As you may know, in August 2011, HTC bought the majority ownership of Beats Electronics, the company that makes the favorite high-end headphones of Dr. Dre, Lady Gaga, and a bunch of other celebrities. Beats Electronics’ business model is simple – create product, get rapper/basketball player/movie-star endorsement, sell like crazy, repeat. But when they paid $300 million for Beats, HTC probably wanted more than just a piece of the niche, albeit lucrative high-end audio equipment market. HTC wanted to take advantage of the valuable Beats brand image.

Fast forward to MWC 2012. In Barcelona, HTC launched its new generation of smartphones, the One series, including the One X, One S, and One V. The new One phones all sport prominently the red Beats logo on their back. HTC claims that the integration of Beats Audio technology into its new smartphones will give customers an “authentic sound” experience. But what exactly is Beats Audio?

Beats Audio: Is it for real?

At the most basic level, Beats Audio is nothing but a fancy equalizer. As The Verge’s Chris Ziegler noted in a review of the HTC Rezound (another Beats-branded phone), Beats Audio works great in combination with the red headphones that come with the Rezound, which HTC claims are a $100 value. The Beats equalizer makes the music sound much “bigger”, with deeper basses and fuller sound.

The improved listening experience is made possible by a combination of software and hardware, because, as Ziegler notes, the headphones sound relatively dull when the equalizer is not running. Annoyingly, the Beats processing software doesn’t always kick in when using music streaming apps, such as Pandora or Spotify, but HTC promised to make the Beats API available to app developers for better compatibility.

Ziegler claims that the Beats experience is, in most cases, on par with the experience of using a high-end (like in $500+ high-end) pair of headphones. If that holds true for the One series, music lovers have a strong reason to buy HTC’s new Beats-branded smartphones.

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Beats Audio is just a package flashing away

So, Beats Electronics hardware plus Beats Audio software makes for great music. How about Beats software on its own? You can find out yourself, without buying a new HTC One phone. All you need to do is install a custom package, courtesy of XDA Developers. XDA member RockoDev reversed engineered the Beats application and made it available as a flashable package that you can install on any ROM based on Android 2.3 or higher.

The prowess of the Android modding community never ceases to amaze us. But will this ripped Beats Audio app give you that “authentic sound” promised by HTC, without those expensive Beats headphones? That’s not guaranteed, but many users that tried it out reported an improved listening experience. Of course, that could be just placebo. If you decide to try it out, let us know your opinion in the comments.

To wrap it up, the HTC One series’ Beats Audio integration will get you more than a cool Beats logo to boost your status, although we don’t have any information on the headphones on the upcoming One phones. We’ll check them out as soon as they come out and get back to you with more juicy details.

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