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What Is Beats Audio Technology? Does It Live Up to the Hype?

htc windows 8x with Beats Audio limelight yellow

HTC’s Windows Phone 8X with Beats Audio in limelight yellow

One of the big complaints about sound from laptops, smartphones, and even dedicated mp3 players is that the sound quality is pretty awful. And generally that’s a fair complaint; a good pair of headphones will go a long away toward making the sound better, but the actual design of the device is still going to affect how well the headphones can even works. That’s the problem that Beats Audio purports to solve: making better hardware and software that works together so you can enjoy some actual quality in your music.

Picture of Beats by Dre inside laptop computer

So what does that mean? Well, there are a couple of hardware design innovations that definitely aren’t fluff. First, swapping out metal for plastic inside a device jack (where you plug in your headphones) is supposed to reduce ground noise. That’s a fancy way of saying that plastic should eliminate some of the “interference noise” that blocks good (music) signal from getting through. There are other engineering features too that promise to reduce unwanted noise, like isolating audio components from other components, and insulating cables. Basically, all the hardware innovations are designed to increase the signal to noise ratio so that more of the good stuff (the music) comes through. The software innovations are little tougher to pin down, but most likely are equalizer pre-sets designed to make sure you’re hearing the right balance in your music.

[image of the concept drawings for beats audio headphones]

Concept drawings for Lady Gaga’s Beats headphones. Source: Gizmodo

I’m not an electrical engineer (and you’re probably not either), so we’re not exactly qualified to do rigorous testing to check everything (though if you’re ready and willing to dismantle an HTC circuit board to give us your opinion, please do). For most of us, we just want to see if it sounds better. And while I haven’t tried every device and headphone combo, the answer seems to be yes; for example, the built-in speakers on HP laptops with Beats Audio are significantly louder and have much better sound than say, a MacBook Pro of the same size. If audio quality and volume is important to you, Beats Audio is probably worth it.

Monster's original Beats Audio headphone response diagrams. Source: Gizmodo

Monster’s original Beats Audio headphone response diagrams. Source: Gizmodo

So what devices come with Beats Audio? Right now, HTC is the exclusive provider in smartphones. That sits just fine by us, since we are loving their 8X Windows Phone (you can see our hands-on here). For computers and tablets, Beats Audio has partnered with HP. If you’re curious about how their devices, you can watch Mario Armstrong demo the HP Envy.  Have you found that Beats Audio in a device has made a difference? Is the price of the headphones worth it? Let us know in the comments!