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By 6 June 2014 | Categories: feature articles

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Deep Fried Man wonders what kind of magic sound surgery Dr Dre performed in order to make his headphones worth $3.2 Billion.

I love a good pair of headphones. They are just the thing when you want to hear something without anyone else hearing it. This is very useful, especially when you happen to be watching or listening to something that may embarrass you in front of your colleagues at work, for example One Direction, or clown porn.

Sadly my knowledge when it comes to the dynamics of sound ends there. Having been brought up in Johannesburg, I haven’t managed to avoid ending-up in the cars of friends who have sub-woofers worth twice that of the vehicle. These are the kind of people who are generous enough not to stingily keep their music to themselves. They share this music with people in traffic and at petrol stations and even in their complexes at three in the morning. Because, really, what would be the point of going into massive debt over a sound system without sharing its power with the rest of the world? When I am going for a ride with such people they will talk about the clarity of the mids, or how the tweeters (and by this they mean a form of speaker, not the folks on Twitter) really bring out every detail of the top section. I wish I could agree but, to be honest, all I hear is booming bass.

This is why I struggle to understand exactly what revolutionary developments in sound technology Dr Dre has achieved that make his headphone company Beats By Dre worth $3.2 billion dollars, which is what Apple is allegedly offering him for it. Beats By Dre, is, according to its website, a “high-performance headphone and sound transmission company intent on recapturing the fidelity of the studio in an age of ear buds and tiny laptop speakers”. If this is what the company is achieving, I wouldn’t know. I’m a bit of a sound-retard. To me, all sounds are divided into two categories, which are: 1) Stuff only my dog can hear and 2) Stuff I can hear too.

I’m similar when it comes to wine. I love wine, I really do. But if you ask me what aromas and tasting notes I pick up, I must be honest and admit I’m picking up fermented grapes, which give off a winey flavour with an entirely wine-like aftertaste. Either, my olfactory senses and sense of taste are not up to scratch. Or, almost every other person in the wine tasting industry is too afraid to admit that they too are not picking up a hint of Orange Blossom followed by a lingering that gives way to a spicy aftertaste redolent of black pepper and liquorice.

I think the world of sound is similar in a way. People are willing to believe anything about how amazing a pair of headphones are, especially if it is being exclaimed by the OG, straight-out-of-Compton production genius that is Dre. I’m not hating. I hope he does become hip-hop’s first billionaire. I hope he makes enough money to retire to the countryside where he can work on his next project, Beets By Dre.

But if you want to know why Dr Dre’s headphones are worth 3.2 billion, ask someone else.

It beats me.

Photo courtesy of GA Goodman
Article first appearead in TechSmart 129, June 2014

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