The Economist Gets it Right!

Thanks to my friend and colleague Stephen Mejias for pointing me to this short but sweet article in the Economist, The sound of music: Dr Dre’s creation of a market for costly cans may herald the return of true hi-fi.
"Since consumers have been persuaded, largely by Beats, that it is worth paying a fair whack for some half-decent headphones that look nice, perhaps they could be persuaded—especially since the storage capacity of many portable devices is now huge—to turn their backs on cheap mp3s and seek out recordings in true high fidelity."
That sums things up nicely. I agree. Then there's this nugget:
"Jim Anderson, a sound engineer who teaches at New York University, first plays his students an mp3 music file through good speakers, and then an uncompressed master recording of the same song: they are amazed at how much they have been missing, he says."
I'm amazed at how much they've been missing too. You can read the entire article on the Economist website.

nick's picture

i kind of agree, but i think more people wear beats for fashion reasons than sound quality. isn't that proven by the fact that beats outsell cheaper products that sound better? 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

isn't that proven by the fact that beats outsell cheaper products that sound better?

I'd say that Beats has out-marketed the competition in a big way making their headphones into status symbols, audio jewelry. So yes, I think some of the appeal is the Brand. That said, I agree with the article in that they've raised awareness for better sound quality simultaneously.

Bill B's picture

I think Beats' competition has, functionally, been cheap/stock/giveaway earbuds - and they DO sound way better than those.  So people are indeed wearing them for sound quality (in addition to fashion).  Most people w/ Beats just haven't experienced, or even been aware of,Sennheiser, Grado, Beyerdynamic, etc etc. 

Among other brands making the hugest gains have been Skullcandy & SOL and clearly they have a similar marketing approach - the audiophile brands really need to catch up. The style brands are evolving to include higher quality sound, too, so they will just become more formidable.

hotsoup's picture

I wonder if Jim Anderson has samples of the files he played somewhere. I've never really been able to hear the difference myself.

Archimago's picture


Betcha he played a dynamically uncompressed version in lossless vs. the usual dynamically compressed version "mastered for iTunes".

Either that or he's using low bitrate MP3's.

Frank's picture

I believe music industry exec Jimmy Iovine is a partner in the company. Based on things I have read about him is he is a high rez advocate. With the multi millions of iPod iPhones out there it was just a matter of time before someone cracked into the headphone market in a big way.  I am not sure if a company like Grado has the marketing dough or reach that these guys have. As Michael said there is a style factor that the others don't have. End of the day maybe a Beats owner will one day move into a better set of cans. One can only hope...