Headphones Own the Spotlight at CES
If things keep going the way they are, the headphone category just might need its own CES.
That was the impression the show had on attendees, as suppliers deluged booth browsers with hundreds of introductions and fresh features. New units came in at a variety of prices, shapes and sizes. And never before have they been marketed in as many ways, from highly customizable models with team and school logos, to anti-germ-transmitting models, to glow-in-the-dark earbuds that make them easy to find on the nightstand.
Despite the frenzy to fill market niches and satisfy unmet consumer needs, it’s clear the biggest design elements driving headphone innovations are still fashion, acoustics and comfort.
Here’s a rundown of some of the introductions:
• Monster offered an expansive range of headphones, with several lines marketed in partnership with high-profile entertainment and sports figures. Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard was on hand to usher in the new EA Sports MVP Carbon by Monster headphone ($269.95). The headphone is optimized for immersive gaming and incorporates AstoundSound spatial audio technology.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees talked up the revamped iSport line that now includes sweatproof/washable in-ear models. Model and actor Tyson Beckford touted the Purity Pro wireless over-ear stereo headset, created with Nokia, which matches the Lumia 920 smartphones.
The Diesel-endorsed VEKTR line now includes on-ear military green and mirror-finish chrome models ($279.95 each). Head Monster Noel Leel and entertainer Nick Cannon introduced new youth-focused NCredible headphones, including the N-Tune on-ear and N-Ergy in-ear models.
• SOL REPUBLIC entered the over-ear category with the Master Tracks headphones ($199.99). They feature the bass-enriching X3 Sound Engine, which also offers a tuned midrange sound. Like its Tracks on-ear ’phones, these have interchangeable headbands and cables. They feature articulating ear cushions, damage-resistant FlexTech polymer, three finishes, and optional headbands.
• Audio-Technica debuted its three-model SonicSport line ($49.95 through $99.95; March). The flagship ATH-CP7600 model is designed with a “directing port”—a canal that funnels sound toward the ear canal—and ridged eartips for awareness of ambient sounds. The line is waterproof and washable.
• Lenbrook introduced new models for the NAD and PSB brands. PSB’s M4U1 ($299) passive on-ear model is available in multiple colors, while the NAD VISO HP 50 noise-isolating over-ear headphone ($279) is the brand’s first entry into the category. Both lines feature a detachable cord that plugs into either ear cup.
• Klipsch displayed the on-ear Image ONE Bluetooth, its first wireless headphone model ($249.99), which includes a built-in rechargeable battery; the Image ONE wired model ($149.99); and the Image A5i Sport, its first sports in-ear headphone ($129.99).
• Mizco’s EckoUnltd added the GLOW earbuds series to its line. These noise-isolating glow-in-the-dark ’phones have a 1.2-meter tangle-free cord, a 3.5mm plug and an in-line mic, as well as a silicon carrying case. The line ranges in price from $19.99 to $39.99.
• Bell’O came out with its first over-the-ear headphones, The BDH821, under its Bell’O Digital label.
• Paradigm demonstrated noise-cancelling and passive versions of its H15 on-ear headphones ($299 and $199, respectively), which are part of its SHIFT series. The noise-cancelling version uses an active supra-aural technology in a dual-microphone design.
• Maxell showed off its Balanced Armature+ ($119.99) flagship earphone model with a 6mm low-frequency aluminum-encased driver and anti-bacterial earpieces.
• Sennheiser highlighted its Style Selection line’s Momentum black headphones. The unit combines a stainless steel headband slider with leather earpads and a headband, accented with red stitching.
• Rounding out Polk Audio’s headphone offerings is a three-model selection of Performance UltraFit headphones that are classed as “Made for Android.” The headphones, the in-ear model 1000a ($69.95), on-ear model 2000a ($69.95), and in-ear-canal model 3000a ($99.95), come in black with Android’s signature green color highlights.
• Polk has also refreshed its color palette for the Apple UltraFit headphone line. They are now available in pink/gray, gray/red, gray/purple, and gray/green. Polk upgraded its UltraFocus 6000 active noise-canceling in-ear headphones ($149.95) to the 6000i, with the addition of three-button Apple device control capability.
• AblePlanet’s SH180 stereo headphone ($69.99), part of the Musicians’ Choice line, embeds the company’s patented LINX AUDIO technology, which tailors high-frequency harmonics to enhance sound and speech clarity. The model also features in-wire volume control and has a metallic finish that comes in eight colors.
• iSound’s DGH-5600 BT-2000 stereo headset ($69.99) uses Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR technology. A series of buttons on the headset, which uses a lithium polymer rechargeable battery, sends music-track play, pause and skip commands wirelessly.
• iHome’s iB85 Bluetooth wireless foldable headphones ($99.99) are designed for enhanced bass response. They offer a built-in mic and an on-ear remote control.
• Jaybird’s BlueBuds X micro-sized Bluetooth earbuds ($169.99) offer an eight-hour battery life and buds that are infused with the company’s Liquipel nano-technology Sweat Repellant, which carries a lifetime warranty against moisture. They are designed with the company’s X-Fit over-ear/under-ear fit option, which allows the user to position the cord off the neck.
• Onkyo has just entered the headphone category with a series of models being delivered to market in the first quarter. They include the ES-HF300 closed-back on-ear model ($179). It uses a 40mm titanium driver design for enhanced dynamic performance, housed in a chassis that evokes Onkyo’s A/V component volume controls. It comes with a 6N oxygen-free elastomer-encased copper cable that is said to provide enhanced conductivity, and gold-plated connectors.
• Sakar’s Targus-brand Model TA-15HP headphones ($29.99, May) are designed with a silicone inner headband.
• Velodyne’s vFree Bluetooth wireless on-ear headphone ($299.99), available in gloss white, black and aluminum finishes, can be personalized with an array of optional patterned “skins” (starting at $29.99 each). The outer ear cup houses the headphones’ controls. Their built-in rechargeable battery is rated for 10-plus hours of use, and a micro USB charging cable is included. DS