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OnePlus’ new Bluetooth headphones are only $69

One of the keys to OnePlus’ success has been focusing on one phone at a time — and aside from cases and, of all things, a backpack, the company hasn’t strayed too far from phones. Along with this week’s release of the OnePlus 6, however, the company’s adding another key piece of hardware to its arsenal.

Following in the footsteps of Apple, Samsung, Google and, well, just about every other hardware manufacturer on the planet, OnePlus is launching Bullets Wireless. The name derives from the wired version of the company’s cheaply priced Bullet earbuds, though this version looks decidedly less like ammunition.

The Bluetooth buds feature the yoked design that’s pretty popular among lower-cost hardware. And, indeed, $69 is a pretty tough price to beat for Bluetooth headphones. They might not be as pretty as some of the competition, but they get the job done, while sounding pretty solid.

And, bonus, the earbuds have magnets, so they snap together like a necklace shutting off the music when not in use. In a release, the OnePlus CEO says the company’s been working on the things for about two years now, and the result is pretty solid for something that’s a fraction of the price of the competition.

The big thing here, aside from price, is the fast-charge tech, borrowed from the company’s handsets. Using a standard USB-C cable, you should be able to get a full five hours of use with just 10 minutes of charging.

The headphones are also water-resistant and feature fins to keep them in place during a workout. Whether or not that behind the neck style is suitable for your own fitness routine, on the other hand, is entirely up to you. The button on the back of the neck will also pull up Google Assistant with one long press.

The Bullets Wireless are due out at some point next month. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that the company is still embracing the headphone jack with its new handset, the OnePlus 6, so consider these a bit of futureproofing.

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Beats Studio 3 bring premium noise canceling and battery life at a premium price

Beats had a handful of different sounds on hand to test the Studio 3 ahead of launch. The demo was designed to showcase the range of the headphones’ new adaptive noise-canceling technology — but there’s only so much you can get from a demo in that kind of controlled environment. The closest the whole thing got to real-world unpredictability was a desktop fan pointed directly at the headphones to simulate the annoying static crunch of wind.

The tech performed well in the demo — no surprise there. If you’re going to customize a couple of scenarios to show off your product’s top feature, you’re going to make sure the thing works. Over the week though, I’ve had the opportunity to try things out in a much more chaotic real-world setting — a little thing we call TechCrunch Disrupt.

Beats shipped a set to my hotel room in San Francisco, so this week I was the guy who was sitting out front by the stage wearing a big set of navy blue over-the-ear headphones trying to get some work done. My own rudeness aside, it’s actually a pretty ideal scenario for testing out the new noise-canceling feature.

There’s a lot going on throughout the day — speakers on the stage, the audience chatter and techno music beds playing between presentations, the din of activity seeping through the noise-dampening curtains from the showroom floor. Unlike the hum of a 737 engine, it’s not the kind of consistent sound it’s easy to program against.

Again, I was impressed. Transcribing audio is a pain in the ass, and the background sound makes it next to impossible to catch everything. With the headphones on and noise canceling fired up, it’s easy to remain blissfully oblivious to your surroundings. The company’s developed an impressive bit of noise canceling that works across a broad range of scenarios — I’m currently typing this from a window seat on an Airbus A320, and the Studio 3 are doing the trick drowning out the hum.

The adaptive noise cancellation is the latest step for a company that’s working toward becoming a more serious headphone brand. And, indeed, Beats has come a ways since launching as big, flashy, bass-heavy headphones. There’s still some legacy there, of course; the branding is still outsized on the products themselves, and the company pumps a ton of money into celebrity promos — including the constant stream of star spots you’re served up during every NBA game.

But the design product color schemes have trended toward the more subtle, and the company started delivering a subtler and fuller audio experience around the time it introduced the Studio 2, in an attempt to fulfill the promise of the record producers behind the company’s launch. The line has grown up a fair bit over the past few years — if you were put off by the brand’s sound in the early days and haven’t gone back since, it’s worth a revisit at your local big box store (just bring the disinfecting wipes).

Battery life is a big win. The company lists it as 22 hours with noise canceling and 40 hours without, so you’ll be able to drown out plane noise and screaming babies for the duration of the world’s longest flight (20 hours and 20 minutes, London to Sydney). When I got home from Disrupt each day, I found that I hadn’t made a dent.

Of course, the whole Apple acquisition means access to the W2 chip, so you get the same pain-free syncing as the AirPods. That’s a noted leg up for iOS users — Android owners will have to grapple with the same old syncing process.

Bluetooth has come a long way in terms of both sound quality and connectivity, so you’ll be able to walk a decent distance away from the sound source without dropping signal. And, of course, there’s a wire in the box for when that’s the preferred way to connect. Weirdly enough, charging happens through microUSB — which feels a little antiquated for a pricey set of headphones.

Speaking of, that’s easily the biggest deterrent here: $350 is a lot to pay for a pair of headphones. As of this writing, that’s about $20 more than the QuietComfort 35, from the notoriously expensive Bose. That price gets you Beats’ most well-rounded headphones to date, but for most users, it’s probably a bridge too far.

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