HEADPHONE NATION: The Future of Headphones in 2017 and Beyond

The headphone market is rapidly growing and there’s no sign of slowing down soon. While new headphone companies are popping up every day, the manufacturers already on the scene are stepping up their game. There are literally headphones for all kinds of applications and consumer techies and audiophiles are finding themselves with collections of their favorite headphones. From high-fidelity sound, to comfort and style, headphones are being revived in this age of portable music players. Let’s take a look at what’s going on in the headphone world now and make some predictions for the future of 2017 and beyond.

Headphones Today

When Apple purchased Beats by Dre they were essentially predicting the future of headphones and for the most part they were right. Since 2014, new headphone manufacturers have been coming out of the woodwork and throwing their hat in the ring. Established manufacturers like Audio Technica, AKG, Sennheiser, JBL, Beyerdynamic, Koss, Fostex and the like have also stepped up their game with all new lines of headphones in an attempt to find magic combinations of features that seem to attract the masses. On-ear headphones, over-ear headphones, Bluetooth headphones, open-back, closed-back, active noise cancelling and comfortable padding are just some of the types of features consumers are looking for. The demand is high and the market is wide open.

Things even got a bit wierd in headphones. All of a sudden audiophile quality headphones started coming with inline controls for smartphones and mobile devices. New colors, designs and patterns started trending and manufacturers went from large headphone models to more low profile designs to accommodate the everyday listener who brings their music everywhere and wants total portability.

Manufacturers like HiFiman, Audeze and Oppo are companies that cater to the ultimate audiophile market with the resurgence of Planar Magnetic headphone technology. And they’ve met that market with quite a bit of success. Even while classic companies like Grado and Sennheiser had continued success with their open-back dynamic driver headphones.

It seems that consumers fell in love with music again with the ability to carry or stream their favorite songs everywhere they go and the need for a good headphone has become as integral to the process as the recording itself. In addition to this rekindled love of music, higher digital sampling rates and lossless file playback systems are boosting the fidelity of music into the cosmos.

The Future of Headphones in 2017 and Beyond

What consumers and manufacturers alike have discovered in the process is something we always kind of knew. Headphones are more like shoes. There’s a different kind for each application. Everything from DJ headphones, studio mixing headphones, audiophile home listening headphones, everyday on-the-go headphones, headphones for working out, traveling and so much more. The new reality is clear… This is a Headphone Nation. Though some of us will stick with that one pair of impulse buy headphones off the rack at Target, the rest of us have discovered a brand new world of music listening and there’s a headphone for every mood, type of music and listening environment.

2017 will be filled with even more wireless Bluetooth headphones, big headphones, streamline headphones, portable headphones, noise cancelling, DJ headphones, studio reference headphones, Planar Magnetics, open-backs and a few things we’ve never seen before. Manufacturers will be mixing more features than ever before to find that perfect combination for their unique customers but the truth is we will likely find ourselves as collectors of sorts.

A portable headphone for the daily commute, an earbud set for working out, a nice pair of over-ear reference headphones for home studio mixing and listening, even a noise cancelling pair of headphones for frequent travelling. And audiophiles will have even more headphones in their collection. Each style of music represented in it’s most natural way with a set of headphones for every genre. And a display stand for each one. The possibilities are endless.

In addition to the usual suspects like Audio Technica and Sennheiser throwing down some hot new headphones there will be more innovative headphone companies like AiAiAiDegauss Labs and Jays making interesting new headphones designed for style and high-fidelity listening. These companies are already making serious competition for the regular players. But never fear, there will likely be room for many new companies as consumers are already beginning to collect different headphones based on style, sound and functionality.

Portable amplifiers will be even more popular in 2017 and beyond. Desktop and portable DAC ampifiers are popping up everywhere and making tech loving audiophiles giddy with the ability to push the limits of their music listening. Companies like Chord, Oppo, iFi, Fiio, Lehmann Audio and others are already on the forefront of some of the coolest new DAC amplifier gadgets. Some headphone makers are already gearing up to include the DAC and amplifier in the headphone itself. And it’s only going to get better from there.

There will also likely be a trend in headphone stores popping up like record stores used to back in the day. People enjoy the personal experience of being able to test their new favorite listening devices and feel good about the headphone they’ve sought out. Though there are only a few headphone stores worldwide this will likely change as pictures and reviews will not be enough for some to make a proper headphone choice. And too many online fakes and rip-off products already have headphone enthusiasts thinking twice before buying on Amazon or some unknown online marketplace. Established “authorized dealer” headphone stores like Audio46 in New York, HeadRoom Audio in Montana and Mingo in Hong Kong will be setting the standard and leading the trend.

Audio46 is New York's Premier Headphone Store located on 46th st in Manhattan
Audio46 is New York’s Premier Headphone Store located on 46th st in Manhattan

The truth is it will be exciting to see what headphone manufacturers come up with and even those of us who are simply music lovers on the go will find cool new headphones that will change the way we hear our music and interact with technology daily. Things are looking good for the future of a HEADPHONE NATION.

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An audio engineer living in Brooklyn, NY, Steven spends his spare time enjoying the sounds of ethereal indie rock and creating electronic music.