Beats Audio and the importance of brand perception

beats pro mixr headphones

As you can see in the above picture, after what is years of trying, some Beats headphones have finally made it into the DJWORX machine. And to think all it took was planting a team member (thanks Drew!) inside the heart of the Beats empire to make this finally happen. But for whatever reason (most probably the level of abuse metered out by yours truly), the old Beats headphones simply didn’t make it into the old worxlab for review. I call it fear. But now they’re here, and it’s inspired some interesting thoughts about brand perception.

Beats, from a DJ perspective, have a credibility rating hovering around the zero mark. In the eyes of the cash-strapped masses, they’re those really expensive but crappy plastic lifestyle cans that are given out like sweets to media hungry VIPs as if that somehow gives them any credibility. From a general public perception, this has worked incredibly well for them — even global media outlets like the BBC ran stories from the Olympics about athletes wearing them on the way out to compete.

But that isn’t credibility. Granted, Beats are aspirational for the masses, but pros are suspicious and sceptical. So no matter how amazing these new Beats might be from a professional perspective, the human instinct is to dismiss them out of hand. Entirely understandable of course, given the low esteem that producers and DJs hold other Beats headphones in. And this is the problem that Beats are facing – brand perception.

DJ Tech is another company suffering in the same way. Their brand perception is low but in a different way — they make no bones about being a budget brand, but a string of badly conceived products pitched them in the joke category. They have realised this and have made moves to move into credibility. They can wipe the slate clean and reinvent themselves and their product, which is a luxury that Beats just don’t have.


So Beats have to break the established perception with what they already have. Endorsement from the Guettas and Skrillexes of this world won’t work — DJs love to hate those guys no matter what they do or say. But what about when a site like DJWORX that has an established record for on-point reviews offers a positive opinion? Are people so entrenched in their perceptions that they’ll simply refuse to believe that Beats could actually put out a set of pro headphones worthy of their attention?

I’m going to put the Beats Pros and Mixrs through the same process as every other headphone I’ve covered, and report back honestly. And in the short time I’ve had them (literally hours), I’m pretty convinced that they’ll get a great review. I’ve looked at enough headphones to know pretty quickly. And I’m in the virgin position of not forming an opinion of Beats because I never had the old ones.

But the question is this — do you think that you can read a positive review of pro Beats headphones and actually respect it? Or will you always dismiss them without ever having handled a pair of Pros or Mixrs?  I guess the bigger question is this — do you find yourself so entrenched in your brand opinions that you refuse to believe anything that veers away from your perceptions?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.amendola Jeremy Amendola

    Really glad you’re bringing up this point, as I think it’s becoming more and more relevant as A) Pioneer tightens its stranglehold on nearly every aspect of the high-end DJ market, and B) Brands with less than stellar reputations attempt (and sometimes succeed!) at reinventing themselves and become legitimate players in the market.

    I’ve never been able to understand gear-hate. It’s the DJ equivalent of racism, as far as I can tell. When I say I love DJ gear, I mean ALL DJ gear, not just the newest pieces of next-level tech with astronomical price tags. I don’t care if a setup cost $100 or $10,000, I’m always excited to see different workflows and methods of providing music to the masses. The fact that a lot of DJs in my experience automatically disregard anything if it isn’t from the “Pro” pantheon is just flat out disappointing, and bad for the industry. Competition improves the breed folks.

  • Sephyr

    My problem with beats is the same with Apple and Pioneer (sometimes). No matter what they give you for the money there’s always a margin you pay for the Brand, and i can’t afford the luxury.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scottie.adjf Scott Alexander

    Sure, Beats Pro are decent. I’d say they’re on par with my Ultrasone HFI-580s after having a day with them. But the difference lies in price. I bought the Ultrasones off Amazon, new for $130. Beats Pro range between $400 and $500. Is the extra $300 or so worth it to look ‘better’ to other people?

  • DjVertigoMTL

    I feel like whatever you say will be unbiased and honest, so let’s hear it! I am actually really interested in the mixr vs hd-25, the portability alone seems really nice and from what I have heard they sound great.

  • http://twitter.com/stevesweets Stephen Sweetland

    This might be a pointless reminder… but please remember to try them in a mixing environment. My largest issue with beats is clarity at volumes needed for club work. I found them very crashy and muddy at higher volumes. So far impressed with mixr’s tho.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gulli.johansen Gulli Johansen

    I’ve mostly heard bad things about Beats, but one of my DJ frinds has started using them and he totaly loves them. He switched from HJD 2000 so I’m sure that there has to be something about the Beats that made him choose them over Pioneer.

  • BOM

    The thing that I think gets missed is that these are nickmaned ‘Thief Magnets’ because I personally have seen and know of people who have had these stolen from them..

    I think its important to remember that if you walking around with a massive pair of shiny headphones on your head turned up to full blast, you can attract attention to yourself, and most of the time its the wrong kind of attention.

    • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

      My perspective is from the DJ and producer viewpoint though. Casual thieves shouldn’t be able to get their hands on them normally, but I’m sure they’ll try. A kensington lock on a pair of headphones wouldn’t be very pretty or practical.

      • BOM

        you’re spot on there Mark, I guess you could tie the cable to your jeans, that could halt the opportunist thief! lol

        TBH most of the people I have met who own a pair of
        beats, usually have bought them because of the aesthetics qualities that these cans
        have over the general performance that they offer.

        I would never recommend Beats for anything other than just casual use because there are so many other true
        professional headphones out there for a fraction of the price that give a more balanced perseption of what you are listening to.

  • http://twitter.com/DJLBIZ Dj L-BIZ (BEAT3)

    i’d be happy to give them a go and i’d love to read a skratchworx review. They would have to do well to beat my HD25-CII’S though. The only slight problem i have with those is not being able to easily monitor off the shoulders as such and maybe the highs could be a little clear imho.
    I feel the price may be the stumbling block and maybe isolation in a club situation.

  • NXMD

    After trying out the Beats Mixr with just 2 songs, I already dismissed them. No review is going to change that opinion. I listened to TNGHT – Bugg’n to check out the lows a little bit, which weren’t as bad as I had always expected. But then I put on Flosstradamus – Drak Night and was missing the entire lead synth. It sounded like the EQ was a smiley. I experienced the same with the Beats Boombox, their iPod-dock, when I tried Kanye West – All of the Lights, where the trumpets sounded so distant.

    I think a review should be a tool to help you know more about the product, but that you should definitely try the product yourself if there’s an oppurtunity.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Gavintech Gavin Varitech

      They are tuned to sound like a smiley-face EQ. No doubt about it, you are spot on! The sad thing is most of their customers (without knowing this) this it is a good thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheR4d Conrad Ingels

    I get some crap because I use the Beats Pro, but I love how damn near indestructible they are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dotcon Con Koehncke

    Hey Mark, here’s an interesting article about the history of Beats I stumbled across the other day. Looking forward to that review, Con

    http://gizmodo.com/5981823/beat-by-dre-the-inside-story-of-how-monster-lost-the-world

  • Elliot

    I tried the smaller model Beats headphones vs the Pioneer HDJ 500’s and not sounding like a Pioneer fanboy the Pio’s sounded way better. The Beats had to much bass and sounded a little flat for my taste. I just use them for casual listening and some DJing.

  • http://my360stats.com/LeiChat.htm Richard

    The biggest issue with most Beats reviews on the internet is they don’t compare them to anything worthwhile.
    “they’re so much better than my iphone earbuds”

    • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

      Will HD25s and HDJ-2000s be OK?

      • http://www.retroftw.com/ RetroBot

        yes please :)

      • maber

        LOL! YES!!! -now i’m impatient :)

      • http://my360stats.com/LeiChat.htm Richard

        I have the 25s so that would be perfect. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/serjoka Sergio Pantaleo

        Dear Mark, when reviewing against the HDJ2000, please, have a closer look at the built quality, since HDJ2000 are really crap (poor plastic) near the rotary parts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/vic.perez.161 Vic Perez

      But the Worx Lab is no joke.

  • http://twitter.com/DJLBIZ Dj L-BIZ (BEAT3)

    *sorry djworx review

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carlos-Hernandez/1412210322 Carlos Hernandez

    All I can say is that I had a pair of Beats Pro for 3 Years ( longest I ever had a pair of headphones last me ). I throw this on my bag all the time, week in week out, and they still in perfect working condition. I know there are better sounding headphones out there for the price, but the audio quality is not bad ( a little heavy on the bass ) and you combine that with the fact that this are built like a tank ( a little heavy too ) I think is a winner on my book. Every other set of headphones I had broke in less then a year. The Pros have endure the test of time for me. Yeah there is better sounding Dj headphones out there, but they are not build like the Pros. Whenever someone makes a better build set of cans I’ll switch, in the mean time I stick with the Pros.
    If you don’t mind the extra bass or the heavy weight, the Pros will last you a long time. Money will invested.

    • dmiehm

      Try getting a replacement cable from beats, you can’t.

  • http://twitter.com/charginout steve brown

    my neice and nephew have some, and they love ‘em. of course, they think big time rush is a great band, too.

  • http://twitter.com/charginout steve brown

    since you mentioned dj tech; people talk a lot about quality. i’ve looked inside a lot of controllers, and dj tech controllers have thicker plastic, thicker wires, thicker pcbs, bigger screws, than anything else I have seen, so they are great quality if you ask me.

  • Dj Honest

    The fact that there needed to be a preface worries me.

    • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

      Worried about what though?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ben.melbye Ben Melbye

    My beef with Beats by Dre headphones is the perception from non-DJs that they are the top of the line solely because they are expensive and celebrity DJs wear them. I don’t know if they are worth the money or not because I’ve never tried them so I won’t pass judgement, but non-DJ people I know rave about how amazing they are without ever having anything else to compare them to other than iPod earbuds (like Richard mentioned in a previous post). I tell those people they could have bought great quality headphones for a lot less money but they don’t believe me.

    • http://twitter.com/serkankocak Serkan Kocak

      This!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brad.giezentanner Brad Giezentanner

    Numark has had that stigma for years now. With a string of poorly designed products, many people that have not tried products like the NS6 or NS7 still continue to hold to the opinion that Numark could never make a piece of equipment worth of being called pro. Love my TTX’s and my NS6.

    My wife bought me a pair of Beat Pro’s and I had to return them. ( the ones with the battery in them for bass enhancement and noise cancelling) They cleaned up my track too good for cueing. I need to hear the music reproduced as close to original as possible so the my gains,highs, mids and lows are tweaked properly. My Sony 150’s do that sufficiently. Beats are great listening or production headphones, just not good for DJing IMO.

  • http://www.facebook.com/seungjin.yun Seungjin Yun

    I’m not perfect, but i do my best to give my opinion based on actual trial …granted, i don’t have ready access to most products so I’ve always turned to respected review sites (like DJWorx, of course) to help trim the fat. I really appreciate the unbiased opinions given, it’s really helped me choose wisely and has kept me coming back for many years now.

    so, as much as I’ve disliked the early Beats product.. it’s more the market i hated, but on the other hand I’ve been happy for Dre that his namesake has proven to be sucessfully popular as a brand. kudos.

    I am certainly guilty of complaining about DJ Tech’s branding. not that i have any issue with their products, particularly the newest mixer …but i’ve been around long enough to let the cheesy, gimmicky products slide. they’re not the first company to put out gear that gets clowned on, and the majority of the US market has no idea about their past. BUT, at a glance …the “DJ Tech” name just oozes genericness. the actual logo design certainly doesn’t help either. …..but for the record, i actually dig some of their newer products and have considerable respect for what they’re doing and the direction they seem to be taking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leo.morane Léo Morane

    Besides the brand perception, i would have a hard time using headphones that shows “david guetta” on the box to sell more. As you just said, beats has positioned themselves .. somewhere, but not on the professionnal range. I’ll always prefer using dedicated pro-range headphones like hd25, because they’re made and designed for a USE, not a PUBLIC.

    I trust far more people who make gear by passion and not for money, speaking of build quality and precision.

    • http://www.facebook.com/serjoka Sergio Pantaleo

      Dear Leo, I own a pair of Pioneer HDJ2000, and you should expect really good built quality for a Pro Headphones, not just good audio quality. Well, they got broken after a month, at the same critical point like hundreds of other pioneer HDJ2000 customers. Simply because the most important parts are made by plasitc.

  • The_KLH

    Another point to consider is that headphones are THE most personal and intimate part of a DJ’s setup. Sound sources may change, computer apps may come and go; but once a DJ finds headphones he/she likes, he/she uses them forever. While I’ll read your review (and comment), nothing will change my mind that God shows His love by having Sony sell the MDR-7506.

  • http://spencerthayer.tumblr.com Spencer “Thunderball” Thayer

    I am willing to accept that Beats can make a decent set of cans. Any company can. But their branding as a fashion accessory allows them to jack the price up. For what I can get in an equivalent Techniques or TMA1 set of cans I’ll end up paying less.

  • http://www.facebook.com/afitton815 Andy Fitton

    I own a pair of Mixr’s. I have to say that I prefer them to my Senn HD25s while I’m playing out! I got a lot of hate for standing by them. Good to see I’m not the only one!

    • http://www.facebook.com/andytaylor125 Andrew Taylor

      Not just me then! :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/serjoka Sergio Pantaleo

      I don’t care about other people, I’ve been trying mine against other earphones in the same price range like Bose (i own the quietcomfort headphones and love them), Sennheiser and many others. They looks great, they fit perfectly and sound is good. So +1 for Beats.

  • http://twitter.com/LatestArtists Andrew+Deb O’Malley

    They’d have to be vastly superior to the alternatives to pique my interest, or at least tune down branding. I hate wearing blaring logos — no matter who’s — if I can help it.

  • lol_u_mad

    Honestly (for me at least) what killed Beats was their affiliation with Monster Cables, a company which has a long and proven history of bullshitting and using shady marketing tactics to sell their over priced products. It’s hard to trust headphones from a company which regularly lied about product capabilities (and even endorsements) all in an effort to get your money. Also, celebrity endorsed products are just cheesy in my opinion – what does David Guetta or Dr. Dre know about actually *making* good headphones? you’re just asking for your product to be alienated by a large demographic of people who wont take it seriously. When you keep branding your products with celebrity names, you give off the vibe like you NEED to do that in order to sell them, which gives people the impression that they’re shitty. Even 50 Cent and Ludacris are doing the same thing now, just knock that shit off and let the headphones sell themselves, if they’re good people will buy them anyway, right?.

    Even if the Mixr or Beats are good headphones, I’ve long since settled on other tried and tested brands which existed well before they did and at a price point which was more modest at that. I’m not saying they’re bad headphones, I’m saying I just don’t care anymore lol.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Trevor-Nordberg/1169749589 Trevor Nordberg

    I think if the review is done in a non-biased, Dj perspective way, (which it sounds like you are going to do), then I think it would be impossible NOT to notice it.
    On the other hand, I think people will need to see more than one review from other sources to be swayed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/4P1ay Tomii Forsythe

    This past christmas I had recently purchased ultrasone dj 1 pro headphones after years of waiting until i could afford them. I love them! So…. for as gift, my parents decided to get me a new pair of headphones without knowing that I had already purchased the ultrasones. They went to best buy and was convinced that the Beats Mixr was the some of the best headphones out there. Talking about putting my foot in my mouth when after talking so much trash on the beats, i get these as a christmas present. LOL.

    So I gave them a listen and also compared them to the ultrasones. Believe it or not they are actually really great headphones. The sound quality isnt as good as the ultrasones however, they are louder. Using them in a club environment was pretty much equal but leaning towards the ultrasones as being better and clearer. Connected to my pioneer mixer you get allot more sound then, say an ipod.

    One thing that caught my attention was the smell. For those of use that have smelt a speaker being pushed to hard you will know this smell. This happend while casually (yet loud) listening to my ipod. All in all great headphones. Im not to keen on the “on ear” style but they are really nice. And the feature where the ear piece slides back so you dont need to slip them off your head is genius.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DJCHILLB Ryan Gardner

    Recently updated my Sony cans to a new set, I did some extensive testing with several different headphones and went for the hd25s as found them better all round from a Dj perspective, clarity through the ranges, good volume, good isolation and good price, beats I found too bass heavy to hear the punch on the base line at high levels and obviously very expensive.

    However if I was buying for using them on the train or walking down the street I would go for the beats as has the bass heavy crossovers I enjoy for dance dubstep d&b music I listen to.

    Hope that makes sense

  • DirtyNerd

    To answer Mark’s question. I am for sure willing to be open about the Beats…I’ve heard good things about the Mixr model, but have never tried them. My only issue is that I just can’t see myself spending that kind of money on them. I accept that good headphones (for DJ’ing) are going to be more expensive than for just listening to your iPod. However, I have a limit of what I can and am willing to spend. I own a pair of TMA-1s which I love because they are the opposite of the Beats in that they are understated instead of flashy and shiny. Most people including other DJs that I have met don’t even know what they are…but I love em and they work great for me. For me it is a financial and style decision (i don’t like shiny and flashy). The Beats would have to a) be much better, b) not look so flashy for my taste and c) cost WAY less.

  • DJ STU-C

    if you review them and say they are good phones Mark then of course the majority of us are going to listen, your not about to start pumping bullshit at us to endorse a poor product.

    what i dont like is the fact you can buy the bombproof sennheisers for around the same price, and in my case get the genuine sony mdvr’s from amazon for 60 quid (i only dj in the spare room these days so they are more than good enough for me)

    good as they may be they will not become part of my setup, so many better options

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrecato Andre Cato

    Every company can and should change when needed. What I think we seem to forget, is that gear is often changed due to the people behind the company, as opposed to simply the brand name. Behringer has had a new designer that has brought forward the CMD range, Stanton had some mad scientist who created the unique and cool 4DJ and look at the change in Electrix in the past year! Now beats has a DJ Worx Team Member, with his finger on the pulse of what we, as DJs want. So yes, I am looking forward to knowing what DJ Worx thinks of the Beats for professional market and also about what will happen at Beats over the next year to make them even beatier… Would like to know how they are EQ’d and the clarity at low volumes as these things to me help design the future for the younger DJs, ensuring they are not connecting overpowered cans that will ensure they are wearing hearing aids by the time they are 30. Congrats Drew

  • Japastralia

    Beats or not, I would always take a positive review into account even if I don’t like the brand or have had a bad experience with them in the past. The final verdict always comes to my own ears.
    My question is, do people (or DJs for this matter) really now better than Beats as they say?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1436480896 Jesse Herr

    Ive had studios and pros, the studios were decent at best, coming from a cheap pair on Senheizers, i love my Pros for DJing very durable, loud, bassy, and look cool

  • Reyification

    Awesome article! Looking forward to the review!

    I still won’t buy them though, because they’re just too expensive

  • http://www.facebook.com/vboraj Vjosan Boraj

    I never had a pair of beats but I borrowed them several times. The price is unjustified and the sound quality is below to a medium range headphones. But as they have become a trend (you see people everywhere in the streets wearing a pair of beats) what drives me nuts is the fact that most of these people don’t even know who Dr. Dre is. To be honest the quality build and design are not that bad. I’m an audiophile trust me but I don’t need the highest quality when I’m listening to music on my way home with my portable mp3 player. So I’d buy a pair of decent good looking headphones and that won’t be a pair of beats. I’d rather get a pair of v-modas.

  • dmiehm

    My beef with Beats by Dre, is the fact you can’t buy replacement cables. I destroyed my cable during a set on New Years and now there useless. I emailed Beats and there response was ” at this present time we do not sell replacement parts” So what now? I have a 400 dollar pair of nice looking headphones that I can’t use? Sure I can buy a third party cable, but why should I have to do that? I have switched back to to a brand that I can get replacement parts and put my beats in the junk bin with all the other useless gear I have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/serjoka Sergio Pantaleo

    I own a pair of Beats Tour in-ear earphone, and i saw much more expensive ones with half of their sound quality and response. Never tried headphones, but I own a pair of HDJ2000 and their built quality, compared to sound, is really sh*t. And yes, it’s just a matter of perception.

  • johnwayne

    Love my HD-25’s.. I got them after your headphone mega review a few years ago.. still pumping and sounding great..

  • Dirk

    The Pro are utter shite, they look tough but they’re really not that strong. plus they’re too big. the Mix (or mixer or whatever its called) is decent, it looks cool, sounds good enough and fairly strong. But the problem is that they are too expensive for what you get

  • http://twitter.com/skinnymanmusic DJ Skinny

    I’ll say this much. I’ve used multiple beats, and done quick tests on beats in Best Buy and in club environments (friends’ headphones while playing same gigs) and it always boils down to the same thing. Preference. Beats have heavy bass response, which IMO is great for just listening to music. When I’m mixing, I don’t want that “sweet” tuning of the audio, I want to know what it really sounds like so I know if I’m running the risk of blowing the speakers I’m playing on.

    As a preference, I LOVE my Stanton 3000s (you’ve done your review on them so you know what they sound like). I’ve been using them for years, and can’t seem to find another pair that I prefer. But like you’ve always said…preference.

  • Mr Smith

    Monster has always charged exuberant prices for it’s products. It’s not that the beats are inherently bad… most just know that you can get far better for far less.

  • Ryan Dejaegher

    For beats I think they have their work cut out for them in terms of their brand perception. I think it will take a lot of work and effort before DJ’s see Beats as a respectable brand. I use TMA-1’s and what immediately won me over was a) the positive review from DJTT and b) their product videos. The product and video’s are very understated. You get a sense that these guys really put in the time to make the best headphones while cutting away any waste. Even the idea that they’ve had them road tested by some big name acts and some that aren’t on the scale of Guetta and Skrillex shows that they aren’t just trying to buy attention.

    My issue with beats is a) the value and b) their product placement. For the price their are better alternatives and just because there’s a fancy “B” on it doesn’t make it work an extra $150 – $200. Their product is largely used by the uninformed masses who will be convinced to buy them based on the fact that DJ’s such as Guetta and Skrillex use them. With beats I don’t see a company who is out to make a great product. I see a company that is out to make a flashy gimmick to capitalize on the booming DJ market. Companies like these largely buy their success. If they want to change my mind they’d have to speak to why they are making this product (besides the obvious, profit). Again AIAIAI saw a void in the headphone market for a simple no gimmicks headphone. It seems that Monster saw an opportunity to exploit a huge audience.

  • Dj Sandstrom

    I’ve been using the Beats Pro cans professionally since they we’re released a couple of years ago, and they are actually the best headphones I’ve had so far. And I’ve been deejaying professionally since the mid 80’s and I play on average 150 gigs a year. My previous weapons of choice, since the late nineties if I recall correctly, was Sony’s V700’s. A headphone I also liked but they had a lifespan of 18-24 months before falling into pieces, so I gave the Pro a try when my last pair of 700’s broke down. They are the most comfortable cans I’ve used (thanx to nice padding and the swivel) and they’re built like a tank. After two years they are still as new. The sound is a little too heavy in the bass section compared studio reference headphones, but I find that comfortable during gigs. I definitely recommend you give them an unbiased try.
    The Mixr for me is for pure iPhone use, not for gigging.

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  • The Red Dude

    Those are fakes. Legit pros either say “Pro” or has the monster logo on it.

    • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

      Nope. Totally legit, from the desk of the guy in charge of pro sales at Beats HQ.