Nothing beats a good, dependable pair of headphones. The same goes for a high-quality surround sound system. You can’t forget a great soundbar, either. No matter how you listen to your music, one thing remains certain: You want to hear it in the best possible quality at the best price from the best brand. This leads us straight into a rivalry of sorts: Beats vs Bose. Which consumer audio products manufacturer is the superior brand name? Who makes better products? And who gives you the best bang for your buck?
The answer is not as cut-and-dry as you might think. You have to keep a few things in mind, including the full product lineup, the price point and actual audio quality. Not to mention their pros and cons. In this article Beats and Bose go head-to-head, but one will come out as the winner. Which brand is it? Read on to find out.
Beats vs Bose: Side by Side Comparison
|Founder(s)||Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine||Amar Bose|
|Headquarters||Culver City, California||Framingham, Massachusetts|
|Owner||Apple||Massachusetts Institute of Technology|
|Flagship Product||Beats by Dre headphones||Bose 901 speakers|
|Other Products||Earbuds, wireless speakers, computer audio||Earbuds, wireless speakers, car audio systems, soundbars|
|Yearly Revenue||$1.5 billion (2021)||$3.2 billion (2021)|
Beats vs Bose: What’s the Difference?
While Beats and Bose have successfully sold consumer audio products and equipment, both companies have some key differences worth overviewing. Let’s take a more in-depth look at these differences below.
Bose’s complete catalog runs the gamut from wireless speakers to earbuds to car audio systems, and their one true focus has always been home audio. Surround sound systems and similar product offerings in or around this realm is their forte. They made a name for themselves with the Bose 901 surround sound system, and ever since then, Bose is a name many associates with home audio systems more than anything else. That said, Bose also has a generous offering of headphones and other speakers and products. It’s a much larger catalog than Beats.
On the other hand, Beats have headphones as their claim to fame. The company has briefly dabbled in several other audio products and equipment areas, including speakers, streaming services, and car audio systems. Beats only sells headphones and earbuds. These include the Beats Solo and Studio wireless headphones, the Beats Flex and PowerBeats Pro earbuds, and the Beats Studio Buds (an AirPods alternative). Needless to say, Apple has significantly cut back on the Beats catalog since its acquisition, resulting in a much leaner lineup now.
Bose headphones range anywhere from $329 to $1,095, depending on which product you’re looking at. The cheapest pair — the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones — come in white or black and deliver all the high-quality listening and noise-canceling capabilities you’d want from a pair of headphones. A20 Aviation Headset, the most expensive pair, is intended for pilots and the like, complete with a microphone and active noise reduction. Bose earbuds tell a similar story, ranging from $149 to $299.
Beats, on the other hand, come nowhere close to that $1,095 price tag. (Granted, those aviation headphones aren’t exactly intended for casual listening.) The Beats Solo3 Wireless headphones come in three colors and will cost you $199.95, while the Beats Studio3 Wireless headphones come in seven colors and cost $349.95. Beats earbuds are much cheaper, starting at $69.99 for the Beats Flex and topping out at $199.95 for the Powerbeats Pros. As you can see, Beats are the cheaper alternative here.
Sound quality is a huge point of contention for Bose. Since the company’s beginning, Amar Bose and subsequent heads have refused to disclose any meaningful information about the actual specifications of Bose’s sound quality. They insist that “subjective evaluation” is far superior to numerical test data. As such, Bose has long been criticized for being overpriced, considering its potentially weak sound quality. Correspondingly, Beats Electronics has found itself in a similar boat over the years (and for a similar reason).
Because not much is known about the technological aspects of Beats headphones, critics have accused the company of prioritizing aesthetic quality over sound quality. In other words, they say Beats are overpriced and put style over substance. Independent testing on Beats products under HTC ownership revealed that Beats audio is bass-heavy, creating an illusion of better sound. Whether or not change has occurred since Apple’s takeover remains certain. For this reason, neither Bose nor Beats can honestly be named a winner in this particular category.
Beats vs Bose: 5 Must-Know Facts
- Beats co-founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine met with several prominent figures in pop music — including will.i.am, Pharrell, and Gwen Stefani — to get an idea of what professionals are looking for in an ideal pair of headphones.
- Amar Bose worked at MIT for much of his career, even while working at Bose. MIT allowed him the opportunity to do so, even going as far as to loan resources to him in the development stages.
- Since Amar Bose’s passing in 2013, his longtime employer MIT has become the owner of the Bose Corporation.
- Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine sold Beats Electronics to Apple in 2014 for more than $3 billion — Apple’s biggest acquisition since Steve Jobs’s short-lived company NeXT, which they purchased for $429 million in 1996.
- Financial analysts presume Dr. Dre to be the first billionaire hip-hop producer thanks to the success and subsequent sale of Beats Electronics.
The History of Beats
Who better to found a company specializing in consumer audio products than a music producer and a record label executive? After all, who else could possibly know what to prioritize for high-quality sound than bona fide experts in the field? That’s exactly what made Beats so enticing at launch in 2006. Dr. Dre, a legendary producer and musician, and Jimmy Iovine, co-founder of iconic label Interscope Records, came together under a shared passion for reducing music piracy and improving the audio quality of plastic earbuds,
Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine turned to Noel Lee of Monster Cable to help bring their Beats products to life. With Lee’s help, Beats by Dre headphones hit shelves in July 2008. Dr. Dre and company relied on several A-list musicians and celebrities to market the headphones, complete with generous product placement in film, television, music videos, and social media. The strategy proved successful, and Beats had a nearly 65% market share on $100+ headphones by 2011. By 2013, the company was worth a billion dollars.
Cell phone manufacturer HTC became a majority shareholder in the company in 2010, allowing Beats to operate autonomously in exchange for the exclusive use of the tech in their smartphone lineup. The partnership with HTC (and Monster Cable) started to dissolve in 2012, and by 2014, Apple was making moves to gain sole ownership of the company. The sale went through for a whopping $3.2 billion. Dr. Dre and Iovine remained on as executive employees, overseeing the expansion from headphones to earbuds, wireless speakers, car audio systems, and a short-lived streaming service.
How Bose Began
Founded by Amar Bose in 1964, the Bose Corporation has a much slower, much more patient history than Beats. Much of the company’s early years was a hobby for Amar, who worked as an MIT professor. Nevertheless, Amar had been tinkering with speaker tech since the mid-50s. By the mid-60s, he finally had a product ready to hit shelves: The Bose 2201. It was an immediate failure.
Going back to the drawing board, Amar reconceptualized the Bose 2201 speaker. He eventually arrived at the design that would become the Bose 901 — the company’s flagship product that remained a part of its catalog from 1968 to 2016. 901 speakers replicated the feel of a concert hall by using eight speakers pointed at the wall and a ninth pointed at the listener. Bose 901 sales skyrocketed the Bose Corporation to great success. Amar felt he owed it all to the generosity of MIT, who had allowed him to use their resources to develop the tech over the years.
As a thank you, Amar Bose transferred most of the Bose Corporation’s shares to MIT in 2011. Amar passed on in 2013, and MIT has been the company’s owner ever since. As of 2021, annual sales exceeded $3 billion. More than 7,000 people remain employed there. Bose Corporation has expanded beyond speakers to produce cutting-edge headphones, earbuds, car audio systems, soundbars, and wireless speakers. In the past 50 years, Bose has become synonymous with high-end audio equipment.
Beats vs Bose: Pros and Cons
|The products were conceived by a music producer and record exec, meaning Beats are optimized for music.||Not much is known about the actual audio quality of Beats|
|Great active noise cancelation||Some feel Beats are far too overpriced|
|Beats headphones and earbuds support Dolby Atmos spatial audio||Their current product line is very limited|
|Headphones and earbuds have a long battery life||Like parent company Apple, Beats are not on sale very often.|
|Founded in 1964, Bose has much more experience with audio tech than Beats.||Bose makes a point to hide numerical data about their audio quality.|
|Bose products are often on sale||Some Bose products can be pretty expensive|
|With a large catalog and varying price points, there’s a Bose product for every budget.||Bose headphones and earbuds tend to have shorter battery lives compared to Beats.|
|Bose has more than just headphones and earbuds.||Several Bose products are not rechargeable.|
Beats vs Bose: Which Is Better?
When all is said and done, who’s top dog? Beats vs Bose, who comes out on top in the end? Beats tend to be cheaper, while Bose products can be much pricier. Alternatively, Bose products have better noise cancelation than Beats. While neither company is forthright with their sound’s true numerical data, Bose headphones simply sound better than Beats headphones. Nevertheless, Beats’s lower prices can mean a world of difference for those on a budget. Ultimately, it’s best to give this honor to Bose.
From their annual sales figures to their larger product catalog to their more storied history, Bose triumphs over Beats where it matters most. Beats are still an excellent product if you’re on a budget but also want a good pair of headphones or earbuds. However, Bose products are superior in sound, features, and options. Plus, Bose has more than just headphones and earbuds. Alternatively, Beats are limited only to these two product types. Bose wins, fair and square.
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