If you have an active lifestyle then you’re going to need a set of headphones that are flexible enough to cope with your daily demands. The Beats Flex sound like they fit the bill – and not just because of their name. Upon the release of these wireless earbuds in 2020, Apple subsidiary Beats hailed their “all-day” usability and “durable” construction - not to mention their “powerful sound”. But do these headphones deserve a place in your kit bag or are they best left on the shelf? To help you decide, I've put them through their paces and focused on their build quality, battery life, features and more.
Want to see what else is on the market? Then take a look at our best headphones for music and best in-ear headphones guides, where our audio experts give their opinion on a wide range of products that cover every budget.
Beats Flex review: Design
True wireless earphones such as the Apple AirPods Pro are still incredibly popular so wireless, but not true wireless in-ear headphones, may have limited appeal. But if you’ve got your heart set on the latter then – aesthetically speaking – you could do a lot worse than the Beats Flex.
Minimalist, modern-looking and available in four snazzy colours – Black, Citrus Yellow, Flame Blue or Smoke Grey – they’re sure to prompt nods of appreciation whether you’re at the gym or travelling on the train for your daily commute. Even though they’ll not give you the same level of kudos as the aforementioned Apple product, the big Beats logo on each bud will at least advertise these were made by the Cupertino company.
Seeing as you’re likely to wear your earphones throughout the day (either in your lugholes or dangling around your neck) you’ll want the cable to be tough enough for the task. Made from durable nitinol, aka nickel titanium, the flat one that holds these earbuds together felt pretty tear-proof to me and gave me confidence it wouldn’t perish after a few days’ training. One thing I did notice was that tugging the Beats Flex cable sometimes resulted in a small amount of hiss during playback. On the upside, I liked that the earbuds are magnetic which means they clink together when hanging loose and create an impromptu neck chain.
As for comfort, the lightweight Beats Flex come with four ear tip sizes to ensure most people will be catered for. I have quite small ears and was able to find a set that nestled nicely inside. While there’s no genuine noise cancelling here, choosing the right size for you will give a certain amount of isolation.
It's also worth noting that the Beats Flex come in a box, 87% of which is constructed from recycled plant-based materials.
Beats Flex review: Features
The “all-day” functionality I mentioned earlier doesn’t just refer to these earphones’ comfort and durability: one full charge of the Beats Flex's lithium-ion battery (using the included USB-C charger) will give you 12 hours of music playback. However, it should be noted a lot of modern earphones come with a charging case that ramps up the amount of battery life. The Beats Flex don’t. One bonus though is they offer something called ‘Fast Fuel’, where you can get 90 minutes of listening from a quick 10-minute charge.
If you balk at the idea of controlling your music by tapping your earbuds then you’ll be pleased to know that playback, volume adjustment and making/taking phone calls are all operated via an in-line control centre. It doesn’t require a PhD to get the hang of it, though I did find it a bit fiddly having to tap the play/pause button two or three times depending on whether I wanted to skip tracks forwards or backwards. Pleasingly, all of this can be avoided by long-pressing the same button which activates Siri voice assistant. As with the people on the other end of your calls, Siri should hear you loud and clear thanks to the built-in mic’s wind-reduction feature.
At some point you’ll need to take your earphones out but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to miss any of your music. As soon as they leave your lugholes, the Beats Flex pause your song, with the track resuming when you put them back in. I also like that you can pair the Beats Flex with the Apple Find My app, meaning they can be easily located if you put them down and forget where.
I'm sure you and your friends won’t want to listen to each other’s music, but should that happen you can use the one-tap Audio Sharing facility to connect your Beats buds with their compatible headgear.
Beats Flex review: Sound
Despite their low price, the Beats Flex provide a fairly satisfying listen with a reasonable amount of detail, beefy bass and forthright treble. Timing is also on-point which isn’t always the case with earphones at this price. The one real downside is the mid-ranges which I found sounded too feeble for my liking, while rendering keyboard riffs got a little lost in the mix. The Beats Flex don't compare favourably when tested side-by-side with Apple AirPods, but they're great value for money and perfect for your workout routine.
Beats Flex review: The Alternatives
If you’re prepared to splash the cash, then you should seriously consider the Sony WF-1000XM4 - a set of true wireless earphones that offer finely balanced sound and superb noise cancellation. They’ve since been usurped by the Sony WF-1000XM5, but the newer buds are more expensive, making these a great all-round choice.
Alternatively, for just a bit more than what the Beats Flex cost, you can get the JBL Reflect Flow Pro. With terrific battery life, adaptive noise cancelling and a lovely comfortable fit, these are ideally suited to gym work or jogging.