owned by Apple, Beats has clearly optimized its headphones to work seamlessly with its parent company’s kit, and it shows.
When you switch the iPhone’s Bluetooth settings on, a pop-up message will spring from the bottom of your screen, allowing you to pair the Powerbeats in seconds. You’re also given the option of turning on voice notifications, but we’d advise against this if you’re part of any group chats (we learned this lesson after enduring a relentless torrent of unwanted updates delivered in emotionless tech-driven tones).
Apple users also don’t have to worry about updates as the headphones will take care of this automatically, though the instructions say Android users will have to download the Beats app to do this.
There are a few other classy touches iPhone owners can enjoy too, like the headphone icon switching to the silhouette of the Powerbeats Pro, and the battery of the case and each individual earbud displaying on the home screen, which we appreciated.
Now, on to the design.
This is our favorite aspect of the Powerbeats Pro, with the headphones feeling incredibly comfortable to wear for running and other forms of exercise.
The adjustable hooks sit snug around the ears, and can be pushed into place to tighten or loosen the fit. This, twinned with a choice of four different-sized silicone buds to ensure you get a good seal, means there’s no risk of the headphones taking a tumble mid-workout. The hooks felt so natural we forgot they were even there and they never caused our ears to ache during longer workouts — unlike the silicone wings of other true wireless earbuds.
Their IPX4 rating, meaning they’re resistant to splashes of water only, is lower than most of the sports headphones we tried. But they continued to work well for us through rainy runs and sweaty workouts.
So, if you’re training for a marathon or other endurance event, we can’t recommend these headphones highly enough for long-lasting comfort and a reliable fit.
The last thing to mention is the charging case. The headphones offer up to nine hours of playback on their own (enough to satisfy fans of music and ultra marathons alike) and this figure is boosted to 24 hours with the charging case. You can also enjoy up to 1.5 hours of music from just five minutes of charging thanks to the Fast Fuel feature, which is handy when you’re on low battery just before your run.
The case is considerably bigger than most other true wireless earbuds, with its size meaning you’ll struggle to slip it into the pocket of your pants. But, as sports headphones, we don’t imagine you’ll be carrying this with you on your runs or trips to the gym.
This is another area where, in our opinion, the Powerbeats Pro have beaten most of their rivals. You see, rather than the customary touch controls on similar true wireless headphones, the Beats have old-school buttons on each earbud.
A volume rocker on either ear means you can crank up the sound in seconds to inspire you up a particularly steep incline, and the Beats logo doubles as a button to control everything else — press once to pause or play your music, twice to skip a track, three times to go back to the previous song and hold to summon Siri.
Like touch controls, the earbuds' buttons save you from digging your phone out of your pocket and disrupting your run or workout. But, we found the buttons were less error-prone, with a much lower chance of our favorite song being unceremoniously skipped by the brush of a sweatshirt or stray shoulder.
The voice assistant is also handy if you want to perform more complicated actions like checking the forecast or setting a timer, but we found we used this fairly sparingly.
As mentioned above, the adjustable design of the Powerbeats Pro allows them to offer a great fit, whatever the dimensions of your ears.
The hooks can be pushed into place to wrap cozily around your ears, and the inclusion of four different silicone tips lets you find the right size to provide a good seal — isolating and improving the sound of your music, sans-ANC.
We found these two features combined to create a fantastic fit that wouldn't budge no matter how hard we tried — and trust us, we tried. We wore them through high impact exercises that have been the downfall of many-an-earbud over the years, including sprinting, long runs, weightlifting, skipping, burpees and even handstand push-ups. Credit to the Powerbeats Pro though, they remained comfortably in place throughout.
Unfortunately, this is where the Powerbeats Pro didn’t quite live up to expectations. Don’t get us wrong, the sound quality is good, and a notable improvement on most earbuds. However, considering the high price and the brand's reputation for powerful sound, they didn’t pack as much of a punch as we would have liked.
If you’re an endurance athlete or long distance runner looking for a pair of earbuds that will stay in place without causing discomfort during lengthy cardio sessions, the ergonomic design of the Beats makes them a worthy investment. They may be on the pricey side, and true blue musos might want a slightly more powerful sound, but for most people the solid sound quality will be more than satisfactory, and the comfort, fit and sleek design of these earbuds will make them a fantastic running companion.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro
These excellent true wireless headphones are cheaper than the Powerbeats Pro, provide a beautifully detailed sound and offer an excellent fit by way of silicone “powerfins” designed to sit against the inside of your ears. Thanks to these attributes, we were able to enjoy everything from pop to podcasts, EDM to folk, all without worrying that the earbuds would fall out of our ears.
If you’re after a sleek set of headphones but don’t fancy spending over $200, the Mifo O5 Plus are a great option. Their classy chrome finish, metal charging case and futuristic design give them a stylish aesthetic like no other, and you can scoop up a pair for under $100.
Harry Bullmore is a fitness writer covering everything from reviews to features for LiveScience, T3, TechRadar, Fit&Well and more. So, whether you’re looking for a new fitness tracker or wondering how to shave seconds off your 5K PB, chances are he’s written something to help you improve your training.
When not writing, he’s most likely to be found experimenting with a wide variety of training methods in his home gym or trying to exhaust his ever-energetic puppy.
Prior to joining Future, Harry wrote health and fitness product reviews for publications including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. Before this, he spent three years as a news reporter with work in more than 70 national and regional newspapers.