Interscope Chairman Jimmy Iovine, Rap icon Dr. Dre and computer maker Hewlett-Packard are teaming up in an effort to improve the sound quality of digital music. As part of their partnership, HP will release premium-priced laptops, headsets, and software featuring the "Beats By Dr. Dre" brand sometime this fall, and Iovine says that he and Dre are part of a plan to reconstruct the entire "digital music ecosystem" from the sound file to the computer to the headphones.
"We have to fix the entire chain," Iovine told CNET News. "Our position is to go to all the sources and try to improve sound and educate people. We can't put anything weak in the line. Whoever puts out things that sound bad shouldn't be as cool as something that sounds great."
Iovine said the intent is not necessarily to compete with Apple and iTunes, but rather the partnership would love to join forces with Apple and other consumer electronics companies to improve the sound quality of digital music across the board. For the music industry, promoting high-quality audio is a means to have greater say in how digital music is packaged and sold. While that is a huge plus, Iovine said that he and Dre's efforts are not based on a grand attempt to save the music business.
"I just want our product to sound better," Iovine told CNet. "The record business committed many, many mistakes in the last 10 years, and I'm right in there. One of them was letting its product get degraded. It's one thing to let it get stolen, it's another to allow it to be degraded because then you really don't have a chance... video games and TV quality are getting better and the quality of our work is getting lower. If that happens, then music will become disposable. That's something we can fix."
Studies by the NPD Group show that there are people willing to pay a premium for equipment and software that produce higher quality digital music, noted NPD analyst Russ Crupnick. However, the research also indicates that the majority of consumers are satisfied with their Apple earbuds and iTunes songs, which are now available at 256 kbps. But for audiophiles, Dre and Iovine have already begun offering better products. They enlisted artists such as Pharrell, Will.i.am and Gwen Stefani for coming up with the right sound and design of the Beats By Dr. Dre headphones, built by Monster Cable, which were rolled out last January and have received critical acclaim.