BeatsX - Review

April 11, 2017

Beats is a company that needs little introduction to the MTV (or now YouTube) generation. If somehow you have been living under a rock, the quick summary is that record producer Jimmy Iovine teamed up with rapper Dr Dre in the 2006 to come up with the brand that now manufactures the best selling headphones in the world thanks to a whole string of tie ups with big time celebrities. With Apple acquiring them in 2014, they came up with a trio of headphones in late 2016 of which the BeatsX headlines the range. Being the company's first neckband headphones, we eagerly put the BeatsX through the paces with a thorough review!

Type - Neckband Headphones (Wireless)
Price - USD 150 / EUR 150 / SGD 198
BeatsX neckband headphones

Trivia - The BeatsX is the first Beats headphones with a Lightning connector.

Read - Beats and Apple's 2016 Audio Lineup

Pros (+): Excellent ear fit; Comfortable neckband; Compact carrying case.
Cons (-): Cable needs to be adjusted to reduce microphonics; No voice notifications.

In The Box
The BeatsX comes in 4 colors - Black, Blue, Grey and White. For the purposes of our review, we got the Black variant.
BeatsX neckband headphones - Packaging

The packaging is quite similar to their Powerbeats range. You need to tear a strip from the bottom of the packaging and pop open the lid like a clamshell to get access to the BeatsX. 

BeatsX neckband headphones - Packaging

Unveiling the packaging contents, you'll get:
  • BeatsX neckband headphones
  • Charging cable (USB to Lightning)
  • Carrying case
  • 4 x Silicon tips (S / M / L / M double-flange)
  • 2 x Wing tips (M / L)
  • User Guides
  • Warranty Card
  • Apple Music Card (3 months free)
BeatsX neckband headphones - Packaging Contents

The BeatsX are neckband headphones (did we already mention that?) and are characterized with a malleable portion, called Flex-Form cable, that is designed to wrap around your neck, quite unlike the traditionally solid collar neckbands like the LG TONE or Bose QuietControl 30. Punctuated by two elliptical plastic protrusions at either side, these function as stabilizers and serve as the charging point (on left) and hold the power button that incorporates an LED for notifications (on right). The flat-type audio cables (non-retractable) lead out from the stabilizers to the earbuds. When not in use, the earbuds can magnetically latch together but if music is playing, well the beat goes on.
BeatsX neckband headphones

Lightning Port:
The clearest indicator that we are dealing with the first new Beats headphones under Apple's wing is the Lightning port on the BeatsX. Why so? Sure there were two other Beats products launched on September 2016, namely the Powerbeats3 Wireless and Solo3 Wireless. However being legacy Beats products with internal upgrades, the overall aesthetic of these two remains the same so that explains why they are still using the micro-USB interface. Is having the Lightning port a big deal? Well, if you're an Android user, that's one more cable to carry around. If you're an Apple, that's one less :)
BeatsX neckband headphones - Lightning cable

Carrying Case:
The compact rubberized carrying case is undeniably well designed. While the oval shape looks similar to the Powerbeats case, that's where the similarities end. The BeatsX case has a small slit at the top where you have to wind the neckband once to slot it nicely within. It's very convenient as you no longer have to zip the casing (as what is done for the Powerbeats) while juggling the earphones. 
BeatsX neckband headphones - carrying case

The in-line remote, marketed as RemoteTalk, sits on the left audio cable. The 3 buttons for playback / call and volume control click firmly upon actuation. You have to double and triple press the center button to skip tracks forward and backward.
BeatsX neckband headphones - RemoteTalk

The pairing process is straightforward - 
  • For iPhones running iOS10 / Macs with Sierra (10.12), just hold the BeatsX power button and a pop up confirming the BeatsX pairing appears. 
  • For other devices (Android phones, for example), turn on your smartphone's Bluetooth, hold the BeatsX power button until it flashes white, select 'BeatsX' from your phone and you're done. 
Note that the neckband headphones only link to one device at any one time.
BeatsX neckband headphones


There are useful LED notifications that indicate power (white), pairing in progress (blinking white) and low power / charging (red). Sound notifications are basic as you'll only hear power on/off and when the battery is low while voice notifications are unfortunately non-existent.

App Support: 
Interestingly, there is NO app support for the BeatsX hardware. It's quite surprising given quite a few manufacturers have forged ahead in this domain and that the Beats Pill+ app had been developed previously. In a sense there is app support but from Apple Music - Apple / Beats throw in a free 3 month subscription to Apple Music that can be found on a card within the packaging.
BeatsX neckband headphones - Packaging

Let's talk about the different ear and wingtip experiences first:

Eartips and Wingtips:
Beats provides a decent range of 4 eartips (S / M / L / M double-flange) and 2 wingtips so you can customize the fit to your ear accordingly. After some fiddling, I found the default M eartip and L-size wingtip worked best in terms of fit and noise isolation. Frankly, if used by themselves, the eartips were actually sufficient for my purposes as they lodge in the ears snugly. 
BeatsX neckband headphones - Eartips and Wingtips

The wingtips are interesting 'cos other manufacturers usually use a single material but for the BeatsX, they use a rubberized texture for the wing while the circular portion is made of hard plastic. While inserting them, do make sure you are slotting them to the correct side else you'll have some difficulty removing them. If you want that added layer of assurance, well, that's what the wingtips are for.
BeatsX neckband headphones - Fitting the ear and wingtip

How To Wear:
It may seem like a no brainer. It's simply a matter of slinging them around the neck and you're good to go? Wrong. It's not complicated though you realize what the issue is after attempting to run for the bus. The audio cable linking the neckband to your ears should be twisted AWAY from your neck as opposed to toward. The reason is the microphonics (or cable rustle) is blatantly apparent when this same cable brushes against your neck. To prevent this, do a simple twist of the cable away from the neck and you're good to go. 

In case we didn't emphasize this earlier, this is NOT a solid collar neckband but a malleable one. There is an excess of wires stemming from the relatively long audio cables. If you don't like cables, the BeatsX may not be for you. That said, do try it out to see if the speed of wearing them suits you.

BeatsX neckband headphones

Sound Quality:
In true Beats style, the BeatsX is a bass hitter with decent treble clarity, completely unlike the Powerbeats2, with it's overwhelming low frequency emphasis. A sample of One Republic vs Alesso's If I Lose Myself (EDM) reinforces this notion. Even taking a slower paced electronica track, the build up in Disasterpeace's beautifully creepy Detroit (from It Follows OST) give the impression that the highs and the lows are able to gel quite seamlessly. 

BeatsX neckband headphones

The BeatsX delivers an 8 hour battery life on about at 90 minute full charge and if you simply can't wait, then a 5 minute charge gives you a very healthy 2 hour playback time. Compared to its neckband headphone peers such as the Sony MDR-XB70BT (9 hours) and the Bose QC 30 (10 hours), this is actually an decent but average figure.
BeatsX neckband headphones - Charging

One of aims of the W1 chip that Apple has been talking about is to provide an increased battery life for its wireless devices. While there is no benchmark for the BeatsX (being a new product), the Solo3 Wireless and Powerbeats3 have indeed seen a battery life boost from their predecessors. 
BeatsX neckband headphones - Packaging

The BeatsX neckband headphones do add a spark of color to the range of Beats / Apple portable audio gear. Sure, there are no voice notifications and the audio cables may be little long. However, if you get to the basics of what you may need, the ear fit is more than comfortable for train journeys to work and a more than decent sound profile to engage.  

BeatsX neckband headphones

Where To Buy
The BeatsX is available from Apple Stores worldwide at the following price points - USD 150 / EUR 150 / SGD 198

Alternatively, if you think this review has been helpful, feel free to purchase from our Amazon affiliate link

Credit to Beats, Apple for an evaluation unit. 

BeatsX neckband headphones

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