Sunday, 8 June 2014

Dr Dre sells Beats Audio

Commitstrip got it right
This is less of a music piece and more something to do with music technology and business, but the news has just broken of Apple having agreed to buy Beats Audio for $3 billion pounds. Let that sink in - three BILLION dollars.

Whilst I understand the implications for Apple, in that they can offer Beats Audio headphones and speakers exclusively to their customers who buy iPhones and iPods, I still can't believe the high price tag for a company that makes overpriced headphones with uneven dynamics. Sure, they work really well for hip hop and rap, where the music is usually biased towards the low and high end frequencies but for listening to music that requires full range else they are absolutely rubbish and especially useless for production. It's event worse when you you remember they are simply rebadged Monster Headphones and you're paying for the name badge, something that Apple are no doubt familiar with: Commitstrip were spot on with their recent webcomic.

This poses an interesting question about quality vs popularity, something that often pops up in format wars, where consumers and support from third parties determine which format emerges the winner from competing standards. VHS vs Betamax or Bluray vs HD-DVD are good examples. Here, customers believe they are buying a superior product that delivers "proper" audio and that other products don't offer the same quality of sound. Without getting into the old argument of sound quality through expensive technology, the popularity of these headphones - and no doubt the profits to be had from such a product - might determine how manufacturers design the dynamics of their future headphone products. No doubt some will use them as a reference and copy them to mimic the bass-heavy aspect of the Beats with a similar price tag, meaning that customers will grow up with a skewed expectation of how consumer-grade headphones are supposed to sound, but I remain hopeful that others will continue to offer more balanced options at a reasonable price. 

There is also the question of market saturation, as I am sure that a fair few pairs of these headphones have been sold already and how many pairs do you really need to buy? Though perhaps if iPhone users are as careful with their iPhones as they are with their headphones, maybe having to buy expensive replacements makes this a smart move.*

*Judging by how many smashed iPhones I see on the tube everyday, they must have to replace their headphones and other equipment a lot too. Jeez guys, use cases or be more careful with your expensive smartphones!

Either way, good on Dr Dre as I think he sold this at the right time. As for Apple, no doubt they are looking forward to putting that purchase to good use and get back some cash - iBeats anyone? 

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