During the summer, HTC announced that it’s taken a 51% controlling stake in Beats Electronics, home of the Dr Dre-branded Studio headphones, for £190m ($309m). The move is prompted by a 24% year-on-year increase in the sales of headphones as more and more people listen to music on mobiles, laptops and tablets.
According to this piece on the BBC ‘Click’ site, the global market for headphones is worth more than £415m ($680m) per year, and is growing, and we’re shelling out more money on each pair. A price tag of £1,000 does not seem to shock some shoppers. The Ultrasone Edition 10s pictured cost a cool £1,765 ($2,750). Grado Labs is another high-end manufacturer, and Sennheiser has its £1,000-a-pair HD 800s.
Beats’ President Jimmy Iovine says the company is on a mission “to clean up the destruction of audio caused by the digital revolution”. Their mission should be helped by a gradual increase in bit rates used for encoding as the capacity of MP3 devices increases; from the standard 128kb/s to 192kb/s, and even 320kb/s. 256kb/s files are already available to download from the iTunes store.
At the high-end, all of this will be further helped by the addition of expensive (£800 / $1,300) ‘super tweeters’ to top-of-the-range headphones, which work beyond the frequencies audible to the human ear.