back to article Apple's 'shoddy' Beats headphones get slammed in lawsuit

Apple pitches its Powerbeats headphones to the public with images of celebrated athletes and ad copy insisting that the devices are durable and sweat resistant. But a handful of people who purchased Powerbeats insist their costly head clamps are defective junk, and they're suing Apple over false advertising and its alleged …

  1. Oh Homer

    Nothing new here

    Apple gear has always been all style and no substance.

    1. J. R. Hartley

      Re: Nothing new here

      Complete and utter failure to chooch. Typical Apple.

      1. TKW

        Re: Nothing new here


    2. LaeMing

      Re: Nothing new here

      @Oh Homer - since the turn of the century, yes. They used to be good, though!

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Nothing new here

        I'd say since the first decade of the new millennium that's more the case, not since 2000... Since Jobs died, they've *really* fallen off the wagon.

      2. Oh Homer

        Re: "They used to be good, though!"

        You have to go back much further than the turn of the century, to around the time of Wozniak.

        Since then, Apple's philosophy has pretty clearly been to gouge rubes with polished turds.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new here

    Regardless, five megabucks (plus fees, I presume) just because flexible plastic gets stained?

    In any decent, functioning legal system, the plaintiff's and their lawyers would be told to fuck right off. Which is why the suit has been filed in the US of A.

  3. John 104


    Sorry, but anyone who punts $200 for consumer grade headphones is an idiot. Go to Amazon, search for reference headphones and buy a $50 set of Samson's. They sound incredible and are NEUTRAL! beats are nothing more than over-hyped bass biased headphones with very clever marketing.

    And good luck in the lawsuit. This is Apple after all. Even if they loose, they'll never pay out.

    1. goldcd

      I'd broadly agree with you

      As an earphone, rather than headphone fan, I've been flirting between the ridiculously expensive brand names and the mainly Chinese "same for a fraction of the price" for years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'd broadly agree with you

        @goldcd, Try these (the triple-driver version):

        ...with Comply Isolation 600 Small foam tips (I used medium on Klipsch and Shure, but the diameter of the earpiece is larger on these, so you need a smaller tip). Comfortable enough for all-day-every-day in the office use, and sound better than anything I've tried in the $200 range, over-the-ear or otherwise.

      2. Triggerfish

        Re: I'd broadly agree with you

        Worth checking the Chinese brands, I bought some soundmagic e10 for about twenty quid, beats my coworkers £150 Bose hands down, better sound , way better made.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: I'd broadly agree with you

          Re: Chinese headphones. I'm currently using bluetooth copies of the £159 apple bluetooth AirPod earphones. They cost a shade over £7 and are more than good enough.

    2. ibmalone

      Re: LMFAO

      Though as they use a headphone jack, they wont work with newer iThings.

    3. Not also known as SC

      Re: LMFAO

      I don't think the complaint is about the crap sound though, but more the fact that when wearing the headphones in a damp sweaty location they got stained. If the case was that the headphones sound crap then I'd have sympathy but I don't think the complainants should win this particular case - it should be obvious that headphones would get sweat damaged in that sort of environment.

      1. Don Dumb

        Re: LMFAO

        @Not also known as SC - "I don't think the complainants should win this particular case - it should be obvious that headphones would get sweat damaged in that sort of environment."

        Unless they were sold with advertising stating that they would work in those conditions.

        If only they stated this in the story you've commented on, like perhaps, across the first few paragraphs....

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Re: LMFAO

        "I don't think the complaint is about the crap sound though, but more the fact that when wearing the headphones in a damp sweaty location they got stained."

        According to the article, main complaint is battery life that very quickly degrades, making them unfit for purpose.

        " it should be obvious that headphones would get sweat damaged in that sort of environment."

        They were explicitly marketed as water-resistant, so, no, not obvious at all. Apple were claiming the exact opposite

    4. AlexGreyhead

      Re: LMFAO

      You, Sir, are a wonderful chap - one pair of Samson headphones ordered. Had never heard of this brand before, but for the price and positive reviews, they're undoubtedly worth a shot.

      Thank you :)))))

      1. John 104

        Re: LMFAO


        You're welcome.

    5. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: LMFAO

      Well, I wouldn't drop $200 for a pair of earphones/headphones from some little upstart (which Beats effectively was until Apple gobbled them up)... but Sennheiser (or any other well-established audio specialist) yes, especially when that specialist has some of the best customer service available (a no-quibble exchange policy when something breaks in the first year or two).

      But yeah... If you can drop less dosh for a really great-sounding set of ear cans, why would you drop a stack for something 'because image'...

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: LMFAO

        Regarding Sennheiser, they have some really quite good (wired) headphones under £50, and given the beating I tend to give my headphones, that makes a lot of sense. I'm a Sennheiser fan in general, but they do seem a bit two-headed at times, the kit is mostly very good but some of the prices are possibly a bit much; I'm thinking here of the radio microphones we use at work.


        1. DrBobK

          Re: LMFAO

          They make great, and near indestructible headphones over 50 quid as well. In my family we've had two sets of HD25s and one HD26pro. Never a problem despite being treated with no care whatsoever and fantastic sound from both models.

  4. SkippyBing

    $200 for headphones for working out?!

    Seriously, unless your idea of working out is walking on a treadmill for half an hour you can get some perfectly adequate ones on Amazon for around £20. Frankly the noise the blood makes pumping round my head sound quality is irrelevant so you might as well go for something that's effectively disposable so you're not worried the waterfall of sweat is going to short them out. What? Just me?

    Now if you want something that provides a quality listening experience when you're not fighting the signs of ageing by making yourself hot and sweaty, don't buy Beats, do what John 104 said above.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: $200 for headphones for working out?!

      Seriously, unless your idea of working out is walking on a treadmill for half an hour

      Don't scare me. mate! My idea of a strenuous workout is lying back on the couch with a beer, watching somebody else do a sweaty workout. All that watching, it's hard work, you know, but somebody has to do it.

      Link generally SFW, by the way.

      1. The Nazz

        Re: $200 for headphones for working out?!

        THIS workout has made me sweat a fair few times :

        Lost a fair bit of body fluid from 1.24 onwards.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: $200 for headphones for working out?!

          I prefer sweaty workouts which result in a much smaller bodly fluid loss, and only right at the end.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: $200 for headphones for working out?!

            I prefer workouts that do result in a substantial body fluid loss, but do not involve severed arteries, thank you.

    2. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: $200 for headphones for working out?!

      I would guess this is more about what headphones you are showing off to your vacuous peers in public place rather than any actual performance of the devices.

  5. Ilsa Loving

    People compare apples to oranges, as usual

    In the words of Arnold, this appears to be a "teachable moment".

    I'm not going to touch on the merits of the case because I don't know the details and so have nothing useful to add in that regard.

    But FFS people, think for a minute before you compare a set of $50 set of *wired, over-the-head, heavy* headphones to a $200 set of *bluetooth, over-the-ear, lightweight* headphones. Telling someone that who wants one kind of headset that they are a moron because they don't want a completely different kind of headset does nothing more than point out the stupidity of the person offering the "advice".

    1. John 104

      Re: People compare apples to oranges, as usual

      @llsa Loving

      OK. Samson RTE 2 - Bluetooth. $47. 40mm driver, rechargeable, blah blah.

      Argue all you want, but $200 is still a hilarious price for crap headphones. These ones don't have a cool B on them, but I bet you could fix that with a sharpie and impress all your friends as you jog along prettily with your $1,000 iPhone on the arm holder, you know, so everyone can see what you bought.

      1. Ilsa Loving

        Re: People compare apples to oranges, as usual

        Ok, at least now we're in the same territory. Now how well do they actually work? (Also, those are still over-head headphones, which make it impossible to wear a bicycle helmet)

        I've bought many pairs of sub $100 BT headsets over the years. I had subsequently given up and written off the entire technology because Every. Single. One. Failed. The audio quality was barely better than radio. And that assumed I could maintain a connection at all. The only way I could have reliable connectivity was if I kept my phone within 2-3 feet of the headphones, unobstructed (ie: having the phone in my pants pocket was enough to disrupt signal).

        I took a chance on a pair of BeatX headphones, and they are the very first BT headphones I have *ever* owned, that didn't give me grief. Were they expensive? Yes. But I have cumulatively spent 3 times that amount over the years on crap "inexpensive" headsets that I ultimately binned. In fact, the only way I've been able to cause connection issues was to stand near an electrical room that puts out almost enough RF to light a florescent bulb.

        So go on and be snide. But the facts speak for themselves.

      2. James R Grinter

        Re: People compare apples to oranges, as usual

        They don't look like they'd be suitable for running in, but they may be fine for at a desk.

        Alas, discontinued- any ideas of the replacement model?

    2. MacroRodent

      Re: People compare apples to oranges, as usual

      But FFS people, think for a minute before you compare a set of $50 set of *wired, over-the-head, heavy* headphones to a $200 set of *bluetooth, over-the-ear, lightweight* headphones.

      Well, my neighbourhood supermarket in Helsinki sells quite usable bluetooth, over-the-ear, lightweight headphones for about 50 euros (pretty much the same in $). These things have come down in price.

      Last time I looked, 200 euros or more was required only for noise-cancelling headphones with a recognized brand like Sennheiser.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "a design defect that causes the battery life to diminish"

    Um, not defending Apple by any stretch, but I do believe that battery life tends to diminish with or without design defects.

    As such, pretending there is a design defect is going to be an uphill battle.

    But hey, I wish them all the luck. It's about time Apple's lies got caught.

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: "a design defect that causes the battery life to diminish"

      Um, not defending Apple by any stretch, but I do believe that battery life tends to diminish with or without design defects.

      Your average apple customer doesn't know that - I imagine $200 vs $50 and the advertising claims durability and long life (along with the usual unspoken apple lifestyle promises) - you expect the battery life to be three times longer.

      It's the Samuel Vimes 'boot's issue - and someones noticed the expensive boots are cardboard, not hard wearing leather.

      Apples over-hyped claims have come back to bite them.

    2. Lysenko

      Re: "a design defect that causes the battery life to diminish"

      No, because the user simply pops off the compartment cover and replaces the battery when it no longer holds a charge properly - unless there is a design defect that is.

  7. fidodogbreath

    "Of the 589 reviews, 379 gave the Powerbeats 2 a 1-star rating," the complaint says.

    Then why did the plaintiffs buy them?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like the problem is stupid consumers...

    I'll agree with the poor quality though. But this isn't limited to Apple. There are tons of "sport" versions out there, and almost all of them are guilty of false advertising.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. dan1980


      I've been thinking about the 'false advertising' side of this and I feel that charging such a high price for such a cheaply-made product is a form of false advertising. (Not necessarily in the legal sense, of course, which is really all that matters to Apple.)

      One can talk about fashion and perhaps use the argument that Apple sells fashion items and so slapping a funky styling and a prestige logo on a cheaply made set of headphones and charging hundreds of dollars for it is clearly not unique.

      The big difference between (say) a $200 t-shirt and these $200 headphones is that, when buying a $200 cotton t-shirt, you are not under any misconception that the item is made from some different material than the $20 shirt in the next store. And, if you are under that misconception, a quick glance at the tag will disabuse you of that. You have likely bought, owned and worn hundreds of t-shirts and similar items of clothing made from the same material and have a pool of experience and knowledge about how such a shirt will perform. You will also likely have a fair idea of the construction as, even if you have never seen a commodity t-shirt being made, you can intuit the process well enough.

      A set of headphones is rather different; 99% of consumers do not understand how they actually work or how they are made or even what components are involved. Thus, they do not know why one pair might cost more than another. Also unlike t-shirts, there are large differences in actual, measurable performance beyond simple longevity and comfort - the latter of which can be subjective.

      It is possible that a person buying a pair of headphones may have owned many other sets but the vast majority will be buying their first, second or maybe third set of headphones. Thus, not only will these people likely have little to no intellectual understanding of how headphones work, or what components are involved, they also have little in the way of personal experience.

      Is that legally relevant?

      Probably not, but I think it should be - at least in theory, if not specifically in this instance as $200 is actually not that expensive for a set of headphones. Generally, however, I think it should be recognised that the PRICE of an item carries an implication of the quality of that item, to a certain extent.

      After all, if a $20 set of headphones were rubbish then everyone would be quick to point out that 'you get what you pay for' and would agree that no reasonable person would expect good quality at that price. Pricing a pair of headphones at $200 therefore sends a message that this pair is rather a lot better (not 10x, of course) than the $20 pair and it should not be considered unreasonable for an average consumer* - the target market - to say that such a message was conveyed to them by the manufacturer who gave the product that price.

      The disclaimer is that I do not think there's a legal case unless Apple are refusing to give refunds. Even then, it's probably not going anywhere. My point is the price of an item forms part of the information being provided about the item and should be a consideration when deciding if the product has been accurately or inaccurately represented.

      Again, that isn't the way it works, just the way I'd like it to work.

      * - As above, I believe that the average consumer for a pair of headphones like this is not one who should be expected to be aware of how headphones are constructed or have a rich experience of audio reproduction to draw on.

  9. StargateSg7

    Apple Beats headphones are total bullocks and utterly useless!


    German Maestro sells FANTASTIC headphones ranging from DJ-style to

    open and closed headphones which have sound quality levels that leave

    Apple IN THE DUST !!! Designed and Made in Germany for 300 Euros

    you can't beat the performance per Euro spent!

    Try the GMP 400 and GMP 450 Pro headphones (which used to be MB Quart)

    with a 14 Hz to 24200 Hz frequency range and THD (Total Harmonic Distortion)

    of less than 0,06% that is TRULY PRO-LEVEL! I still have my 20 year old

    version of the GMP 400 (i.e. the old MB Q400) and they are FAAAAR

    better than ANYTHING Apple has today!

    For users who need mobility and lightness, try the 3 CAN 116 Headphone

    which have 6-to-26000 Hz and are only 133 grams which VERY HIGH QUALITY

    gold plated 3,5 mm connectors!

    Try them! I use them all the time and they can't be beat!

    The Price is good too!

    1. katgod


      If only I could hear 14 to 24200 Hz, even in my prime I couldn't hear those extremes but for the Bats out there these are almost good enough. Yes, Beats headphones are more about fashion then good sense and I thought anyone who paid $200.00 for a set of headphones knew that.

      1. StargateSg7

        Re: hearing

        The "German Maestro" brand (used to be MB Quart) is top notch gear

        at prices between 300 to 500 Euros.

        But for the BEST OF THE BEST it's AKG and Sennheiser and some more esoteric gear

        which gets into the 3000+ Euros! Sennheiser had some STUDIO REFERENCE headphones

        a few years back that were in the range of 25000 Euros. YES! Twenty Five THOUSAND Euros!

        The quality and sound reproduction specifications were WAY BEYOND the German Maestros!

        And that Sennhesier series SOLD OUT ALL OF THEM! which means some very rich music

        people had NO ISSUE with spending 25000 Euros on a set of headphone that weren't even

        encrusted with diamonds and gold! Just PURE AND CLEAR SOUND REPRODUCTION

        were the goals of that premium set of Sennheiser headphones.

        These days a TOP QUALITY ULTRA HIGH END SET will run about 3000 to 5000 Euros

        where the THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) levels are BELOW 0.01% and where the magnets

        are extra strong Neodymiums and platinum or osmium plating and alloyed silver/gold contacts!

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: hearing

          Yeah get the point, but messages like that WRITTEN with ODD capS choices tend to be ignored as signs of the INSANE.

          1. MarkB

            Re: hearing

            I thought the post was rather short of exclamation marks actually...

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: hearing

          Thanks StargateSg7 from German Maestro marketing department.

      2. Swarthy

        Re: hearing

        The thing about the Frequency Response numbers is not so much that that's where they stop working, it's a curve where performance degrades and then stops. A set of cans that advertises 20Hz to 20kHz will have a really weak bass response, unless you have 'em run through an amp, and the highs will likely be tinny and very quiet.

        An expanded FR means that the sounds that you can hear will not be degraded.

        1. StargateSg7

          Re: hearing

          Ironically, the high end audio systems supply house

          I used to work for in my younger years did in fact

          sell MB Quart headphones.

          The owner was a complete gearhead who wanted

          only the best-of-the-best! He actually TESTED

          everything he sold with spectrograms, oscilloscopes,

          and other very high end audio/video measurement gear.

          That's why his company sold the MB Quart

          headphone gear and when that division was

          sold to German Maestro, the quality stayed

          the same. Their headphones are by and far

          waaaaaaay above the level of Apple Beats!

          The bass response and high frequencies

          rival the best speaker systems coming from

          ULTRA high end speaker models such as

          Rockport Arrakis, anything from Wilson,

          and the more consumer oriented B&W,

          Bang & Olufsen, etc.

          I swear by the German Maestro because

          I use them every day for computer audio/video

          work and my coding work listening to 24-bit

          192 KHz encoded audio....Sooooo I am

          very willing to spend 300+ Euros on a

          great set of headphones that have only

          0.06% OR LESS of Harmonic Distortion!

          That means the sound is Crystal Clear

          with no colouration and no electrically

          induced or circuit-based noise!

          Most adults after age 30 can only hear well

          from 5000 Hz to 15000 Hz so the sonic range

          of the 14 Hz to 26000 Hz is a bit overkill

          but I would rather have the sound quality

          of the headphones like German Maestro!

          So instead of wasting your money on

          Apple Beats, spend just a little bit more

          go for the much higher quality German

          designed and made headphones.

          It makes good business sense to

          spend a bit more to get 10x the quality!

  10. Rustbucket

    Parts cost corrected.

    The Bolt hardware breakdown was actually later found to be of a set of knock offs. When they later tested the real thing the parts cost went up by just under $4.00.

  11. ukgnome

    $200 to damage your hearing - WOW

    Silver lining though, you only need a couple of pairs before your hearing becomes obsolete.

    what's that you say downvoters? can't hear you, do speak up.

  12. Tom 38

    No opinion on the headsets

    They seem expensive and are apparently shit, but that's not the interesting part.

    $5,000,000 damages for having bought them? 5 MILLION? What the fuck could the headphones have done so badly that caused $5 million in damages?

    1. Cereberus

      Re: No opinion on the headsets

      What the fuck could the headphones have done so badly that caused $5 million in damages?

      That's easy. The breakdown is:

      $200 refund because the product wasn't as advertised - $1,000 total as 5 claimants

      $10,000 dollars each for the inconvenience of having to attend court, buy new headphones, etc. - $50,000 total

      $800 each for the time explaining why they no longer use the headphones - i.e. they are stained with bodily fluids and the battery needs recharged after 4.3 seconds of use* - $4,000 total

      $9,000 each - pay for the iPhone XI next year when it is launched, and headphones that are compatible with the faster than light connector that replaces the lightning connector - $45,000

      $980,000 to help with treatment for PTSD caused by being seen with such crap Fanbois 'Fones'. - $4,900,000 total

      What they should get is electroshock treatment for being mad to buy the headphones in the first place.

      *Running time will vary depending on amount of use and how recharges were applied, including duration, initial charge level.....

      1. Swarthy

        Re: No opinion on the headsets

        Nah, the $980,000 each is to cover the cost of the lawyers.

  13. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge




  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personal experience

    I've had two pairs. I wanted Bluetooth, ear hanging, mic.

    Beats 2 - worked for me. Particularly liked that the display on the iPhone would show me how much battery charge was left. I broke them (poor handling snapped an ear bud)

    Beats 3 - poorer product IMO. Charging socket not protected. No charge indicator. I swear like a pig when I exercise... twice they have failed me. First time they seemed to dry out. Most recently they simply gurgled and died and seem to have decided to "rest".

    I looked for replacements (bearing in mind the "requirement") but haven't found much else.

    I don't get the staining thing. My complaint would be, "Definitely not sweat resistant". Cost per hour for the Beats 3 about $10 for the useable life

    1. nijam Silver badge

      Re: Personal experience

      > I swear like a pig when I exercise

      It's part of the workout, I think...

      1. John 104

        Re: Personal experience

        Maybe they stopped working because you weren't talking nice to them?

    2. Stealeye13

      Re: Personal experience

      From your comments, I am guessing my earbuds are the powerbeats 2, as they have the covering over charging port, as well as the indicator. My review is in here, but I love mine and have ZERO complaints. I cannot speak to the v3 for either earbuds or studio, as it is clear now that I am a series 2 owner. thanks for your comments, House Rules

  15. Stealeye13

    Haven't had ANY issues with both pairs of mine!

    I have to say that, while I was initially skeptical, I had received an amazon gift card that allowed me to buy a set of the earbud powerbeats about 2yrs ago. since then I have worked out in them and run in them, including in a 5k race. In all event situations, I sweat like a pig and the earbuds were completely soaking, with no ill effects at all. Other than wiping them off and charging them, they have been the best ear buds I have ever had; for sound, build quality, and comfort on my ears. I liked them so much, in fact (and I am an audiophile of a sorts) that I bought the studio powerbeats with noise canceling, for listening to movies and music on planes and in the home. Another solid purchase.

    So I am not sure if my experiences are singular and I lucked into the only good (2) powerbeats headsets out there, or we are talking about some type of unreal expectation, like swimming with them or abuse. From my end, they have gotten WELL used and sweat- covered and still performed to a very high standard.

  16. Peter5k

    Beats- Completely awful

    I have been having problems with my beats exactly the same as the lawsuit seems to state, I have now sent my headphones into the sanctioned repairer(Singapore A-Lab) 4 times and they still only work for a month tops before the battery stops retaining a charge. I bought them to use while training for the NY marathon and despite being fixed a week before I flew to NY they broke 14k into the marathon. They are obviously cheap junk and are massively miss sold. Rant over- can anyone recommend decent, long lasting earphones which will actually last more than a few training runs. Are Bose any good or another overpriced piece of Junk.

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