Headphone market worth $21b in 2018, as users trade up to wireless and noise cancelling

posted on Wednesday, 24th October 2018 by Steve May

Marketing  Headphones  Hi-fi  Streaming 

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By the end of 2018, the headphone market will have generated annual revenues approaching $21 billion worldwide. Shipments will have increased 4 per cent, and retail value boomed 23 per cent. According to market research from Futuresource, not only are we buying more headphones than ever before, we’re spending more on them too.

“Across the globe, when consumers buy headphones as a standalone purchase rather than bundled with a device, they are looking for an improved audio experience, and they are willing to pay more to get it,” says analyst Luke Pearce. “As a result, the worldwide average price for headphones continues to rise. We’re going to see the ASP grow by almost 20 per cent in 2018 alone.”

Wireless is the most sought after feature, driven largely by the trend to remove the headphone jack by smartphone manufacturers. And within that sector, rue wireless (where there’s no wires between the individual headphones) has started to gain traction.

Noise-cancelling is also in growing demand, however not all headphone makers utilise the same technology. The majority of NC headphones use pre-programmed active noise-cancelling, which indiscriminately blocks out all noise. Premium models use adaptive noise-cancelling, which employ algorithmic alterations to create the optimum sound for a particular setting. Some headphones offer customisable control via an app.

North America is the largest headphones market this year, accounting for nearly one-third of all global demand. However by 2020 it could be overtaken by Asia Pacific.

“Watch out for voice assistants, which will be the next big trend for headphones in the not too distant future,” adds Pearce. “Apple, Bose, Sony, Google, JBL and Microsoft are already offering access to assistants by incorporating push-to-talk buttons in the earpiece. We’re still waiting for wake word technology to make an appearance. It’s currently hampered by costs of integration and power drain issues, but we believe it’s likely to emerge in 2019.”

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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