The In-Ear Headphones Market in Hi-Fi

Research into the market size of in-ear headphones is scarce, largely because those reports that do exist offer insights into the industry as a whole and not a specific type of headphones (in our case, in-ear headphones). However, based on what research is available, we can begin to understand just how big the market for in-ear headphones is — and it might even be a bit shocking to some, because it’s big! This is evident to anyone who simply walks down the street, hangs out at a coffee shop or travels via airplane or train — everyone seems to be plugged into in-ear headphones.

A 2006 report from Telecoms Market Research demonstrates the breadth of the headphones market and the sheer volume of units being produced. The report was based on just 10 percent of headphones manufacturers based in China, studying a total of 35 of a reported 300-400 manufacturers. The report found that 184.48 million headphones units were manufactured in 2005, with projected output to continue to rise. This number could easily be multiplied to gain a better understanding of the true market numbers due to the fact that this finding is based on only 10 percent of headphones manufacturers in China. The report also indicates that part of the massive projected increase in production can be attributed to inclusion of new technologies in headphones, such as Bluetooth, which is a topic also explored on this site. What’s more, the report indicates that “design enhancements, operating range extensions and new technologies are the main R&D priorities for profiled makers,” acknowledging how manufacturers are adapting and including new technologies into the design and function of all types of headphones (TMR: Headphones Market Research Report).

Apple also offers insight into the in-ear headphones market as the de facto leader of the personal music player market with a 70 percent market share based on their best-selling line of iPods and, more recently, the iPhone. By December 2010, the company sold over 297 million iPods since the product’s introduction in 2001. By March 2011, the company reportedly sold over 100 million iPhones since its introduction in 2007. The popularity of these Apple devices is no secret. However, since each of these devices comes bundled with a pair of Apple’s iconic white in-ear headphones (a now-standard practice throughout the industry), we can deduce that they alone have been responsible for bringing nearly 400 million in-ear headphones to market, in addition to the countless number of consumers who have independently purchased in-ear headphones to complement their other electronic devices. Thanks, Apple!

While the exact market size of in-ear headphones remains unclear, what’s evident is that the market is huge. Nearly everyone has at least one pair of in-ear headphones that they carry with them, and often multiple pairs for different uses — cheap ones for exercising, noise canceling ones for travel or hi-fi ones for concentrated music listening. It’s no wonder then why consumers love in-ear headphones — they’re easy to use, they’re versatile and they’re just plain awesome.

Headphones Market Research Report. (2006, August 23).Telecoms Market Research Report. Retrieved April 9, 2011, from

Warren, C. (2011, March 2). Apple Sells 100 Million iPhone Units. Social Media News and Web Tips – Mashable – The Social Media Guide. Retrieved April 9, 2011, from

iPhone – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2011, February 5). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved April 19, 2011, from

iPod – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2011, April 7).Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved April 9, 2011, from

2 Responses to “The In-Ear Headphones Market in Hi-Fi”
  1. Markus says:

    Also consider 1.4bn stereo (intra-concha) headsets were shipped in 2010 as included with mobile phones.

  2. SkylerH says:

    Holy cats! No wonder there’s such competition amongst the creators of in ear headphones. My favorites are the Shure SE215 models. If you have any interest in these, please check out my site at Thanks!

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