Like ’em or hate ’em, Apple’s AirPods have already been the talk of the headphone world since these were announced alongside the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus back September 2016. But there’s another Apple wireless headphone from the business’s Beats by Dre subsidiary that’s also received its share of buzz: The BeatsX ($150, £130, AU$200). And just like the AirPods, the BeatsX was also delayed, but it’s officially available by February 10.

The BeatsX employs Apple’s new custom low-power Bluetooth chip, the W1, which can be within the AirPods, PowerBeats3 Wireless and the Solo3 Wireless, and permits computerized pairing with Apple devices updated with the most recent versions of its os’s (iOS 10, MacOS Sierra and WatchOS 3). But among that trio of new Beats models, the BeatsX may be the only truly fresh model, and the first one designed by making use of Apple’s design and engineering teams. (The PowerBeats3 Wireless and Solo3 Wireless just updated the prior models within their respective lines with Apple’s new wireless chip.) Another bonus: the BeatsX may be the only the one that charges with a Lightning cable.

Ultimately, the BeatsX is a brand new take — or really Apple’s take — on the neckband-style wireless headphone that LG made so favored by its Tone headsets and has been copied recently by a variety of others. As before, Apple and Beats haven’t reinvented the mousetrap as they say, nonetheless they have built an improved one.

The Beats X will come in black and white at launch, with blue and gray colors available later.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The BeatsX’s neckband — Beats calls it a Flex-Form cable — has two wires running right through it that are constructed of nickel titanium alloy or nitinol, that was developed by the united states Navy in the late 1950s and is quite malleable, durable and lightweight. The main element to it here’s that it offers the band sufficient rigidity and permits you to roll-up the headphone so that it fits it within an included compact travel case. You can’t do this with an LG Tone headset. (Side note: the soft-to-touch rubber travel case is somewhat of a dust magnet.)

It is also worth noting that the cable is anchored to your neck with two equally weighted bulges in the cord, among which houses the battery and the other the headphone’s electronics. This really isn’t different from everything you find with other current neckband-style headphones, such as for example Skullcandy’s affordable Ink’d Wireless, however the BeatsX’s design is decidedly slicker and seemingly stronger.

The lightweight magnetized buds, which house 8mm drivers, stick to each other, in order to pin them together when they’re not in your ears and put them on just like a pendant. Like other neckband-style headphones, they are made to be worn around all day long and they are light enough to cause you to forget you’re wearing them (if they aren’t in your ears anyway). The only design gripe I’ve is that the cords may seem to be a little long for some persons — by that After all persons with smaller necks.

In the box, you will discover four different sizes of eartips and a number of sizes of fins to anchor the buds in your ears. You can choose to utilize the fins or not, but if you are doing anything active, like running, you will want to utilize them; they work very well and fit comfortably. The headphones are water-resistant, according to Beats, but aren’t waterproof.

I got a fairly tight seal with the medium tip but finished up opting for the bigger one since it offered the very best seal. Like other in-ear noise-isolating headphones, it’s essential to get yourself a good seal to increase sound quality and bass response.

To its credit, Beats has been looking to get from its earlier reputation as a company that made uber-popular headphones that sounded mediocre because of their loose, bloated bass and insufficient detail. The BeatsX has more bass and overall bigger, slightly richer sound compared to the AirPods, however they can not be accused of having an excessive amount of bass. As always, whether one prefers that deeper sound compared to that of the AirPods is completely a personal preference.

What you enter the box.

Sarah Tew/CNET
I liked their sound, specifically for a Bluetooth headphone of the type (they sound very best for a neckband-style Bluetooth ‘phone). Ironically, however, my quibbles are with the treble, not the bass. Some could find this headphone includes a touch an excessive amount of sizzle. We music reviewers sometimes make reference to this as sibilance, and it’s really most noticeable with high-hat strikes and tambourine shakes but also creeps in to the upper mids (there’s somewhat of a harshness to the vocals of The Veronicas’ “You Ruin Me” track, for instance).

Just like the PowerBeats3, the BeatsX comes with an integrated microphone and Beats has redesigned the RemoteTalk button to create it more tactile and responsive (it’s definitely improved). I had no problems making calls — sound quality seemed quite good and callers said that they had no issue hearing me, though they lack the vibration feature of the LG Tone models. I’m nearly prepared to declare the BeatsX better or worse compared to the AirPods at making calls, but I’ll say that since that is a noise-isolating headphone, it’s just a little simpler to hear persons in noisier environments. (We’ll be doing some further testing on call quality comparisons).

I tested the BeatsX with an iPhone 6S ($111 at Back Market), MacBook Air, Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. As I said, the headphone incorporates Apple’s new custom low-power Bluetooth chip, the W1, that allows for programmed pairing with Apple devices. To pair, you merely start the BeatsX — the energy button is on the proper bulge — and contain the BeatsX near your iPhone (it will make an effort to pair with other local iPhones, which is a tiny problem). Which should automatically pair the headphone to your Apple Watch, iPad and Mac — anything registered for you on your own iCloud account — as soon as I went through the original pairing process I could switch among my Apple devices with reduced hiccups. (Translation: just like the AirPods — and any other wireless product — usually do not expect completely glitch-free operation.)

The headphones roll-up to fit in a concise carry case.

David Carnoy/CNET
BeatsX also works together with non-Apple Bluetooth devices, nevertheless, you need to pair it the old-fashioned way, which continues to be pretty simple.

The headphone offers up to eight hours battery life at moderate volume levels (despite having non-Apple devices), which is decent for this sort of headphone, though not exceptionally good. However the very good news is that in the event that you supply the headphone an instant five-minute charge via its Lightning port — yes, I said Lightning, not MicroUSB — you get two hours of usage. I tested this, running the BeatsX completely down, then charging it for 5 minutes. WHEN I reconnected, the battery life indicator showed 27 percent. Beats markets this quick-charge feature as “Fast Fuel.”

Sound quality shootout
At $150, this headphone isn’t cheap, nonetheless it is the most affordable wireless model from Beats and costs slightly significantly less than Apple’s AirPods, sounds slightly better, and gives longer battery life.

Apart from the AirPods, I also compared the BeatsX to Bose’s SoundSport Wireless, Beats’ Powerbeats3 Wireless, Jaybird’s X3 and for kicks, Bose’s SoundTrue Ultra wired in-ear headphone.

The wired Bose Ultra evidently delivered superior sound (it just includes a smoother tonal balance and smoother, more descriptive sound, with tighter bass). The Bose SoundSport Wireless has more bass and I liked its sound better overall; it’s a tad convenient to wear. However, I recommended the BeatsX’s more discreet design (the SoundSport Wireless’ buds really stand out). The Bose has a semi-open design which allows more sound in compared to the BeatsX — again, an individual preference decision.

The Jaybird X3 and Powerbeats3 Wireless offer comparable sound to the BeatsX. The Jaybird X3 costs $20 significantly less than the BeatsX and can be an outstanding wireless sports headphone (though nearly as comfortable as the Beats X), as the popular Powerbeats3 Wireless gives more battery life (13 hours) but may well not fit everybody’s ears in addition to the BeatsX and is $50 more costly.

AirPods’ DNA in a different body
If you’re trying to choose between your BeatsX and the AirPods, there are plusses and minuses to each. With the AirPods you are getting a couple of cord-free, totally wireless earphones offering maximum untethered freedom. But on the downside, a whole lot of individuals can’t stand how they look, plus they have an open design (an advantage for individuals who can’t stand eartips jammed within their ears), making them hard to use in noisier environments just like the streets of NY. Also, the AirPods fit more securely in a few people’s ears than others. (A lot of folks are in a position to run with AirPods nonetheless they don’t stay static in my ears when I run with them.)

Though not without its faults, the BeatsX offers you almost all of the “magic” top features of the AirPods (for users of Apple products anyway), including Lightning charging and effortless syncing. This all will come in a wearable design that rolls up right into a compact travel case that’s arguably harder to reduce compared to the AirPods’ smooth plastic dental floss-size case. It might not exactly be the best neckband-style wireless headphone, but it’s a brand new take with a whole lot of appeal.