New York - The March 12 issue of TWICE features a virtual roundtable with executives from 32 headphones manufacturers. Topics discussed include the challenges facing the market and what consumers are most discerning about when it comes to products.
Participators also gave some insight into what they're planning for the next quarter. What follows are comments from the respondents.
Bruce Borenstein, president and CEO, AfterShokz:
We're constantly working on product improvements, both in sound and design. We have a Bluetooth product in the works we're really excited about and another bone conduction open-ear headphone that will expand the line further.
Ian Geise, marketing and product development VP, Audiovox Accessories:
We are introducing a new headphone line, called Ampz, under our RCA brand. That is a value-driven headphone with great style and features that customers are looking for: single cord on-ear cup, 40mm drivers, great color options, with outstanding sound quality at a sub-$20 price point.
Christi Park, brand manager, Coby:
We are in the process of rolling out our 2012 line that targets CE enthusiasts at every stage of life, from teens to adults, from music enthusiasts to athletes, gamers and more, with a trend-right selection of headphones and earphones that focus on personal expression combined with performance and style.
Tim Hickman, CEO, Fanny Wang:
Soon we will be launching a new headphone product that really illustrates our unique ability to incorporate sound and design. We are very excited as we've been perfecting this design for a while now. Stay tuned!
Daniel Lee, marketing director for the U.S., Harman:
We will leverage Harman's formidable portfolio of brands and introduce a variety of new products to ensure that we reach multiple consumer demographics. We're using a number of unique ways to develop, as well as market, our products -- stay tuned for those announcements.
Brian Yang, sales and marketing VP, iLuv:
It's confidential, so we can't disclose too much at this point. All I can say is that we're primarily going after the smartphone users focusing on the basic performance. This is what we believe matters at the end of the day.
Suzann Taylor, media coordinator, Jasco Products:
Our next quarter involves launching our new T-Tech by Tumi line which includes several audio products. The new T-Tech line really focuses on personalized and trend-forward styles. We want to treat our customers with audiophile-quality music combined with sophisticated designs. It's due to launch this spring, and we couldn't be more excited to introduce products like the new T-Tech by Tumi Performance Driver-series earphones and a few others.
John Koss Jr., sales VP, Koss:
Next quarter we will begin shipping the highly anticipated inter-locking in-ear stereophones (IL100 & IL200 KTC) that we premiered at CES 2012. We had planned on shipping the evolutionary Porta Pro KTC Q2 2012 but due to a flurry of press and demand from CES 2012 (where it premiered) we sped-up production and began shipping a full two months early -- in February. We will also begin shipping the Rukus series that features four bold new products that offer a colorful and an original look for the younger demographic.
Cheryl Severini, marketing and product development director, Maxell:
Introductions in the headphone category for the next quarter include a variety of ear buds with inline mic and remote for cellphones, high-performance aluminum ear buds, high-end noise-cancellation headphones, and expanding our lineup of Safe Sounds volume-restricted headphones and ear buds for children.
Steve Kops, sales VP, Ecko division of Mizco International:
Our goal in the consumer electronic arena is to constantly push the envelope in function and design, as evidenced by the introduction of the award-winning Spray Bluetooth speaker. By increasing our product assortment in the headphone category, followed by portable power solutions, portable speakers, and cases, this brand is firmly establishing itself as a major provider of a full-range of lifestyle-oriented consumer electronic accessories.
Tom Hantson, category manager, Panasonic Consumer Marketing Company of America:
Panasonic will be launching the new lineup of 2012 headphones, which will include inner-ear-bud headphone models that provide better sound performance and an even more appealing design as compared to our previous models. Late into the next quarter, we are also planning to reintroduce the Technics DJ headphones to the market. These high-end headphones produce superior sound quality and are designed to match the DJ lifestyle.
Lisa Phelan, marketing senior director, lifestyle entertainment, Philips:
Philips is launching several new ranges in 2012, which were unveiled at CES this year.
The Fidelio headphones range is for those who are obsessed with sound, and these headphones are tuned for the audiophile. The range includes two products -- the Philips Fidelio L1 over-the-ear headphones and Philips Fidelio M1 on-the-ear headphones ... Both products in the range are engineered with the same premium acoustic profiling. These are available exclusively at Apple.com for now and will be in retail Apple stores this summer.
The CitiScape Collection is developed by and for the city-dwelling music lover. The urban inspired styling is coupled with a unique feature in two of the models, called the MusicSeal, which prevents music leakage and ensures that you're the only one listening to your music ... They will be available at the end of April at Target and Best Buy and other key retailers.
The Android range of headsets is the first of its kind and is specifically designed to optimize headset use with Android-based devices. We've developed an app that customizes the in-line remote, giving the user much greater control and personalization of their headset ... Products in the range will be available by the end of April at Best Buy, Target and other key retailers.
Joe Phelps, personal audio sales director, Polk:
We have two noise-canceling models that will ship soon, and more products planned for later this year.
Stefen Betesh, audio product manager, Sakar:
We will be launching our Sketchers-branded fitness audio line as well as continue to be the leader in youth brands and electronics.
Bill Whearty, sales and marketing VP, retail products, Sennheiser:
We have several products we announced at CES 2012, including the HD 700 audiophile headphone, the DJ-inspired Amperior and the RS 220 wireless headphone. Each of these products are premium products targeted at consumers who appreciate discriminating, authentic sound. You will see increased activity in the retail channel on these and other products -- including our new X320 gaming headset and our MM450 and MM550X Bluetooth headsets -- over the course of the upcoming quarter.
Dan Levine, chief merchandising officer, Skullcandy:
We have an intense plan for the upcoming quarter and the balance of the year. In the next quarter, Skullcandy will deliver our most ambitious projects in the history of our brand: a new sound platform, a completely redesigned packaging experience, and several new product releases.
Our new proprietary audio profile, Supreme Sound, will launch this quarter. This project has consumed our engineering team over the past year and the results are impressive. The Hesh headphone, one of our franchise models, has been completely redesigned.
We are also launching a revolutionary headphone called Cassette that marries unique performance features with a modern aesthetic. Our entire 2012 product range will nest in our new packaging design, which we debuted at the January CES tradeshow. And of course there will be several other new product releases in late 2012.
Brian Nohe, president, SMS Audio:
In addition to our current lineup of Sync by 50 wireless colors, we will be offering new colors. This holds true for our Street by 50 over-ear product as well. Additionally, we will be launching the Street by 50 DJ model and Street by 50 on-ear model. In the value category, we will be launching a line of DJ Pauly D headphones.
Nick Laperle, president and CEO, Sonomax:
We're launching the latest version of our product -- the PSC 150 and 250, which have redesigned packaging, easier fitting system, and improved sound quality, and better looks.
Scott Hix, COO, SOL Republic:
After a successful launch of SOL Republic in the U.S., our plans in Q2 is to expand the range and reach of our channels geographically and to being to deliver on the promise of the interchangeability of our Tracks and Tracks HD. To that note, we will offer expanded versions inspired by music, fashion and sports collaborations.
Andrew Sivori, personal audio group VP, Sony Electronics:
Within the next quarter you'll be seeing some great additions to our lineup at retail. Our Balanced Armature (XBA) line includes a core assortment that differentiates itself by the number of drivers in the housing. There are also sports, Bluetooth and noise-canceling versions, as well as SKUs that support Apple products -- a total of 11 models. In addition, we're bringing all-new over-the-head models to market, priced form $80-$100 in a wide range of colors. They include our first sub-$100 DJ-style headphones that deliver a great sense of style and fashion to match their awesome performance.
Bob Bonefant, founder, Soul Electronics:
Soul continues to expand on high style and high performance with the Party in a Box. Our company appreciates that people want to share their music mix with others. We have evolved this concept with a revolutionary product that takes all "i" products and makes them "we."
Val Kolton, founder and CEO, V-Moda:
We will continue to our dedication to high-quality sound, luxurious materials and military-grade durability in every one of our new headphone designs in 2012. You will also see some non-headphone products launching from V-Moda this year that will cause a lot of excitement amongst modern audiophiles.
Konrad BergstrÃ¶m, president and co-founder, Zound Industries:
We are aggressive with all our four brands. Cloud, which is our entry-level brand for the mass market, is coming with a totally new concept and three new models. Two new models will be introduced under Urbanears. We'll be stepping up the performance of Marshall Headphones with a new studio headphone. Molami, which is our latest brand, will continue to drive the luxury headphone market. In total, we have 16 totally new product launches. Zound Industries has only been on the market for 26 months, and 2012 and 2013 will be when we will show the world what we really are capable of.