What Exactly is Beats Audio, Anyway?

Update 1/10/12: the answer.

Undoubtedly, everybody who is reading this at some point has heard of Beats Audio or Beats by Dre headphones. The brand of course started as headphones, and then added Beats Audio that could be found in certain HP laptops and desktops, and more recently the Beats Audio “technology” has been added to the HP tablet and will be included in upcoming HTC mobile phone handsets. But the question is, besides a bunch of hype and a red “b” sticker, what (if anything) is Beats Audio?

Beats by Dre made a name for themselves through celebrity use and extensive product placement, and from what I can tell not much else. I kept hearing they were “better” so ultimately I went to a store and listened to them, and they sounded like crap—it was way overly distorted and muddy. Granted, I listened to a rock track, and I assumed that for a line geared toward listeners of hip-hop “better” meant all bass and nothing else. But I still wondered how they could still be so popular, given that even people who just listen to hip-hop still at some point want to hear something besides just low-frequency noise.

Is it all just a big scam? Some people associate the higher price tag with quality, but it seems that all you’re paying for is a brand name, kinda like how an Abercrombie t-shirt isn’t functionally different than a t-shirt from a Fruit of the Loom three-pack. There are certain things about the brand that make them seem like a bit of a scam.

Red flag number one from the Beats brand is that they’re part of the Monster cables brand. Monster of course became famous from and is well-known as the biggest offender in HDMI cable scams that trick consumers into paying $60 for a cable that does the same thing as a $6 cable.

Red flag number two is that the company only uses buzzwords and statements that are never backed up with factual information. For instance, the company claims Beats by Dre headphones were “designed to be the most advanced headphones ever developed,” but they don’t say how. They also say they’re “designed to be,” which is legalese for “we couldn’t prove it if we had to, so we’ll just do our best to imply and claim they are.” In fact, nowhere on the company’s website can I find basic stats for their headphones like driver diameter, frequency response, max input power, sensitivity, and impedance. Not that those stats could define quality or technology, but it goes to show that the actual tech behind the headphones is deemed unimportant. Even the About page on their site is just a commercial-like paragraph from Dr. Dre.

Similarly, I haven’t been able (on the Beats site or even the HP site) to find out what exactly Beats Audio is. Is it a DAC (digital-to-analog converter)? Is it an amp? Both? Is it just a soundcard with better-insulated cabling? I’ve only heard it referred to as a “technology,” which is just a buzzword that means absolutely nothing. They claim it’s better, they claim it improves the listening experience, but they don’t offer a clue as to how.

Red flag number three would be the company not responding to questions about their product, but I’m hesitant to call it a red flag just yet. I did send requests to publicists from the companies last week with the same questions as to the “what” for both Beats by Dre and Beats Audio, but haven’t heard back. On one hand, the big announcement of HTC acquiring them hit since then, but on the other it has been a week, and the information I’m asking for (a couple basic fact sheets) should be readily available and easy to send out. I’m not sure if I’ll hear back at all.

What do you think? Have you ever heard anything regarding any of the products that would lend any credibility to their claims of being better? I sure haven’t.