HERTFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND — It may seem that Beats by Dr. Dre are dominating the heads and ears of every consumer around the globe, but it’s actually Sony that takes top billing in worldwide headphones shipments, according to Futuresource Consulting.
The research firm said Sony, Philips and JVC took top market positions for volume in 2014, accounting for 31 percent of worldwide shipments. Sony led with 14 percent.
Apple’s Earpods came in fourth, with 5 percent share, and Sennheiser and Beats followed. (Futuresource declined to share specific percentages.)
In the U.S., the top five brands ranked in terms of shipments were, in order: Sony, Apple, JVC, Philips and Beats.
Noted Simon Bryant, consumer electronics associate director for Futuresource, “Beats are stronger in the U.S. than outside U.S., but still ranked only No.  by volume in the U.S. Their [average selling price] is significantly higher than the rest of the competition; therefore, they have a hugely dominant share in value terms — 30 percent in the U.S. last year, where they are comfortably ranked No. 1.”
He added: “Beats’ individual models rank highly in product listings, but there is a huge and fragmented volume of sales that ship for very cheap prices, i.e. under $10 or $20, from well-known brands as well as many lesser-known brands.”
Indeed, The NPD Group said earlier this year that Beats had captured the No. 1 sales position in the U.S. for 2014, besting Bose, Sony, Skullcandy and JVC.
Overall worldwide shipments of headphones grew by 8.5 percent last year, reaching 309.5 million units for 2014, according to Futuresource.
Although average retail prices grew by just 3.6 percent (from $29.20 to $30.30), the market value of shipments grew 12 percent and generated revenues worth $9.4 billion. This is partly due to the falling cost to include certain features, the firm said.
In-ear headphones accounted for 60 percent of worldwide shipments.
Drilling down on these specific features, headphones with microphones grew by 58 percent, accounting for 36 percent of worldwide shipments. Bluetooth headphones are expected by Futuresource to account for 21 percent of worldwide shipments by 2018.
“The demand for headphones is increasing, especially as consumers are using their mobile devices for a plethora of content on the go, whether that’s whilst commuting to work, running, cycling or simply walking into town,” said Bryant.
“We are also seeing an increase in demand for more sophisticated features, which is increasing value and driving more sales for the vendors. In the coming months, we will likely see an increased presence from specialist vendors, which can add unique features,” he added.