With a celebrity endorsement from basketball player LeBron James, the iconic B emblazoned on each earphone and a price tag that makes our wallets quiver, the Powerbeats2 Wireless headphones could only come from the Beats stable.
Recently acquired by Apple, Beats is known for high prices and heavy bass, and the Powerbeats2 ticks both boxes, albeit with a half tick in the latter category because their design lets in some ambient noise, which seems to reduce the severity of the bass – that or Beats has actually toned down the bass in its recent products. Either way, we’re not complaining.
The headphones produce solid sounding audio that almost lives up to that of wired solutions and the ability to hear some ambient noise is hugely comforting when running or cycling. Bass isn’t overwrought as it is on so many Beats products, though it’s still noticeably more pronounced than mids or highs, but given these headphones are intended for workouts and other high-energy pursuits we really didn’t mind at all.
Beats supplies a selection of different shaped and sized earbuds with the Powerbeats2 which, when combined with the malleable over-the-ear-hooks makes for an extremely comfortable fit.
Comfort is key for sports headphones, as is the sweat resistance the Powerbeats2 offer. They’re not wholly waterproof, but we didn’t encounter any problems, even after extremely strenuous (and thus, soggy) workouts.A cable runs between each earphone and includes an inline remote with volume buttons, a mic and a central button that plays or pauses music, answers or ends calls and allows you to skip forwards (double press) or backwards (triple press) between tracks. Call quality is excellent.
The headphones are charged using the supplied (or any other) microUSB cable and we managed five to six hours of use per charge. This isn’t as good as we’d like, but Beats claims a 15 minute charge will give users an hour of playback time. Instead of turning off automatically when disconnected from or out of range of the source device the Powerbeats2 simply stay on.
That’s potentially both a pro and con, depending on how you use them. If they’re draped around your neck in the office it’s a good thing as you can go and get a cup of coffee and come back and they’ll automatically reconnect. But if you disconnect your phone or tablet from them and forget to turn them off they’ll simply run themselves flat.
Bluetooth headphones are never going to sound as good as wired alternatives, but more importantly, they still tend to introduce a delay which makes them impractical for watching video. While these are intended as sports headphones, some users might want to use them for video consumption, too, in which case they should keep shopping.
On the whole, the Beats Powerbeats2 Wireless headphones are superb. They sound great, they fit well (but not so well they make you oblivious to any other noise) and they’re well designed. But with local retailers selling them for R3,000 (as opposed to the $200 they sell for in the US) and their middling battery life they’re tough to recommend when there are so many far cheaper alternatives out there. As always, we can’t escape the feeling we’re paying 50-100% more than we need to for the sake of a brand name.