Monday, September 17, 2012

The Headphone Craze


In 2008, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine — an iconic Rap artist/Hip-Hop producer and legendary music mogul — decided to join forces on a new business venture. According to audiophile folklore, Interscope — a record label owned by Iovine, initially wanted Dre to endorse sneakers but as legend has it — he replied, "F*ck sneakers, let's make speakers!"

At first, Interscope's partners-in-crime ventured into surround sound speakers but were at a loss in the consumer electronics landscape. It wasn't until they met Noel & Kevin Lee; a father & son duo at Monster Cable, Inc. — a boutique electronics manufacturer specializing in premium audio & video cables — that their revolutionary take on a gadget came to fruition.

However unlikely of a collaboration between music industry powerhouses and makers of premium cables came to be, it was this co-emergence who introduced Beats by Dre headphones onto the unsuspecting world of consumer electronics.


...I use to roam all around campus at SUNY Albany w/ my silver Sony "over-the-ear" headphones while head-noddin' to underground Hardcore Metal and Hip-Hop tracks. 
College girls use to tease me — calling me 'Mickey Mouse' — while the guys joked that I should be working on an airport runway.

One of the loudest and most hazardous places on Earth are on airport ramps & tarmacs — workers are required to wear protective 'noise-blocking' earmuffs to help protect them from hearing damage/loss.

Although I do consider myself a 'gadget-geek' (of sorts) who 
appreciates 'high-tech & innovative' gadgets (who doesn't)I am not obsessed like Apple fan boys who camp outside for new releases. I'm no longer adamant about obtaining the latest and most updated versions of electronics because modern technology is now so advance — it's really no use trying to keep-up-the-pace unless you enjoy blowing your cash.

INTRODUCTION... Bose® TriPort Around-Ear headphones (discontinued model) got caught in a yellow cab's door and the thinly-constructed cord ripped-in-half! For those whose warranty expired after one-year, Bose® offers a "mail-in" exchange of your broken headphones for a brand new pair for approx. $60.00 — not the greatest of deals but still better than paying retail.

Note — I was planning to partake in their offer but didn't want to wait 2-4 weeks for the shipping and began researching other options. One day, I saw an intern at my job who was rockin' the latest national craze — Monster's Beats™ by Dr. Dre™ Headphones!

Established in 2006, Beats™ by Dr. Dre™ is a collaboration of world-renown rapper from NWA & legendary music producer Dr. Dre, Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records Jimmy Iovine and Monster Cable, Inc. Monster was granted exclusive rights after signing a five-year contract to manufacture & develop Beats-branded headphones and the following is the back-story on how it all began.

"Six years ago Dr. Dre was walking along the beach with Interscope Records chief Jimmy Iovine, pondering whether or not he should launch his own shoe line. “[Forget] sneakers,” said Iovine. “Let’s sell speakers!”

"It might have been the best piece of advice the rapper-producer ever received. In 2008 he teamed with Iovine and a handful of other partners to launch Beats By Dr. Dre, which now sells more than half of the country’s premium headphones ($100 and up). That’s music to the ears of Dr. Dre, who collected $100 million pretax when handset maker HTC paid $300 million for a 51% stake in the company last year."Cash Kings 2012: Hip-Hop's Top Earners | September 24, 2012 issue of Forbes

With Monster handling production of the headphones, Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre were the face of the product; handling the advertising & marketing aspects — promoting the new line to the younger generation. Dre's original line of "studio-quality" headphones had the following price-range: Solo - $199, Studio - $299 & Pro - $399.
Although the sound quality is better than most $100 headphones, majority of audiophiles (a person with a strong interest in high-quality sound/production) who reviewed them states, 'They aren't better compared to other high-end brands w/ the same price range — such as Bose & Sennheiser.'

Mutual consensus amongst the audiophile community is that Beats™ by Dr. Dre™ are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and are perhaps the most fashionable & trendy in the market today — but  many also believe they are over-priced especially when it comes to sound quality.

Regardless, their combination of fashionably design + quality sound revolutionized the headphone industry. And by targeting the young, urban and hip, the popularity & success of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine's product brainchild spawned a Headphones Boom — becoming a billion dollar industry in 2011.

What's even more interesting is that "high-end" headphones have been around for awhile — but they were specifically geared towards music artists and professionals in the recording field. Marketing geniuses — Dre & Jimmy, made it a "must-have" product for the masses.

David Guetta — E.D.M. / Electronic Dance Music maestro —  — challenged Beats™ by Dr. Dre™ to create the perfect set of world-class ear-cups specifically designed for DJs. Approximately, a year and thousands of prototypes later, Beats™ were proud to present one of the lightest, loudest and most flexible headphones ever — aptly named the Mixr.

Please be advised, if these costs are out of your price range, I also own and recommend the following headphones: Sony Extra Bass Headphones (Models XB-300, XB-500 & XB-700). They are -by far, the largest and softest headphone cushions in the market and perhaps the most comfortable. I pull these bad boys out during the snowy winters — for they work as a great substitute for actual ear muffs!

When asked what inspired the unique styling of the XB headphones, Sony designer Jun Komiyama said, "When I saw a puffy, luxurious, huge sofa I thought, 'Now that’s what I want.'" His main objective was to create a shape that would appeal to lovers of bass-heavy club music and hip-hop.

Sony XB series are notorious for its earth-shaking & heart-pounding bass, "Ooomps! Oooomps!! Oooooomps!!!" and have become a highly-coveted item -as of late, amongst headphone enthusiasts from around the world.

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In case "over-the-ear" headphones are too big & bulky for your style, then "in-ear" headphones -otherwise known as "ear-buds" may suite your preference. I personally can't comment too much on them for I only own one pair — Bose® TriPort In-Ear headphones that I purchased from my childhood boy who works for the The New York City Department of Sanitation. He sold me those ear-buds because -as a garbage man, he is only allowed to use Bluetooth sets -for safety measures, while on the job.

Today, there's countless people 'out-in-public' (on the buses, subways, sidewalks & streets of New York City) that can now be seen wearing $200-$400 headphones — accompanying their iPods, iPhones, iPads, laptops, smartphones & other MP3 players.

Additionally, street-style influence on the modern headphones are evident. Similar to the another article I wrote entitled theSNEAKER GAME CRAZE, headphone-makers are collaborating w/ other artists & celebrities to create their own line of custom-series/signature-lines.

To conclude, the new wave of headphones will undoubtedly be 'Bluetooth' a.k.a. 'wireless headphones' — SMS Audio's SYNC by 50 Cent is one of the first to release their version of a wireless set during the current headphone boom/craze. Other designs & collaborations are soon-to-be-released as the next generation of the headphones era continues to evolve...


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