Buyers’ Guide – Over-Ear Headphones

Market (GfK)

The market for Headphones and Mobile Stereo Headsets in Europe 6* is continuing its positive trend. Sales units increased by 4% in the first half of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016. Sales value based growth jumped up to 16% thanks to the market’s shift towards higher priced segments. With around €385m, headband devices account for more than half of the total category’s sales value. Within the headband segment, the trend towards Bluetooth has accelerated. From January to June 2017, every one-in-four headband devices sold was Bluetooth enabled, generating more than half of the total headband sales value. This development corresponds to a doubling of the Bluetooth Headband sales value compared to the previous year. Mobile listening to music is playing an important role in audio markets, which is also why Active Noise Cancellation is a key growth driver in the headband segment, reaching a share of 31% in the first six months of 2017.


Martina Huerbinger
Marketing Manager Consumer Electronics, GfK Retail and Technology

State of Play

Last year, the worldwide headphone market had an estimated value of €4.2bn, an impressive revenue figure made possible by intense consumer interest in listening to songs on the go or consuming music and movies at home on their mobile devices. There are many categories of headphones, but over-ear models are often considered to deliver the pinnacle of sound quality and innovation.

Innovations to Look for at IFA


For a long time headphones were considered to be very ‘dumb’ devices. In essence they consisted of a set of drivers mounted in such a way you could wear them directly on the head, preferably comfortably. But there is a trend to include active components in the headphones themselves. This is not new, as Bluetooth for example, requires some electronics to be present. However, there are new headphone models that aim to improve quality by personalising the sound, using smart DSP technologies, in-ear measurements and app-based customisation.


A lot of headphones are used while commuting and travelling. In both of those cases you don’t really want to be weighed down by a bulky and unwieldy device pushing down on your head. A headphone should be light. This is especially true for affordable over-ear headphones aiming to lure people away from the headset offered free with their smartphone. This is why a lot of new budget range headphones emphasise a lightweight construction, utilising new materials to keep it slender and comfortable.


Even though the general public has yet to cotton on to the merits of hires music in a big way, many manufacturers of headphones are taking notice. Pick up a new headphone model and chances are the packaging will sport a ‘Hi-Res Audio’ logo, as certified by the Japan Audio Society. This guarantees that the headphone is capable of reproducing the higher frequencies that distinguish hi-res audio from compressed music or CDquality recordings.

Innovating @ IFA


Pioneer’s new SE-Monitor 5 offers hi-tech audio performance as well as support for both
balanced and unbalanced audio. The new set of closed-back, over-ear cups features a new driver profile that uses a cellulose nano fibre. This minimises unwanted resonances while keeping the audio signal clean and powerful. Pioneer has also included a patented Double Headphone Chamber arrangement that combines a main chamber augmented with ported subchambers (to ensure a tight bass), while a magnesium alloy Full Basket is used to fuse it all together.

HALL 1.2 / STAND 204


Audio-Technica’s new ATH-AR5BT premium wireless headphones combine a sleek, lightweight and ultra-portable design with a stunning audio performance. The dynamic 45mm drivers deliver high-quality CD-like sound over a wireless connection from a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, tablet, laptop or audio device. The drivers are also tuned for high-end audio via a compatible smartphone or portable music player. The over-ear design enables effective sound isolation for a more immersive listening experience. The ATH-AR5BT’s foldable, lightweight design is geared for easy storage in a bag or large coat pocket when travelling.

HALL 1.2 / STAND 207

The Future

The global earphones and headphones market is expected to reach €13.3bn by 2025, according to research conducted by Grand View Research, Inc. The rise in over-ear product offerings, rapid growth of active noise control technology and wireless connectivity are among the major trends. The over-ear segment is expected to gain traction over the forecast period with the increasing demand for headphones across the music & entertainment and sports & fitness applications.