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Crowded Headphones Market Remains Double-Edged Sword

3/12/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

TWICE: Do you think the crowded market is
benefiting the consumer, or is it just making
them confused?

Brian Nohe, SMS Audio: The consumer
electronics industry in general provides ample
opportunities for consumers to research products
through reviews and general analysis. As
well, most key players invest significantly to educate
their target demographics to the specific
benefits and features of their brands. Competition
is always healthy and drives manufactures
to consistently develop better products.

Steve Kops, Ecko division of Mizco International:
A crowded market is definitely a double-edged
sword. The consumer faces product overload, which adds
confusion to the category. On the other hand, the innovation
that is taking place in this category is unprecedented,
which can only be attributed to each manufacturers’ goal
of separating themselves from the pack.

Daniel Lee, Harman: Choice is never a bad thing.
There is a tremendous amount of variety in the market today,
ranging from in-ear, on-ear and over-ear styles but
also including waterproof, sweat-proof, Bluetooth, noise
canceling, noise reducing and many other options. It is
no longer a market where you buy a single pair of headphones
... I think that’s how many consumers view the options,
and as long as they do their homework and seek
headphones that offer the best performance for what they
need, people will be happy — as will the manufacturers
that deliver quality products.

Stefen Betesh, Sakar: I think headphones and earphones
are an impulse buy as many consumers will by
between three and five audio products per year. The more
players, the better for the retailer and much better for the
consumer.

Christi Park, Coby Electronics: Consumers today
have many options to chose from and it’s the job of the
manufacturer to provide them with the information they need to distinguish their product from all of the others.
At Coby, we’re intent on meeting the sound and
lifestyle needs of audiophiles and fashionistas alike
with clearly identified features and product-enhancing
packaging that informs, and doesn’t confuse,
consumers.

John Koss Jr., Koss: We think the cluttered marketplace
is really confusing to consumers. There are
so many products available on the shelf that claim to
offer the same benefits at really low prices. Our testing
and research shows most of the new manufacturers
products really miss the mark with regard to construction,
fit, and, most importantly, sound.

Tim Hickman, Fanny Wang: While the headphone
market is becoming increasingly crowded, the
reality is that the market leaders are all focusing on one
target demographic — the urban male youth market.
We realized that almost half of the marketplace was
being ignored.

Andrew Sivori, Sony: People love multiple options
and choices. However, since the headphone industry
is experiencing such explosive growth, the sheer number
of brands now entering the space is at an all-time
high. Consumers have to be more careful than ever to
ensure they’re actually purchasing a quality product.
It’s easy to design a headphone that’s visually appealing,
but making it durable and sound great requires
real expertise.

Tom Hantson, Panasonic: The crowded market
has opened the world of headphones to a wider variety
and greater number of people. They now have
a greater selection as compared to many years ago
when it seemed like they were confined with whatever
headphones came with their MP3 player … [But] it’s
impossible for one consumer to physically compare all
the headphones on the market, and make a purchase
decision.

Scott Hix, SOL Republic: Near term, both. More
selections and options and price competition favors
the consumer. At the same time, with so many “me
too” product it is more difficult for consumers to understand
the differentiation each brand provides.

Mark Aling, Paradigm: The crowded market gives
consumers plenty of options but it can definitely lead
to confusion. However, consumers looking to invest
in a good pair of earphones/headphones are more inclined
to do their research, demo product and/or talk
to an educated sales person, much like they would
when purchasing a home-theater system, which helps
them cut through the noise.

Steve Schlangen, Altec Lansing: There’s not
much benefit for the consumer from the “Me Too”
brands jumping on the band wagon. Often times it
can confuse the consumer as the result is a battle for
shelf space, where the winner is decided by irrelevant
specs and pretty packaging, and not always decided
by sound quality.

Val Kolton, V-Moda: Confused. It’s harder than
ever to know who is telling the truth and sort through
the marketing phrases used too often, such as “high
definition”. This term is rampant on headphones that
cost less than $9.99, with nothing to back up the
claim. Many cheap headphones have sound variances
of >30dB from unit to unit, meaning that no two headphones
are the same. V-Moda takes great pride in ensuring
consistency throughout the manufacturing process
so that all of our headphones are created equal.

Brian Yang, iLuv: In today’s marketplace, there
might be many options to choose from, but there are
also many resources and references to help consumers
narrow down their choices.

Nick Laperle, Sonomax: I’ve read studies if you
give a consumer more than six choices, it’s going to
be very hard for them to make a decision. If you see a
wall of headphones, you gravitate toward the known
brands, which is great for them. Sometimes I go to
the stores and watch it. You see people: “I don’t know
what I want. I’m so overwhelmed. I’ll ask the salesperson.”
If the salesperson is very involved with one company
over the other, you end up with that, or you just
end up buying Beats or Bose.

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