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The Percentage of Premium Headphones Connected to Tablets Triples in 2012, According to NPD

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Increased Tablet Ownership and Content Selection Help Drive Sales of Premium Headphones

PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK – AUGUST 13, 2012 – Twenty-nine  percent of premium ($100+) headphones were connected to a tablet this year, nearly triple the attachment rate from 2011, according to leading market research company The NPD Groups most recent Headphones: Ownership & Application Study. By comparison, the study finds just 16 percent of all headphones have been used with a tablet.

The increased adoption of tablets (now in one-in-five homes) and the variety of content including music, video, and games being accessed on those devices has helped sales of premium headphones nearly double year over year for the 12 months ending June, according to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service.

 “As consumers shift more consumption to mobile devices, and tablets in particular, quality headphones are a logical addition to the hardware profile,” said Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis at NPD. “By adding better quality sound, premium headphones can enhance the overall content experience for users of these devices.”

Sound quality is the top driver of premium headphone purchases with 73 percent of premium owners saying it impacted their purchase decision.  Other factors such as brand reputation (44 percent) and wearing comfort (31 percent) also ranked highly. 


Top Headphone Purchase Influencers

  Under $100 Purchases $100+ Purchases
Price 51% 10%
Sound Quality 39% 73%
Headphone Type 30% 18%
Wearing Comfort 30% 31%
Brand 13% 44%

Source: The NPD Group/ Headphones: Ownership & Application Study, 2012

Though many consumers are gravitating towards more expensive, premium headphones for better quality sound, the emphasis on design and celebrity endorsement have also contributed to them being viewed as fashion accessories. Thirty-eight percent of premium headphone owners say their device is part of their personal style and one-in-four say it is important that their headphones are fashionable.

“Smart designs, desirable brands, and high-quality sound have helped fuel sales growth in headphones over the past three years,” said Arnold.  “For the premium segment to maintain its growth, manufacturers will need to address markets beyond audiophiles and young music enthusiasts, aligning their products with other pursuits that are rapidly becoming part of the mobile and portable device use case.”


More than 1,800 members of NPD’s online panel were surveyed in May. The U.S. representative sample included adults (18+) and teenagers (13-17).

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