Monster Beats by Dr. Dre
My experience with Monster and Beats by Dre headphones is that they range from mediocre to abysmal. What I don’t understand is how they claim they’re all about getting people to hear the sound they hear in the studio, and then they so dramatically change the equalization of the headphones. In a recent interview in Time Out Hong Kong, Jimmy Iovine is quoted as saying:
It’s all about authentic feel. There’s a feel that happens in the studio, and a sound. The sound is a combination of capturing what actually was mixed in the studio. Most producers mix on similar curves. A lot of studios in the world are all to a similar curve and that produces a certain playback. So the producer mixes to that playback. And these headphones are made to service that — to get the authentic feel out of the music.
I would think most recording studios in the world use a curve called “flat.” That way they know what they’re hearing on the monitors is what’s going onto the disc. The Audio Engineering Society is filled with engineers who write papers and learn about how to achieve a flat and neutral audio response, and then design and build the gear that goes into recording studios. I’ve measured four of the Beats full-size headphones, and a handful of their in-ear models, and they deviate significantly from flat.
I’ll add here that I have no problem with adding a little extra bass to headphones. Because you don’t get the chest cavity compression and bone conduction from strong low notes on headphones that you would on speakers, I think it may be legitimate to dial up the bass a bit to compensate. On the graph below, the Etymotic and Sennheiser plots are quite flat below 1000Hz. The Jerry Harvey Audio JH16 has what I consider reasonable additional bass response with about 5dB of extra bass. But the Monster Turbine Copper has a whopping 12dB of extra energy in the lows, which is way too much. The Beats Solo really doesn’t have any extra bass — it’s got a big hump around 200Hz and a very far from flat response.
Another thing I keep hearing from the Beats team is that the iPod earbuds have ruined people’s opportunity to hear good music. Again from the Time Out Hong Kong article:
Now, you can’t get that [authentic] feel out of a $1 headphone. So when you buy a $400 mp3 player and $1 headphones, it gets clogged. So, I don’t care where you are. I don’t care if you’re on the moon. You want the feel of the record to be authentic. And we’ve lost it — almost two generations — to bad sounds. Because everyone thought the iPod must have had a good headphone when it didn’t. People said: “Oh I have to have the white headphone.” Well, that white headphone didn’t sound great. The mp3 player sounded great but the headphone is there to see if the thing works. Then you go and get a pair of decent headphones. Yes, everyone in the world, you want good-feeling headphones. Beats is good for anyone.
Recently I measured a couple of current iPod earbuds. I’ll note here that I do think they have improved over time, but I think it would be educational to compare an iPod earbud to the very commonly purchased Beats Solo.