A new, cheaper alternative to the AirPods Pro is here – and it is also from Apple. The Beats Fit Pro have many of the same features but cost £40 less, are more workout-friendly than their cousins and work with Android, too.
Priced at £199 ($199.99/A$299.95) they offer the same noise-cancelling as the AirPods Pro and features such as spatial audio virtual surround sound.
The Fit Pro essentially add a flexible silicone stabiliser “wing” to the top of last year’s Studio Buds. Once you twist the wing into the top of your ear they stay put even with the most vigorous of exercise, or you can wear them without the wing tucked in for more sedate listening.
The top of the earbud protrudes a little from your ear and has a single multi-purpose “b” button which you press once, twice, thrice or press and hold to skip tracks, change sound modes or adjust the volume. The music pauses when you remove an earbud too.
The earbuds clip magnetically into a flip-top case for charging and storage, which is like a mini version of the giant Powerbeats Pro case. It is a bit bigger than the best on the market but still just about fits in the money pocket of a pair of jeans.
The earbuds last up to six hours of playback with noise-cancelling active between charges, which is two hours short of the best rivals but at least an hour longer than the Studio Buds and AirPods Pro.
The Fit Pro sound really good, particularly for fitness-focused earbuds. They have a well-balanced and fully rounded sound that suits a variety of genres. They can produce deep notes with a thump when needed but the bass is kept from overriding the good treble and high notes. Vocals are excellent, instrument separation is good and they handle complex tracks well.
It is a similar story for the noise-cancelling. The Fit Pro match the efficacy of the AirPods Pro, successfully reducing low rumbles, cars and fans, while struggling with higher-pitched noise such as the tapping of fingers on a keyboard. The ambient awareness mode is one of the more natural-sounding of those available, good for listening out for announcements or a quick conversation.
In addition to standard stereo sound, the Fit Pro have Apple’s spatial audio virtual surround sound technology, thanks to their H1 chip. It makes the audio sound as if it is coming from a collection of speakers around you rather than directed straight down your ear canal, giving it a greater atmosphere.
When used with Apple devices, the earbuds track the movement of your head and adjust the sound so that it is always centred on the screen in front of you. It works particularly well for movies and TV shows with a Dolby sound track but also works with music, too. It’s all very clever.
Unlike Apple’s AirPods, the Fit Pro support some elements of spatial audio on Android, but not the head tracking and other advanced features.
The same story exists for other features on Apple versus Android. The Fit Pro support the same instant pairing, seamless switching between devices, instant “Hey Siri” access to the voice assistant, battery status notifications and audio sharing with Apple gear as the AirPods.
They are standard Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds and will connect just fine to most devices, including Windows PCs. But unlike Apple’s other earbuds, the Beats support some of the more advanced features on Android including instant pairing, battery status, customisable controls, firmware updates and the ear tip fit test using the Beats app.
Apple expects the batteries to last more than 500 full charge cycles while maintaining at least 80% of their original capacity but they are not replaceable.
While some minor bits of the earbuds are repairable, they scored a zero out of 10 on iFixit’s repairability scale. Apple offers a “battery service” for £76.44 or replacements costing £96.44 each. The earbuds and case are made from recycled plastic and rare earth elements but Apple does not publish environmental impact reports for accessories such as headphones. The company offers trade-in and free recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products.
The Beats Fit Pro offer a slice of the earbud magic found in Apple’s AirPods Pro in a sportier, cheaper form.
They sound good, have effective noise-cancelling and solid battery life. The spatial audio virtual surround sound system is really great with Apple gear and some of the smart features are available on Android, too.
They are small and don’t have stalks. The wing design keeps them locked in place but can take some fiddling to get comfortable. The charging case is a bit larger than I would like but still pocketable.
They are bettered on sound, noise-cancelling and battery life by the very best. And, unfortunately, the battery cannot be replaced, ultimately making them disposable and losing a star.
But if you want a set of all-purpose earbuds for iPhone or Android that can silence the commute, do justice to movies on your phone and stay put when it’s time to pound the pavement, there aren’t many better than the Beats Fit Pro.