Why I am very happy Apple bought Beats

If you follow my posts and/or know me, you probably know that for the past five or so years I have been very interested in high-end mobile audio gear. I have posted a lot about In-Ear monitors here, and have gone so far as to set up a CEntrance HiFi-M8 wiki here.

IEMs are my preferred headphones, and the HiFi-M8 is a portable DAC/AMP for making the sound coming from an iOS device as good as it can be, before hitting the IEMS.

For some perspective, my mobile audio “rig” which I attach to my iPhone contains a pair of JH Audio 13 pro in-ear monitors ($1299 customized) and the Centrance HiFi-M8 ($699) if you don’t get them on special or second hand. I care about music quality.

My Rig

Neil Young introduced Pono a while back and ran a successful kickstarted to get his new baby off the ground. What it amounts to is a new device that does high quality (Hopefully close enough to the HiFi-M8) but also has storage on board. The pitch behind Pono was that it was new and revolutionary and would liberate music from it’s crappy, compressed format.

I think Neil has been clearly smoking too much still… his “revolutionary format” is FLAC, which has been around for years, and his “revolutionary player” has basically also available for years (dozens of hi-def DACs or even the Astrell and Kern series.)

This re-introduces yet another thing to carry around, which has no connectivity to recommendation engines, online services etc (which help me find more good music).

Smoking, I tell you…. smoking.

I have been lamenting the fact that Apple is still shipping their devices with not-quite-good-enough electronics and horrific, but better-than-any-other-in-the-box buds… if they would just make an audiophile version of an iPhone…. but that’ll never happen because its too narrow a market…

Then Apple announced the purchase of Beats and I was horrified. Everyone knows Beats are overpriced and mediocre at best… and now Apple has solidified the fact that they aim at worse-than-average!

But then last night I took the time to watch the entire Jimmy Iovine/Eddy Cue on Re/code interview. I must say I am excited about where Apple will be in 2-3 years.

Why I am jazzed:

  • Apple just spent a lot of money (3B) to improve Music on their platform. They’re serious.
  • They bought people with “Ears” who can listen critically and help Apple’s engineers make their hardware sound better.
  • They bought a discovery service run by true professionals –  people who know music.

So, for the vast majority of users out there this will hopefully lead in a year or three to a new line of Macs, iDevices and iTunes which will significantly improve the DACs etc, and provide a much better way to discover new music.

Apple is clearly looking to innovate around the Music experience. Good for us.

Pretty sure Iovine and his boys don’t listen on Beats…. and pretty sure they’ll push for the entire music delivery from encoding to sound-waves to suck a hell of a lot less… 3B less.


You can see my thoughts being picked apart by some Audiophiles here on Head-Fi.org… until the thread is moved 😉



2 thoughts on “Why I am very happy Apple bought Beats

  1. Are you making the leap that the Beats acquisition will cause an appreciable increase in sound quality from the stock Apple gear? I see the Beats value proposition as the curated music service and artist/label relationships. I definitely see that improving the music selection. However, Beats proved you could become a commercial success with average (or below) sound quality. If you combine two companies who know that “good enough” is highly profitable, I’m not sure I’d hold out much hope for improvements in sound quality.

    1. Yes, I am… and I agree I could be badly disappointed, but I *do* believe those in the industry want better quality and at least now there is a far better chance someone who cares about quality will be pushing….

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