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Crowded Headphones Market Remains Double-Edged Sword

3/12/2012 12:00:00 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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