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Basic isn’t a bad thing

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I’ve never felt comfortable with true wireless earbuds. Even if I find ones I like, I’m always worried they will fall out if I am slightly more active than Jabba the Hutt. Thankfully, I come from a generation used to not only wearing wired headphones but also needing to carry around a Sony Walkman cassette player clipped to our hips — a little extra cordage doesn’t bother me. With the Beats Flex, we’re offered the best of both worlds: the flexibility of Bluetooth earbuds with the security of a wired headset.


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Beats Flex

$49 $70 Save $21

The Beats Flex offer outstanding battery life and decent sound quality at an affordable price. Beats fitted the Flex with micro-ventilation for less ear fatigue during longer listening sessions, and Apple’s W1 chip makes pairing between your iCloud devices easy. Custom layer drivers give the Flex a sound that punches well above their weight.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Decent sound
Cons

  • Mid-range gets a little muddled
  • No IP rating

Price and availability

Amazon is your best bet

The Beats Flex are available through Beats for $70, although Amazon is your best bet, with the Flex often on sale for $50. Beats offers the Flex in four colors: Flame Blue, Beats Black, Smoke Gray, and the particularly saucy Yuzu Yellow.

Specs

Battery Life
12 hours

Noise Cancellation
No

Microphones
Inline

IP rating
No

Charging
USB-C

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

Light and durable

Inline microphone of the Beats Flex

The Beats Flex won’t win any design awards, but the simple yet durable construction gets the job done. I have a love/hate relationship with the Nitinol wire used in the Beats Flex. I enjoy how it forms to my neck, giving me a secure feeling as I move around. However, it’s a springy material, so if I shrug my shoulders or turn, it can dislodge the earbuds’ fit — especially troublesome for the Beats Flex (more on that later).

Overall, the Flex are lightweight and a pleasure to wear, tipping the scales at only 18.6g. The rubberized coating on the wiring is grippy and doesn’t pick up stains easily, giving me confidence the Flex will hold up to daily use. Unfortunately, the Flex earbuds are not IP-rated, so swimming is out. And while I doubt sweat will cause an issue, a headband might not be the worst suggestion.

Beats includes four ear tip sizes, allowing you to get the best seal against your skin. The company also fitted the Flex with micro ventilation slits to prevent fatigue during long sessions. I’m particularly sensitive to ear pressure discomfort while wearing earbuds, and I never experienced any ill effects during multiple hours of continuous listening.

Inline controls hang from the left side of the Flex, with a single, multi-purpose button, a microphone, and a volume rocker. Calls sounded good on the Flex, and the microphone was unoffensive — I never had anyone ask me if I was on a speakerphone. The battery module and power/pairing button are on the buds’ right side.

Audio

Better than you’d expect

Beats Flex magnetically attached

The Beats Flex thrive when you consider the price you pay for the quality of the audio output you receive. Beats did a good job balancing the highs and the lows, giving you a thumpy, full sound. It’s not the ear-punishing bass of Beats’s earlier days, but it was enough to keep the beat alive on my favorite ‘90s tracks.

I was surprised at how well the Flex handled multiple genres of music. Pop sounded best to my ears, and I never felt pulled out of the experience because of poor audio. Enthusiasts may notice a muddled sound in the mid-range, but expecting a highly nuanced sound at this price is unrealistic. The Beats Flex also don’t produce a large sound; there’s no theatrical or concert hall feel to the audio. But again, that’s not something you’d count on for only $50.

Beats did a good job balancing the highs and the lows, giving you a thumpy, full sound. It’s not the ear-punishing bass of Beats’s earlier days, but it was enough to keep the beat alive on my favorite ‘90s tracks.

Beats credits the overachieving sound quality of the Flex to its dual-chamber design with a layered driver for stereo separation. Whatever the reason, the result is impressive, making the Flex an ideal companion for your next workout. Unfortunately, Apple’s DNA seeped into Beats’ thinking with the Flex, as no EQ customization is available. Thankfully, the default equalization is good for most circumstances, but it’s still welcome to have the option for those who enjoy tweaking their audio.

Beats Flex next to a phone playing Apple Music

I mentioned earlier how keeping a tight seal against your ear is central to the Beats Flex experience; it’s because the Flex lack any ANC or transparency mode. Without ANC, you’re left with analog noise dampening — that is, ensuring the buds are firmly in your ear. If you maintain a proper fit, the audio is crisp and clear, but like other buds when you turn off ANC, even a slight unseating can degrade the sound.

App and features

Not a lot going on

Beats Flex earbud laying down next to a plushie

The Beats app for Android is fairly basic. Without an equalizer or ANC, the app only controls settings related to telephone calls and the automatic play/pause feature when the buds are magnetically attached. A magnet on the back of each bud allows them to sit together around your neck when not in use. When selected, songs will automatically stop and not start again until you separate the buds and place them back in your ears. The feature works well, and I’ve gone up to 10 minutes between play/pause, with the Beats Flex picking right up where I left off.

You can select to pick up calls automatically by separating the buds, eliminating the need to look at your phone during workouts. You can also rename your Beats Flex in the app and keep track of battery life, but overall, it’s a pretty spartan experience.

Unlike several other pairs of Beats earbuds, the Beats Flex do not support Google’s Fast Pair on Android. However, pairing took only a few moments. If you’re an iOS user, the Beats Flex features Apple’s W1 chip, allowing seamless pairing across multiple devices linked to your iCloud account. Setup with my iPhone took seconds, with the Beats recognized immediately when I went into pairing.

Battery life

Enough for all day and then some

Photo of both the battery and inline control module of the Beats Flex

A major advantage of the Beats Flex is their battery life. Because of the wire, the battery cells don’t need to be housed in the buds, allowing for a bigger battery than would otherwise be possible. Beats claims the Flex can last up to 12 hours on a single charge. And while I found that number to be a bit generous in testing, the Flex still comfortably maintained over 11 hours.

If you need a quick power shot, Fast Fuel gives you another 1.5 hours of listening with 10 minutes of charging through USB-C, which is enough to get through the rest of your day if you run light on battery. If battery life is your most important feature in a set of earbuds, the Beats Flex are worth considering.

Competition

What else is out there?

Beats Flex laying over an Amy Grant CD

The Sennheiser CX Sport buds provide a slightly more expensive alternative to the Beats Flex. Even though the CX Sports are limited to 6 hours of battery life, they feature Sennheiser’s transducers, giving the CX Sports deeper, more impressive sound than you get from the Flex. Similar to the Flex, they offer inline controls and a built-in microphone. If you’re willing to spend $90 for better sound, the Sennheisers are worth a look.

The Sony WIC100 Wireless earbuds boast up to 25 hours of battery life on a single charge, giving them a distinct advantage over the Beats Flex. The price is better, too, with the Sony’s costing only $35. In addition, the WIC100’s are IPX4-rated for sweat and splash resistance, making them ideal for the gym or running in the rain. If you’re looking for the peace of mind of an IP rating, the Sony’s might be worth saving a few dollars.

Should you buy them?

Beats Flex being worn by Pusheen the Cat

I had trouble finding fault with the Beats Flex, especially for only $50 on sale. There are absolutely better choices for sound quality. Still, like the Beats Studio Buds+ I reviewed, the Flex offer a well-balanced listening experience in a durable form factor with excellent battery life. It’s hard to argue with the value, and the Flex punch well above their weight, with songs sounding crisp and poppy. If you’re a boomer like me, not afraid of a few extra cords, the Beats Flex are tough to beat.

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Beats Flex neckband headphones

Beats Flex

$49 $70 Save $21

The Beats Flex provide good sound in a durable package with fantastic battery life. If you’re looking for an inexpensive pair of wireless earbuds to keep you moving through your next gym session or run, the Beats Flex offer excellent value provided they can often be found on sale for around $50.

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