As iPods and smartphones put music in every pocket, somewhere along the way headphones became a fashion statement. When I reviewed the original Beats by Dr. Dre for Ubergizmo.com back in 2008, it was mostly die-hard audiophiles who were willing to fork over $300 or more for a really good set of personal on-ear musicians – and the looks of the cans were usually a secondary concern (if at all).
But celebrities flaunting earphones as a must-have accessory changed that, and Beats by Dre led the way: the former start-up targeting an upscale niche turned into a mass-market brand for hipsters and hipster wannabes. By now, The DJ and his producer partner Jimmy Iovine have said good-bye to Monster Cable and hello to a multi-million dollar business that they’re rapidly expanding into a digital music empire complete with music streaming service.
Meanwhile, fans all over the world who long to impress their friends with the looks of Beats, but can’t afford the original, reach for second best: Bee by DJ. Eric, say, or Sound by Steve, or some other clone that looks like the original but costs a fraction. In Turkey, where I saw these imitation Beats, 10 Turkish Lira (roughly $5) were enough for an audio fix that pretended to be just like the original from California. The sound? Probably meh. But the looks? Oh, so close!