You can’t go a day without seeing Beats By Dre headphones hugging someone’s head or neck (or self-esteem), but mention the brand in a conversation and you’ll get a range of responses. The brand that prioritizes marketing over sound quality is unquestionably successful, popular and, divisive. A recently documented teardown of Beats By Dre Solo headphones will make future conversations about the brand even more contentious, as it revealed just how economical the build quality is — at least for one of its earlier products.
A prototype engineer for Bolt, a venture capital fund for hardware startups, recently detailed his teardown of a pair of first-generation Beats By Dre Solo headphones, which are now discontinued (an important note). Maybe the most striking part of the teardown posted on Medium was the discovery that about a third of the overall weight of the headphones comes from four metal parts included “for the sole purpose of adding weight.”
Adding some heft to a pair of otherwise lightweight headphones can give a consumer the impression that they’re holding something that’s sturdy and premium, according to Avery Louie, Bolt’s prototype engineer. “One way to do this cheaply is to make some components out of metal in order to add weight.”
Other findings of the teardown include the use of snaps and glue in place of screws, and the almost exclusive use of injection molded plastic, “which is essentially free at high volumes,” Louie notes.
He estimates the cost of goods for the Beats By Dre Solo headphones, without shipping and labor, is $16.89, or about 8 percent of the retail price.
“This is the power of brand; Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine have leveraged their personal backgrounds and a sleek design to launch a remarkable brand that’s become fundamental to music pop culture,” Louie concludes.
It should be noted that the newer Beats Solo2 headphones are manufactured by a different company and are, by most accounts, superior to its predecessor.