This is the reason why you are seeing so many new headphones. By Kenny Yeo

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

This is the reason why you are seeing so many new headphones.

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Apple’s decision to remove the iPhone’s headphone jack has emboldened its peers, and many phones now do the same.

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Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” So it should come as no surprise that headphones are indispensable in many people’s daily lives. Look around you as you make your daily commute – how many people do you see wearing headphones?

Despite their ubiquity, the market for personal audio devices is expected to grow. A February 2017 report from Grand View Research estimates that the headphone market will reach US$15.8 billion by 2025. Grand View Research valued the personal audio market at US$8.7 billion in 2015. This means it expects the headphone market to almost double in size in 10 years. A report from Tech TechSci Research is even more optimistic. It estimates that the headphone market will exceed US$19 billion by 2022.

Wireless headphones are the biggest contributing factor to the growth of this industry. Apple’s decision to remove the iPhone’s headphone jack has emboldened its peers, and many phones now do the same. This means users will no longer be able to use wired headphones with their smartphones. They’ll have to upgrade to wireless headphones to enjoy audio without cumbersome adapters.

Apple’s solution to this problem is their AirPods, which are an important new product for the company. Apple is now the number one wireless headphone brand because of AirPods, according to a 2017 report by shopping tracker Slice Intelligence.

The popularity of true wireless headphones is not lost on Apple’s competitors. Bose, LG and Sony have recently launched their first truly wireless headphone products. There is also a host of smaller players in this space, which includes brands you might never have heard of, like Alpha, Bragi, Erato, and Optoma.

But wireless headphones aren’t the only type of headphones experiencing a surge in interest. There has been an exceptional growth of interest in the high-end headphone space as well.

An increasing number of audiophiles have given up their speaker systems for a headphone setup. Headphone technology has advanced over the past decade, while setup costs have gone down. Homes have also been getting smaller.

Acclaimed speaker manufacturer Focal entered the headphone market in 2012. In 2016, Focal expanded their headphone lineup with the Elear and Utopia. These high-end headphones are built in France and feature the company’s specially developed drivers. They’re clear signs that Focal is serious about making headphones.

There has also been an increase in boutique manufacturers that build headphones for audiophiles and headphone enthusiasts. Two examples are MrSpeakers and ZMF Headphones, which started by selling modified headphones. After reaching the limits of what could be achieved through modification, the two brands came up with headphones of their own design.

MrSpeakers specializes in headphones with planar magnetic drivers, which some enthusiasts swear by. They believe planar magnetic drivers to be superior to traditional dynamic drivers. ZMF Headphones is renowned for its handcrafted wooden ear cups. These give ZMF headphones an artisanal  air that is usually lacking in gadgets.

Creative, a veteran in sound, is also on the headphone bandwagon, even if its timing is fortuitous. For 20 years, the company has been developing technology to replicate the sensation of surround sound on headphones. After countless iterations and trials, Creative believes it has cracked it. The company demonstrated this new technology, Super X-Fi, to rave reviews at CES 2018. Creative is confident that Super X-Fi will revolutionize headphone listening.

Will headphones surpass speakers as the equipment of choice for audiophiles? It’s hard to say. What is certain is that we can expect more developments in the headphone scene. And, of course, more headphones in the next few years. It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of wireless headphones or you if are a purist who prefers good old wired headphones. It has never been a better time to be a headphone audiophile.

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