Breaking Down Beats...Heres what we found!

slippers-on

Active Member
Dont know how many here use Cans (Headphones) but I do. And here is what many of us understood about Beats from the first time they are made by Monster Audio. Also, had to delete a few pics, which can be seen at the Huffington site.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-ei...rgnet_1060901&
We Took Apart Some Beats Headphones and Here's What We Found


06/23/2015 09:31 am ET | Updated 2 days ago
4.2k
  • Ben Einstein Product designer and lover of hardware. Founder + partner at @BoltVC
This post was co-authored with Avery Louie.

It's nearly impossible to be on a train, fly on a plane or walk down the street without spotting the iconic "b" logo. Beats has been extremely successful in marketing its headphones and now enjoys large market appeal. But with a sky-high retail price of $199, is there more to Beats than meets the eye?

Lots of optimizations are to be expected in a product manufactured in the millions of units: snaps and glue are used for assembly rather than screws (which require lots of human manipulation) and almost every part is injection molded plastic (which is essentially free at high volumes).

Anytime I take a product apart there are a few exciting surprises to solve some tricky problems. Here's what I found for Beats:




Use of metal components to increase weight











Luckily the Beats headphones are fairly easy to disassemble, despite a few pesky glue joints.



One of the great things about the solo headphones is how substantial they feel. A little bit of weight makes the product feel solid, durable, and valuable. One way to do this cheaply is to make some components out of metal in order to add weight. In these headphones, 30 percent of the weight comes from four tiny metal parts that are there for the sole purpose of adding weight.

The two larger parts are cast zinc. Cast parts are similar to injection molded parts in that there is a tooling cost and a per-part cost. Compared to injection molding, the tool is marginally more expensive, but the per-part costs are higher, and the tools do not last as long.

The brilliant thing here is that the two large metal parts are not mirror images of each other — they are actually the same part! This means that only one tool would need to be made to produce both parts, which saves money in tool design and number of tools. It also makes the headphones easier to assemble, since there are fewer unique parts.




Complex mold design of headband












One-third of the entire weight of the headphones comes from metal weights.
This is a somewhat common trick to make products feel more substantive.




This part probably has the highest tooling cost of any of the parts in the headphones, because it requires many cams in order for the part to be released from the mold. Cams allow for parts of the mold to move perpendicular to the parting line. These extra parts have to meet perfectly, in order for the parts to be molded properly. It is easy to tell what direction the two halves of the mold pulled apart from the round dots you can see in the photo above  — those are ejector pin marks, from where the part was pushed out of the tool.

From the flashing along the long snaps at the top of the part, I can tell there are two side actions that were used to create the undercut. You can see parting lines in the part right under the snaps, and at the bottom of the circle.







Minimal use of screws












Both parts of the ear cups are made from two totally different molds so a to avoid the extra screw holes on the right cup.



Screws are cheap but are tedious to install, hence nearly every part on this product is snapped or glued together. You can see how the number of screws are optimized at the cost of cutting two more molds by comparing the left and right speaker grills and speaker cups — one of them has an extra two screw holes. Screws are great here because they make sure the PCB does not rattle around near your ear — however, they could have shaved off some assembly time by using heat stake bosses, or simply trapping the PCB between the red plastic and the ear cup.








Complete commodity earphone drivers



So, do Beats by Dre headphones really enhance the bass? I couldn't tell from the product teardown but the generic drivers make it seem unlikely. I was impressed, however, by the look and feel that was achieved with so few parts.






While it's difficult to accurately reverse engineer the COGS of a product, I will do my best with each product that I tear down. In this BOM, I break it down into several categories — plastics, metal parts and electronic parts.








*Part prices for plastics, metal, and electronics takes various assumptions into account.





****



I estimate that the COGS without labor or shipping is $16.89 — yet Beats is able to successfully retail these headphones for $199+. This is the power of brand. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine have leveraged their personal backgrounds and a sleek design to launch a remarkable brand that's become fundamental to music pop culture.

*Plastic part price takes the following assumptions into account:

  • 2 percent scrap rate
  • 1 cavity / tool
  • 20 percent regrind allowed
  • No additives (Meaning not glass filled, etc)
  • Machine rate, setup labor, and direct labor adjusted per component
  • Cycle time of 15 seconds is assumed per part
  • Markup is not included
  • Tooling cost is amortized assuming 1M units
  • No downtime factored into molding machine
  • Assume simple tooling (It's known that some of these parts have actions, but was not added to the tooling cost)
  • Tooling cost assumptions are broad and based in China
  • Production costs based on Asia. Somewhat conservative and broad
*Metal part price takes the following assumptions into account:
  • 5 percent scrap rate
  • 160 ton press
  • 95 percent uptime, 8hr setup
*Electronics part price takes the following assumptions into account:
  • Quoted from Zirui @ qty 6000 FOB
  • CB with routing and v-score, 1 part placement
  • 25 seconds to solder @ Shenzhen min wage RMB2,030/mo = US1.50/hr
  • Exact equivalent not found; found 40mm x 5.6mm, 32 ohm, 25mW for0.75






 

Golden Gate ER

Senior Member
I've repaird many Beats headphones. When the driver goes out I replace with a identical part. This part is a standard off the shelf 40mm driver. They are made by the millions & absoulty nothing is special about them. They cost me $1.50 each + shipping.

All internal parts are identical between the models except Beats uses 3 different circuit borads. These borads are made in different sizes & shapes but contain all the same componets.

I am fully convinced that the only differences between the 199 pair & the 499 pair of headphones is the programing of the DSP chip & the box the product is packaged in.

 

TubeHiFiNut

Administrator
No Beats or Bose. Can't justify (for myself) spending that kind of money to listen on a plane.

Interesting to compare the parts with the retail cost.

My travel headphones are Audio Technica (noise cancelling) which were $120 and Koss ProDJ 200 (regular) which were under $100.

Serious headphone listening at home is done on Stax SRX III electrostats driven by an Eico SEP integrated amp.
 

ronm

Junior Member
I've heard some beats and tried to explain to my kids that beats are nothing special and certainly not worth the price but they just don't get it.I guess the apple does fall a bit from the tree.
 

Hartge7

Senior Member
ronm;n41987 said:
I've heard some beats and tried to explain to my kids that beats are nothing special and certainly not worth the price but they just don't get it.I guess the apple does fall a bit from the tree.



They get it. The peer pressure from their kind, not the squawkings of a sage older family member that has been getting in their way of independence for years. One of those things that will happen to them, too, just don't know what the device will be. You are trying. It should sink in, but take years to grow to a useful skill.
 

Catcher10

Senior Member
Kudos to Dr Dre for shoving his name up everyone's a$$ for $200....and people paying it! Like everything else in the fashion world you are paying for a name tag.
 

Olson_jr

Active Member
Speaking of Headphones worth $10, has anyone here heard the Monks Plus from Venture Electronics (AliExpress). Seem to be getting rave reviews for a el cheapo ear bud.

I use an ancient pair of Etymotic Research ER-4's but would like something that still allows me to hear a little of my surroundings.

 
Speaking of Headphones worth $10, has anyone here heard the Monks Plus from Venture Electronics (AliExpress). Seem to be getting rave reviews for a el cheapo ear bud.

I use an ancient pair of Etymotic Research ER-4's but would like something that still allows me to hear a little of my surroundings.
I have had er4s since i was 16 and absolutly love them, the monk+ are just ok, but certainly better than any other earphones that have come with phones ive had over the years.

Edit: Wow i had no idea this was from 2016 🤣
 

Olson_jr

Active Member
I have had er4s since i was 16 and absolutly love them, the monk+ are just ok, but certainly better than any other earphones that have come with phones ive had over the years.

Edit: Wow i had no idea this was from 2016 🤣


When I saw the Alert saying I was quoted in the "Breaking Down Beats....Heres what we found!" thread I was thinking I was hacked!

Never tried the Monks +, but I did buy another pair of Etymotic Research IEMs, the ER3XRs. They have a bit more bass which makes it easier to follow the beat when I am mowing the lawn or blowing leaves.

 

Berkeley

Junior Member
I'm surprised at the findings of beats. I tried them at Best Buy for about 20 seconds, the overwhelming flabby bass ensured that I will never even consider trying them again. I was told by the sales person that they were designed for a specific type of music, apparently not what I listen to!

I'm more of a speaker type of guy anyway. :)
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I can't say I'm surprised. Though I am surprised that people react like this kind of stuff doesn't happen in (some of) our "audiophile-approved" brands.

Work in advertising for 20 years then get back to me....
 

BillWojo

Junior Member
I loved the manufacturing breakdown, the only flaw is the assumption that only one part is molded at a time. Even on complex parts with lots of slides and cutoffs it's common to see a 4 part mold cavity. For the simple parts it may be 16 or 32 parts per shot. Remember the models we built as a kid? All those different parts on one tree, that is the runner (tree) where the plastic is injected in.
I have a friend that I service his CNC milling machines for. All he does is mold work. I used to get into hundreds of mold shops, metal and plastic, they are all in China now. He is one of a handful left in the area.

BillWojo
 
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