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Beats Pill review: Premium, but worth the money

Beats Pill review: Back and better than ever

In an utterly unsurprising announcement on Tuesday, the Beats Pill is back 12 years after the original release in an upgraded revival that is a warning shot to the rest of the Bluetooth speaker industry.

In the portable speaker market, the Beats Pill is one of the most iconic. Over a decade old, the speaker became a must-have item, and even received an improvement in the form of the Beats Pill .

However, after its 2015 launch, Apple discontinued the Pill+ in January 2022. It left the Apple subsidiary in a position where it only sold headphones and earphones, with speakers dropped from the catalog.

Over two years later, Beats has brought the Pill back to the market. While the original was loud and proud, the revival certainly lives up to its name.

Beats Pill review — Design

The capsule-shaped design of the Beats Pill line has been its hallmark, and something that pretty much inspired the speaker’s name. The design of the original carried over with some modifications into the Beats Pill+, and too into the new Beats Pill.

Red portable speaker with a wrist strap next to a coiled black charging cable on a cutting mat with gridlines.

Beats Pill review: Pill-shaped, along with its USB-C cable

The new Beats Pill has a silicone exterior and a large grille that continues the Pill shape around the front. It’s certainly Beats Pill in shape, but one that’s sleeker and modernized.

That sleekness extends to many areas of the design, including the logo. There’s that “b” branding on the grille as you’d expect. But it’s not inside a circle, making it seem like a more delicate addition of branding in an otherwise loud design.

The buttons are on the top, consisting of power, plus and minus volume buttons, and a center button. The buttons are underneath the exterior material, and they’re quite satisfactory to press. There are no seams, so you do have to press and distort the silicone to hit the button itself, but this shouldn’t be a surprise.

A red cylindrical Bluetooth speaker with volume control buttons and a textured pattern on the surface.

Beats Pill review: Buttons are oddly satisfying to press.

Aside from the buttons, there’s a sole multi-colored indicator light and a mic hole. They are very discrete, and are missable if you’re not looking for them right next to the power button.

Underneath is a flat section of the speaker, allowing it to stand up straight. Not only is this section a little concave, but it also has four tiny rubber feet, which is more than enough to keep it in place on a slippery surface.

The way the base is positioned also introduces an improvement to the design. The speaker is actually angled up 20 degrees instead of firing flat horizontally.

This is a small change, but it does mean the speaker is pointed up towards the user’s ear. This makes sense when you’re using it on a large surface.

Red cylindrical portable speaker with a wrist strap, resting on a cutting mat. Books stacked in the background.

Beats Pill review: Rear and the removable lanyard

The silicone outer wrap also provides a decent amount of protection. This Pill manages to get an IP67 dust and water resistance rating.

It’s a nice additional bit of durability, as it gives you peace of mind an errant drink spill won’t kill the speaker.

At 8.6 inches long by 2.8 inches by 2.8 inches, it’s not a giant speaker, though it is marginally bigger than the Beats Pill+ However, it is lighter than the Pill+, with the new Pill weighing in at 24 ounces or 1.5 pounds.

The dimensions makes it quite a chunky speaker when compared to others on the market. It doesn’t feel flimsy, and you do get a bit of grip from both the silicone and the grill when carrying it around.

That word “lighter” is doing a bit of heavy lifting, as the 2.4-ounce weight loss from the Pill is still handy. It’s still quite hefty to carry as a speaker.

You do get to benefit from a new removable lanyard that loops in at one end. This is handy for carrying it around to a party or to the garden for some easy listening.

However, a pound and a half is still a lot to pack and move around, without some consideration.

Other speakers on the market can be lighter and easier to pack away than the Beats Pill. But you also end up with a speaker that feels a bit flimsy compared to this dense chunk of audio equipment.

Beats Pill review — Audio quality

For the new Beats Pill, the company has gone with a new speaker design, consisting of a separate woofer and tweeter.

The single racetrack neodymium woofer offers 53% more pistonic area than the dual circular woofers on the Pill+. It also has a 28% greater motor force thanks to its use of an increased grade of magnets.

That gives it the capability of 90% more air volume displacement than the Pill+. That translates to a louder overall sound.

Red perforated surface with a silver lowercase 'b' logo in the center

Beats Pill review: The grille and Beats logo

The woofer is also stabilized with 16 radial ribs at the corners, to minimize buckling and low-end distortion. Venting also helps kill off distortion too.

With this construction, the Beats Pill fends off the usual bass drop-off of passive radiator-style speakers, so the base impacts a wider range.

The tweeter is also updated to a single speaker, secured in its own housing for stability. It also has a larger rear cavity than the Pill+ for a lower resonant frequency.

The end result, when used as a single speaker, is an extraordinarily good sound. At least, better compared to run-of-the-mill Bluetooth speakers.

Tried out at a range of volumes, the bass is certainly making itself known. There is little distortion at high volumes.

Those volumes were also a big surprise in testing, as it is capable of being extremely loud. The audio was able to be heard through multiple walls of the house when at full blast.

When checked at a distance of three feet, using an Apple Watch, the Beats Pill managed to output 79 decibels with our test tracks, at full volume. A HomePod mini at the same distance with the same song managed only 66 decibels.

It’s also easy to tell which is which when they’re operating at the same volume. You can tell the Beats Pill offers a rounder sound with more bass, while the HomePod mini offers a somewhat thinner audio experience.

If you wanted to use the Beats Pill to be the sound system for an impromptu beach party, it’s more than capable of the job. No one is going to complain that they can’t hear the music.

The high audio quality can actually improve, if you hook the speaker up to an audio source via USB-C instead of relying on wireless connectivity. It has lossless audio capability over USB-C, with a maximum sample rate of 24-bit 48kHz.

Doing so offers little real difference to this reviewer, possibly a marginal improvement. But at least you can get better audio while you charge the speaker.

Beats Pill review — Features

As usual for Beats, there are a range of features available thanks to its support of both iOS and Android.

One-touch pairing is offered, via Beats’ integration with Apple’s operating systems, or by Google Fast Pair. For Apple, iCloud pairing means the speaker’s paired with all devices on your iCloud account, and will hand off audio to an Apple Watch if the iPhone is out of range.

Android devices also get cross-device pairing, via their Google account. Find My support on Apple is mirrored by Find My Device with Google.

As to actually configuring the Beats Pill, you can do that within the Settings menus in iOS and Apple’s other operating systems. This also handles things like over-the-air updates.

You can get updates on Android too, but you need to download the Beats app. That app also handles configuration duties, but it’s not integrated in the same way as on iOS and iPadOS.

The cross-platform nature of the speaker makes it great for impromptu gatherings, if you happen to spend time with Android users who absolutely must have control over the music.

iPad settings screen showing Beats Pill setup with battery at 93%, various options under call controls, and other general settings like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles.

Beats Pill review: Controls within Settings in iPadOS

For on-device features, there’s a lot you can do just by pressing the four buttons in different combinations.

Starting with the Power button, it can provide the battery status, deal with pairing with a long press, and enable USB-C Audio, among other functions. A double tap also enables the voice assistant of the connected device, since you’re not getting “Hey Siri” here.

The center button can play and pause with a single press, skip forward, and skip back. The volume buttons are, understandably, volume buttons.

As you would expect, the Beats Pill also acts as a full duplex speakerphone. This is assisted by Beats’ noise-learning algorithm, which is used to reduce noise around the speaker and make the user’s voice clearer.

In testing, this seemed serviceable, and fairly good compared to other basic Bluetooth speakers in the house.

Having all of these extra features operating on-device rather than relying on iPhone or app support is certainly an advantage here for Beats. You don’t necessarily need to worry about if the Android device has the app installed, since it just works.

Beats Pill review — Power and connectivity

While the main connectivity is based on Bluetooth 5.3 Class 1, the USB-C connection is also available. Aside from lossless support, that port also handles charging duties in a few ways.

For a start, there’s straight recharging, with the Beats Pill capable of up to 24 hours of battery life from a single charge. It’s likely that a lot of that weight comes from the battery, in this case.

There’s also Beats’ Fast Fuel, the fast-charging system that can enable up to 2 hours of playback from a ten-minute charge. This is very handy if you need to go to the park and you’ve accidentally let the battery drain to empty.

Ten minutes isn’t really that long to wait for a decent runtime.

A red cylindrical speaker with mesh top, showing two small buttons and indicator lights on a gray grid-patterned surface.

Beats Pill review: Repeated taps of the power button lets the Beats Pill recharge your iPhone

That big battery can also be very useful when you’re on the go. A triple tap of the power button reverses the charging direction, so that the Beats Pill can be used to provide power to another device.

Since you’ll almost certainly have a USB-C to USB-C cable in your bag, that means the Beats Pill can act as a portable battery in a pinch.

Beats does supply a USB-C cable in the box, but it’s a fairly standard no-frills cable that you can easily designate as a spare. It would be nice to be a cable that’s braided or color-matched to the speaker, just to make it a bit more premium, but you can’t have everything.

This extra power capability does at least give you more reason to tolerate the weight of the speaker in your bag. That is, if you elect to remove any existing portable batteries you may already use.

Beats Pill review — Double trouble

If you need a bit more audio power beyond the surprisingly loud single Beats Pill, you can take advantage of its pairing features. You can pair two Beats Pills together in two different modes.

This was previously available on the Beats Pill+, but you had to use the companion app to enable it. Here, it’s a bit easier to get going since it requires a few button presses on the speakers to get going.

Once you pair two speakers to a host device, you then hold the center buttons on the two of them simultaneously to make them work as one. Your first-connected Beats Pill is the designated one you see in iOS, with the second speaker connecting through the first.

Red and black cylindrical speakers on a concrete surface in an outdoor setting.

Beats Pill review: Use two to get more volume, or as a stereo pair.

Initially, this results in Amplify Mode, which treats the audio as mono on both speakers. This is useful for getting music in a party to multiple rooms at the same time.

You could also use it as a way to simply increase the volume when they’re close together. Two speakers are going to be louder than one, even if they are already quite loud on an individual basis.

The more interesting option is Stereo Mode, which can be triggered by pressing the center button and volume-up buttons at the same time on the primary speaker. When enabled, the primary speaker becomes the left channel, while the other becomes the right.

This turns out to be a very effective stereo solution, such as if you want to enjoy a film on an iPad while camping. It’s not as loud as the Amplify Mode, but the speaker’s already very capable of blowing your socks off sonically as-is.

This does, however, require you to use two Beats Pill speakers, which in turn adds in the problem of weight. We’re now talking about a combined 3 pounds of weight that you have to carry to a party.

For occasions when there’s a bunch of people gathering and you’re providing the music, this makes sense. It’s certainly not something you’ll want to be carrying around every day in a bag.

It’s not hard to consider using two Beats Pills at home for stereo sound at all, with the occasional outdoor or garden excursion.

Beats Pill review – An audio prescription

Straight-up revivals are never always good. The wistful nostalgia of things gone by can result in someone bringing back old things that turn out to be yet another fad.

That is certainly not the case here. Apple didn’t look at Beats’ Pill or Pill+ design and simply put it back into production with few changes.

For what you can actually change in a speaker, there are a lot of small changes that result in a much better product. It’s louder, more powerful, and is even protected from splashes and sand.

Red portable Bluetooth speaker with a perforated grille and a carrying strap, placed on a grid-patterned surface in front of a stack of books.

Beats Pill review: Premium, but worth the money.

In a very crowded Bluetooth speaker market, you have to offer something exceptional in order to justify premium pricing. It’s easy to agree to spend a few dollars on a basic speaker if all you want is louder audio, but you sure aren’t getting quality or functionality from random brands.

In its $149.99 retail offering, Beats manages to make something that sounds great and offers a nice bass punch without it becoming overwhelming. It is a speaker that also plays well with iOS and Android, and gets loud enough to feel like it could shake someone’s dental fillings.

The power-related elements are an extra bonus. And, like the HomePod mini, we recommend pairing with another Beats Pill to push the audio to a higher level.

The Beats Pill may need a bit of an investment up-front. What you get is a premium offering that music lovers will appreciate.

Beats Pill review — Pros

  • Loud while maintaining audio quality
  • Device pairing is easy
  • Stereo Mode using two speakers
  • Charge your iPhone with it

Beats Pill review — Cons

  • A bit heavy to carry daily
  • No “Hey Siri”

Rating: 4 out of 5

Where to buy the Beats Pill Bluetooth speaker