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How Beats Conquered The World (via The Verge)

Posted 13th June 2014 at 12:04 AM by rjm
Updated 13th June 2014 at 12:44 PM by rjm

Original article, by Ben Popper

~ my spin ~

There was the iPod. It was cool, and the distinctive while earbuds that came with it showed people you had an iPod, so they were cool, too. A few audiophiles invested in better IEMs, but they tended to be expensive and discreet and anyway were only ever a niche thing.

Meanwhile the Japanese headphone makers - JVC-Kenwood, Sony, Audio Technica - tried competing with the iPod, and they came up with a spectrum of earbuds and headphones of every shape, price, and color. They sold as commodities, but none developed any real kind of identity or reputation. Certainly there was little effort at building a brand.

On the other side, Grado, AKG, and Sennheiser continued doing pretty much what they always did, making nice, expensive headphones for home/studio/DJ use.

Neither group addressed the obvious hole in the market: non-audiophiles wanting "good" sounding over-ear headphones they could wear on the subway or on the bus without feeling self-conscious about it.

The Air Jordan of headphones, as the Verge article aptly puts it. Beats managed to do that with a combination of endorsements, style sense, and deliberately tuning the response to make sure Beats headphone sounded recognizable, powerful, and different. The rest is history...

As a footnote, I believe Apple overpaid for Beats, and it won't be seen as a particularly effective purchase by people looking at the company five years down the road, but it won't be seen as a disaster, either: 3B for Apple is pocket change, they can afford to take a few moonshots like this even if they don't all pan out.
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