So you don’t want Beats to pump out your beats, while you may be concerned about what the competition has to offer there are plenty of trendy, bass-heavy headphones that aren’t Beats. Who knows, you may end up preferring them over the Dr.’s auditory prescription. If you’re looking for some of the best alternatives to Beats then you’ve come to the right place.
Editor’s note: this list of the Best Beats alternatives was updated on January 19, 2022, to add the Jaybird Vista 2 and JBL Reflect Flow Pro to the Best list, update charts, add a contents menu, add a section about noise cancelling, and add Anker Soundcore Q35, Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2, Campfire Audio Honeydew, JLab Epic Air Sport ANC, Monoprice BT-600ANC, Sennheiser CX True Wireless, and Under Armour Project Rock Over-Ear Training Headphones by JBL to Notable mentions.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is the best Beats Studio3 Wireless alternative
The Sony WH-1000XM4 caters to commuters and all-purpose users alike; while it lacks the “Studio” moniker that the Beats competitor has, it boasts many of the same features and outperforms the Studio3 Wireless handily as it applies to noise cancelling capabilities (and equalizing your music).
Sony WH-1000XM4Full Review
Both models are over-ear headphones that retail for around $300 USD, but Sony’s WH-1000XM4 is the better buy. It has Bluetooth multipoint, and Bluetooth codecs including LDAC, which provides the best streaming quality at 990kbps. It doesn’t have as much of a bass boost as Beats or the previous Sony WH-1000XM3, so if you’re looking for that bass sound, it may be best to go with the WH-1000XM3. However, the newer model’s ANC is better.
By providing effective noise cancelling, your music will sound better and you'll likely avoid hearing damage.
If the main feature drawing you to the Beats Studio3 Wireless is noise cancellation performance, then the Sony cans should be your pick. Deciding what’s physically comfortable is more subjective, but we’re confident you’ll be happier with the Sony WH-1000XM4 than with the Beats headphones.
What should you look for when buying Bluetooth headphones?
Before spending your money on something as expensive as a pair of Bluetooth headphones, let alone Beats headphones, it’s good to know what some alternatives are. After all, that’s why you’re here right? But before you spend money on anything at all, there are some things you should know that could potentially help you with your purchase decision. We’ll keep it simple for the purposes of this article, but there are links to all of the deep dives down below if you feel like becoming an expert on anything.
Start here: Ultimate headphone buying guide
What is a Bluetooth codec?
If you’re unfamiliar with the technology, a Bluetooth codec determines how data is transmitted from a source (phone) to a receiver (headphones). Ideally, there wouldn’t have to be any sacrifices made in quality for the sake of efficiency. However, we don’t live in a perfect world and different codecs provide different transfer rates and qualities.
Since Beats by Dre is now part of the Apple conglomerate and has been since 2014, the company’s wireless headphones and earbuds integrate the W1 chip or H1 chip and support the AAC Bluetooth codec. iPhone users should get headphones that support AAC, and Android users should look out for aptX or aptX HD support. That said, if you’re looking to get the absolute best audio quality, wired listening is still running laps around wireless.
What is frequency response?
Beats headphones are loathed and loved for their bass-heavy frequency responses, but the company doesn’t have a patent on low-end exaggeration. Thus, finding a product that emulates that sought-after sound isn’t an arduous journey. Many of these headphones and earbuds also reproduce emphasized low notes. While this usually means you’re enjoying a more consumer-friendly sound, tinkerers (those who often EQ their music) may want to look into studio headphones. Headsets with neutral frequency responses are easier to EQ because they’re less prone to distortion.
How do noise cancelling headphones work?
Active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones use destructive interference to combat external sounds. Any ANC headset has microphones dedicated to recording your surroundings so it can produce anti-noise through phase inversion. To simplify it, the microphones record the sound waves from your environment and then create an identical wave. After the ANC system creates the identical wave, it then delays this twin wave by half a wavelength. When done correctly, this destructive interference significantly quiets background noise. More advanced systems like Sony and Bose’s flagship headsets tend to work much better than sub-$100 USD noise cancelling headsets. That said, there are quite a few diamonds in the rough when it comes to a $100 USD budget.
What are the drawbacks to buying non-Beats headphones?
Sometimes it’s worth it to invest in the real deal. However, just because a product is an off-brand (i.e., not Beats) doesn’t make it inherently poor quality. More often than not, a direct competitor to a Beats model will be cheaper than the household name. The price disparity isn’t indicative of a lack of quality, rather it likely just reflects a smaller profit margin for the company, which means more money for you to put toward streaming.
Related: The best Bose headphones
If you’re interested in the Beats Solo3 Wireless, save money with the Sony WH-XB900N instead
While the Beats Solo3 Wireless is one of the company’s most accessible products, it lacks one major feature touted by the Sony WH-XB900N: active noise cancelling. While the noise cancellation found on these mid-tier Sony cans isn’t going to beat the Sony WH-1000XM4 abilities, it’s better than not having the feature altogether.
Sony WH-XB900NFull Review
But it’s not just about having a feature to say that the feature is there; no, the Sony WH-XB900N attenuation is effective enough to prevent you from maxing out the volume. Not only does the lessening of outside noise improve audio quality, but it also steers you away from damaging your hearing.
This headset runs as low as $150, quite a bit less than Beats Solo3 Wireless brand new, but even at the same price, it’s the better choice. The fit and finish are very nice, as is easy integration with your device. Battery life in our tests was 37 hours, 22 minutes of constant playback, and if it dies, you can use the 3.5mm jack.
Related: The best headphones for bass
You get a lot of Bluetooth codec support, which is especially helpful if you’re using Android, with aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, and the usual AAC (for Apple users) and SBC. Best of all, if you’re looking for a Beats alternative, the “XB” in any Sony product means eXtra Bass. If you’re not a basshead, pass on this headset, but if you live for the low end, like many Beats fans, the WH-XB900N is a great pick.
The V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex Edition is a versatile alternative to the Beats Pro
One glance at the Beats Pro and it’s apparent that it’s the most durable pair of Beats headphones, but the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless Codex Edition is MIL-STD 810G certified, meaning it’s officially tough as nails.
V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex EditionFull Review
The V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex Edition isn’t just tough, though; it sounds good too. If you opt to listen sans wires (or maybe your phone manufacturer left you without a choice) then you still benefit from AAC and aptX codec support.
Additionally, when you buy a pair of V-MODA headphones, you’re not just buying a single one-and-done product. No, the company also has an albeit pricey lineup backed by its Immortal Life Program.
Learn more: What does your headphone warranty cover?
The JBL Reflect Flow Pro stays in your ears when you’re on the run
Cut the wires on your workout with the JBL Reflect Flow Pro, which is a good alternative to the Beats Fit Pro. Whereas the Beats Fit Pro has major ANC bugs that (as of December 10, 2021) have not been sorted out for Android, the Reflect Flow Pro ANC is OS agnostic. The ANC performance may not be groundbreaking, but it’s still better than nothing.
JBL Reflect Flow ProFull Review
Equipped with an IP68 rating, it’s dustproof and water-resistant. Even if you sweat like a tsunami while jogging through a dust storm, the Reflect Flow Pro won’t let you down. In addition to stabilizing wings to keep the buds in your ear, the companion app has a “Check my best fit” feature keen to optimize your fit.
Related: The best workout headphones
If the default JBL frequency response doesn’t suit your taste, you can play around with the EQ in-app. As is, it’s pretty consumer friendly with a lot of bass on tap already to keep your workouts motivated. Battery life reaches 9 hours, 8 minutes according to our tests with another 20 hours using the case. At $50 USD less than the Fit Pro, it’s an easy choice to make.
The Jaybird Vista is a solid Beats Powerbeats Pro alternative
Though it’s a few years old, the Beats Powerbeats Pro continues to be a popular pair of true wireless earbuds for athletes. Still, if you aren’t interested in the Powerbeats Pro, then the Jaybird Vista 2 is a great option. The earbuds feature an IP68 and MIL-STD-810G ratings, and the case merits its own IP54 rating, which is supremely rare.
Jaybird Vista 2Full Review
The case supports USB-C quick charging and wireless charging. Just five minutes in the case yields 60 minutes of playback. Standalone battery life clocks in at 5 hours, 20 minutes with ANC on. Oh, yeah, these earbuds have active noise cancelling, which is impressive given its now reduced price point. Keep realistic expectations though, because the ANC can’t quite compete with top contenders like the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. You won’t notice a huge difference when you toggle ANC on/off, but you’re likely to find the passive isolation impressive. Jaybird’s proprietary ear and wing tips may be hard to replace, but they do a great job of blocking out unpredictable, incidental sounds.
Unfortunately, the Vista 2 only supports AAC and SBC, so Android phone owners don’t have a reliable high-quality option here. Android phones can use Google Fast Pair to quickly connect to the Vista 2 though, which works similar to connecting the AirPods to an iPhone. The sound quality is quite good and will please most listeners, but you can take it a step further and play with the EQ from the free Jaybird app (iOS and Android). You can create and save EQ settings which may also be shared with other Jaybird users. This is a great, more affordable alternative to Beats’ running earbuds.
The best Beats alternatives: Notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Q35: This pair of headphones costs about $129 USD but it features LDAC, decent ANC, and a bassy sound. It’s a real steal when compared to either the Solo3 or Studio3 Wireless models. It also has a certain resemblance to Beats.
- Apple AirPods Max: Apple’s first-ever pair of over-ear headphones is designed for people heavily invested in the company’s ecosystem. It features some of the best noise cancellation we’ve tested, in addition to great sound quality, spatial audio, automatic device switching, and a unique yet durable design.
- Apple AirPods Pro: The AirPods Pro is a great alternative to Beats because it has the H1 chip, so you get the same seamless user experience with the AirPods Pro as you would with a modern set of Beats earbuds or headphones. Additionally, the AirPods Pro has ANC, spatial audio with head tracking, battery optimization, and more. If you don’t have an iPhone, there are a ton of great AirPods Pro alternatives to choose from.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2: This comfortable headset has a staggering 64 hours and 51 minutes of battery life, plus it works wired. The LDAC codec and optional EQ in the companion app mean you can suss out how you want it to sound.
- Audio-Technica ATH-SR30BT: For around $100 USD, you get a pair of over-ear headphones complete with aptX support, good sound quality, and a 70-hour battery life that will last you several round-trip flights—all without needing to recharge.
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II: Just because there’s a new Bose product on the block doesn’t make the previous beasts of ANC any less appealing. This is still more comfortable and offers many of the same great features as the newer Bose QuietComfort 45. You can even see how the Bose QC 35 II compares to the QC 45.
- Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: The Bose NCH 700 is another great option for anyone looking for a sleek design, great battery life, and solid active noise canceling. If you’re not a fan of the Sony headphones on this list, definitely check this out.
- Bose Sport Earbuds: This pair of true wireless workout buds is a great option for listeners who like the idea of the Beats Fit Pro but don’t want to deal with finicky ANC or Apple-controlled updates. The default sound is great and the touch controls work perfectly on the Sport Earbuds.
- Campfire Audio Honeydew: If you are looking for a bass-focused set of wired earbuds, look no further than the Honeydew with it’s comfortable “universal” fit and quality build. It doesn’t have an IP rating so you probably don’t want to go for a run with it.
- Jabra Elite 45h: These on-ears headphones are a great alternative to the Beats, complete with AAC compatibility, great battery life, portable design, good microphone quality, and support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
- Jabra Elite 85h: This is a great over-ear alternative to the Beats Solo3 Wireless. It features good sound quality and active noise cancelling, all at a lower price point than Beats’ offering.
- Jabra Elite 85t: These earbuds are the latest Jabra has to offer, featuring surprisingly good active noise cancellation for less than $250 USD. It also offers AAC support, USB-C and wireless charging, and ergonomic ear tip options to ensure a proper fit.
- JLab Epic Air Sport ANC: Save yourself quite a bit of money and try the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC for about half the price of Powerbeats Pro. You miss out on the H1 chip but retain the ear hook design and in-ear detection. Try the non-ANC version if you’d rather have optimal environmental awareness.
- Monoprice BT-600ANC: For under three figures you get aptX HD codec and some of the best ANC at any price.
- Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless: These buds offer great sound with some oomph, good ANC, and aptX and AAC support—all for less than $150 USD. It’s a solid alternative to the Beats Studio Buds.
- Sennheiser MOMENTUM 3 Wireless: If you’ve thought about getting the Beats Studio but were turned off by the design, Sennheiser’s stylish pair of ANC headphones may be up your alley. This features premium materials, noise cancelling, and a very comfortable fit with a nice, though bass-heavy, sound.
- Sennheiser PXC 550-II: These active noise cancelling headphones are extremely high-value for their price. Not only is the ANC great, it also reproduces accurate audio, has Bluetooth multipoint, and boasts a comfortable design.
- Shure AONIC 50: Listeners who want solid noise cancelling with a premium build and all the connectivity options you could hope for should save up for the AONIC 50. This headset attenuates low-frequency noise rather well and is extremely comfortable to wear with glasses.
- Sony WH-1000XM3: If you want the bass boost that the Sony WH-1000XM4 can’t offer, go with its predecessor. You can often find this for a great price, making it a steal among ANC headphones. In our Sony WH-1000XM3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4 head-to-head, the older model still holds up.
- Under Armour Project Rock Over-Ear Training Headphones by JBL: Those looking at Beats are already looking at premium price headphones, so why not grab a workout companion with some flexibility like in-app EQ and premium features like washable ear cushions?
Related: The best Google Assistant headphones
How does SoundGuys choose the best Beats alternatives?
We have our own internal testing methodology, but the long and the short of it is that we run three basic tests: battery life, frequency response, and isolation to get a broad-stroke, objective understanding of how each pair of headphones or earbuds operates. From there, we use the headphones in our daily routine, taking note of a product’s follies and triumphs.
Ultimately, we respect that audio is subjective to a point—and believe it helps us, and you the reader, to know a product’s objective performance as well.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
We’re dedicated to this site and individually have accrued multiples years of experience when it comes to keeping track of the evolving audio industry. In being so involved, we’re able to quickly pick out the good from the to-be-improved products.
Our main goal is to ensure that you enjoy your purchase, whether you’re looking for workout earbuds, soundbars, or noise cancelling headphones. We just want you to be happy, and none of our writers may benefit from lauding one product over another. If you so choose, we recommend that you read our full ethics policy.