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Since the HTC Rezound is the first phone with Beats Audio built-in, we were excited to put Dr. Dre's audio expertise to work. The Rezound ships with a pair of ibeats in-ear headphones in the box, which are without a doubt our favorite pair of pack-in headphones we've ever used with an audio device.
Given that the ibeats retail for around a hundred bucks, the Rezound's current $199 sticker price is a steal. The headphones are done up (along with the rest of the Rezound) with Beats' signature red accents, including the telltale red wires, although these are thinner round cables, not the flat cable many Beats products are known for.
Fans of rock, pop, and hip-hop (natch) are most likely to benefit from the Rezound's Beats connection. On their own, the headphones are bass-heavy, and capable of a thump that you can almost feel, which is surprising, given that they are tiny in-ear earbuds. But the HTC Rezound doesn't stop there.
When you use the phone's stock audio player, it automatically recognizes Beats-branded 'phones and kicks in an additional Beats Audio sound enhancement mode that thumps even harder. The end result is closer to rolling in Dre's 6-4 than most people will ever get.
The effect is similar to a Loudness setting on stereo equipment, putting emphasis on the bass frequencies, while boosting the overall volume.
Chances are, if you've read this far, this boost is probably something you'd appreciate. Portable players including phones are often criticized for not having enough low-end response, but if anything the HTC Rezound has the opposite problem.
HTC promotes the Beats Audio calling it "studio quality sound, just like the artist intended." Obviously, that's a bit of marketing hyperbole—if the artist had intended their music to sound like this, it would sound like this without Dr. Dre's electronic intervention, after all.
On the whole, the Beats Audio boost is welcome for many genres of pop music, but there's no way around the fact that this is artificial processing.
Luckily, if you don't like the extra boom, you can switch it off, and if you already have a favorite pair of earbuds, the Beats Audio enhancement only works with Beats headphones anyway, at least in theory.
Interestingly, Beats Audio is only supposed to work with Beats-branded headphones, but we tested three other pairs of earbuds we had hanging around, and two of them were also able to activate Beats Audio enhancement. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Which brings us to another limitation of the Beats Audio technology. It's a toggle switch, either on or off. There's no middle ground, and there's no way to tweak the settings to your liking or your source material.
It's either Dr. Dre's way, or the highway. Given that Beats Audio is essentially custom equalization settings, we would have liked to see an actual EQ in the Rezound, or at least a few different preset sound profiles we could choose from.
Also, since Beats Audio is baked into the music player itself, you won't be able to use the software audio enhancement with any other apps or third-party music players.
One other audio problem surfaced in our testing. There was an audible hiss in the headphones whenever the phone was powered on.
It's less noticeable with music playing, but you can still hear it in the background. The amount of hiss varied as we tried different headphones with the HTC Rezound, but no matter what we did, it never fully went away, and isn't related at all to playback volume.
Given the Rezound's audio pedigree, it's disappointing, to say the least, and if reports on the internet are any indication, the problem might be more widespread than HTC claims. To their credit HTC is encouraging users with this problem to contact them for warranty repairs.