Consumers aren't rushing out to buy surround-sound systems, but they are snatching up headphones. Unit sales for the first five months of this year were up 13 percent, and dollar sales were up a whopping 33 percent for the same period over last year, according to the NPD Group.
The uptick is fueled by more than blister-packed earbud replacements; some of the most popular headphones are higher-end models, such as Beats by Dr. Dre. While a pair of headphones was once simply a way to plug in and block out the world, they are now all-purpose devices catering to a wide audience that not only wants to listen to Spotify but also wants to listen to video tracks on Facebook and make calls on their smartphone.
There are still specific models aimed at specific buyers, from audiophiles to iPhone addicts. It's common now to find built-in microphones and controls for iPhones on the cords of even high-end headphones. Many models are also clearly aimed at specific market segments and music fans, from hip-hop to jazz. To help give sales associates and buyers an idea of the different types of leading-edge headphones (excluding noise canceling sets) on the market, and the demographic they're aimed at, we've taken an in-depth look at some leading-edge models and their most important features.