Headphone News August 2016

Bluetooth Headphone Sales Outpace Wired Headphones for First Time
Largely on the back of Beats and LG Bluetooth headset sales, who capture 65% of the market in dollar sales, Bluetooth wireless headphone unit sales have outsold wired headphones for the first time. According to the initial PR Web press release, Bose, Jaybird, and Skullcandy rounded out the top five.


The Beats Solo2 Wireless is among the world's best selling Bluetooth headphones.

This trend, of course, is only going to get stronger with the now confirmed news that the Apple iPhone7 will not have a headphone jack. Let's see...Apple own Beats; Beat is the top seller of Bluetooth cans; Apple ditches the headphone jack; insert Dr. Dre and Tim Curry evil laugh.

They're not the only ones laughing, however. In a recent Seeking Alpha article, Skullcandy's chief commercial officer Sam Paschel is quoted as saying:

"It's a big shift for us and for the consumer. We truly believe it's going to trigger a repurchasing cycle around headphones, with a very fast and very large shift to Bluetooth."

The article goes on to say:

Bluetooth dollar sales grew 42% YoY through 1H16, while the broader headphone market saw dollar sales grew a pedestrian 7%. While Bluetooth still owns only 17% unit share, 42% YoY growth and majority dollar sales are evidence that this fairly new technology is beginning to gain some serious traction.

You can expect companies to focus hard on wireless technologies in the near future. Unfortunately that may have us seeing a de-emphasis on good sounding wired cans. I reckon our our choices will become fewer, but the good ones are likely to remain. We'll see.

First USB Type-C Noise Canceling Headphones

With Apples lead it's likely we'll see the 3.5mm headphone jack disappearing from many phones and the rise in use of the USB Type-C connector for headphones on Android phones. Evidently the first of its kind, the recently released HTC 10 now makes available the JBL Reflect Aware noise canceling in-ear monitor with a USB Type-C connection. You can find it on the HTC 10 accessories page.

Gotta say, look like regular old analog wired headphones are going the way of the dodo.

Corporate Dance Partners

Not long ago I reported Skullcandy as up for sale and in the midst of a bidding war between Mill Road Capital and smartphone and tablet accessory maker Incipio. Well the deed is done, and Skullcandy now joins Incipio for the cool price of $188.6 million—or $6.10 a share. Share were initially offered at $20 in their July 2011 IPO.

I don't particularly dig Skullcandy being sold to a case maker, but this did perk up my ears: Incipio has also just acquired Griffin Technologies—also a case maker, but they do have a few broader products and decent brand strength.

I don't know what Incipio is on about, but it sure looks like they're on about something.

Amazon's Selective Noise Canceling

It always seem so weird to me when fundamentally IT companies start making hardware. Well, I have an Amazon Echo and think it's amazing...still weird though. Reports have surfaced that Amazon has just received a patent for noise canceling headphones that can selectively cancel or let in sounds of a variety of types while continuing to cancel other noises. Imagine sitting at a noisy bar waiting for your table announcement and being able to shut out all the noise but still hear the waitress call your name.

Write more and better code than anyone else and rule the world...said someone probably over at Google.

Getting All Tied Up

I know it's frustrating to encounter a tangle of earphone wire in the bottom of your backpack pocket, but should we have an objective viewpoint on the problem? So thought some researchers at University of California at San Diego Department of Physics. "Spontaneous knotting of an agitated string" by Dorian M. Raymer and Douglas E. Smith is the result of long hours executing some 3,415 trials putting a carefully looped earphone into a box and shaking it. Variables were the cable length and shaking time.

The long and the short of it? Cables under 46cm rarely get tangled. That's 18 inches folks...not much of a cable. Also "Y" configured earphones are more prone to tangling...basically all IEMs. Cables over 2 meters don't tangle any more than those of normal length...so go ahead and put a 12 foot cable on your IEMs if you want.

Basically, you're screwed, they'll always be tangled. Don't you feel better now? Read more here.

tony's picture

Everyone I've worked with uses the LG device. I'm told they play music but I never listen to music when working. The LG lets a person keep the phone in a pocket or purse, it's a rugged device, runs 4-Eva on a charge, it transforms the Phone's utility annnnd it sounds clear in windy places. Don't leave home without it!

I wonder how the Focals would sound if I hooked them up instead of the little magnetic in-ear transducers?, the Focal stuff runs on nearly no energy. hmm Never tried it with any of my Sennheisers cause I don't have a spare cubic inch in my travel kit. My Etymotics have to travel in my shirt pocket.

TTVJ is right, we've come a lonnnnng way.

Tony in Michigan

Bobs Your Uncle's picture

... as this story highlights: LG's upcoming V20 to be the industry's first smartphone with a 32-bit Quad DAC ( http://www.techspot.com/news/65941-lg-upcoming-v20-industry-first-smartp... ).

There's much to be both quantified & subjectively evaluated with respect to the efficacy of audio circuitry shielding, sound quality, & the impact of Blue Tooth, among other things, The proof is always in the pudding, of course, & we're certainly not lacking in what too often proves to be pure marketing hype.

tony's picture

If this V20's capability gets some traction, we'll probably see it becoming the "standard issue" feature set for every phone manufacturer.

This is the beginning, where will we be 3 years from now?

High-End 2-Channel outfits are sitting there watching the youth go to Headphone stuff.

Now the Headphone outfits will be watching the youth going to the Phone stuff.

Once again, consumer Music reproduction Systems transition to a more accessible and popular format.

Mr. Bobs Your Uncle, you're the first person to report on this ( that I'm aware of ). You get my "Cutting Edge" Award for Journalism.

I suppose it's logical to anticipate LG being on the Front Covers of Audiophile Mags. for the next Month or so, unless ClearAudio releases a $200,000 Record Player.

Tony in Michigan

Magoo's picture


You mean for portable devices right? Which makes sense I guess....the more serious listener will want their Cans to be wired...just like speakers are....No quality in Blu Tooth....yet anyway...

HammerSandwich's picture

Huh? Because curry comes from cooking?

Bobs Your Uncle's picture

Anyone who cannot bear witness to the dastardly & malevolent visage which Tim Curry is capable of projecting has simply not been simmering long enough in our nation's cultural stew pot. No one should be permitted to vote, or be granted any other "adult privileges" without sitting through a crowded theater screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at LEAST once. (And Curry's range is really much broader than that single film might suggest).

tony's picture

I'm sorry to have to correct your post: "Curry's range 'was' ( not is ).

Tim Curry is now Wheel-Chair bound and Stroked-Out.

My own Cardiologist is working to prevent that same fate from befalling me.

Tim Curry carried everything he was involved in.

Tony in Michigan

ps. the UK produces such wonderful characters, I live in a whiteopia neighborhood of Abner Milquetoasts with attitudes

Bobs Your Uncle's picture

I somehow missed news of Curry's stroke at the time it occurred & am sorry to learn of these difficulties. A follow-up google search, however, included an August 9th article in the L.A. Times which reveals that Curry will be ... "front and center in a new version of the musical [Rocky Horror] that will air Oct. 20 on Fox."

While still reliant upon a wheelchair, apparently Mr. Curry's recovery has been quite fulsome in other aspects of life & abilities. (And boy ... has TV changed since the 70's)!

Soo,thanks fer the tip, & ya take good care a yerself up dere in Meechigan, yah? The same well wishes go out to all readers, & always remember: Say "Yah" to the UP, eh!

wcacho's picture

I am using audiophile headphones.

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Pozyczka's picture

I would personaly recommmend cableless headphones!
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