I have way more Bluetooth headphones than I care to admit. When the iPhone 7 came out, I was determined to make the most of the situation, so bought both cheap and expensive headsets, in a search for something that both sounded good for music and was decent for phone calls. I'd actually sworn off bluetooth headsets after a series of Jawbone headsets. I seemed to have more problems with them than most people, perhaps due to my thick skull. But, in the intervening years, things must've gotten better, right? Bluetooth was always a mess prior - things took multiple seconds to pair and connect, resulting in people giving up and just hanging up when calls came in. Plus, A2DP never sounded good, so there was compromise in just being wireless.
Apple doing away with the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 seemed like such an extreme measure - Bluetooth just wasn't there. Confounding this, Apple wasn't ready to ship their new magic Bluetooth chipset, the W1 when the iPhone 7 launched, so it was Bluetooth hell for the first few months, at least for me. The Powerbeats 3 showed up on Amazon and I picked up a set in January 2017.
At first, the Powerbeats 3 were fantastic. They aren't for everyone, but I loved the bass forward sound profile, without being overly in your face, like the original beats headphones. Bass is pronounced and thumpy without being inaccurate or loose. I'm a bit of a basshead - at my desk are 3 different pairs of over the ear headphones, with a Maverick Audio Tubemagic D1 external DAC. But, I don't like carrying full size headphones on the go and the Powerbeats 3 sound rich and full to me. With the Comply ear tips, they isolate really well - probably more well than is safe for walking in a busy city street.
The earhooks mean they are very secure but still easy to put on. The battery easily lasts an entire days of calls, and charges to a decent percentages in only a few minutes with the Fast Fuel (5 mins for 1 hour of usage). The range is unbelieveable for a bluetooth device - I could get entire floors away from my phone before I'd get a hint of static, etc. I was thrilled at first - then the problems started. I started having all sorts of strange problems, like I would make or answer a phone call and couldn't hear audio - I'd have to switch to my phone . I had all sorts of drop out and interference problems sitting right next to my phone. I replaced my first Powerbeats 3 and the new ones fixed the interference problems, but I still would get into a problem state where the phone wouldn't work. I could listen to music using the Apple player or Amazon Music, but I couldn't hear voicemails, Siri or place or receive phone calls, even though the phone was perfectly happy to think it was playing audio through my headset. Rebooting the phone was the only thing that fixed it.
I even tried swapping out the phone - I reproduced the problem at the Apple Store and since we'd already swapped the Powerbeats, they swapped the phone. No change. I got so frustrated I ended up returning them. I tried the Earpods and aside from looking like Earrings, they didn't stay in my ears or seal well, so they sounded tinny and weak, and flew out when I shook my head. I couldn't bring myself to buy them.
Fast forward, and in March, the BeatsX came out. It was more of a conventional Bluetooth headset and I'd hoped that the long delay in shipping would mean they'd worked out some of the bugs. First thing I noticed when I took them out of the box - holy long cable, batman! For "wireless" headphones, these have some serious wires on them, enough to where they would nearly reach my belt hanging out of one ear. They have a sleek design, and the same Comply tips I used on the Powerbeats 3 fit these great. They sounded good, but with a weaker bottom end than the Powerbeats 3. I get a BIT more treble detail but neither set is treble forward and don't have sparkling fatiguing highs. I prefer this, although some additional detail would be nice. They don't compare to my Westone UMPro30 in detail, although those are a much more expensive set of headphones. (the BeatsX were on sale for $120- at the time of this writing)
The cable for the BeatsX is really a pain. You can take the tips out of your ears and the backs magnet together so they make sort of a necklace, but this isn't very useful given how long the cable is. The middle section is somewhat stiff, and doesn't like to fold easily. Worst of all, the battery life is way worse. I consistent run out of battery if I leave them on all day. They're also not really good for exercising - the long cords get in the way, and they don't stay on well - the less flexible center section slips down off the back of my neck and either yanks an ear tip out or flops around.
That said, none of those were deal breakers - What I really wanted to know is if they worked better than the Powerbeats in terms of disconnected and their "bad state" where you couldn't hear phone audio. Bluetooth has separate profiles for headphones and for headsets with a microphone, and I always guessed it was some bad interaction with those profiles. The bad news is that no, the BeatsX got into that state too (or it's endemic to the iPhone 7 and it's the one getting into a bad state.) I don't have this issue with other Bluetooth devices, although they are much more squishy to pair and don't have nearly the range or battery life as the BeatsX or Powerbeats 3.
I was sad, because I really wanted to like them. They're great when they work correctly, but having to reboot my phone to make my headset work is just not feasible. For now, I've bought a 2nd pair of Powerbeats 3 - I like the way they sound enough to just listen to music on them. Hopefully the issues will get resolved as the phones mature. Personally, I'd skip both if you have a Bluetooth headset you're reasonably happy with. The Powerbeats 3 has a much more "Fun" sound profile, with heavy emphasized bass, that I love, although not everyone love. It's borderline inaccurate, but you can still pick out the intricacies of bass without sounding sloppy. The improved sound, more secure fit, and better battery life makes me lean towards the Powerbeats 3 over the two.
Silicon Valley Dad, who loves cars, cooking, clothes and cameras