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

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.”

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