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Global Headphones Market Shipped nearly 550 Million Units in 2021

The global headphones market continues to attract consumer attention, chalking up volume growth of 14% in 2021 and ending the year on 548 million units shipped. That’s according to a new market report from Futuresource Consulting, which also reveals that retail value grew by nearly 10%, to achieve revenues of $48 billion.

A Return to Normality Adds Market Uplift

“Last year we saw the world begin to regain some sense of normality,” says Saran, Senior Market Analyst, Futuresource Consulting. “Many global economies managed to achieve a post-COVID foothold, allowing consumer spending to rebound. For the headphones market, already riding high on a wave of home working and hybrid learning, this renewed activity provided an extra boost.

“And although supply chain issues continued to surface throughout 2021, not all brands suffered the same impact. White label and smaller manufacturers felt more of the squeeze, as prominent brands tended to be given priority. However, parts shortages and freight costs and delays resulted in slimmer profit margins for everyone.”

True Wireless Dominates

A particular highlight was the continued ascendance of true wireless (TWS), which dominated the headphones market in 2021. According to Futuresource data, the form factor captured more than half of the total market by volume, accounting for 55% of global headphone shipments. That’s an increase of 10% on 2020.

What’s more, TWS broke through the 300 million shipments barrier for the first time, with volume growth of 40% year-on-year. This success was underscored by revenues of around $34 billion, which represents year-on-year growth of 17%.

“The relentless ascent of TWS was supported by numerous releases in 2021,” says Saran. “Traditional audio brands and smartphone brands alike have capitalised on the product’s popularity, throwing substantial investment into the category.”

Apple in Command, though Loses Share

Looking to the brands, Futuresource reports that Apple, Sony and Harman retained the top three positions in volume terms, capturing 30% of the market between them. Yet Apple’s dominance has been eroded, declining from 19% in 2020 to 15% in 2021, despite the AirPods 3rd Gen launch in Q4.

Future Opportunities, yet some Challenges Remain

While the global market will continue to grow throughout 2022, semi-conductor shortages alongside global supply chain problems and other geopolitical issues continue to impact demand and prices this year. However, we do expect these issues to start resolving towards the latter half of 2023.

“The market will prevail,” says Saran. “Our forecasts show that TWS will achieve 728 million units by 2026, representing 84% of all headphone volumes.

LE Audio will make its way into headphones, supporting the extension in battery life among other benefits. “By 2024, it is expected that 35% of TWS headphones will feature LE audio.

For further information or to purchase the headphones market report from Futuresource Consulting, please contact

Date Published:

Saranraj Mathivanan

About the author

Saranraj Mathivanan

Saranraj is a Senior Market Analyst in the Personal Electronics team. He has about six years of experience in market research and consulting. He is responsible for analysing and reporting trends in consumer electronics such as headphones, hearables and smartphones. In the past, Saran worked with the B2B and Technology teams at Kantar, where he managed and executed more than 80 customised market research projects across various sectors such as e-commerce, technology, logistics, automotive, engineering, etc. Projects he handled included market sizing, competitor analysis, demand estimation, forecasting, and brand equity. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Electrical & Electronics Engineering and an MBA in Marketing & Analytics.


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