Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for November 20th, 2011

The Story of “Beats” Headphones

Time was, manufacturers marketed high-priced audio equipment by emphasizing technical merits like frequency response, optimum impedance, ambient noise attenuation and so on. The audience was mostly a small cadre of audiophiles tuned to the finer points of sound quality.

But, three years ago, Beats by Dr. Dre set out to change all that by appealing to more primal desires: good looks, celebrity and bone-rattling bass.

Compare and contrast with MG Siegler’s post:

We’re starting to see backlash against reviews of products that just do spec-by-spec rundown. Because really, who cares how the device sounds on paper? It’s how it feels that matters. Is the Kindle Fire smooth? Is the Nook Tablet fast? Is the iPad a joy to use?

This mindset is spreading throughout the industry, as made evident by the overwhelming sales of Beats.

He dismissed those who criticize the sound quality of Beats. Competitors use fancy equipment to determine how headphones should sound, he said, whereas he and Mr. Young simply know how they should sound.

“The way we hear music is almost the opposite of the way these sound companies hear music,” he said.

True enough, but I fear there’s a line that cannot be crossed with headphones. Dr. Dre’s headphones get awfully close to crossing that line with their intentionally, yet artificially overwhelming bass levels.