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Headphones to Generate Nearly $21 Billion in 2018

Headphone Market Research, Analysis and Commentary

The appeal of audio headphones continues to attract consumers, with a 4% increase in shipments forecast for 2018. However, this will be eclipsed by 23% growth in retail value, according to a new industry report from Futuresource Consulting.

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

Wireless Leads the Way

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.


The Word from the Regions

“Looking to the world regions, North America will be the largest headphones market this year, accounting for nearly one-third of all global demand,” says Pearce. “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.”


Audio Under the Spotlight

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. Click here to find out more

To view all our latest reports, please visit our reports portal here>>

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Luke Pearce

About the author

Luke Pearce

Luke Pearce is a Market Analyst in the Consumer Audio team at Futuresource Consulting. His focus is tracking and forecasting the latest market trends and technology developments in headphones and true wireless (TWS) markets worldwide.

His work has also led him into additional areas including extensive research for gaming headsets, luxury audio, hearing augmentation and audio-technology consumer survey reports. Luke joined Futuresource in 2018 and holds a BSc in Industrial Economics from the University of Nottingham.

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