HEAD-FI IS BIG BUSINESS
The humble headphone’s makeover ensures its position as top banana in the audio product jungle.
Once thought of as a studio pro’s implement of choice, the headphone if it was thought of at all by the masses, remained an object of desire for the pipe and slippers crowd, if you know what we mean.
These days you can’t ride a tram, train or bus, board a plane or turn a street corner without an encounter of the headphone kind.
We owe the big Apple all the kudos for the headphone’s burgeoning global popularity and surging sales.
Without the iPod it was just another mundane audio category. With the iPod it became a must-have fashion accessory.
Melbourne's Tivoli HiFi and their HeadFi section.
With the advent of the smartphone and its flurry of music streaming services, the headphone cemented its rank at the top of the audio hierarchy. It’s now the must have component for millions, and its popularity transcends age and gender.
In terms of dragging in billions of dollars for the industry, analysts paint a rosy picture for the headphone. The Global Headphone Market Strategic Assessment and Forecast report for 2017 indicates the global headphone market will surge 7.8 per cent by 2022.
Driving the demand for more and more headphones are features such as active noise cancellation, wireless connectivity and compatibility with just about every smartphone and tablet.
Surprising is the demand for those pesky in-ear headphone models most of us love to hate. This category dominates the headphone genre and the shipment of in-ear models will rise to 250 million units by 2022.
Case in point is KEF’s Porsche Design Motion One earphones reviewed on StereoNET just four weeks ago. It’s already attracted over 5,770 readers and has been shared on social media over 510 times, resulting in the 2nd most popular review already on this website in 2017.
Wired headphones have been a popular seller but the demand is waning in favour of wireless models in advanced economies. But they are still selling strongly in emerging economies where they sell cheaply in cast numbers.
Both Sennheiser and Bowers & Wilkins have more recently been working through their bestselling headphones and releasing new wireless variants.
Globally you can place your bets on the smart headphone market to continue its upward climb of the bell curve, particularly wireless models. Non-smart headphones however, will experience slower growth.
Along with desirable features including noise cancellation and wireless connectivity, the main driver of headphone sales are strategic partnerships with mobile device brands and the short replacement cycle of headphones.
The report confirms Europe as the headphone’s largest market followed by North America but the fastest growing market is the Latin America region.
Major players in the global headphone market, according to the report includes Beats, Bose, Sony, Sennheiser and Skullcandy. There’s no surprises there. We'd also add Audio-Technica to that list locally too.
Head-Fi and Portable Audio has been a growing source of readership for StereoNET and our own search engine and keyword analysis confirms a newer, younger audience are seeking out higher-end headphones.
Stay up to date with all the Head-Fi news and reviews in our dedicated section.
One of the veterans of the Australian HiFi industry, if there's a speaker he's likely heard it or owned it at some point in his career. Peter was formerly the audio-video editor of the Herald Sun for over two decades.
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Photos from Asia's answer to Munich's High End Show, the 2017 Hong Kong AV - HeadFi Show, 11th - 13th August.