Solid audio quality
Not workout ready
No noise canceling
As you could probably guess, there are certain well-lauded headphone features you're not getting with the Beats Flex: These aren't true wireless earbuds, for one, but are instead connected to each other by a small cable. You aren't getting noise canceling or any sweat or dust resistance here, either. But if you don't need (or want) those things specifically, the Beats Flex are hard to resist.
Offering surprisingly fine build quality and design, the Beats Flex serve up a fun but balanced soundscape with plenty of bass and midrange emphasis, and a couple of key features (magnetic bud backs and Auto-Play/Pause) that up their value further for Apple and Android users alike. Available in four fun colors, there's certainly plenty to love here—especially at this price point.
About the Beats Flex
These svelte wireless headphones might be affordable, but that doesn't mean Beats skimped on the details—and while you're not getting true wireless freedom, the behind-the-neck wire should feel plenty familiar to most folks.
In the space-saving box you'll find the Beats Flex wireless headphones themselves (in one of four color options: Beats Black, Yuzu Yellow, Flame Blue, or Smoke Gray), a very short USB-C charging cable, and three ear tips sizes.
Here are the Beats Flex specs at a glance:
- Price: $49.99
- Battery life: Up to 12 hours
- Rapid charging: 1.5 hours of playback on 10 minutes of charge
- Colors: Beats Black, Yuzu Yellow, Flame Blue, Smoke Gray
- Connectivity: Apple W1 Chip/Class 1 Bluetooth, Android-compatible
- Sensors: Auto-Play/Pause
- Water/dust resistance: N/A
- Fit: 3 ear tip sizes (small, medium, large)
- Weight: 18.6 grams
As you can see, the affordable Beats Flex are pretty straightforward. While short on extras, connecting over Bluetooth is a cinch thanks to the W1 chip, and getting charged up fast is easy thanks to USB-C fast charging. We're also big fans of the range of understated, matte color options on offer.
What We Like
Good sound for this price range
I'll be completely honest: I wasn't expecting to like the Beats Flex, at least in terms of their sound quality. While I'm aware that properly fitted earbuds can deliver good lower-midrange and bass emphasis, I have traditionally found that fiddling with ear tip sizes and tugging at my ear lobes in an effort to achieve this low-down nirvana is more trouble than it's worth. But the Beats Flex surprised me: the stock tips fit snugly into my ears, without excessive fussing, and music immediately sounded bass-rich and balanced.
I stacked these up against some of the pricier headphones I have on hand, and found that the Flex held up decently when compared to some Audio-Technica open-backs, a favorite pair of mine that retail around $200.
As with most in-ear headphones, I found the spaciousness of the sound a bit cramped by comparison to over-ear styles, but it also gives the Beats Flex an element of fun, punchy delivery that makes them great headphones for walking around and doing stuff.
That's high praise for headphones that go for $49.99, but this is by far the lynchpin of these new Beats beauties. The sound might not be flawless, but for what you're paying, it's commendable.
Excellent materials and design
Another big feather in the Beats Flex's cap is the quality of the materials and the overall design. Apple sent us the "Yuzu Yellow" model for testing, and while the coloration is pleasingly subdued (I asked for yellow and was expecting something a bit garish), I'm just as impressed by the build quality and intuitive control placement.
Unlike "true wireless" earbuds, the Flex are still connected by a fairly long wire that can hang either in front or behind your neck while you wear them (but is meant to hang behind). Considering both sides of the wire feature an in-line controller, the Flex are surprisingly light. The right controller handles power, while the left features a rocker button for volume control, the USB-C input, and a small button for play/pause or track skipping.
My one minor complaint is that the play/pause button is pretty hard to feel out blindly with your thumb. Like many headphones, there may be a bit of a learning curve here while you get used to the physical layout of the buttons and the way the wire hangs around your neck/shoulders.
However, from the buds, to the wire, to the controllers, the Flex feel sturdy—like they'd last long enough to justify their price tag, at least—and that's not always the case.
Smart, simple features
It's worth throwing a few praise logs on the review fire for some of the smartly implemented features here. For one, the Flex utilize a (not uncommon) ability to auto-play/auto-pause when they are (or aren't) in your ears, something that makes the tiny, sometimes-impossible-to-find play/pause button less of a concern: if you need to pause your music, you can just pull the Flex out of your ears and let 'em hang. This is a feature that's traditionally been available on true wireless headphones, so it's awesome to see it here.
That brings us to another simple but definitely welcome feature: the magnets on the back of each earbud. This isn't anything new, but that doesn't make it any less useful. The earbuds snap together with satisfying and consistent efficacy, making it easy to let the Flex hang around your neck when you need your ears for something besides sweet tunes.
I'm also a fan of the built-in battery indicator light, something that is often missed on minimalist in-ear headphones like these. It's easy to skimp on those details when you have such a small product footprint to work with, which is why it's worth a tip o' the cap to Beats. It's a simple enough configuration—the indicator light near the power button turns red when you have less than one hour of battery left, and flashes red when you're running out of juice.
Big battery life for such tiny buds
That brings us to my last point, but one that's no less worth articulating: the 12 hours of battery life. The Flex charge up very fast (again, you get 1.5 hours of playback after just 10 minutes of charging), but the overall capacity also compares very favorably to much pricier options on the market.
Let's consider our current top-rated true wireless buds: the Apple AirPods Pro. You get about 24 hours of battery life with the charging case (5 hours with the buds alone), and they're roughly four times as expensive as the Beats Flex. Even the newer and more simply appointed Samsung Galaxy Buds+ only get you around 10 hours of charge.
What We Don't Like
Ironically, not ideal for workouts
Snugly fitting in-ear headphones that hang around your neck by way of a magnet might seem like an awesome choice to tote along on a run or to take to the gym, which is why it's a bit unfortunate that the Beats Flex don't claim any dust or sweat resistance. You can certainly flex while using these, but you might have to get your pump on with a sweat-resistant pair.
You could certainly still use them in this capacity, but considering the fragility of their tiny components and the completely open USB-C charging port (many headphones feature a way to close this with a rubberized cover when you're not using it), it could be a little risky. I don't expect them to do everything for $50, but if you're hunting for similarly stylish Beats headphones that will hold up better during workout conditions, you might want to check out the Beats Powerbeats.
The treble register is a bit weak
I've given the Flex praise for their bass-forward, midrange-friendly soundscape, and for many casual listeners, those elements are crucial. However, the snug fit and tiny drivers don't always treat higher-pitched treble frequencies with the same interest.
That's not to say your entire high-end is missing, but simply that the Flex lack some of the sparkle you'll get from slightly more generous drivers. This isn't much of a concern where stuff like modern rock, pop, hip hop, or rap are concerned, since most of the key elements in those styles fall between the sub-bass and upper midrange frequencies. However, classical music fans might find their favorite violinist doesn't sound as full and vivacious here.
Should You Buy It?
Yes—if you want simple, solid headphones for a great price
Not everyone needs true wireless earbuds. Sure, they're the epitome of minimalism, but they're also kind of like the "Ultrabook" of headphones: all that portability often doesn't come cheap.
The Beats Flex may have a small wire, but they also pack solid sound and big battery life for that stellar price point. You're getting quality materials and a few key extras, too. The only reason you might want to spend more is if you really need specific additional features, like noise canceling or sweat resistance.
If you're hunting for something that's a bit more of an upgrade, including design elements that are workout friendly, but still don't want to fork out the big bucks for true wireless, we'd direct you to a step-up option in the always stylish Beats lineup: the Beats Powerbeats. And if you're really craving true wireless, you can sometimes find the Sony WF-XB700 true wireless headphones around $100 online.
If you don't need workout-proofing, noise canceling, or true wireless design, however, the Beats Flex are an awesome value pick that are sure to please listeners trying to find good sound quality and design at the best price.
Meet the tester
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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