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Beats exec: new Studio headphones show 'we're serious about sound'

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Beats by Dre New Studio headphones
Beats by Dre New Studio headphones

Think about "Beats by Dre," and you might think of an overpriced red headset that makes your brain rattle with bass. Luke Wood, president and COO of Beats Electronics, wants to change that image. And he believes the company's latest product, the new Beats by Dre Studio headphones, will be a major step toward getting Beats the recognition he says it deserves. "To me, this is the most important sign of what we can become, from a credible standpoint as an engineering company, as a product company, as a technology company — it's this product," he told The Verge. "If you look at what it's evolved from, what it's evolved to, it really shows we're serious about sound."

And indeed, the new Studio does sound vastly better than the outgoing model, which made its debut in 2008 when legendary hip-hop producer Dr. Dre and record mogul Jimmy Iovine launched the company. But while the new Studio pushes sound quality of the company's flagship headset forward, it's still unapologetically a Beats product, which Better sound, but still bass heavy means there's a unescapable low end that is absent in other headphones. Wood said that while the sound of Beats products has yet to win over audiophiles, its bass-heavy approach is reflective of how music sounds nowadays. "When people listened to the first Studio, they formed an opinion of what the Beats sound is," he said. "A lot of people want to say we're just a celebrity headphone. But the whole idea that we're just a celebrity-branded hip-hop headphone is absurd. Jimmy's made Born to Run, he's made Damn the Torepedos, he's made U2 records. I come from rock. We make music and we understand sound."

Wood also said that Beats understood that the Studio needed to be completely redesigned in order to push the company's sound quality forward. The new model is priced at $299.95, while the outgoing model has been cut to $249.99. But the high price isn't without perks. The silhouette between the two generations is similar, but they don't share a single component. The old Studio ran on AAA batteries, while the new set has a built-in, 20-hour battery pack that charges over microUSB. There's also a gauge on the right ear cup that displays how much juice is left, and the new Studio is sturdier while being 20 percent lighter. It also features noise canceling that Wood said better adapts to what's being played so it doesn't mistakenly remove elements from a song, as the old model could do.

"It's not just about marketing."

In every way, the new Studio is a step up over the old model — something both Beats and consumers deserved, he said. "When we came into this business, we were told people don't want to wear big headphones, that people only want in-ears, that people didn't really care about audio, and that people wouldn't pay that kind of money for headphones," Wood said. "We dealt with a lot of presuppositions that i think fairly, we can say, we've dispelled. Now we want to establish that there's a lot of room for growth in the headphone space, and how focused Beats is on our product. It's not just about marketing and demand creation. We really want to make great products."