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Best Budget Buds – Review Geek



Review:
9/10
?

  • 1 – Absolutely hot waste
  • 2 – Sorta lukewarm waste
  • 3 – Severely flawed design
  • 4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great, but not best in class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute design Nirvana

Price: $ 49.99

The Beats Flex in black on a black background
Cameron Summerson

I’ve reviewed many true wireless earbuds over the past year, but it’s been a hot minute since I took a set of neck straps for a whirl. The Beats Flex has been an excellent reminder that these type of earbuds are still such a good choice if you want a solid set of earbuds that won’t break the bank. They’re excellent at just $ 50.

Here’s what we like

  • Excellent value
  • Very comfortable
  • Good battery life

And what we don’t

  • It lacks a strong layer
  • No startup sound

Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing great or eye-catching about these earbuds. You don’t get an ambient mode or ANC. There is no ear detection. However, there is automatic play / pause thanks to the magnets that hold the earbuds together when they are not in your ears. But otherwise they are just a very standard set of wireless earbuds.

However, its simplicity and low price are what makes the Flex so attractive in the first place. They are a great upgrade from the regular wired earbuds that come with many phones, such as the standard EarPods that came with iPhones. If you’re still using an old set of wired earbuds, this is the best upgrade path for you (assuming, of course, you’re not willing to drop at least double the price for a set of true wireless earbuds). They sound pretty good, are incredibly comfortable, and last about 12 hours on average. That’s a lot of ticked boxes for $ 50.

Sound quality: better than standard

The Beats Flex in black on a black matte background, one earbud and the Beats logo in focus
Cameron Summerson

There was a time when the name ‘Beats’ meant ‘these headphones have way too much bass’. Those days are over (despite the common misconceptions I still hear about this topic), with the Flex getting lighter on bass than most other Beats I’ve heard recently.

That does not mean that they miss a certain low point. It’s still very much there, although you might be impressed if you’re the ‘give me all the bass you can put into my brain’ listener type. I find the balance very good for most listening purposes, but personally I prefer something a little more low-end in music than what the Flex offers. That said, it’s not something I missed myself after just a few minutes of listening to the Flex.

As for the highs and mids, that’s really where these ‘buds’ have the biggest impact. The balance between the two is very good, with chimey highs and a very well-balanced mid-range leading to an excellent overall listening experience – especially if you like podcasts or watch a lot of videos with earplugs in them.

Overall, the Flex sounds good. They may lack low end for users who prefer bassier headphones, but the “average” listener can appreciate the overall balance on offer here. The cost / noise ratio is very good with the Flex.

Comfort: I’ve forgotten how comfortable Neckbuds can be

One of the best things about neckbuds is that the actual tops are quite light, which makes for a fairly comfortable fit. True wireless earbuds have a lot to do under the hood, so they tend to be heavier than non-TW earbuds, which leads to more ear fatigue and discomfort.

The Flex is no different here. The buds are light, the cord plugged in has enough length that it doesn’t constantly pull on the buds, and even the knobs on either side are so light I don’t even notice them. Overall, these are probably some of the most comfortable neckbuds I’ve worn … well, for as long as I can remember, really. A +.

The USB-C charging port
Cameron Summerson

Speaking of the controls, let’s take a quick look at that. Like pretty much everything else about this, they’re pretty straightforward. The power button is on the right, and … that’s it literally. On the left is the USB-C charging port – a nice departure from other Beats, which rely on Apple’s Lightning cable for charging – the volume rocker and multi-function button. The multi-function button is play / pause with a single press, track forward with a double press, track back with a triple press, and call up your device’s digital assistant with a long press.

Marking the microphone, volume knob and multi-function button on the left.
The microphone, volume rocker and multi-function button on the left. Cameron Summerson

Once you get used to wearing the earbuds, finding the controls becomes second nature. It took me some time to get used to how tall the controls are, but once I got the hang of it, it was smooth sailing from then on.

The most annoying thing I encountered with the controls was turning on the buttons. There is no ‘turned on’ sound so you have to hold the button for a few seconds and hope they turn on. However, there is a connected tone, so at least you know when they connect. There is just a weird separation between turning it on and waiting for them to connect where it’s not clear if they are actually turned on.

There is also an app for Android. (This isn’t really about comfort, but whatever.) It’s also a simple kind of app – there’s really no EQ or customizable controls. You can toggle the auto play / pause feature, which also applies to calls. You can also rename the buttons if you wish. And that’s pretty much all the app has to offer. Still, it’s worth having installed – you can use it to quickly see the remaining battery percentage of the earbuds if nothing else.

As an aside, I also noticed that the earbuds connected much faster to my Pixel 5 with the app installed, which helps to reduce the aforementioned power-on delay / connection tone. There is no app for iOS as the features offered here are native on iOS thanks to the M1 chip in the Flex.

Conclusion: excellent earplugs for a restless place

Highlight the Beats logo on both earbuds
Cameron Summerson

I think the best customer for the Beats Flex is someone who wants to replace a set of wired earbuds with something wireless that won’t break the bank. The target audience here isn’t the person looking at AirPods or other true wireless earbuds more than twice the price of the Flex, and the audio quality / features reflect that.

But if you’re looking for some reliable, comfortable earbuds that sound pretty good and will get you through the day with ease, the Beats Flex is your blueberry.

Review: 9/10

Price: $ 49.99

Here’s what we like

  • Excellent value
  • Very comfortable
  • Good battery life

And what we don’t

  • It lacks a strong layer
  • No startup sound




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