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SMS Audio: Beats made it ok to sell $300 headphones

Luke Johnson


Beats Solo2

The premium headphone market has exploded in recent years and, according to SMS Audio, it is Beats which has made it acceptable to fork out huge sums of money for a set of cans.

Although companies such as Bose have been charging substantial sums for quality consumer headphones for a number of years, the Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson owned headphone maker believes Beats has changed the mass market for good.

“We respect the hell out of Beats,” Jonathan Belson, SMS Audio’s Vice President of International Business Development said speaking with TrustedReviews.

We think that they have made it OK for companies like ours to sell $300 headphones so we actually are very thankful for that.

Although Belson is grateful for the impact Beats has had on the market, the SMS exec has revealed the downsides to Beats’ dominance. According to Belson, it is hard for manufacturers such as SMS to step out from under Beats’ significant shadow.

“It has been difficult to distinguish ourselves from them because they have done such a good job” he told us.

“When we first came out, we had very Beats-style headphones – over ears that were a bit more bass heavy and a bit bulkier.

“We quickly learned that they lacked some features that consumers at the time were asking for such as active noise cancelling, the ability to fold and a build that you could just throw in your bag and go.

“At that point, about a year ago, we decided that we had to differentiate ourselves – we needed to make ourselves unique otherwise we were just going to wane into the black like other companies in the past year have done.

“We have now identified a section of the market that is young, is up and coming and that is the fitness market.”

Related: Beats Solo 2 headphones review

Although now looking to push out from Beats’ sizeable shadow, Apple’s recent $3.2 billion takeover of the Dr. Dre founded headphone maker looks set to only make it harder for rivals, such as SMS, to close the gap.

This might not necessarily be the case, however. Belson believes Apple’s Beats buyout will act as a catalyst to help the market’s other players grow.

“The day that Apple announced the acquisition of Beats was a very happy day for us at SMS audio,” he said.

“The fact that a globally recognised company such as Apple acquired a company that didn’t even exist seven years ago provided so much validation and credibility to a category that was not even previously registered by official numbers on a reporting basis.”


January 10, 2015, 5:22 pm

Er no; sorry but anyone who buys Beats headphones don't have a clue. I just shake my head whenever I see them around; what justification is there of buying something costing £300 from Beats, a still relatively new and unproven company with a tiny yet flaky track record, over the older but established elites like Audio Technica, Bose, and Sennheiser that have at least half a century of expertise and history, with their own vastly greater proven track records? Anyone who considers spending that much would either have more money than sense to go for Beats, or is very serious with having something with decent sound performance from the latter.

Style isn't a justification; they're shouty and tacky, telling everyone you haven't got a clue, unlike the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x which are discreet, solid and have nearly unbeatably good sound quality for their price


January 12, 2015, 11:07 am

You've missed the point.

It is indeed common knowledge amongst the technarati that Beats are poor value for the price. Here's an article on the subject that I like:


The author goes through the entire Beats product range, and explains why there's a better alternative at every single level.

However, before Beats, expensive headphones were very much a niche market. What I think Belson is trying to say is that Beats have opened it up. Folks who would never dream of dropping £200+ on a set of cans for fear of being labelled a geek are now happy to do so because headphones have become cool. And we've got Beats to thank for that.


January 12, 2015, 9:51 pm

True enough, and you did actually remind me of something else that drove Beats forward which I also dislike; extensive celebrity endorsement. I'd just tell people who label others as geeks to simply get lost; cos at least I know what's good and bad and I'd be making the intelligent decision overall unlike them. People who say they buy Beats just because of their looks and that most celebrities wear them are awful excuses.

SMS Master

June 5, 2015, 1:18 am

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