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HP and Dr. Dre to Take on Music Quality

Posted by: Damian Joseph on August 13, 2009

If you’ve been following this blog lately, you’d have come across two posts, here and here, regarding the issue of sound quality in popular music. And to be clear, this isn’t about audiophiles thirsting for perfection. This is about quality control of the product your selling. Would you buy a car with no engine?

Last time, I mentioned that Jimmy Iovine and company at Interscope/Geffen/A&M (EPA: VIV) were planning to take on the issue and “reinvigorate the entire music ecosystem.” Some details of the plan are starting to spill out: Iovine, Dr. Dre, and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) are all rumored to be involved.

According to CNET, HP will release a line of laptops, software, and headsets under the "Beats by Dr. Dre" brand. If that sounds familiar, you might remember these headsets. I haven't personally tried them, but word on the street is the sound is worth the $349 list price. See BusinessWeek's full review of the headphones here.

The article explores two other issues, both of which I must take issue.

First, that this could lead to a potential showdown with Apple: "... the plan has all the markings of an attempt to lure away those Apple fans who possess a discerning ear." Seems logical, but let's not forget that neither Apple (AAPL) or HP -- or any other software or hardware company -- OWN the music. They're only distribution channels. To think of the issue in this manner gives those companies too much power. Consumers should demand full quality music, not because they're discerning, but because that is what they're paying for. Consumers are being short-changed.

Second, the author paraphrases NPD Analyst Russ Crupnick: Studies by the NPD Group show that there are people willing to pay a premium for equipment and software that produce more lifelike music, said NPD analyst Russ Crupnick. But the research also indicates the majority of consumers are satisfied with their Apple earbuds and iTunes songs, which are now available at 256 kbps, he said.

Consumers are satisfied? I beg to differ. Consumers don't have options. A person might think they're happy with a VHS cassette, but wait until you show them the DVD.

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Reader Comments


August 14, 2009 12:39 PM

Consumers don't care. If you think they do try getting on any bus/train and counting those AWFUL stock ipod earbuds. They're so bad you can even tell at 128kb/s mp3's but nobody cares.


August 15, 2009 05:44 PM

I think its great that they would. Show a person a bluray vs a dvd on a nice HDTV and witch would you choose? Its about time sombody takes a stand and fights for the consumer not their own profits and money. The world has sold itself out...for what? paper and metal we give value for? GO DR.DRE and HP! Im looking forward to the BEATS line of laptops as the heaphones are more then worth what you pay for!

Shadrach White

August 18, 2009 12:56 PM

I don't know that a new line of headphones is really all that innovative. Seems like just an attempt to compete with Skull Candy. If you want to check out something totally innovative in the music industry check out Trinity Audio Group's IndaMixx Audio Netbook.

R Cyran

August 18, 2009 01:49 PM

The problem isn't the hardware or the software. Compression is a red herring -you just don't lose that much info under the sound curves with these sorts of sample rates.

The problem is that sound engineers record everything too damn high in an effort to make their songs stand out. Problem is, it makes the music sound bad. And everybody else is doing it too, so it doesn't even make the music stand out!

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