Apple’s new low-price buds fit a dream and sound just as good as more expensive headphones.

The Beats Solo buds are what you get if you strip away all the fancy bells and whistles of high-end headphones and focus on the essentials. The latest launch from Apple-owned Beats shoots for ultra-portable simplicity with a compact design, super-secure fit, simple controls, big battery life and solid sound performance. But do they hit the mark? And can they out-punch pricier rivals? I’ve put them through a full range of workouts to find out. 

Men’s Fitness verdict

For the price, these are excellent earbuds. They fit better than just about any other earbud I’ve tested and the sound quality is perfectly good enough. Marked down for lack of IP durability rating.
  • Workout-boosting sound
  • Compact, secure fit
  • Good battery life
  • Case doesn’t charge
  • No IP durability rating

How we test the best headphones and earbuds

Kieran Alger is an ultramarathon runner and professional product tester. He tested these earbuds on the run and in the gym. He based his overall score on sound quality, fit and how suited they are to working out.

Beats Solo Buds: design, fit and controls

You can see that Beats went for streamlined, compact simplicity and I’m a big fan of just how small and neat the Solo Buds are. There’s something pleasingly basic about the whole thing.

The controls are very, very basic – which is a good thing in most cases, with physical buttons for simple functions like Pause/Play, Skip and Back. I just wish there was a little bump to make them easier to find on the move. I also had trouble hitting the three taps fast enough to skip back a tack. But in general, the buttons are nicely responsive and the buds don’t jog free when you fiddle on the move. 

The limited control options force you to choose between summoning SIRI or volume controls. If you choose to use a long press to summon SIRI, you can also use SIRI to change volume. Otherwise you’ll have to rely on your phone or paired device to change volume. It’d be better to have these controls split across the buds.  

I’m a big fan of the tiny case, It’s about as light, compact and portable as it gets. Though I would like a hook to clip it into my running belt or bag and it’s a shame it doesn’t charge. I also found the lack of light on the case to indicate it’s charging a tad frustrating. On the plus side, you can charge off your phone via USB, should you really need to. 

For me, the fit is really good and the comfort is fine. I’ve run for up to 90 minutes, done strength sessions and more dynamic gym work, plus sat editing for a few hours, all in relative comfort. A big part of that boils down to how tiny and compact the Solo Buds are. There’s absolutely no tugging from the main bud unit and I didn’t have to fiddle at all to get a secure fit. Once they’re in, they lock in and stay put.  

One caveat, I’ve got very accommodating ears for in-ear buds. I tend to get on with most of them – a benefit of having big old lugs. If you struggle with in-ears you might find it different. But these had some of the best fit I’ve tested. 

I’m less impressed by the lack of IP rating. It kind of limits the types of workouts and training you’ll want to risk while wearing the Buds Solo. In testing, I’ve run a few sweaty runs without any trouble but that lack of durability stamp leaves you feeling like you’re running the gauntlet. It’s kind of table stakes for headphones to have a basic level of sweat and water protection – whether they’re designed for regular or fitness use. 

Beats Solo Buds battery life

As mentioned, the Solo Buds case isn’t a charging case, so all the juice is held on the buds. On paper you’re supposed to get 18 hours of playback. In terms of earbud staying power that’s streets ahead of most rivals. Only the Jabra Elite 8 Active get close with 14 hours on the buds. 

But without the extra juice in the case, the total case plus buds workout time falls way short of the rivals. Most now push well beyond 30 hours and many are closer to 30 hours. Some, like the Jabra Elite 8 Active GEN 2, even stretch beyond 40 hours. 

However, 18 hours is still pretty good and in my tests I found that a one-hour workout burned an average of around 4%. I’d expect to maybe get slightly more than 18 hours, depending on volume. But if you’re training an hour a day, I reckon you’ll be charging these twice a month. It’s also pretty handy that you can charge them from your phone – but only if you own an iPhone 15. 

Beats Solo Buds with different sized ear buds

Sound quality

Confession time: I am no audiophile. I’m not a fussy connoisseur when it comes to the audio quality for soundtracking my workouts and runs. I like it full, rich and balanced with good bass that’s not overbaked and a top volume with the power to deliver a big motivational kick in the pants. If my headphones can drown out gym grunts and commuter hubbub, I’m happy. 

The Beats Solo Buds tick those boxes. For the size of the buds and that sub-£80 price tag, they kick out competent, competitive sound. Can you find better? Absolutely. Will most gym-goers and runners find them lacking? I don’t think so.  

Some people might miss audio features like custom EQ, ANC and awareness modes. But when it comes to isolation, I found the seal on the buds pretty good. They did a great job of cutting out the world around passively without the battery-draining ANC. 

Beats Solo Buds earbuds

Are Beats Solo Buds worth buying?

I really enjoyed using these in testing. Yes, there are a lot of features, tools and tricks missing when you compare them to pricier rivals like the Jabra Elite Active or Apple Airpods Pro. Even some cheaper-end headphones from the likes of JLAB, JBL or Nothing have more bells and whistles. 

But on the whole, what the Solo Buds set out to do they do really quite well. There’s a happy compact simplicity paired with comparatively decent sound, a really great fit and enough staying power to cover the training needs of most for at least a fortnight between charges.