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The Beats Solo Buds have a great look and an even better price

The Beats Solo Buds have a great look and an even better price

There are clear tradeoffs — like a charging case with no extra battery juice — but the price and Beats’ cultural cachet are likely enough to guarantee success for the Solo Buds.

The first under-$100 true wireless earbuds from Beats (and, by extension, Apple) are here. Starting today, you can order the $79.99 Solo Buds online in four different colors — black, purple, red, and gray — and they’ll be in stores on June 20th. The red earbuds come with one advantage over the others: they include a translucent case that’s reminiscent of the one that comes with the Studio Buds Plus. The earbuds themselves are opaque, but it’s still a great look. I’ve been testing the Solo Buds for a few days, and that candy red case really pops. And whatever color you choose, it’s the smallest carrying case for any Beats earbuds yet.

But therein lies one of the tradeoffs that the company made to hit this lower price point. See, unlike basically all competitors on the market, this case doesn’t include a battery for recharging the buds whenever you’ve put them away. Instead, Beats decided to give the earbuds themselves a marathon 18-hour battery life, after which you’ll need to plop them into the case and recharge them over USB-C. In theory, this could help the Solo Buds last longer since they’re likely to go through fewer charge cycles over their lifetime. But it’s an important thing to be aware of.

Note: Beats provided The Verge with a non-mass-production sample of the Solo Buds. As a result, this is an unscored first look. Stay tuned for further coverage on voice call performance and more once we receive the shipping version.

The other feature that’s nowhere to be found is noise cancellation. The Solo 4 headphones lack ANC, and the Solo Buds similarly depend on natural noise isolation from their silicone ear tips to reduce the loudness of your surroundings. Beats bundles four sets of tips with them, including an extra-small size for those who need it. I found the buds plenty comfortable, and each earbud has laser-cut venting to reduce unpleasant ear clogging.

Unlike the AirPods Pro (center) and Studio Buds Plus (right), the Solo Buds case doesn’t have a battery inside.

It really is a teeny-tiny case.

Sound-wise, these are comfortably in third place compared to the Beats Fit Pro and Studio Buds Plus. They tend to come off a little flat across a number of my usual test tracks unless I really twist them into my ears for a tight seal. Every so often, you can find a track (like Billie Eilish’s “Birds of a Feather”) that’s a decent match for their tuning. But “Wreckage” by Pearl Jam didn’t land with much force.

There’s nothing offensive about the Solo Buds; if anything, they’re fairly balanced, offer good channel separation, and are restrained when it comes to bass. They’re very clean; some cheaper wireless buds can sound as though you’re listening through a blanket, but that’s not the case here. Still, despite everything Beats says about their “fully custom acoustic architecture” and “ergonomically angled acoustic nozzles,” the Solo Buds aren’t some miracle pair of $80 earbuds. If they outperform their price, it’s not by much.

The earbuds look and feel similar to recent Beats products.

I also struggled with the physical controls at first until I found and memorized the sweet spot on each earbud, which is above the “b” logo. If you try to press the whole surface, it won’t work.

As has been true of most recent Beats products, the Solo Buds are platform-agnostic, meaning they natively support one-tap pairing and Find My / Find My Device features on both Android and iOS. Those are nice perks to have for the money, even if you don’t get some of the extra frills like head tracking spatial audio. Multipoint connectivity is also absent.

I have a hunch that the Solo Buds are going to sell very well. Even if the sound isn’t exemplary, there’s no denying the allure of their $79.99 sticker tag. And Beats still has lots of brand power with athletes and celebrities. But there are plenty of alternatives worth checking out. Beats faces competition from Anker’s Soundcore brand, JBL, EarFun, and others in this pricing territory, and many of those options include noise cancellation and come with a battery case — albeit without the 18-hour battery life.

Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge

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