The Biz: What the possible Apple/Beats deal might mean for enthusiasts

It’s been all over news networks for the past week: Apple is allegedly acquiring Beats Music for a whopping $3.2 billion.

Audiophiles collectively groaned, and many analysts raised eyebrows. Why would the world’s most valuable company — a true innovator in consumer hardware and user experience — buy up a headphone company that makes headphones of mediocre sound quality and derivative design?

Forbes Magazine‘s Pascal Emmanuel Gobry panned the potential deal, stating:

[I]f the reports Apple are in talks to buy Beats headphones are true, it’s insane, and it probably casts a pall on all of Tim Cook’s leadership.

From Bloomberg News:

Essentially, no one is looking at this deal from the perspective of anything other than a defensive move to stop the massive hemorrhage that is iTunes Radio via the newly launched Beats Music subscription service. With regard to headphones, Beats merely serves as an asset that conflates in value with the iPod/iTunes market.

Let’s look on the bright side, though — let’s not look at this situation as Jimmy Iovine besmirching the Apple brand, and rather envision Apple taking Beats to new heights. Audiophiles have never been shy about pummeling the Beats name, but really, Apple’s acquiring Beats can only make Beats a better company that makes better products.

Beats headphones command well over 50% of the premium headphone market, which is an unheard of and ridiculous market share. If audio enthusiasts wish to have more people join their ranks, then Beats cannot be ignored. It is here to stay, and it will need to make better products with better QC and better sound quality for the high-end headphone market to continue its newfound renaissance.

Apple brings a wealth of experience in hardware design and manufacturing to the table. The EarPod is a great *free* earphone with tangible evidence of consummate engineering on the part of Apple. Apple’s aging in-ears, lovingly dubbed the ADDIEM by audiophiles, was once the most affordable dual BA IEM on the market (and remains one of the cheapest). They essentially contracted Knowles Electronics to custom create a great sounding pair of balanced armatures for less money through large volume and enterprise negotiation. These disciplined engineering and business attributes can only rub off on Beats as a company.

If Beats begins to make genuinely good headphones and manages to increase the quality of music streamed through their subscription service, an Apple-led Beats will be able to deliver higher-quality, better music to more people than ever, and this potential trend will only mean positive things for the high-end market. This optimism is of course predicated upon the trust the Apple is still concerned with building the forward-thinking and fastidious (in a mostly good way) legacy of Steve Jobs, but while there’s some worry of a fade coming on in Cupertino, little evidence supports these fears.

Let us not forget that high-end portable audio is enjoying a golden era of diversity precisely because of the Beats phenomenon. One company, driven solely by savvy marketing, has managed to push the headphone into the limelight as the centerpiece of the digital music lifestyle in just over five years. Despite the number of “junk headphone” brands increasing exponentially because of Beats, the overall quality of all headphone products has substantially increased, and CYMBACAVUM is hoping that this trend will only continue.

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