Beats rolled out a couple of new products immediately following the news that it would be acquired by Apple, and one of them is the new Powerbeats2 in-ear wireless headset, which packs Bluetooth and a water-resistant design to make it a suitable companion for workouts. The new version of the Powerbeats line sports a different design than the original, improved water resistance and better sound.
The new look of the Powerbeats2 is an improvement over the original, dropping some of the unnecessary geometric flourishes and metallic tones in favor of matte surfaces and a simpler look overall. These still wouldn’t be described as inconspicuous in their appearance, in either the red/black or all-white colorways, but with workout/running headsets it’s often better for earbuds to stand out, so that you can signal to the world around you that you might not be able to hear traffic noise or verbal warnings/requests as easily as you could otherwise.
They’re lightweight and comfortable, and there are four types of earbud tips included in the box for finding the right fit. The cable joining the two buds is made of a tangle-resistant rubberized plastic, and there’s an in-line remote for controlling volume and playback. An earhook ensures that the buds won’t move around all that much while you’re on the run, and the device charges via standard micro USB, instead of the proprietary chargers used by some competitors in the sports headphones market.
Wearing the Beats while running results in no ear soreness, as I’ve had with some headphones before, and the battery life on the devices is commendable – Beats rates it at six hours playback, and so far I’ve found that in line with my own experience, though I’ll generally use the headset for only half-hour increments at a time.
The one issue I had with the Powerbeats2 was that it does allow a fair amount of noise through on windy days, but this is a trade-off of the fact that they don’t block out ambient noise entirely by design. These are made for running, and in those situations, you want to continue to have awareness of your surroundings, especially if you’re doing your jogging outdoors in an urban environment.
The clip that comes with the headset to manage the cable length provides fit sizing that will ensure you don’t have any tangles or flailing cord on runs, and the sweat resistance has held up to extensive testing thus far (I’ve used them on a total of around 40 miles worth of runs in four-mile increments).
Sound quality is good, and these can actually produce a really immersive listening experience when used with music that has clearly defined stereo channels, perhaps due to their partially open design.
I’ve previously been an outspoken fan of the Jaybird line of wireless fitness earbuds, but the Powerbeats2 definitely give them a run for their money. Jaybird still offers its excellent BlueBuds 2 for $169.95, which is $30 cheaper than the $199.95 the Powerbeats2 will cost you on the Apple Store. And the Jaybird option promises up to two more hours of battery life in continuous use, though some have complained about the Jaybird set’s ability to resist sweat and stay in-ear. Still, the Beats option definitely won’t disappoint runners looking for something to keep them motivated without encumbering their runs with messy cables.