November 14, 2018

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Headphone sales to hit US$21 billion in 2018

by Stuart Wilson, Friday 19 October 2018

Research house Futuresource reckons that the global headphones market value will hit US$21 billion in 2018. The appeal of audio headphones continues to attract consumers, with a 4% increase in shipments forecast for 2018 and a 23% growth in retail value, according to a new industry report from Futuresource Consulting.

Luke Pearce, analyst at Futuresource Consulting, said: “Our data shows a history of steady development in the headphones market, with both value and volume riding strong in our charts. By year end 2018, the market will have generated annual revenues close to US$21 billion worldwide.”

The new Futuresource report surveys the global landscape for aftermarket headphones. It breaks out six regions and 18 countries, and provides data on feature sets, price segmentation, brand shares and distribution trends out to 2022.

“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. As a result, the worldwide average price for headphones continues to rise. We’re going to see the ASP grow by almost 20% in 2018 alone,” added Pearce.

When it comes to the feature set, wireless is top of the list for most people. This is being helped along by increased choice, and is a vendor response to the removal of the headphone jack by smartphone manufacturers. More recently, true wireless (with no wires between the individual headphones) has started to gain real momentum.

Noise-cancelling is also a much sought-after feature, driven primarily by Sony, Bose and Beats. Futuresource research has identified varying levels of complexity within the technology, with many brands devising their own approach to the challenge.

Most are pre-programmed active noise-cancelling devices, which block out all noise. Others offer adaptive noise-cancelling, which requires algorithmic alterations to create the optimum sound for a particular setting. Some units also provide app-based presets to enable users to control noise levels as desired.

Pearce continued: “Looking to the world regions, North America will be the largest headphones market this year, accounting for nearly one-third of all global demand. However, its growth is slowing due to high market penetration.”

Rapid increases in Asia Pacific lead Futuresource to conclude that by 2020, this region will have taken the lead.

“Watch out for voice assistants, which will be the next big trend for headphones in the not too distant future. 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,” explained Pearce.

The continued growth of the headphones market will be a discussion point at the fifth annual Audio Collaborative conference. Hosted by Futuresource in London on 8th November, the event will bring together analysts and industry heavyweights from both professional and consumer audio to explore all the technologies, markets and strategies that are opening up opportunities.

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