There may have been some big changes at Beats recently, but it's still all about the headphones. The newest addition to the (ever growing) family is the Powerbeats². As the name suggests, they are a revision of the original sport-friendly buds from Beats, but this time they're wireless -- Beats' first in-ears to cut the cord. The Powerbeats² keep the (albeit modified) hook-over-the-ear design, but liberate heads from handsets via Bluetooth 4.0. Beats says you'll get six hours of playback from a full charge, but should they be low on juice when you fish them out of your kit bag, the company claims a 15 minute pre-gym charge will see you good for a one-hour workout. If keeping up with LeBron (who "inspired" the Powerbeats²) makes you work up a bit of a sweat, then their IPX4 water resistance should keep them in good condition.
Powerbeats2 by Dre hands-onSee all photos
The Powerbeats² come with one vital feature that anyone who's used Bluetooth headphones for any amount of time will know is essential. They have an LED that tells you when power is low. There's nothing more disheartening than having the music fade on you barely minutes in to your workout. In fact, the Powerbeats² tells you when it thinks there's less than an hour of playtime to go, and ramps this warning up when battery life could be below 15 minutes.
We had a pair of the Powerbeats² land in the Engadget office this morning, so had a real quick chance to check them out. An accusation often levelled at Beats headphones is that they are too heavy on the bass. The first thing I noticed about the Powerbeats² is actually how prominent they are on the mid-highs, perhaps a little too prominent -- if you have the volume jacked right up like I did. Set at a more reasonable level though, while listening to electronic music, I noticed synth stabs and vocals in particular seemed to cut through a lot more than the low end frequencies, and this is music with a lot of low end. This was a trend we found with the new Solo² on-ears, too. So one thing's for sure, Beats is clearly working to move on from the bass-is-best approach of earlier models.
If you've never used earbuds with fastening hooks before, you might be concerned that you don't get the fit that you may be used to with regular in-ears. It's a legitimate worry that the hooks might prevent the buds from sitting tight in your ear, and thus not giving the full "lock" that they need to provide the best audio experience. The Powerbeats² thankfully has adjustable, bendable sections within the part that goes over your ear. This means you can set them up just right for your particular lug-holes, and get the sound piped in without that dreaded "loose" feeling.
Despite being "wireless," there is a cable running between the two buds. This sits comfortably on the back of the neck and even has a widget to let you adjust the amount of slack. It also keep the Powerbeats² from ever parting company with each other of course. The lack of long cable does mean that the remote/control buttons sit quite high up by your left ear, but that's something you will probably get used to with regular use. It's certainly a small trade-off if you're not a fan of wingtips like Beats' Tour model, or Jaybird's BlueBuds. You might also be wondering if there's support for aptX, we were told there isn't, which is a real shame given the asking price (below).
The Powerbeats² launch in Beats' signature colors -- red, white and black -- but cost $199, (whichever hue you go for) when they launch later this month.