Even before Apple acquired Beats, there existed a loud contingent of audiophiles who were quick to dismiss Beats by Dre Headphones as overpriced pieces of junk with mediocre sound, at best. The popularity of Beats, they often argued, was nothing more than clever marketing ably masking a run of the mill product.
Marketing, as it turns out, was the one thing most everyone could agree Beats did exceedingly well. By getting its headphones into the hands of well-known sports stars and music personalities, Beats successfully crafted a brand image that conveyed luxury with a splash of street cred. But once we get past the Beats branding and look at the actual product itself, it turns out that Beats headphones aren’t quite as luxurious as you may have initially thought.
In a recent post on Medium, Bolt prototype engineer Avery Louie tore down a pair of Beats by Dre Solo headphones and found that the luxury often associated with Beats (to the dismay of serious audio buffs) may ultimately be nothing more than a shrewd smokescreen.
Louie writes that Beats adds superfluous parts to its headphones in order to give their products more heft.
“One of the great things about the solo headphones is how substantial they feel,” Louie explains. “A little bit of weight makes the product feel solid, durable, and valuable. One way to do this cheaply is to make some components out of metal in order to add weight. In these headphones, 30% of the weight comes from four tiny metal parts that are there for the sole purpose of adding weight.”
Now to be fair, this is hardly the first time a company has done something like this to create an illusion of luxury. Still, it’s something to keep in mind before you fork over upwards of $200 for a pair of Beats Solo HD headphones.
Additionally, and as anyone who has purchased Beats headphones can attest, the ridiculously excessive and elaborate packaging, while wholly unnecessary if not downright frustrating, also serves to create the illusion that you’ve just purchased a truly high-end quality product. Incidentally, Louie’s writes that the costs of materials used in a pair of $200 Beats headphones comes out to about $16.90 (not including R&D or labor costs). Still, those are some margins that even Apple has to be impressed with.