Yesterday the Washington Post ran a report that Apple is on the verge of buying Beats, at the sweet price of $3.2 billion.
As both an Apple and music fan, this mix seems a match made in Hell. And that for multiple reasons, aside from the price tag.
First of all Apple is a brand which understands design and can make elegance fashionable. Beats by Dr. Dre headphones are the total opposite and merely a fashion statement. A
fugly rather colorful one at that too, a fashion statement which comes with additional Beats branding at almost every possible side of the headphones too.
The complete opposite of what we know from Apple’s elegance. Chique elegance or was it elegant chic?
But more than that, Apple is a very respected player in the music scene and has created multiple respectable and popular elements for musicians. Obviously there is iTunes, the largest digital music content distribution platform… in the world. But Apple is also the creator of the Logic Pro software, used by many professional producers, as well as Garageband, which can be found on every new device.
The roots of Apple’s focus on music come from the late Steve Jobs himself, a famous music lover.
Looking at the Jobs’ love for music, his preferences, and the music hardware Apple has created makes the Apple Dr. Beats unbelievable and almost impossible a match. First of all Jobs was a fan of balanced music, albeit with a heavy focus on vocals. He was a known Beatles fan, invited both Thomas Newman and John Mayer, as well as U2 to perform. While the Edge may have used effects which bring bass to the sound of U2, generally vocals – and lyrics – were always central to Steve’s music preferences.
And all audio devices, hardware has ever created reflect this. From the standard earbuds that came with the original iPod, then iPhone, the higher end model ones Apple sells to the speakers in its entire range of laptops and desktop devices. The sound Apple brings is a neutral, very balanced sound for the quality range of its speakers/earbuds, with vocals usually standing out.
While many audiophiles will bash the sound of the standard iPhone earbuds, when it comes to laptops Apple’s speakers generally are excellent and the sound coming from a MacBook Pro or even a MacBook Air is amazing for their size and generally these speakers deliver plenty of volume, depth and clarity at the mid-range and high-end. But lack in bass.
It also deserves to be noted that these are in-house developed and designed speakers, contrary to many PC laptop manufacturers who may revert to a 3rd party speaker manufacturer, often complete with the compulsory sticker on the device and software equaliser software.
Apple stays pure and has a long record of its focus on sound and a consistency in the level and range of sound its devices deliver.
When it comes to Beats by Dr. Dre though, we land at the entire different sound spectrum: heavy on bass, with additional internal amplifier geared mainly towards… bass. While the range of Beats headphones may have become more balanced in recent years, Beats still heavily focuses and markets towards a hip-hop and R&B audience, with endorses such as Will.I.am and James Lebron. Neither of them known for listening to vocalists or even balanced audio.
Albeit I don’t consider myself an audiophile(1), I am sure that I have spent more than enough money on hi-fi and audio devices in my ever longer life. More than that I have reached the level where I can easily recognise a good sound and known when a system setup fucks up how things are supposed to actually sound(2). Beats by Dr. Dre surely belongs in the latter category.
As a die-hard music loving hardcore Apple user, who will always pay a premium for quality, I would almost feel insulted if Apple pushes through with this acquisition. And I’m pretty sure the never satisfied stock analysts, and stock market, will punish Apple for this acquisition if it takes place.
If the rumour were about Sennheiser, Klipsch, AKG or Bose I would definitely understand the logic behind the acquisition but right now all I can think is What were they on?