The iPod/iPhone era has fundamentally changed not only how people buy music, but also how they listen to it. Music collectors may have replaced their component stereo system with a laptop and perhaps an iPod dock, but sound engineers and music producers are still arranging, mastering, and obsessing over the timbre of the snare drum—only to have all their work compressed down to a 5MB file played over a set of shallow, tinny-sounding laptop speakers.
That’s why just more than two years ago, musical artist and producer Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, producer and chairman of Interscope Records, approached HP regarding a partnership. The goal: to create an audio system within a computer that recreates the richness of a real stereo system. In other words, to not make it sound like a laptop.
While HP does pay a licensing and royalty fee to Beats Audio, LLC, Iovine and Dr. Dre worked with HP’s engineers to create an isolated audio system within the crowded guts of HP’s top-of-the-line Envy notebook series. Carlos Montalvo, vice president of HP, said the relationship is “not a marketing endorsement relationship. It is a technology collaboration relationship. We are co-inventing these technologies.”
At each step of the process, Dr. Dre and Iovine would listen and tune the sound system on the notebooks until it matched the same level of articulation and tuning that Dre sets for his studio. “Our engineers could sit side by side with Dr. Dre and Jimmy in studio and tune the audio profile created by the digital signal processor,” Montalvo said. “In the same way that you lay down tracks and remix a particular song, we would tune and refine the algorithms driven by the DSP to get what is now known as the Beats audio profile—that unique, warm, rich sound. That is Dre’s sound.”
That sound is now migrating to more products. HP is integrating Beats into more affordable laptops, as well as the new webOS-powered TouchPad tablet. The technology can also be found inside the hugely successful Monster headphones, which can be used in conjunction with an HP laptop with Beats for improved sound quality.