Beats’ long-term designer says goodbye as Jony Ive says hello

apple beats chief designer robert brunner products

As the gravity of Apple’s $3 billion acquisition of Beats headphones – the biggest in the tech titan’s history – begins to sink in, many questions remain. One of the most prominent that comes to mind is: What will become of the iconic design style that’s defined the Beats brand once it is fully under Apple’s domain? While the answer to that – and many other questions – are still up in the air, one thing we do know is that once Apple’s design team takes the reins, all of Beats’ hardware is likely headed for a change.

No one knows that better than Robert Brunner. As the “first and only chief designer” of Beats products since its formation in 2006, Brunner and his design firm, Ammunition, have helped craft the aesthetic that supercharged the genre, and cemented Beats products in the minds of an entire generation. And now, as far as Beats Electronics goes, Brunner and his team are out of a job.

The companies have been in an incestuous relationship since before Beats was born.

However, there seems to be little ill will over the parting of ways. In a statement about the changing of the guard, Brunner had this to say, “We at Ammunition are absolutely thrilled that Beats — a business, a brand, a collection of products, and a group of friends that we have put so much of ourselves into — is becoming a part of Apple, arguably one of the world’s greatest companies and certainly the most design-led company of our era.”

“I’d like to take a moment to personally thank Jimmy, Dre, and Luke Wood (president of Beats Electronics). In addition to being great design partners, they have been incredible mentors to me over that last eight years, and they have helped me to grow as a designer and as a leader. And thanks to the entire team at Beats for an amazing, rewarding journey. We wish them all the best for their next chapter.”

Not exactly sour grapes.

But those rosey comments from Brunner don’t just stem from his magnanimous nature. Brunner has deep ties with Apple. Before working with Beats, Brunner was an Apple alumn, working as the company’s Director of Industrial Design from 1989-1997. In fact, Brunner was instrumental in the hiring of Apple’s current Senior Vice President of Design, Jony Ive. Ive is now a major driving force behind Apple’s design vision, reporting directly to CEO Tim Cook. And that’s just the beginning of the relationship between the two ostensibly divergent brands. Though many saw Apple’s acquisition of Beats as something that sprung up overnight, the companies have been in an incestuous relationship since Beats was born.

Robert Brunner, former Chief designer for Beats by Dr. Dre

Aside from the design ties between Brunner and Ive, Tim Cook and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine have reportedly been friends for many years. Iovine has been on hand to advise Cook in musical endeavors long before he became a “special advisor” in the official sense, banking a veritable mountain of cash in the process. Yet, while Iovine and his founding partner Dr. Dre will both be joining Apple in advisory roles as their electronics progeny enters the next era, Brunner will be moving on. And that could be a big deal.  

Apple will take great care to preserve the look and feel of Beats products – at least in the short run.

There’s no denying that a major part of the appeal of Beats headphones has always been centered around style. The brand’s flashy colors, banking curves, and straight up bling didn’t just change the industry, it helped redefine it. And while there are plenty of those who question the audio performance of the brand, pegging Beats products as high-priced and overhyped (including Digital Trends on many occasions), few would question the brand’s aesthetic appeal – there’s a reason you see that little ‘b’ everywhere.

Apple knows that all too well. Apart from all of the other spoils that come with its high-stakes deal with Beats Electronics, including the company’s entire hardware arsenal, its Beats Music streaming service, and the musical minds of Dre and Iovine, Apple is buying into an entire culture. That’s why, in an unprecedented move for the tech giant, Apple will be keeping the Beats brand intact when it takes ownership of the company. 

That fact sparks a lingering sense that, as Ammunition moves on to other projects, Apple will take great care to preserve the look and feel of Beats products that was so carefully cultivated by Brunner and his team – at least in the short run. Still, as the leading designer for arguably one of the most iconic and aesthetically-driven corporations in modern history, Ive will no doubt have his own ideas for the brand. And as he gets his hands wet, it will be interesting to see where he takes Beats in the near future.

As for the oft-criticized sonic performance of Beats products, well, that’s another story altogether.

What do you think a new pair of Beats headphones will look like in the hands of Apple’s design team? Are you excited about the deal, or do you think Apple has made a mistake in purchasing Beats? Let us know in the comments.

Gaming

These are the best video games you shouldn't leave 2018 without

Developers showed up with a number of amazing games this year. Each capitalized on something unique but there's always one that outdoes them all. Here are our picks for the best video games of 2018 and game of the year.
Music

Jam out in style with the 25 best playlists on Spotify

Music is the world's most potent drug, and the best playlists on Spotify will make you catch feelings. We've scoured the service for its top collections, and brought them together in one place -- for you.
Cars

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Product Review

AKG's signature studio sound goes straight to your head with these stunning cans

With gorgeous looks and great sound, AKG’s N700NC are a formidable entry into the wireless noise-canceling headphone race. We put them to the test to see if they can beat out the absolute best in the business.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Home Theater

Streaming services blast past networks for the most scripted TV shows in 2018

For the first time in history, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, produced more original scripted series than broadcast or cable channels, setting a new record for the number of TV shows on the air.
Movies & TV

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘The X-Files’ with the show’s 10 best episodes

The X-Files premiered 25 years ago, so here are the 10 best episodes of the award-winning sci-fi series. From alien-abduction drama to hilarious satires, these are the best episodes from all 11 seasons of the hit series.
Movies & TV

Can't get enough lightsaber action? Here's how to get your Star Wars fix online

Few of us want to deal with DVDs or Blu-ray discs anymore. Unfortunately, the Star Wars movies are few and far between when it comes to streaming. If you want to watch Star Wars online, check out our guide on where to find the films online.
Home Theater

Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Battle of the streaming giants

Trying to figure out which subscription streaming service to use while sticking to a frugal entertainment budget? Check out our updated comparison of the big three: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.
Home Theater

Confused about LED vs. LCD TVs? Here's everything you need to know

Our LED vs. LCD TV buying guide explains why these two common types of displays are fundamentally connected, how they differ, what to look for in buying an LED TV, and what's on the horizon for TVs.
Home Theater

What is Terrarium TV? Here’s everything you need to know

Terrarium TV offered a way to watch movies & TV for free, but now after a troubled existence, the app's developer has shut it down, and offered an ominous message to users on his way out.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.