Are Beats Headphones Trying to Trick Us

Are you one of the gazillions of people who have dished out big dollars for a flashy set of Beats cans? Honestly, do you think they’re work the money?  You may not after reading this teardown review from The Verge.

Last month, Beats by Dre headphones went in for a thorough slagging across the internet, and on this here blog, on the basis of a teardown of the flashy cans. The exercise, conducted by a venture capital outfit called Bolt that focuses on hardware startups, seemed to prove that the headphones were a sham. It turns out that the teardown itself was based on a sham: The headphones were counterfeit. But as revealed by our own teardown of what we’re pretty sure is a legit pair of Beats, Bolt wasn’t wrong about the quality of these devices.

First the backstory: On June 18, a young engineer at Bolt named Avery Louie posted on his company’s blog a teardown of what he thought was an old pair of the Beats by Dre Solo HD headphones. The goal of the post was to reveal some of the secrets to bringing manufacturing costs down. The headphones were cheaply manufactured all right, and if you’re familiar with Beats’ reputation for fragility that shouldn’t be a surprise to you. (I’ll bring you up to speed: They break. Often.)

Louie’s original analysis, though, had one surprising claim: The Solos contained four metal parts that seemed to him to serve no purpose aside from adding bulk to the otherwise cheap plastic design.

I’m one of the writers who seized upon the detail and saw it as an opportunity to rip Beats apart. Look at this deceptive practice! Beats are such garbage that they need extra weight so that people won’t see them for the rubbish they really are! It was an irresistible story. I’ve never been a fan of Beats and it bugs me that an inferior, over-marketed product sells so many units when there are much better headphones to be had for the same price. Before they were replaced by a successor, the Solo2s last fall, the Solo HDs were a blockbuster, moving roughly 2 million units in 2013.

All that on the strength of their fashionable design and their association with a hip hop icon. The brand’s infamous sound tilts toward overpowered bass that erases nuance and detail, not that it matters to anyone who is buying them. A lot of people had gripes with Beats as well, it seems, because posts on the subject exploded — mine is hovering at about one million pageviews right now.

But over the following weeks, as the pageviews climbed, the stories came under closer scrutiny, and some of Louie’s claims started to fall apart. Were those metal parts really only there for weight? Louie had used a discontinued model of the Beats Solo headphones — how did did he get them, and were they even real?

In a followup post published on Wednesday, three weeks after the original teardown, Louie conceded that he had indeed been duped by counterfeit Beats headphones. He conducted a teardown of two additional sets, concluding that counterfeit Beats are nearly impossible to spot without a careful eye. And even more interestingly, the real Beats contained the same weighted pieces as the counterfeited version.

The full story is here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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