Beats’ Powerbeats Pro Are Exceptional Earbuds, Unless You Have Ears Like Mine
These are great wireless earbuds, for people with adequately sized ears.
When I first tried to place Beats’ new Powerbeats Pro in my ears, I couldn’t work out how to do it. “I’m probably an idiot, but can you give me a hand?” I asked the kind man who was assisting me. He said sure, and I tucked my hair behind my ear in preparation. “Oh, wow,” he said. “You have small ears”.
I have never thought of myself as an especially small-eared person, but I’ve been thinking about that comment ever since. In particular, I think about it each time I use the Powerbeats Pro, which are really not designed with small ears in mind.
That’s a shame, because they are otherwise a fantastic pair of true wireless earbuds. They’re light, have great battery life and sound quality, excellent call quality, IPX4 water resistance (they’ll withstand sweat and rain but not submersion), and a smooth Bluetooth pairing experience: they just don’t fit in my ears. A crucial part of the earbud experience, some might say.
Nevertheless, I used them for a week, because I’m willing to put my body on the line for the benefit of my fellow small-eared humans. Here are my findings:
Are The Powerbeats Pro Comfortable? Depends If You Have Small Ears.
To begin with, let’s establish what we mean by “small ears”. My ears are basically on the smaller end of average — while there are ear conditions like microtia which are sometimes referred to as “small ear”, that’s not the case here. Based on a quick poll of my colleagues, the substandard size of my ears isn’t notable unless you’re staring intently at the side of my head (in which case, please stop).
In short, I have the kind of small ears that presumably fall into the “wide variety of ears” Beats says its earphones have been tested on and designed for. But while the Powerbeats Pro come with four different sets of rubber ear-tips, none of these comfortably fit my ear.
In practice, that meant that wearing the Powerbeats Pro involved enduring a constant sense of pressure where the ear-tip meets the outer ear canal. This pressure is worst when you first put the earbuds on, but does fade over time — by the middle of a run, the pain in every other part of my body was taking precedence. Unfortunately, the pressure in my ears returned every time I took the earbuds off, leaving my ear feeling somewhat stretched.
The Powerbeats Pro are meant to have a snug fit; they’re designed to seal in the ear for good sound quality and a secure fit. Unfortunately, for me, that fit was a little too secure. Many reviews so far have assured readers that the Powerbeats Pro will not fall out of your ears, whether you’re power-walking, jogging or strenuously backflipping. If you have small ears, you can feel especially assured that your Powerbeats will not fall out, mainly because they’ll be jammed into the ear canal like one of those trucks people keep driving under low bridges.
— Scott Rose (@rprose) May 28, 2018
In Most Ways, The Powerbeats Pro Are Pretty Exceptional Wireless Earbuds
It’s a testament to all the ways that the Powerbeats Pro succeed that I’m still tempted to keep wearing them, hoping that my ears will simply grow or adapt somehow. Until now, I’ve been perfectly content to go running with a stock-standard pair of wired Apple EarPods, but the convenience of a pair of water-resistant, securely attached, wire-free earbuds has been appealing.
The Powerbeats Pro have a fair bit going for them on that front. Each earbud has simple volume controls on the exterior, as well as a multi-function button to pause and skip songs, activate Siri and answer phone calls. The phone call quality is surprisingly good given that there’s no microphone close to the mouth. Optical sensors allow the earbuds to automatically pause when you remove one, though I could do without that function — given that the tight in-ear seal blocks out a little sound, I sometimes want to remove a single earbud briefly without totally pausing what I’m listening to.
Most importantly, the battery life is quite good — Beats reports that there’s up to 9 hours of listening time per earbud, or more than 24 hours of total battery life with the charging case. They also charge impressively fast, with a 5-minute charge delivering around 90 minutes’ playback. If you, like me, find yourself forgetting to charge (or even find) your earbuds until immediately before a workout, you’ll appreciate this.
In short, I imagine that the Powerbeats Pro are a near-perfect wireless earbud for people with $349.95 (AUD) and adequately sized ears. I wish I were one of them.