By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Ear buds represented the majority of headphone sales in 2008, as tracked by The NPD Group (see story above). Here, TWICE rounds up some of the most recent additions to in-ear and ear bud market. (Note: although some of the models in this story are titled as "headphones," they have been placed in this section because their tips rest either in the ear canal or just outside of it.)
Ear buds: ARNC01, $59.99
The ARNC01 noise-canceling ear buds are said to use active processing to reduce noise; the processing circuitry is housed in a small in-line module with an on/off button, a shirt/belt clip and a compartment for a single AAAA battery. Battery life is up to 50 hours, according to the company. Small, medium and large silicone tips for the ear buds are included.
Ear buds: Blockade, $39.95
The Blockade noise-isolating ear buds from AOSafety are designed to provide great sound without damaging hearing. They feature a triple-flange design with a Noise Reduction Rating of 24dB. Maximum speaker levels top out at 91dB, said the company, and it comes with inline volume control.
In-ear headphones: ATH-CK1W, $49.99; ATH-CK6W, $79.99; ATH-CK52W, $59.99
The company designed the headphones in this line specifically for women, Audio-Technica said in a statement when they were launched in the fall. The ATH-CK1W in-ear headphones are billed as being ultra-compact and ultra-light with advanced-technology speaker drivers. Colors offered include green, orange, pink, purple, white and yellow. Three interchangeable ear tips are provided.
The ATH-CK6W — in-ear headphones offered in metallic silver, blue, green and pink — come with three sizes of ear tips, and three interchangeable loop support pieces for a custom fit.
The in-ear ATH-CK52W headphones come in blue, black and white and feature soft ear pieces that are meant to fit securely, reducing outside noise.
All of Audio-Technica's women's headphones come with a cord wrap.
Earphones: BloomingBuds, $19.99
Scheduled for November availability
The BloomingBuds earphones, from the company of the same name, are designed to allow music listeners to personalize their earphones. Each set of earphones comes packaged with two pairs of Blooms, decorative attachments for the earphones that are offered in a variety of items — ladybug, soccer ball, daisy, etc. Frequency response for the earphones is listed as 20Hz to 20,000Hz, with an impedance of 32 ohms. Maximum power is 10mW, the company said. Extra attachments are $3.99/pair.
Earphones: CV-E51, $9.99; CV-EM76, $39.99
The CV-E51 Jammerz in-ear earphones from Coby feature an isolation design, 9mm drivers and "powerful" bass response, according to the company. Six colors are offered: silver, black, blue, green, pink and red.
The CV-EM76 isolation stereo earphones come with an in-ear isolation design, 10mm drivers, aluminum housing and interchangeable silicone earplugs. Six colors are offered: purple, red, blue, green, silver and black. SRP: $39.99
Although the Jammerz are on the entry-level end of the headphone pricing, while the CV-EM76 can be considered midtier for ear buds on the pricing spectrum, Mark Farish, senior marketing manager at Coby, said the magic price point for headphones "really depends on what the consumers' intended use for the headphones is and its overall design. However, to get the kind of quality headphones that utilize effective noise-cancellation solutions, consumers are going to have to pay more to get more — or less, in the case of noise-reduction models."
Farish called the Jammerz part of the company's "ongoing strategy to offer a wide assortment of solutions." In 2009, he said, Coby "will continue to invest in technology that improves the quality of our products, particularly in effective noise-cancellation solutions."
Ear buds: GrooveAtomic, $14.99
Designed with "custom-formed, ultra-light titanium," the GrooveAtomic ear buds feature sound-isolating technology and true, powerful bass response, said the company. They are available in orange and pink. A carrying case and a five-year warranty is included.
In-ear earphones: HF5, $149
The HF5 earphones, according to Etymotic Research, are designed specifically for iPods and other MP3 players. They feature the same hi-fi, noise-isolating technology as their predecessor, the company's HF2 headset, albeit without the microphone. The HF5 are designed with the company's tuned acoustic-insert technology. Sealing in the ear, the earphones allow listeners to hear the full dynamic range of recordings without having to play them at high and unsafe volumes, said Etymotic.
They come in three colors — blue, ruby red and black — with several ear tips.
Earphones: Atrio line, $199
Future Sonics announced it has added to two new colors to its Atrio line of earphones. The M3 (earth beige) and M9 (ruby red) were the most-requested colors by consumers, the company said. They are also offered in cobalt blue and onyx black. Features of the earphones are listed by the company as including warm, natural midrange; accurate and detailed treble; TrueTimbre natural frequency response of 18Hz to 20,000Hz; an ultra-lightweight design; and 100 percent armature-free studio-grade MG5pro drivers. Sensitivity level is listed as 112dB at 30Hz, with an ambient noise rejection of -26dB. They also come with QuietCables II, which reportedly provide more flexibility and less tangling.
Ear buds: TuneBuds Mobile, $39.99
Griffin Technology announced last week it had updated its TuneBuds Mobile ear buds. The TuneBuds Mobile are now equipped with inline microphones that are said to be compatible with iPhone, fourth-generation iPod Nanos, second-generation iPod Touches 120GB and iPod Classics.
The buds are designed to fit the ear snugly, with washable ear cushions in a selection of sizes, and conform to the ear for maximum comfort and sound isolation, said the company. They feature the company's built-in ControlMic, described as a high-sensitivity microphone and control button.
Headphones: Surge, $59.95
Designed for use with water sports, the H2O Audio Surge headphones are engineered to combine sound-isolating, watertight earplugs with waterproof 8mm neodymium drivers. The headphones are waterproof up to 12 feet and include five sets of earplugs, the company's MotionFlex strain-relief connector and a carrying case. Two colors are currently availble — midnight black and Kai blue — and other options will be offered later, the company said.
In-ear headphones: HA-FXC50, $39.95
Introduced in the fall by JVC, the HA-FXC50 in-ear canal headphones feature a Micro-HD driver unit that is loaded into the tip of the headphone housing. This enables the driver unit to stay in the ear canal, delivering high-definition sound directly into the ear without diffused reflection, said the company. Other features include silicon earpieces that come in three sizes, a 3.28-foot friction-noise-reduction cord, a gold-plated iPhone-compatible plug and a carrying pouch.
Ear buds: M&Ms, $9.99
Action Sports Line: $19.99-$24.99
Scheduled for Q1 2009 availability
Gordon Tetreault, sales and marketing director of Maxell, announced to TWICE last week that it would be licensing the M&M name for soft-tipped ear buds. Five colors will be available: red, blue, pink, white and orange. Tetreault said he expects the ear buds to be popular with all ages. "Obviously, you're going to have a lot of kids and tweens, but M&M is far beyond just a type of candy type of product. It has mass appeal for adults and collectors."
Maxell hopes to have them sold in M&M store locations, and the manufacturer is also looking for mass distribution throughout "all major retailers." Additional specs for the ear buds were not available at press time.
Tetreault also said the company would be updating its line of Action Sports products, which include water-resistant ear buds, ear clips, neckband headphones and neckband head buds.
In-ear headphones: EB100, $24.99; EB200, $29.99; and EB300, $39.99
Scheduled for November availability
Memorex's line of in-ear headphones are engineered with Howard Leight's Soundelity technology, which the company describes as "a professional-grade ear-cushion solution similar to that of elite brands sold at up to 10 times the price." (Howard Leight is a manufacturer of hearing protectors.) All three models in the line come with the memory foam ear tips, which are designed to conform to users' ear canals and provide passive noise canceling and bass sound.
The EB100 feature 14mm drivers, and the EB200 and EB300 models both have 9mm drivers. Each comes with a 3.9-foot cord and a 3.5mm stereo gold-plated plug. Memorex EB100, EB200 and EB300 in-ear headphones will be listed for suggested retail prices.
In-ear headphones: Turbine, $149
Scheduled for January 2009 availability
The Turbine "in-ear speakers" from Monster are designed to reproduce what a good loudspeaker can do, Noel Lee, head monster of the company, told TWICE at a press event last week. "Retailers don't sell loudspeakers anymore — they have to sell the only speakers people use today," Lee said. "Headphones today are the speakers of yesterday."
The individually cut Turbine ear buds have a metal housing and feature 8mm drivers and a non-tangle cable that Lee said took two years to develop. Three sizes of "air-locked" ear tips are included.
Headphones: PMX 80, $59.95
Earphones: OMX 80, $59.95
Ear buds: MX 85, $59.95
In-ear headphones: CX 380, $79.95
The Sport II series from Sennheiser are meant to withstand water, perspiration and cold temperatures.
The MX 85 ear buds use the company's Twist-to-Fit system — with one turn, a small rubber ring holds the earphones securely in the ear, said the company.
The OMX 80 feature individually adjustable ear clips, adjustable earpiece sizes and an asymmetric cord for a secure fit. It is offered in gray/orange and turquoise blue.
Boasting an ergonomically designed band, the PMX 80 has a vertical transducer system meant to provide the best possible fit and a "superb" acoustic connection, the company said.
The CX 380 in-ear headphones have neodymium magnets for high levels of sound quality and durability, Sennheiser said.
Earphones: SE102MPA, $99.99
Featuring the company's Balanced MicroSpeaker technology, the SE102MPA earphones are geared toward users of iPhones and other music-playing cellphones. The earphones' sound-isolating sleeves "block over 90 percent of ambient noise," according to the company, and the come with a VoicePort in-line microphone that's said to optimize vocal intelligibility by filtering out background noise and minimizing interference caused by wind. Other features include integrated control-button for sending and ending calls, and a detachable cable solution.
Ear buds: Holua, $99.95
Boasting a wooden housing with laser-cut aluminum accents, the Holua ear buds feature an 8mm speaker, a frequency range of 20Hz to 20,000Hz and an "aluminum foil" cable. Impedance is listed at 16 ohms. The ear buds operate using a lithium-ion battery and each set comes with a wooden carrying box. Colors include gold, silver and white.
Earphones: Sleek Customs, $299
Purchasing the Sleek Customs earphones isn't as simple as plucking them off the shelf — nor is it meant to be. Sleek Audio requires consumers to go through a few more steps, delivering what's meant to be a truly customized listening device.
First, consumers meet with a trained, local audiologist who does an impression of the customer's ears, which is then sent to Sleek Audio.
Sleek Audio takes the mold and creates a custom earphone by hand in their lab, it said. Consumers talk with a company rep, detailing what kind of music they listen to instruments they play, and what their bass and treble preferences are. Cable mounting, colors, designs and ear-canal depths are also discussed. When the earphone is completed, it is tuned and delivered. All are engineered with the company's ultra-wide, single balanced, custom-designed armature drivers.
Headphones: Vibe II, $128
Scheduled for November availability
The Vibe II with microphone features stainless-steel alloy headphones, a contrasting jewel accent in the center of the ear buds, and a fabric cable with an in-line hands-free microphone and call/music controls. It reportedly has an 8mm dynamic drive and a frequency range of 12Hz to 22Hz. Colors include black and Chrome Rogue, and each set comes with four pairs of black and clear silicone fittings, detachable sport ear hooks and a carrying pouch.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.