Beats Electronics, the Santa Monica (Calif.) audio company founded by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, is known for their stylish and colorful ear candy for young and hip, urban music junkies. Today, however, the company launched a product aimed at another demographic. Called Beats Executive, the new $299 headphones are for the frequent-flying, suit-wearing crowd.
Asked to describe his target buyers, Beats President and Chief Operating Officer Luke Wood says, “Maybe I want to be not quite as loud on the plane in terms of something that goes with my fashion sensibility, and want something that goes a little better with my Brooks Brothers suit.”
Performance-wise, do Beats Executives pass muster? We passed a prototype around the office, and the feedback was good for sound quality, noise canceling, and sturdiness. One worker noted that the headphones “shape” the music, rather than just playing it. Two colleagues complained of a hiss in the background caused by the noise-canceling function. Beats replied that this kink in the prototype was ironed out and sent another pair, which were better. The bass was rich and heavy.
Since forming in 2008, Beats has grown into the leading premium headphone maker. In the first eight months of 2012, Beats manufacturer Monster claimed 55 percent of the premium ($100-plus) market in terms of unit sales, says Ben Arnold, NPD Group’s director of industry analysis for consumer electronics.
Executive is the company’s first launch since it took control of production and manufacturing from Monster on July 1. In addition to going after white-collar consumers with Executive, Beats has also tried to expand its reach by partnering with such companies as HTC (2498:TT) (which invested $300 million for 51 percent stake in the company in 2011 to improve smartphone audio, then sold back 25 percent ownership this year), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Chrysler Group, Dodge, and Fiat (F:IM). Still, says Wood, headphones will remain its core product. The premium headphone market hasn’t slowed yet: Sales from January to August are up 61 percent from a year earlier, according to NPD.
Adds Wood: “We’ll be a competitor with everybody.”