Apple recently bought Beats. You might have heard about that.

Before the acquisition, I heard from a lot of friends, colleagues, and general folk on the internet, that Beats headphones sound dreadful - that they sound so bass heavy and make everything sound ‘muddy’. These views got heavily amplified after the acquisition.

The Beats brand has become something of a fashion statement, much like when the iPod was released with its white earbud cables. I don’t doubt that a lot of people bought Beats because of this, but I’d bet that there are a lot of people who bought them because they liked the sound.

I saw some in a store recently and thought it was about time I had a listen for myself.

I walked into the store, lifted up the headphones - the Beats Studio model, I think - and engulfed myself in a flood of extremely low frequencies. A lot of low end. As John Gruber put it in a recent episode of The Talk Show, they sound “like a nightclub - in your head”. You know what? With the right style of music, they sound exactly like that. It seems that the head-club experience is exactly what Beats’ target market want. They want you to feel as if you’re watching the artists live, as if you’re at a venue.

The Beats Acoustic Engine™ makes your listening experience intimate, personal, and real. Our signature DSP software is designed to generate the emotional experience that Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, and some of the music industry’s greatest rock, hip-hop, pop, electronic, and R&B producers want you to feel. This is how music would sound if the artist could play it back for you in person.

The designers deserve a lot of credit for creating a product that achieves that goal. It really does sound like that - with the right style of music. You shouldn’t expect to play Jimi Hendrix through these headphones and have an appropriate reproduction of his music. If you do expect that and are subsequently disappointed, you’ve misunderstood the product. I have Sennheiser HD25 headphones. I think they are absolutely wonderful and excel in many areas, but they didn’t create an experience anywhere close to the intended Beats experience.

Every product has a purpose. If you don’t like it, don’t understand it, or don’t need it, then don’t buy it. You have a choice and there are always other options. Sunglasses are not ideal indoors. Normal glasses are not ideal in bright sun. You shouldn’t expect headphones designed for one application to work well for another.