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Beats has announced its fourth generation of its Studio over-ear wireless headphones. The Studio Pro succeed the popular Studio Wireless 3, bringing a number of improvements, including USB-C Audio and Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking, as well as a refined design.

You can read how the Beats Studio Pro and Studio Wireless 3 compare in our separate feature but with Apple owning Beats and the company already offering some excellent wireless over-ears, here we are comparing how the top-of-the-range Beats compare to Apple's AirPods Max. With around $100 difference between these two models now, which should you choose?

Price, availability and specs

The Beats Studio Pro were announced on 19 July and they hit shelves on 10 August with a $349 price tag in the US and £349 in the UK. They will arrive in four colour options, comprising Black, Navy, Sandstone and Deep Brown.

The Apple AirPods Max were announced in 2020, so they have been around for a few years now. In that time though, they have also come down in price from the initial $549/£549 price tag. You can now find most colours - of which there are several options - at around $449/£449, putting them closer to the Beats Studio Pro price. They come in Space Grey, Silver, Pink, Green and Sky Blue.

You can see a run down of the main spec differences between these two models below, but if you want more detail on how these two headphones compare in terms of features, keep reading.

  • Beats Studio ProApple AirPods Max
    Battery LifeUp to 40 hoursUp to 20 hours
    BluetoothBluetooth 5.3Bluetooth 5.0
    Noise CancellationANC, Transparency modesANC, Transparency modes
    MicrophonesSix with ANC on, three with ANC offEight with ANC on, Three with ANC off
    ColorsBlack, Navy, Sandstone, Deep BrownSpace Grey, Silver, Green, Pink, Sky Blue
    CompatbilityiOS and AndroidiOS and Android
    Dimensions181 x 178 x 78mm, 260g187. 3 x 168.6 x 83.4mm, 385g


Apple AirPods Max initial review: Premium headphones with a premium price photo 1

The Beats Studio Pro and Apple AirPods Max are quite different when it comes to design. The Beats are distinctive. They follow a similar design language to what we have now come to expect from the Apple-owned company's Studio headphones, with rounded ear-cups and strong branding. It's an iconic design and while it's evolved since the introduction of the Beats Studio Wireless in 2017, there's a firm nod to the initial design intent.

You'll find a wide adjustable headband, circular ear cups and the "b" branding on the outside of each cup. There are metal hinges, a lovely set of muted colour options and the ear cushions have been re-engineered for this model, with what the company calls UltraPlush, which sees memory foam wrapped in leather designed for all-day comfort.

The Apple AirPods Max deliver a very different look, so in actual fact, you may have already made your choice between these two models based on this alone. They also have a distinctive design now, much like the in-ear AirPods have achieved since they arrived in 2016. The AirPods Max step away from plastics and move towards stainless steel, aluminium and materials. The headband is a knitted mesh, with stainless steel adjustable rods covered in a soft-to-touch material. The knitted mesh transfers to the ear cups too, wrapping the memory foam cushions, while the outside of the ear cups themselves have a smooth aluminium finish, delivering a very premium look. They aren’t circular either, instead opting for a more oblong shape and they have sensors within them to acknowledge when you take them on or off your head, playing or pausing audio accordingly.

You won't find obvious Apple branding anywhere either. In terms of comfort, they are exceptional. These have been worn for 11 hours on a plane and we hardly noticed they were on our heads. The colour options are great too, with subtle and bright options, suiting a variety of tastes.

Hardware and controls

Beats Studio Pro

When it comes to controls, both the Beats Studio Pro headphones and the Apple AirPods Max are pretty smart. The Beats Studio Pro has controls hidden within the left ear cup. You control volume using the buttons above and below the "b", while a hidden button within the "b" itself controls playback, allows you skip tracks, launch Siri and answer or reject calls.

One press on the hidden "b" button let's you pause or play music, as well as answer or end calls. Hit that button twice and you'll skip forward a track, while three presses gets you back to the previous track and a press and hold launches Siri.

There's a system button on the right ear cup of the Beats Studio Pro headphones meanwhile, which also performs a number of tasks. It will turn the headphones on or off, activate Bluetooth pairing mode when you hold it down for three seconds, or switch between Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Transparency mode when you double press it. If you're in USB-C Audio mode, you can also use this button to move between EQ profiles. There are also five LED lights on the right ear cup of the Beats Studio Pro, which blink when the headphone is ready to pair, show battery life when you press the multi-function button once and show you which sound profile is active when in USB-C audio mode.

For the Apple AirPods Max, the design of the controls take from the Apple Watch. There's a Digital Crown on the top of the right ear cup that controls volume when you turn it, while pushing it once lets you play and pause music or answer and end calls. To activate Siri, you press and hold the Digital Crown, while pressing it twice will skip forward a track and pressing it three times will go back to the previous track.

There's another button on the top of the right ear cup that allows you to switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes. If you press and hold it, that will allow you to put the AirPods Max into pairing mode for things like connecting to an Android device, PC or devices like AirFly Pro when you're on a plane for example.

Elsewhere on the hardware front, the Beats Studio Pro headphones have USB-C, as well as a 3.5mm line in. The AirPods Max meanwhile, have Lightning for charging but no 3.5mm line in. You can buy a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter though.


How to clean your AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max photo 5

When it comes to features, the Beats Studio Pro and the Apple AirPods Max aren't too dissimilar. Both offer one-tap setup with Apple devices so it's super easy to get them connected to your devices if you are using an iPhone or iPad. This connection then automatically transfers between Apple devices if you are using the same Apple ID so both pairs of headphones will automatically connect to your Mac or Apple Watch once setup.

When using with Apple devices, both the Beats Studio Pro and Apple AirPods Max offer Apple's Dynamic Head Tracking feature, which is designed to shift the audio according to your head movements, making it feel like the sound is all around you. In addition to Dynamic Head Tracking, Spatial Audio is supported for virtual 360-degree sound when listening to tracks rendered in Dolby Atmos and Personalised Spatial Audio is also on board both these headphones, which you can read more about in our separate Personalised Spatial Audio feature.

The Beats Studio Pro and Apple AirPods Max also both work with Android devices of course, though the Beats Studio Pro have the slight advantage here with support for Google Fast Pair, allowing for one-tap connection here too, as well as an Audio Switch feature for switching between Android, Chromebook another compatible devices.

Elsewhere, both the Beats Studio Pro and Apple AirPods Max have Siri, as mentioned above, and the AirPods Max have Announce Notifications too so Siri will read out any notifications that come through if you have the feature switched on. They also both have Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes, and they both work with Apple's Find My app too. Beats Studio Pro are also compatible with Google's Find My Device system and through the Beats app, you can get access to a couple of other features like Locate My Beats and battery life widgets. For iPhone users, the battery life widget is accessible without an app.

The Beats Studio Pro do also have support for USB-C audio though, as mentioned, which supports both downlink and uplink connectivity, allowing you to take a call whilst actively charging the headphones. The USB-C Audio feature also offers three EQ-optimised sound profiles, comprising Beats Signature Profile, Entertainment Profile and Conversation Profile. The Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes are disabled when using USB-C Audio.


Beats Studio Pro

Based on the spec sheets, the Beats Studio Pro will deliver twice the battery life of the AirPods Max, promising up to 40 hours, while AirPods Max promise up to 20 hours. Whilst we still have to test the Beats Studio Pro fully, it's likely that with a promise of double, they will be better than the AirPods Max even if double isn't completely achieved. It might be that doesn't matter too much though, as 20 hours is still a pretty decent amount of time. It sees you through most flights and charging is pretty easy so it's not a huge deal to stick either on charge.

Within the ear cups, the Beats Studio Pro have a fully custom 40mm active driver and two-layer dynamic diaphragm transducer at their heart, which is claimed to offer great performance across the frequency spectrum. There's advanced digital processing on board too and they also have six microphones. We're still testing them so we will update this feature as soon as we have listened to them enough to comment on their performance overall.

The AirPods Max however, we have tried and tested. They have a 40mm Apple dynamic driver on board, along with dual neodymium ring magnet motor designed to maintain harmonic distortion of less than one per cent. They also offer computational audio, adaptive EQ and a total of nine microphones. In our experience, they deliver superb performance with fabulous ANC that can drown out pretty much anything.


The first decision between these two headphones will likely come down to which design you prefer. The Beats Studio Pro are iconic, they will likely deliver great performance, whist offering some excellent features across both Apple and Android devices, and a promising battery life.

Beats Studio Pro
Beats Studio Pro
A promising option

The Studio Pro succeed the popular Studio Wireless 3, bringing a number of improvements, including USB-C Audio and Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking, as well as a refined design and up to 40 hours battery life.

The Apple AirPods Max meanwhile, are more premium and subtle in their design, they deliver superb performance and they have some excellent features for Apple users. They are pricier than Beats though, and a couple of years old now so you might be better to wait and see if they are replaced, perhaps with USB-C.

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Apple AirPods Max
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