What are you really paying for when you pick up a pair of Beats? This is a breakdown of what’s in it for the buyer who chooses Beats “style over sound” headphones.
What do Lady Gaga, Lebron James, and Kylie Jenner have in common? A fondness for Beats by Dr Dre headphones it seems. The prominent audio brand burst onto the scene in 2008 and has since made a name for themselves with their unique and stylish designs.
Over the years, style over sound has been a characteristic of Beats headphones but has it always been like that? If that is the case, what else is in it for the consumer by getting a pair?
History Of Beats
“I was like, ‘This is not how it’s supposed to sound. This is not what I spent all this time in the studio for.’ We decided we had to do something about it.”
Co-founded by hip-hop legend, Dr Dre and music producer Jimmy Lovine, these two music professionals were sick and tired of the low-quality sound delivered by the iPod’s cheap earbuds.
Aiming to revolutionize the industry with a brand of headphones that could provide the best sound quality with personality, the duo then embarked on a journey that would see Beats rise up as one of the prominent players in the industry.
Dr. Dre Who?
We all know Dr. Dre’s name is part of the Beats brand but who is he exactly?
With the likes of Beyonce and Taylor Swift taking over the internet in recent years, it’s easy to forget who Dr. Dre is. But a legend will, of course, have his own epic origin story *cue triumphant hero music*.
“I’m expressin’ with my full capabilities/and now I’m living in correctional facilities”
– Lyrics from “Express Yourself”
As one of the key members of iconic hip-hop group, N.W.A, Dr. Dre was part of a legacy that changed and shaped hip-hop with their tendency to infuse their songs with social commentary and brutal honesty.
“F**k Tha Police” is a song that protests against police brutality and racial profiling while Dr. Dre’s line in hip-hop group, N.W.A’s, “Express Yourself” shows how the group described the harsh realities of their lives through their music.
It’s little wonder that all these hard-hitting songs have given Dr. Dre an image of a total badass and infused the brand with its trademark aura of rebellion and defiance.
However, while Beats headphones definitely have personality, one can’t say the same for its sound quality.
Trivia time: Dr. Dre was egged on by his lawyer to start a line of sneakers but co-founder Jimmy Iovine convinced him that headphones are the way to go
In hindsight, this may or may not have been a good thing seeing that people have pretty harsh things to say about their products?
Your call, but let’s share some of those criticisms regardless, because a good consumer is an informed consumer.
1. Beats headphones are ridiculously overpriced
With wireless headphones starting from US$299.95, the most common criticism is its unwarranted hefty price tag.
In order to find out more about the components, the good people from Bolt and Gizmodo have tried to tear down a set of headphones with similar findings. Avery Louie from Bolt, even goes one step further to estimate its actual value at around US$20.18.
That puts the retail price of their headphones at least a whopping 10 times more than the production cost. Talk about a very good profit margin.
2. Too much bass
Now when talking about the bass portion, it’s probably good to take into account Dr. Dre’s background. As a hip-hop artiste, heavy bass sounds are pretty characteristic of the genre.
What’s hip hop and rap without those sick beats right?
Beats, as the brainchild of Dr. Dre, has also inherited this trait of favoring bass-heavy sound signature. This usually means while everything’s swell when listening to songs with a lot of bass, when it veers away from it…not so much.
“There’s not nearly enough definition to make the bass sound good, and it drowns out nearly everything else in the music”
- Whitson Gordon
According to Lifehacker’s Whitson Gordon, Beats doesn’t even do bass sounds all that well too.
3. Flimsy design
Beats has a reputation of being flimsy. With two metal parts ultimately attached to a cheap plastic headband, it makes Beats more vulnerable and fragile.
Ironically, this is the opposite of the badass image it has been trying to create.
So it seems there are many well-documented downsides to acquiring a pair of Beats headphones. Which brings us to the question: What are you really paying for when you get yourself one of these gadgets?
We’ve thought of a bunch of fringe benefits that follows as a package deal:
- Celebrity Association
- Status Symbol
1. Celebrity Association
Beats is no stranger to celebrity endorsements. Ed Sheeran, check. Serena Williams, check. Cara Delevingne, check. You name it, and they would most probably have appeared in Beats massive roster of star-studded ambassadors. The one thread stringing many prominent celebrities together is none other than a pair of Beats headphones, and now, that thread includes you when you purchase a set of your own.
Most interestingly, there was the ambush marketing tactic Beats adopted at the London Olympics in 2012.
Without being an official sponsor for the event, Beats sent their headphones to the athletes directly and was rewarded with hordes of athletes showcasing their gear on the international stage.
“His headphones became a sensation on China’s microblog Weibo where users traded comments about “魔声耳机” (“magic sound headphones).”
– Abe Sauer on Sun Yang
The “Magic headphones” were huge in China when swimmer Sun Yang broke numerous world records that year. Especially because the swimmer was using his noise-canceling headphones as a way to focus and prepare for his competition, Sun Yang’s very successful run at the games was just a huge win for Beats as well.
The massive exposure, of course, contributed to a huge sales spike that reinforces how purchasing behavior is influenced by the association the buyer makes with the product.
2. Status Symbol
Let’s be honest, Beats headphones are not cheap. In fact, the brand has positioned themselves as a premium brand with a corresponding price tag. At first glance, this might be a deterrent to many but premium prices imply a certain degree of quality.
Owning good quality and pricey products also sends signals about a person that hints at their status. It’s difficult to imagine Kim Kardashian getting caught dead in discount store clothing. The same principle applies here.
Sometimes it’s a false impression though! Comparing a set of $50 headphones to a $300 one, it is a logical expectation that the premium priced one will be of higher quality…or not?
Moreover, Beats has been customizing some of the most expensive headphones for the ultra rich. Lil’ Wayne donned one of these $1 Million Diamond Beats at a basketball game that elevates premium headphones to another level unto its own.
In this case, headphones are rightfully used as a way to flaunt wealth.
Millennials have been shown to emphasize more on self-expression and the concept of being uniquely yourself is constantly beaten (no pun intended) into their heads at every turn. Beats headphones cater to this desire as their bright colors and stylish designs are able to infuse a pop of personality that sets one apart from others.
The collaboration between Beats and Balmain combines chic design characteristic of the fashion powerhouse with music and further reinforces the importance self-expression plays in the popularity of Beats headphones.
“Chatter chatter chatter. Take refuge at will. The world is filled with wolves and praise and ploys. But the kids who can shut off their ears, rise above all that noise.”
– Snippet from the #AboveTheNoise ad
Evocative storytelling delivered through their ad campaigns are also examples of how Beats sends strong brand messages using relatable concepts such as challenging the status quo and overcoming adversity.
In the #AboveTheNoise ad, scenes of a young boy having a bad experience at his first soccer practice match were shown.
The voiceover in the clip continues in his deep husky storytelling voice about how this boy belongs to a group of children who could shut off their ears. Silence the praise and silence the fears. Rising above it all with the help of some handy dandy noise-cancelling Beats headphones.
A reveal towards the second half of the ad shows the young boy growing up to be world-class soccer player, Neymar Jr. and with this, Beats effectively weaved a short motivational story that everyone can get behind into their ad.
Selling emotion pays when your audience identifies and believes in the messages the brand is trying to convey.
It is also very clever of Beats to create this “us against the world” mentality in their supporters. Not only does it relate to Dr. Dre’s image, it certainly gives their fans more bravado when confronted with detractors of the brand.
Are Beats Headphones Really That Bad?
Recent reviews (check these out: here, here and here) of Beats headphones have been pretty positive with most of it focusing on the Beats Studio 3.0 Wireless.
Here are some of the good things that were said:
- Great noise-canceling capabilities
- Less of that characteristic bass-heavy signature
- Good battery life (up to 22 hours with ANC on)
- Great compatibility with Apple products (because duh Apple owns Beats now)
Most of them compared the performance of the Beats Studio 3 Wireless to that of Beats Studio 2.0 Wireless. While quite a few functions such as adaptive noise cancellation and better sound were already being observed in the Studio 2.0, Beats went ahead on improving it more in the Studio 3.0.
Looks like Beats is finally making a legit effort to create a better product that justifies its price. With this steady improvement, there looks to be more reason than ever to try out or stick to the brand.
Of course, there are still people who absolutely detest Beats and won’t hesitate to tell you that. In fact, this scathing review here is rather entertaining.
However, since no one can ever please the world, the bottom line behind getting a pair of Beats still lies in the reason you are picking Beats. If you’re an undiscerning user who for the life of him/her can’t tell the difference between headphones, then it probably wouldn’t bother you to get a pair.
If it is the price, then turn around immediately because it ain’t pretty. Honestly, there are many other better quality or more value-for-money alternatives out there but ultimately who is to say your choice of Beats isn’t a good one as long as you have no regrets?
We say you do you.
I had a pair of beat studio 2 wired and i only used them for 3 months today as i went to un fold my beats one side snaps off and exposed the cord and complitly broke them I am very mad because I am at school and music is the only thing that gets me threw the day and I did not bring a backup pair of headphones if your looking for good sound quolity i would recomend these on the down side they have a very flimsy design if you want beats because you heard how reliable they were and strong dont get these ones would not recomend
i think you should stay in school due to your lack of ability to spell properly. It’s a blessing in disguise that your headphones broke be grateful. xx <3
Beats under Apple is a different beast all together and while Beats have garnered a largely negative rep by many, its important to be objective and evaluate the Beats today without prejudice.
Beats under Apple have revamped itself and transformed itself from merely an accessory to a real option in the headphone market with its tremendous battery-life, easy of pairing, excellent wireless range, above-average noise-cancellation and a more balanced sound signature while keeping the stylish design of Beats.
Totally agreed. However, the hive mind is strong with regards to mainstream consumer audio products like Beats and Bose.
I would add only that Beats by Dre tuned the Audio on my laptop and I don’t know if the headphones do this – But it was incapable of dealing with dynamic music…If I had a song that went from loud to soft – The audio would try and auto adjust and balance the levels which would ruin the song and became really jarring. Sometimes this meant that the quiet music would be clipped completely silent. Has anyone experienced anything like this with the headphones?
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I love my recently purchased Beats and well I got them for less than $200 I would have gladly paid 350, knowing now what I do after actually having the Beats experience. thanks often times things are not necessarily the sum of the parts. the way I look at it we live in a throwaway society and new electronic products under $1,000 are made to last more than a year with extensive use. hybrid cancel all of them you’re so needs in the bows and the jpl’s breaking quite easily and after a short. of time and I’ve experienced it myself.so I was looking at it from the standpoint of a 350 plus tax investment for if you’re lucky 365 days a year.and even if they’re not great for listening to say classical, there are certain genres, such as those which I prefer define the most stimulating and exciting where are these devices are well worth the price of admission.. but then I’m in a situation where I have the privilege of devoting 2 hours a day to listening to whatever kind of music I want to listen to view whatever device I want to hear it on. this is one of my favorite leisure activities and my listening pleasure is subjective I don’t really have to defend it beyond that but a dollar a day for that I haven’t regretted anything. I’ve been doing a lot of researching and reading a lot about audio and all the advances that are being made in terms of doing something such as streaming Bluetooth files capable of high-resolution or Hi-Fi quality but I’m kind of a headphone jack he’s so I routinely hit sites such as this where people are talking about headphones and the one thing I’ve noticed without exception is I haven’t come across the site with error Dietz owners talking about other headphones their own headphones for that matter maybe they have better things to do but site after site after site contains people that appeared compelled to be him in Italy criticize a brand of headphones. I have my own paired with a Android device I have a pixel 3 and I had a pretty good set of headphones from JBL 650s but I went ahead and purchased these because I’d always wanted them and they were on sale. so these Apple friendly devices have turned out to be better at pairing with my Android phone then my JBLs are. knowing myself in my history the way I do I think the comment Beach listeners and buyers are like sheep was very inappropriate. I just happen to be raining with strolling through a electronic store in 2015 and and not really been on top of it technical developments in terms of the type sound you get out of a smartphone with some of these headphones and I tried on a few and one set blew me away I was not aware I didn’t even know anything about the brand I have not watched any of it advertisement I have no peers influence what I listen to most people my age aren’t even listening to headphones anymore and I fell in love with this one pair and that just happened to have the name beats on it’.I’ve been in a pretty dark situation in my life at that point but I told myself that if I ever got out of it and got a chance I would have a pair of Beats headphones because it impressed me that much. and clothes you know just like to remind everybody that music and how it sounds is so subjective and yeah one set that sounds beautiful or greater perfect for one person may sound horrible for another but that’s why I use the word play music it’s something we play with it something we enjoy it something I see way too many people getting open out of shape and all tense and emotional and overly rational about music is supposed to be a motive at least that’s how I’m going to keep mine I don’t plan on involving myself anymore these forms. I just try to be grateful because there were a number of years where I had an illness which precluded me from even enjoying a single note of music and I missed it so bad and I’m just grateful to have the capacity to enjoy music back and I think for the younger people you have no idea what quality of music you have at your fingertips almost anytime anywhere compared to what used to exist so I think utility little bit spoiled perhaps I did think it was good article filled me in a lot on the history I think it was quite interesting and quite telling however that all those athletes at the Olympics when given some headphones I doubt too many of them put a bit of thought into the audio engineering dynamics of the headphones they put them up put them on and if the music moved them they warm and apparently it influenced a lot of athletes Athletics is a very discipline sport but getting prepared to compete is a very emotive process particularly for the individual sportsif LeBron James wants a $3,000 set of headphones and the equipment to drive it he can snap his fingers and have it the fact that he chooses beats to the world you know out in public or on the side of the Court during practice says a lot because he does not have to push somebody else’s product he has his own brands. I started to attach a picture which I feel represents so much of the commentary I’ve come across since I’ve been researching devices for purpose of facilitating leisure. if there’s a space to do it I think I will if I’m a sheep I guess I’m one of those sheets it wanders way far away from the flock and doesn’t care if he gets eaten by a wolf or not.
I agreed with a lot of your comment. Beats is a well known brand, but like you, I started using them because they were the headphones that best suited my needs.
What really matters is just enjoying the music you love. How old are you? I agree that audio quality has come a long way.
I bought a pair of Beats headphones from a market in Thailand for £10 and they’re fantastic and great value.
You mean you mean you bought knockoffs
I have listened with a bunch of Beats headphones, but the one that I have purchased are the Mixr David Guetta model. After trying and definitely not paying for high priced models over the years, I felt that these were the best out of the Beats line up. I still was not going to pay top dollar for them, I bought mine on eBay new in the box for 100.00 bucks and I was given a slightly used set of in ear ibeats by my Dad. I currently use a set of in ear wireless Otium buds that I purchased on Amazon for 25 bucks. They sound just as good as the high priced buds so test out a bunch and buy what you think is best.
Noel lee started those headphones and they did him dirty at the end he was left out the only thing dr dre did for those headphones was putting his name the rest is history
I only have my pair. Because my brother got tired of his. But he is the kind of person that buys a toddler Nikes. Which I view as wasteful.
I think Beats are cool. Mostly because they are name brand and so expensive. I can also brag on how well my brother is doing. That he can just give them away to me.
I wouldn’t buy them for myself. I have a pair of cheaper headphones. That I am putting up and keeping; for when the Beats eventually fall apart.
I wrongly assumed that since they were an Apple product they would be of a quality commensurate with the high price. Wrong. The flimsy headband broke just past warranty, and apparently that is common. Amazon lists over a dozen vendors selling repair kits for these.
Should have been a class action over this defective design.