Ears-on Review of the HP Envy Laptop with Dr. Dre's Beats Sound System

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More than 84% of people between the ages of 18 to 24 listen to music on their computers, even though the sound quality they produce is hideous. An entire generation is missing the real impact of their tunes! To counter this disturbing trend, HP teamed up with Dr. Dre and Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine to design its Beats Sound System for Notebook computers, and audio quality was a top priority.


There are lots of ways that music gets mangled these days. MP3 files strip the depth out of recordings. Low-quality sound cards on computers introduce noise and interference. Cheap, plastic earbuds impose a "tin-can ambience" to everything that gets played through them. 80% of the world's computers are equipped with about 50 cents' worth of audio hardware. With its Beats notebook computers, HP is determined to bring importance back to sound quality.


I had the chance to give an HP Envy a test drive this week. I found it to be a powerful computer with professional connectivity and a design that pays close attention to fine details. The time I spent with this computer was casual, not an in-depth technical inspection to push the computer to its limits. I was mostly interested in listening to its Beats sound system.

If I had given this computer a real workout by using processor consumptive production software, I'm sure it could have taken the abuse in stride. If you're into gaming, video production and recording music, the HP Envy sets you up with a fast hard drive, a beefy video graphics card, a powerful processor and a host of useful ports. The model I used featured an eSATA port (sure to inspire envy in Apple notebook owners), a USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port and a multicard reader.

As far as the sound performance is concerned, to my ears the built-in speakers did indeed sound better than standard laptop speakers, however, they didn't sound radically better. When I plugged in my headphones, the sound was clean and punchy, just how I like it. Even though the soundcard on the HP Envy is integrated into the motherboard of the computer, I would have heard the tell-tale noise and interference if the audio components were the typical bottom-of-the-bucket junk.

There's a pretty neat Beats software application, which comes preloaded and which gives you extra control over the sound. You can tweak and save custom EQ curves, adjust the volume of the speakers and headphone jack independently, and get graphical information about the status of its input and output ports.


To really take advantage of the improved audio circuitry of a Beats computer, it's a good idea to plug in a pair of decent powered speakers or good headphones. I attached a pair of Technical Pro MRS-6 speakers to the HP Envy and then I was really cooking. The goal of the Beats computer sound system is for people to get more in touch with their music. Attaching nice speakers to your computer will make a world of difference compared to just using the built-in speakers, even with a computer like this.

All in all, I found the HP Envy to be a nicely outfitted Windows PC. The backlit keyboard felt good to type on, the screen was big and bright and the touchpad was pretty sensitive. The laser-etched aluminum body succeeded at looking cool, even though the overall weight of the computer was a bit on the heavy side. I enjoyed using some of the included software too. In particular, the HP MediaSmart application for the built-in webcam was fun to mess around with. It's similar to Photobooth on a Mac, but with a lot more interesting and creative effects.

Here's another good reason to take the plunge on a new HP notebook with Beats Sound. When you buy one of these computers, you get $75 worth of free music downloads. Choose anything you want from a library of 400,000 songs with artists like Lady Gaga, Fiest and the Black-Eyed Peas. How do ya like them apples? 

These aren't just computers for people who are looking to produce music with audio software or make movies with editing software. The Beats notebook computers should appeal to anyone who enjoys a good-sounding piece of music and a nicely designed piece of hardware. The additional processing muscle and connectivity ports will outfit the casual user with enough firepower to easily carry them for several years.

Computers used to appeal exclusively to geeks, but with luminaries like Dr. Dre chiming in on computer design, it's clear that those days are over. If you're looking for a Windows PC notebook that has more personality and lots of power, a Beats notebook computer is a good choice. If you have any questions about these computers or the HP Beats sound system, we'd love to hear them in the Comments section of this post!

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does the laptop come with audio software to create your own beats predownloaded? or is that a misconseption?

Hi Bre,

Thanks for commenting! The HP Envy doesn't come with beat production software. However, there's a lot of great software out there for this kind of thing that's really affordable. Ableton Live Intro is one example:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/662946-REG/Ableton_84395_Live_Intr...

can you create your own music on this laptop?

what are the specs for this laptop?

Very interesant yourś reports, Congratulations!!!!

                                                 Rick

How good is this computer as a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and MIDI home recording? I need to get a lnew aptop to run Sonar 8.5 which is a windows base DAW. Has this computer being tested and certified by cakewalk?

Thanks,

Hans

 can you  buy the pc with protools software and if not how well it perform 

 I heard there was a subwoofer built into this computer. Is there? and if so how high quality is it?

Sam Mallery wrote:
 is protools ready now anf will that be the best choice of software the absolute best if not whay is? also real good speakers amd all the items thay are needed to prodyce eginner and record music vovally what do i need exacttly and how much will the whole set up cost? and as a begginer woul the book for pro tools be enuf for me to go im and win?

 I heard there was a subwoofer built into this computer. Is there? and if so how high quality is it?

The HP Envy I tried out claimed to have a subwoofer. However, the speakers in the computer didn't sound especially bassy. The overall sound of the computer was better than average, but really nothing that extraordinary.

caleb wrote:

can u make beats or record songs on this laptop and if u have ah program to record will it sound like its studio quality

Yes, you can do all of that stuff with this laptop and digital audio workstation software, and it will sound great (providing that you produce it well). If you want to record with microphones, you should also use an audio interface with a computer if you want studio quality sound.

And also, just as a general note to anyone reading this thread, there has been some new announcements since the comment I posted on 11/01/10. You will soon be able to buy Pro Tools 9 software separately and use it with any audio interface hardware. It's pretty awesome news! It really simplifies the process of getting into using Pro Tools software.

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can u make beats or record songs on this laptop and if u have ah program to record will it sound like its studio quality

Can i run cubase with no problems

Will this Hp Envy perform with zero latency on usb midi inputs and microphone/line in inputs? That has always been an issue with laptops. How many usb port are in it?It seems to have enuff ram 4 sure but we all know windows defult drivers have given us all hell in the past. Does it work as good or better then asio and or does the the beats hardware take up the slack of midi in and audio in processing? I hate latencey.

Message to Hp And Beats By Dre : All I'm asking is if this is a suitable laptop for music production to be advertised in B&H then show us what it can do on the production side for us who produce on a budget? It has the same processing power and os as the neko XXL bare bones but if I plug a midi controller and a usb mic into it will it perform as well?

C.Woods wrote:

Will this Hp Envy perform with zero latency on usb midi inputs and microphone/line in inputs?

No. The HP Envy isn't impervious to the latency issues that are inherant in computer recording. You can buy a fast US 2.0 audio interface like the RME Fireface UC to acheive the least amount of latency as possible, but there is always going to be some latency. It's par for the course.

C.Woods wrote:

How many usb port are in it?

The current version of the HP Envy, the 14" 1110NR has 3 USB 2.0 ports. 

C.Woods wrote:

Does it work as good or better then asio and or does the the beats hardware take up the slack of midi in and audio in processing?

The Beats software is about controlling the sound (EQ, input and output assignment, etc.). It doesn't get involved with drivers and MIDI.

C.Woods wrote:

Oh wait it does have more ram then the Open labs neko xxl(4G RAM). HP ENVY (6G RAM) in a laptop???

The current version of the HP Envy, the 14" 1110NR has 4GB of RAM.

C.Woods wrote:

All I'm asking is if this is a suitable laptop for music production to be advertised in B&H then show us what it can do on the production side for us who produce on a budget?

I understand your desire for a test like this. This article is meant to give you more information on the HP Envy with the Beats sound system than you would have otherwise. It's not meant to be a full-blown diagnostic bench test of the computer's power. We really appreciate your feedback though! We have plans to do more and more hands-on reviews in the future, so stick around.

Sam

Oh wait it does have more ram then the Open labs neko xxl(4G RAM). HP ENVY (6G RAM) in a laptop???

 Is this only a computer for music or can it handle people interested in going to a art school for graphic design, etc?? Everyone says macs are the way for that but this seems interesting too...

 Are the dual 1/8" audio ports on the envy ideal for DJing?  Most DJs purchase an external usb audio interface with 2 stereo outputs, one to play out, one to monitor the next track.  Someone on a forum someplace mentioned the Intel Azalia spec may allow for two independent audio streams to output out of the ports.

I called HP and they had no idea.  After 30 min of trying to get that answered I gave up on em.

Any information leading to clarity much appreciated.

.:pl

 This computer does not compare to MAC!!!!!!!!

Ok By now Hp and Dre should know the Million Dollar Theme If Dre beats and HP Come up with the complete laptop with the beats produduction, recording software along with a great mircophone like the great sounding headphone there is no doubt that it will run apple out of every studio that exist today it worth looking into, and if you use my ideal can i get a job.... BEATS THE COMPLETE DOC DRE EXPERIENCE...(laptop,mic,headphones, beats/recording software) $$$$$$ you can contact me @ fatalconnectent@gmail.com

I Have Adobe Audition 3.0 Will It Work Well On The Hp Envy 14 Beats Edition?

Can this 17 3D play DVDs in addition to the blu ray?

Yes, the HP Envy 17 3D series is capable of playing both DVDs and Blu Ray discs.

what about reason 5  with cubase 5

how will that run?

do i need and audio interface even if im not recording with mic's?

and what about the one that comes with a mc input does it have a phantom on it?

can i plug a instrument there?

the input ,is it mini plug or  normal plug?

thanks for all this comments, they where very usefull to me

 is there a way to get the beats audio driver for another hp laptop

so i can create my own beats within a music i choose true?

I wanted a computer that I can connect to my home stereo to
listen to internet radio.  I ordered an
HP Pavilion DV7 Laptop directly from HP with “Beats Audio,” hoping for true
quality sound.  If you think a Sony
boombox from Wal-Mart is quality sound, you’ll like this computer.  If, however, like me, you prefer audiophile
sound quality, get a desktop and install a Sound-Blaster card with Burr-Brown
digital-to-analog-converter chips (DAC chips).

To benchmark this DV7 laptop I connected it to my Harman-Kardon
7.1 channel high-current home amplifier via a mini-plug to stereo RCA Y-cable
and true audiophile gold-plated RCA cables. 
The Harmon-Kardon amp (HK) runs a pair of old-school Infinity Bookshelf
speakers (I think the new Infinity bookshelves are poor.  And all infinity speakers I’ve ever heard are
weak at re-producing powerful bass tones, so any bigger than the bookshelves
sounded poor; but the old school bookshelves make excellent accent
speakers.)  The HK also sends out two line-level
signals via RCA cables to a 1980’s Sony 70 watts per channel RMS ES-series amp,
and an old 1970’s Marantz 70 watts per channel RMS quadraphonic amp.  Nothing today compares to this classic amp.  My 30-watt Marantz will shake the floor at
the OTHER end of the house, where my 200-watt (peak) Kenwood can barely shake
the floor in the room with the speakers. 
My understanding is that it has to do with the number of copper-wire
windings in the power-supply, and with the price of copper going through the
roof...  My Marantz amps are twice as
heavy in actual weight.  This quad amp amplifies from 7Htz
to 70,000Htz.  Most modern amps go from
30Htz to 10,000Htz., even when their specs say 20-20,000Htz.  You want REAL bass, Dr. Dre?  Get an old Marantz.

The Marantz runs a pair of 1990’s Klipsch KG 4.2 floor-standing
speakers: a 3 foot high unported box with a powered 10-inch woofer and an
unpowered 10-inch passive woofer, and a horn-style tweeter.  These speakers WILL reproduce the ultra-low
frequencies.  You know those
ghetto-beaters that drive down the road thumpin’ rap tunes, with their rear-windows
vibrating with an annoying distortion-wave?  Those speakers drop off quite fast below 60Htz.  Not TRUE bass.

The Sony ES-series run a pair of old-school Harman-Kardon
Twenty large-bookshelf speakers, from before Infinity bought Harman-Kardon and Tweeter
bought out Infinity.  They have a ported
box with high-definition tweeters that chime like a real silver bell and 5-inch
woofers that growl LOUD when the guitar says growl!  These bookshelf speakers will shake the floor
with a 30-watt Marantz amp.  These
speakers are the best stand-alone speakers I’ve heard under $1000 each (not per
pair).  B&W makes better bookshelf speakers,
but at over $2000 a pair, I’m currently shut out.  I used to run these with the 30-watt Marantz,
but it died.

The system incorporates a Pioneer DVD player, $99 on eBay,
with Burr-Brown DAC chips.  I get much
better sound running analog out from the player to the HK amp, as opposed to a
digital signal that the $800 HK amp then decodes.  The HK doesn’t have Burr-Brown chips.

So with the Pioneer DVD player and the HP DV7 laptop both
connected, I started playing Pink Floyd’s “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” on the
HP.  I chose this (1) because I love it,
and (2) because of the wide diversity of sound in the recordings.  From bell-chimes to thick-rich resonant bass, multi-textural
electronic noise to multi-harmonic natural tones.  Doesn’t show off vocal qualities so much, but
the bench-test still showed the discrepancy. 
Normally I would then play something like Ella Fitzgerald or Billie
Holiday or maybe Jefferson Airplane or Fleetwood Mac or maybe even Barry White
or Willie Nelson to get a better feel for the richness in the vocals.  But that wasn’t necessary. 

The first thing I noticed was the pre-amp level from the HP
laptop was weak.  I had to turn the HK
amp up almost all the way (“high-current” is a bit of a joke, until you compare
it with a most other modern surround-sound amps) , and the Marantz to 1/3 of
the way (keep in mind that the Klipsch speakers take 500 watts peak power, and
handle 100 watts continuous with no problem, but at 50% power from the Marantz,
they are SCREAMIN’ baby! – shakin’ the driveway outside.  And I DO like it loud.), and the Sony
half-way.

I found the sound-curve a bit end-heavy: strong bass and
high-end treble, weak mid-range.  The
vocals were a bit flat.  That was just
the first song.  I ejected the CD and put
it in the Pioneer DVD player.  I
immediately noticed the difference, confirming my impression with the HP
laptop.  I played two songs, then
switched back to the HP laptop and played the second song.  Double confirmation.  The HP’s sound is just flat, not rich.  I switched the CD back to the Pioneer and
played the rest while I shut down the laptop.

Conclusion: I’m returning the laptop and building my own
desktop.  I don’t like the high-gloss
glassy monitor – it reflects every little bit of light behind you and you can’t
read the text on the monitor.  Sure looks
pretty when it’s turned off on the showroom floor, though, so I’m sure it SELLS
well.  The Levono Thinkpad still has the
right idea, having a matte-finish display, should I give up on audio and stick
with a laptop; and it has much better connectivity and a lower price.  There goes my dream of a portable Internet-radio laptop to connect into my conversion van sound system.

 

 Can you tell me more about the $75 dollars worth of free downloads? I recently bought one of these computers and I wasn't told about this! Where did you claim it?

The free music downloads were a special promotion that expired last year. In order to get the downloads you needed to puchase an Envy and register it on HP's website on or before October 11th 2010. Sorry!

Does this beats audio software produce mp3 or can it produce .WAV files for good sound and quality for playback ?

Great article! I'm trying to decide between a Macbook Pro and the new Envy, and I wanted to know if regular, run-of-the-mill $10-$20 sony headphones have improved audio from the model, or does the sound benefit only from Beats-brand headphones? (They're a bit too pricey for me). Thanks!

- Nick

will this laptop play games smooth

Why cant i play audio using sonar 8 on this windows 7 beats Laptop?  It sounds like the transformers when listening with headphones?

I'm trying to buy the best laptop that's compatible with my protools hardware... Is this laptop the choice????

Don't have any

The uni-jack won't accept line-in signal from turn table or cassett deck.

Can yall send me a link to order it the hole laptop and head phones all the stuff that comes with beats by dre laptop but for a low price the cheapest price like 4 hundred or 6 hundred

Hi Royale -

The HP Envy line of laptops starts at a significantly higher price than you are requesting:

HP ENVY TouchSmart 15-j050us Multi-Touch 15.6" Notebook Computer:

Product Highlights

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ (Haswell)
  • 8GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB 5400rpm Hard Drive
  • Integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • 15.6" HD BrightView Touchscreen
  • 1366 x 768 Native Resolution
  • Multi-Format Digital Media Card Reader
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WiDi
  • Beats Audio Quad Speakers & 2 Subwoofers
  • Windows 8

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I just recently purchased an HP envy with build in beats speakers. The problem for me is that, every time the volume exceeds that of 65, the speakers start getting noisy and vibrate. I read some where that i need to alter the EQ settings but i don't know which ones are best suited to the type of music i listen to. 

My advice would be to try a few of the presets while listening to your music. Once you find the on that sounds the best for you, you can tweak the individual sliders. The left sliders are for bass, loweing them slightly may help with vibrations.

If deleted or some how removed us there another way to put back on lap top

Hi Cassie -

You will have to contact HP for service to replace any Dr. Dre Beats files that were included with the laptop.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com