Premium Headphone Sales Account for Over 90 Percent of Headphone Revenue Growth in Q1 2013, According to The NPD Group

PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK – JUNE 5, 2013 – U.S. sales of premium stereo headphones ($100+) grew 25 percent in units in Q1 2013 year-over-year, accounting for 95 percent of the revenue growth for the total headphone market*, according to global information company The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service. In total, revenues from the stereo headphone market grew 9 percent in Q1 2013 compared to Q1 2012.

“Sales growth in premium headphones is being driven by a number of factors including greater attachment to mobile devices and more choices for consumers to adapt to their on-the-go lifestyles,” said Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis at NPD.  “Consumers are looking for ways to get the best audio experience no matter where they are or what device they are using.”

In fact, features designed to enable easier mobile playback are impacting premium headphone purchase decisions more heavily.  According to The NPD Group’s Consumer Tracking Service, more than one-in-three premium buyers cited in-line play controls as “extremely” or “very” important in their decision to buy, and in-line microphones used for taking calls doubled in importance compared to a year ago.


Extremely/Very Important to Purchase of Premium ($100+) Headphones


12 Months Ending March 2012

12 Months Ending March 2013

Percentage Point Difference





In line play controls




Noise cancelling








Water/Sweat Resistant








Sound Quality




Source: The NPD Group/Consumer Tracking Service

Interestingly, while sound quality remains the most important factor when making a headphone purchase, this number has declined from a year ago, likely a result of the influx of younger consumers buying premium headphones who value factors such as design and brand just as much as audio fidelity.

“Today, the premium headphone market is defined by fashionability and brand as much as it is by sound quality,” said Arnold. “One third of premium headphone buyers are under the age of 25 and many of these consumers view headphones as equal parts listening device and fashion accessory.”

*Sales numbers adjusted to account for the 14 week sales cycle in Q1 2013.

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