The latest from the Beats audio brand are the Flex, these neckband headphones that promise crisp and powerful sound, and up to 12 hours of listening. Their real selling point? They cost less than 50 euros. Here is our review and full test of the Beats Flex.
Unveiled on October 13, 2020, the Beats Flex complete a solid range of so-called wireless headphones, already made up of Powerbeats and Powerbeats Pro. The Flex stands out for their neck design, but above all for their positioning. At less than 50 euros, they are to this day the most affordable product offered by Beats.
The brand still promises theApple W1 chip efficiency, an advanced acoustic system, accessible controls and a 12 hour battery life. Supposed to be able to accompany us throughout the day, what are these Beats Flex really worth? Answer in our full test.
The Beats Flex are so-called “wireless” headphones, and if the phone is indeed not physically connected to the product, the two headphones are actually connected by a cable. Mostly, the Flex offer a design called neck strap : a more or less flexible plastic part is placed around the neck, the aim being to give enough slack to the earphone cable so that they do not drop the whole. This design surely reminds the most connoisseurs of the BeatsX, which are no longer displayed in the brand’s catalog.
The Flex are very light, less than 19 grams on the scale! // Gamesdone: Maxime Grosjean for Frandroid
The two ends of the neck take the form of long pills, which carry the controls and electronics of the headphones. Placed just below our neck, it is therefore with them that we must interact to control the headphones. While the one on the right has the ignition button alone, the one on the left offers volume control, the multimedia button (play, pause, next and previous music), the single microphone and the charging port. Surprise, the latter is carried out in USB-C, where Powerbeats Pro and Powerbeats embarked on the classic and aging port lightning – remember that Beats belongs to Apple. The switch to USB-C is very good news, especially on entry-level products like the Beats Flex.
The control buttons and the USB-C port of the Beats Flex // Gamesdone: Maxime Grosjean for Frandroid
The Beats Flex are very… flexible. You can’t take that away from them, and while this feature greatly facilitates the storage of headphones, it also gives them a very “entry-level” appearance. Be careful, we are not saying that the finishes are of poor quality, just that the headphones and their 18.6 grams seem fragile : you will have to be careful if you want to make them last over time.
Finally, let’s move on to the design of the headphones themselves, that is, the part that goes into the ears. Exactly, that’s all the Beats Flex do: their in-ear format, although shared by the vast majority of wireless headphones on the market, is offered here in its simplest device. Understand that the shape of the headphones was not designed to fit against the conch of the ear, and that the end caps do not have a retaining fin. So you have to stupidly push the headphones into the ear canal, and do it deep enough to hope that they stay in place. The handling is not the most pleasant, and we recommend that you spend some time testing the four sizes of tips to get optimal support. As usual, this type of earphone will not suit all ears.
The Beats Flex come with four pairs of eartips of different sizes // Gamesdone: Maxime Grosjean for Frandroid
An element yet present on the Powerbeats Pro and Powerbeats is missing on the Flex: resistance to water and perspiration. Remember, however, that unlike these two models, Beats Flex are not intended for athletes, but are clearly intended for everyday use.
Will you get flex with this design?
This type of headset is very common in the United States, but is much less known in our region. If the design is at first glance strange, it should be remembered that the neckband is quickly forgotten, even in direct contact with the neck. This design also makes it possible to simply let the headphones hang around their neck (like a collar) when not in use. The two pills balance the whole, which therefore leans neither one way nor the other. Buttons fall easily under the fingers and their locations are quickly remembered.
It is rather on the cable which connects the end of the neck strap to the headphones that we have some remarks to make: this part is not flexible enough and tends to keep the folds. Thus, it is not uncommon for the cable sticks to our cheek, or conversely forms an arc of a circle too far from our face. It is often necessary to rotate the cable on itself to place it correctly. We have known more practical and more aesthetic. This design is certainly inherent in neckband headphones, but the overly stiff cable of the Beats Flex does not help.
In use, the support is good provided you do not run in all directions, and do not hesitate to push the headphones back into your ears from time to time. Long hair makes it difficult to put on / take off the neckline, but that’s an inherent problem with this type of product. Despite their in-ear format, the Beats Flex does not offer no real passive isolation. So don’t count on them to cut you off completely from the world on public transport. The current period will favor sedentary use, in which the low insulation of the Beats Flex will be largely sufficient and pleasant.
The outer surfaces of both headphones are magnetic : once removed from our ears, the headphones hang against the torso and are found naturally. It’s quite practical, especially since once glued to each other, headphones automatically pause music – this is a fairly common feature on this kind of headphones. Be careful, however, allow at least one second of delay before the music pauses or resumes. Also note that separating the two earphones before putting them in the ears will accept the incoming call if it does.
The Beats Flex embed the Apple W1 chip, which concretely offers a Easy pairing with iOS devices. This chip also makes it possible to simultaneously connect the Flex with another pair of headphones having an H1 or W1 chip on iOS. Be careful not to confuse it with the H1 chip, introduced on and present on Powerbeats Pro and Powerbeats. The latter, more recent, adds activation to the voice of Siri, which is therefore not available on the Flex. Note, however, that a long press on the multimedia button invokes Google Assistant or Siri, depending on the type of phone you are using.
Connection windows / animations on Android and iOS // Gamesdone: Maxime Grosjean for Frandroid
With Android, you have to go through the Beats application to take advantage of the small connection window. The latter is not essential since it is always possible to go directly through the phone’s Bluetooth menu, but it still offers a semblance of integration. It is also through this Android application that you can update the headphones or check their remaining battery level.
Correct sound, nothing more
To detail the sound performance of its Flex, Beats seems to have won over superlatives. We can read on the brand’s website that “the dual chamber design guarantees exceptional stereo separation between mid-tones and highs, while the flexible outer layer delivers powerful bass”. For the powerful bass why not, for the exceptional stereo separation, not really. All kidding aside, the Beats Flex offer just correct sound for the price at which they are sold, nothing more. The bass is unsurprisingly slightly emphasized, but the overall rendering remains balanced. Be careful of the distortion though when listening at high volume, which is really not pleasant.
No, the sound quality of the Beats Flex is not equivalent to that of the Powerbeats and Powerbeats Pro, respectively sold for 100 euros and 200 euros more. Yes, the Beats Flex sound better than the wired headphones included in the iPhone boxes – in France at least. We would still prefer to use the Flex to watch YouTube videos (or to listen to podcasts) than to fully enjoy his music. Let us recall once again the price of his headphones: 50 euros.
The microphone offers very average performance: your interlocutor will understand you, but the experience is not the most pleasant. Don’t rely on him when calling in loud places.
A very generous autonomy
Beats promises up to 12 hours of battery life for its Flex, and mentions a 10-minute “Fast Fuel” charge capable of offering 1.5 hours of additional listening. We tested it all, and here are our results. Since YouTube Music at 50% volume, the headphones put 12 hours and 44 minutes to fully discharge. As for the fast charge, our test model reached 17% battery after the 10 minute charge, and took all battery 2 hours before running out and falling back to 0%. These performances are very generous, and the Flex therefore mark a point on the autonomy part. Count a little over an hour for a full recharge.
A very attractive price
The Beats Flex are offered at 49.95 euros and are available on the Apple site. Four colors are available (black, yellow, blue and gray), but only the first two are currently on the market – the last two will be released in early 2021 according to Beats.