Longtime Beats partnership with HP hangs in the balance of potential Apple deal

Many HP laptops and desktops have Beats Audio technology and branding. What would happen to those systems post-Apple?

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
2 min read

HP Pavilion dm4-3090se Beats Edition
Sarah Tew/CNET
Lost amid the buzz about Apple's potential acquisition of Beats Electronics is Beats' long-standing partnership with another major technology company, HP. Hewlett-Packard directly competes with Apple in the competitive laptop and desktop computer market, and for several years, nearly all its mainstream and high-end PCs have featured Beats Audio technology and Beats branding.

Should Beats Electronics become part of the Apple mothership, it's hard to imagine Apple would allow the HP partnership to continue. That could be a blow to HP, as its Beats branding is one of the few unique bullet points the company can point to in a line of PCs that are perfectly fine but generally lack sizzle or standout features.

HP ENVY 14 beats Edition customizable Notebook PC
Sarah Tew/CNET
Asked about the future of the Beats partnership, Michael Thacker, HP's director of media relations, tells CNET, "Since the Apple/Beats item is right now rumor and speculation, we're not commenting other than we are going about business as usual."

Having tested and reviewed many HP laptops with Beats Audio technology over the years, I went back to reread some of those reviews. The partnership in most cases involved HP adding audio shaping software from Beats to its existing laptop hardware and adding a Beats logo to the system chassis. The software was essentially a set of specially tuned EQ settings, some designed to work especially well with Beats headphones.

Of the 2010 HP Envy 14 Beats Edition , I said:

Most notably, HP has teamed with Beats Audio to include special bass-boosting software that purportedly works especially well with Beats-branded headphones, but certainly also sounds clear and hefty with other headphones or through the system speakers. Killer audio may not be at the top of most laptop shoppers' lists, but this is certainly one of the best performers in this category.

Sometimes the Beats branding went beyond a simple logo, with select laptops painted black and red, such as the 2012 Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition :

The Beats Audio branding includes some red accents on tiny port and button labels, as well as a large Beats logo on the back of the lid (and the letter "B" on the keyboard has been replaced with a Beats Logo).

For the moment, both Beats and HP continue to promote this longstanding partnership. Beats Electronics displays several HP systems on the Beats Audio page of its website, and HP has a landing page dedicated to Beats, which reads in part: "Prepare to be blown away by an amazing touch-powered entertainment experience. With Beats Audio on board, the richest, most dynamic sound on a laptop or desktop is at your fingertips."