Beats Flex Review – The Easiest EarPods Replacement to Recommend, Especially During a Pandemic

Beats Flex in black

With the removal of the Lightning EarPods and power adapter comes a reduction in pricing for some of Apple’s accessories, namely the fore-mentioned Lightning EarPods, the 20W USB-C power adapter (also the 5W USB A power adapter for the same 29 Singapore dollar price, which is a shitty deal) as well as the introduction of Beats’ lowest priced product ever, the Beats Flex.

One look and anyone with even the slightest knowledge of Beats’ product lineup will be able to tell that this is a updated version of the original Beats X, the same wireless IEMs that debuted together with the original AirPods at the same event where Apple announced the iPhone 7. That Beats X was a lot more expensive, coming in at 198 Singapore dollars when it debuted three years ago. Over the years it went down in price, with the latest pricing around 99 US dollars.

What about the Beats Flex then? It is priced at 74.95 Singapore dollars (around 50 US Dollars), about 1/3 of the Beats X’s original price, with several changes;

  1. Longer battery life (from 8 hours to 12)
  2. Charging port downgrade from Lightning to USB-C
  3. Slight overall downgrade in build materials, including the flex cable
  4. Different drivers, different sound tuning

Beats Flex packaging

An extension in battery life is always a plus, especially since the Beats X were known to suffer from battery issues after a year of usage. Hopefully these are better.

Port wise, USB-C ports are filmsy and generally easier to break than the better constructed Lightning ports, and shoddy USB-C cables can damage your port over time, or even cause household fires (do your research), but, they are a lot cheaper to manufacture than Lightning ports. To bring about such a decrease in price an overall decrease in build cost is definitely needed, and the charging port is one of these easiest things to cheap out on. It is fine, even if the USB-C cable is likely to be one of the most rare cables in most households unless you are an Android fanboy (but Android fanboys will likely consider 74.99 dollar wireless IEMs to be way too expensive for them, they generally go for no-name knockoffs), the included cable seemed to be build well enough to not cause any issues. Or you can use your iPad Pro/Air power cable.

Sound wise, the Flex do not sound the same as the Beats X. I must profess that I am no expert, but I do own a few dozon pairs of expensive wired IEMs and have dabbled in them since more than a decade ago. The Flex’s soundstage does not seemed to be as wide as that of the Beats X, but instrument seperation is spot on and the overall balance of the sound is good, with no muddy bass like that of the old Beats. For the money the sound of the Flex is really good, if you want any better you probably will have to spend at least twice the amount.

One important thing to take note, the Flex has the same tips as the original Beats X from what I can tell, and they are slightly too stiff for some people. If you experience a less than ideal, tinny/weak sound from your Flex, you probably have an less-than-ideal seal. Try pushing the tips VERY slightly inwards to see if the sound improves, if so, it’s probably a good idea to get third party tips that fit you better.

Like the Beats X, the Flex has the W1 chip, and features all the smarts the Beats X and the original AirPods have, pairing with one Apple device will auto-populate all your Apple devices (same Apple ID) with the same pairing, removing the need to re-pair your Flex with each device. It does not have the H1 chip though, so no automative device switching for you.

Now, for the more important part, my personal use case for the Flex.

Ever since some time last year I have not been using my blue Beats X at all, because, AirPods Pro.

The AirPods Pro simply is the one device that replaces a bunch of IEMs and headphones for me, and while it might not be the first noise cancelling IEMs on the market, it is simply, the best IEMs for everything. It replaced all my wireless IEMs, my QuietComforts, and even my spare AirPods that I use for indoor skyping and FaceTiming.

But since COVID-19 struck, I have not been out much (being out of work), and generally stay at home unless I have something absolutely urgent that I need to do outdoors. For these urgent outdoor trips, I just totally hate to bring my AirPods Pro out. In these days of being suspicious 24/7 of the cleanliness of your hands, unless I am sure I have washed my hands every time I touched a surface when I am outside my home, I will refuse to touch my AirPods Pro, even if it just involved pressing the tip to pause or change to transparent mode. Furthermore, since they are so small, the chances of them falling off and touch the absolutely disgusting singaporean outdoor ground when you try to do a “half touch” to avoid prolonged exposure to your fingers to the Pro’s surface are much higher.

With the Beats X, and now the Flex, whenever I need to speak to someone, I can just use the back of my palms to nudge the cables to pull the buds out of my ears, and because it is a necklace type, and the buds are magnetic, they just fall off my ears, hit each other, and stick together, all without my palms touching any part of them. I will then stop the music with my phone (I disinfect the phone throughly once I get home). The Flex is easier to clean and cheaper to replace even if I accidentally damaged it during disinfection, so I have no qualms cleaning it with harsh chemicals.

This is why the Flex is now my main pair of IEMs for outdoor use, and I intend to purchase another pair when the new ones in the colour I love is released some months later.

The Beats Flex is likely the easiest pair of EarPods replacement to recommend to your non-techie friend when he/she finds out that his or her new iPhone 12 does not come with any EarPods, the price is right, the support is good (by Apple), what more can you ask for?

YES MORE COLOURS DEFINITELY. But Blue is only coming early 2021. Damn you Beats.


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