The Beats Studio3 Wireless reviewed here premiered in September 2017, and it remains among our top picks for wireless noise-canceling headphones. While we don’t rate it as highly as the Sony WH-1000XM2 and Bose QuietComfort 35 II, the purchase price for the Beats Studio3 Wireless has dropped lately — you may get it for under $225 (£200 or AU$400) online. That means it is a far more attractive option in this category.

When you’ve got a very important thing going, why rock the boat?

That is the philosophy behind Beats’ flagship noise-canceling headphone, the Studio3 Wireless, which costs $215, £200 or AU$400. Apart from a few new color options it looks nearly identical to its predecessor, that was released four years back.

My first a reaction to seeing the “new” high-end Beats was most likely the identical to yours: “Wait, it has specifically the same design as the the one which arrived in 2014. Really?”

Yes, really. Because of some stitching tweaks, the earpads are slightly softer, that makes it a touch convenient, but that’s about it.

Dig just a little deeper, however, and changes inside abound. The brand new Beats is an improved performing headphone on several fronts, including sound, battery life and noise canceling.

I wasn’t in a position to crack the headphone available to see those changes, but Beats says it has completely redesigned the guts or DNA of the headphone, with not merely new drivers but new circuitry which includes Apple’s W1 chip within other Beats wireless headphones — the PowerBeats3 Wireless, the Solo3 Wireless and the BeatsX — and Apple’s AirPods.

That W1 chip makes connecting the headphone to Apple devices dead simple and in addition helps deliver better battery life. It’s now up to 22 hours with wireless and noise canceling on, double that of the prior model.

Battery life numbers vary with volume levels, which means you might not exactly get quite that amount, but I could constantly hit at least 20 hours of playback and sometimes more before I had to recharge (that’s slightly much better than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II battery life). Switch off noise canceling and that number rises to 40 hours. Meanwhile, the Beats Fast Fuel feature offers you three hours of playback from just ten minutes of charging.

Yes, this headphone works together with non-Apple Bluetooth music devices — I paired them to a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, for instance — but their special pairing feature is bound to Apple devices running iOS 10 or later, WatchOS 3 or later or MacOS Sierra or later.

Stepped-up sound quality and more robust noise canceling
Apart from the battery life, both big upgrades listed below are to the sound quality and noise canceling. I compared this new Studio Wireless to the older version which model sounds slightly cleaner, with better bass definition and somewhat more natural sound. It isn’t an enormous difference — we thought the 2014 Studio Wireless sounded good — but it’s noticeable.

Beats’ sound established fact for bass bloat, but on the Studio Wireless that is clearly a thing of past. They are relatively well-balanced headphones. There’s a good amount of bass but it isn’t overpowering or boomy. Actually, the bass was arguably a bit more articulate compared to the bass on Sony’s WH-1000XM2, which is among the best-sounding Bluetooth headphones.

That Sony includes a tiny bit more transparency and could be the better headphone to hear over longer listening sessions. However the Beats was arguably the more dynamic, exciting headphone. For example, it brought a bit more energy to Rag ‘n Bone Man’s “Human” track. And the Beats will likely be a good fit for many who listen to a whole lot of EDM and hip-hop. Or as fellow CNET editor Ty Pendlebury remarked, “It’s excellent headphone for folks who pay attention to pop music.”

In comparison to my current favorite in this class, Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II, it’s something of a toss-up for sound quality. The Bose has a lttle bit more open soundstage and I felt I possibly could hear separate instruments more distinctly. However the Beats’ treble sounded a lttle bit sweeter. They’re both enjoyable headphones to hear, but I rated the Bose higher due to the fact it’s a bit more comfortable and folds flat to squeeze in a far more compact carrying case.

Personally, i think Beats’ headphone’s inability to fold flat for travel is a weakness. I rarely used the travel case because I came across it too bulky. If there’s a design upgrade Beats must make, it’s to include another hinge. Almost every other premium wireless noise-canceling headphones (Sony, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins PX) folds flat, that allows for a slimmer case that fits better in your bag.

The headphones fold up to squeeze in the same somewhat bulky hard travel case that came with the prior model — nevertheless they don’t fold flat.

Sarah Tew/CNET
The upgrade in noise canceling is more pronounced. Beats’ new proprietary noise cancelling technology, which it’s calling Pure Adaptive Noise Canceling or Pure ANC, is continually monitoring your environment and calibrates the noise canceling to the sound around you, be it plane, train, restaurant or wind noise.

Similar to Sony’s MDR-1000X and new WH-1000XM2, the headphone also offers a microphone within each earcup to calibrate the noise canceling to the fit of the headphone, adjusting for “leakage due to hair, glasses, different ear shapes and movement of your mind as you start your day,” company reps explained.

Beats says the W1 chip is what allows the adaptive noise canceling to be always monitoring the world without draining the battery.

I mainly utilized the headphones in the streets of NY and on the subway. As the noise canceling is hook step behind those of the Bose’s and Sony’s, I was still pretty impressed. It’s drastically more effective compared to the previous model’s noise cancellation. It’s almost nearly as good at muffling voices in a open work place as the Bose QC 35 II, however the Beats includes a very faint hiss, as the Bose doesn’t. You will not hear that hiss whenever your music is on, but turn the music off and you hear it.

It is also worth mentioning this headphone is effective as a headset to make calls. As you’re talking, you can hear your voice, which will keep you from talking too loudly. Callers said they could hear me clearly.

Am I disappointed Beats didn’t upgrade the surface design of the headphone? Yeah, just a little. While Beats claims it had been happy with the headphone’s acoustic design and ergonomics and wished to unlock its full potential with new components, I believe there’s some room for improvement on the look front.

Fold-flat gripes aside, this is but still is a comfortable, durable headphone that’s enjoyable to hear and worked reliably with rock-solid Bluetooth performance. Beats has taken an excellent wireless noise-canceling headphone and substantially increased its performance. It might not exactly be much better than competing models from Bose and Sony, but I still liked it a whole lot. Of course, it could be nice if it cost just a little less.