HP's Beats Audio explained in retro video | webOS Nation

HP's Beats Audio explained in retro video

by Riz Parvez Sat, 26 Feb 2011 2:19 pm EST

Ever since Think Beyond, we here at PreCentral have been posting about screen resolution, battery life, Touch To Share technology, along with the host of other details we’re used to focusing on with mobile technology. But times have changed over at the Palm Global Business Unit. HP’s famed scale has brought wonderful new possibilities to the platform, along with a host of interesting tech from their own roster. One great example of this is the migration of Beats Audio to the TouchPad. So far, this feature has been little more than a footnote in most of our coverage, but Beats Audio may actually be a significant product differentiator for HP’s very first webOS tablet. Why? Read on after the break to find out.

So let’s suspend disbelief for a minute. Yes, Beats headphones are manufactured by Monster Cable Products Inc., and come in Dr. Dre, Lady Gaga, Bono, and even Justin Beiber branded varieties. Yes, the Beats brand is fueled at least in part by a hype engine that lives for product placement anywhere from music videos to feature-length Hollywood releases. Does this mean 'Beats Audio Technology' is nothing more than marketing? Fortunately for us, the answer is no.

Beats was originally a collaborative effort between famed Interscope Records producer Jimmy Iovine and rap superstar Dr. Dre. As people keenly focused on the production of music, they saw a big opportunity to to make an impact in the mainstream consumer market by focusing on something manufacturers barely considered as an afterthought: Audio quality on computers.

During his speech on February 9th, Iovine cited a long line of medocrity in the music supply chain; Everything from poor bitrate music files on iTunes to chintzy speakers on laptop computers. He noted this was particularly egregious because more and more, computers are our home stereos, and no one is hearing music the way the artists were hearing it in the recording studio.

So how does Beats Audio actually address this? While details are slim in the case of the TouchPad (frankly, were were a little busy asking some other tough questions), we have a clever video from HP that explains what it means to have Beats Audio on an HP laptop.

The big theme here is trying to preserve the audio signal from interference as it moves it’s way down the chain to your ears. This includes attempts to isolate the audio hardware on the motherboard, having a discrete headphone amplifier, separated right, left, and ground audio wires, and even a headphone jack with “no metal parts” to reduce grounding noise. There’s also a Beats Audio-specific sound profile that can be enabled to take advantage of the particular hardware that Beats Audio provides.

So how has this setup on HP’s laptops fared with the critics? Largely quite well. Big names like Engadget, Laptop Magazine, and PC World have had plenty of good things to say about Beats Audio when reviewing laptops like HP’s award-winning Envy series. Even the audiophile community at HeadFi generally seem to have found Beats laptops to provide one of the better out-of-the-box audio experiences.

So ‘Beats Audio Technology’ actually does have some substance. Could it still amount to one gigantic gimmick on the TouchPad? Sure. Will Beats be the end-all-be-all in home audio for tablet consumers? Probably not. Still, it is reassuring to know that Beats Audio has been more than just clever branding, because it means that audio performance on the TouchPad has a chance of being more than just an afterthought. If nothing else, the hype engine surrounding Beats Audio Technology alone is something our friends at Palm could certainly use when trying to get a foothold in the increasingly competitive tablet market.