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Headphone Market Share: Who Leads the Charge?

By Bojan Jovanovic

Updated: October 12,2022

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Did you know that in the world of headphones, there are only three types of people? There are those who use Apple’s EarPods, those who prefer Beats by Dre, and everyone else.

But is it really that simple? Today, we’ll look at the current market trends and examine which brands have the largest headphone market share.

Market Share of Headphone Manufacturers in the US

We’ll first take a look at the US headphone market. As we’ve mentioned in the opening section, there really are just three main trends - Apple, Beats by Dre, and other manufacturers.

Apple is the dominant force in the headphone business. It’s mostly thanks to its incredibly popular AirPods and the fact that many people use iPhones to listen to music. Match those two, and you’ve got a killer combo that absolutely dominates the market.

Here’s the current overview of the headphone market in the US:

  • Apple: 34.4%
  • Beats by Dre: 15.3%
  • Bose: 12.5%
  • Samsung Electronics: 12.2%
  • JBL: 11.4%
  • Sony 11.4%
  • Skullcandy: 8.4%
  • LG Electronics: 7%

This data becomes even more Apple-dominant when we consider that Apple also owns the Beats brand, effectively making this corporation’s piece of the pie jump to nearly 50% of the whole market. What’s also impressive is that headphones aren’t even Apple’s main product, and the company has only recently entered the headphones market.

But why are those headphones so popular, and how are the brands represented? To analyze that, we’ll go over the most popular products each of the top-ranking brands is currently selling:

Apple

The tech giant launched AirPods in 2016 as its first-ever foray into the standalone headphone business. These were earbuds with wireless connectivity, a very trendy smartphone accessory at the time. Later on, Apple expanded its offering with a more advanced model called AirPods Pro and the traditional AirPods Max over-ear headphones.

Each launched product increased the company’s market value and growth. It’s estimated that Apple’s headphone manufacturing is worth $20 billion, with its headphone sales expected to reach 100 million by the end of 2022.

Beats by Dre

Beats Electronics is a brand started by famous music producer Dr. Dre in 2006. The Beats headphones are recognizable due to their distinctive branding and design, with the prominent logo on both sides. Unlike Apple, Beats started with wireless headphones and has only recently started manufacturing earbuds.

In 2014, the company became part of Apple after a $3 billion acquisition. It continued to manufacture premium-grade earphones and headphone devices, all priced above $100 and capturing the mid to high end of the market.

Bose

A legendary name in the audio tech world, Bose Corporation has been around for over half a century. Known for its high-quality products, Bose has always been a significant player in the earphone and headphone market.

Whether you’re looking for noise-canceling headphones, compact wireless earphones, or lightweight cans that you can bring to the gym, this manufacturer has them all. So, why isn’t it higher on the list? That’s mostly down to pricing - the Bose headphones usually start at $149, with more feature-rich models costing twice as much.

Samsung

The South Korean manufacturing conglomerate needs no special introduction. One of the biggest Apple competitors and a company that makes pretty much everything tech-related, it’s the leading company in Asia-Pacific but only in 4th place in the US’s competitive landscape.

Its most popular product is the Galaxy Buds range of wireless earphones. Like other smartphone-related Samsung products, these buds directly compete with Apple’s AirPods. While they can’t match the in-ear monitor quality of professional earbuds, for a wireless product, they’re well above the average.

JBL

Sharing the same position on the headphones brands list as Sony Corporation, JBL is a company that, in recent years, has become synonymous with wireless audio. Its offering is highly diverse, from sporty earphones to true wireless earbuds and headphones with active noise cancellation.

Global Headphone Market Share Overview

Other markets aren’t as Apple-dominated as North America, especially due to the variety of headphone brands present there. For example, China generates over $3.8 billion in revenue, while globally, the whole industry has earned $16.9 billion this year.

Currently, the top five markets for headphones are:

  1. China - $3.81 billion
  2. United States - $2.31 billion
  3. Brazil - $826 million
  4. Japan - $765 million
  5. India - $716 million

This lucrative consumer electronics segment continually grows thanks to the various entry points it offers to consumers - from very affordable wired headphones to studio-quality cans with impeccable sound quality and noise cancellation.

To put this into perspective, let’s look at the leading headphone companies:

  • Sony
  • Sennheiser Electronic GmbH & Co. KG
  • Harman International Industries
  • Bose Corporation
  • Audio-Technica Corporation

Sony is Japan’s leading brand in electronics and entertainment, so it comes as no surprise that it also has global recognition when it comes to audio equipment. Most famous for its active noise cancellation headphone brands and tight cooperation with the music industry to perfect the audio tech, Sony’s earphones and headphones are some of the most sought-after gadgets right now.

Germany-based Sennheiser is another well-known name in this industry. Its products are very popular among the audiophile crowd and anyone who wants to produce music on their computers due to “flat” EQs and fine-tuned sound output, even on the lower-end models. Therefore, Sennheiser headphones’ market share is mainly in the producer segment, but the manufacturer offers many consumer products at fair prices.

A subsidiary of Samsung, Harman International is a company with several big name subsidiaries. Its most famous brands are AKG, JBL, Bang & Olufsen, and Harman Kardon. This is primarily a high-end manufacturer interested in providing an enhanced audio experience to its customers.

Lastly, there’s Audio Technica. It’s another Japanese brand on this list, but unlike Sony, its focus is solely on headphone technology. Favored by world-class DJs and casual music listeners alike, Audio Technica has a decent market share thanks to its highly varied offering that fits everyone’s budget.

The Future of the Headphone Industry

The current climate is very good for headphone manufacturers around the world. According to analysts, the headphone market size will increase by 11% every year, with a possible value of around $62 billion the market is expected to reach by 2030. Of course, market dynamics can shift with technological advancements and the evolving habits of music listeners.

As for the key players, pretty much all the manufacturers mentioned above are expected to have a piece of the pie during this forecast period. As we’ve seen in recent years, brand recognition drives sales.

Certain trends are also expected to drive this industry in the upcoming years. First of all, the popularity of wireless headphones is steadily growing, and the demand for traditional wired models is dwindling. This is partly thanks to the removal of 3.5 mm jacks from modern smartphones but also to the growing popularity of wireless tech. This trend is likely to continue in the coming years.

The earbuds market is growing the fastest thanks to the rise of streaming services and the rapidly growing music industry. With more people using streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music on their phones, there is less need to purchase headphones to listen to music. We’ve already seen manufacturers shifting their production to lightweight, consumer-grade earphones.

The economy is also a significant factor, especially in these post-COVID days. As consumer spending power decreases, the global market has to follow. 

After all, headphones can be considered a luxury item, not a necessity. Consumers could be turning toward buying used headphones instead of the latest and greatest models, shrinking the market along the way.

Competition from other audio products is also affecting the wireless earphone market. Headphones are now competing with several audio products, such as wireless speakers and portable DACs/Amps. This could make it difficult for them to maintain market share in the future.

Final Thoughts

That concludes our market overview for earphones and headphones. We’ve seen who the biggest players are around the world and in the US and analyzed how the headphones market size could change over the coming years. 

If the trends remain as they are, the next few years will be an even better time to purchase wireless headphones. We’re listening to even more music now, but we’re on the go, and the market has to follow.

FAQ

Who has the biggest market share in headphones?

In the US, Apple has the biggest share among all manufacturers. Combining the sales of its AirPods products with Beats, which this manufacturer also owns, Apple is approaching a 50% share of the whole market.

How large is the headphone market?

The market for headphones is rapidly growing. It’s estimated it will be worth $62 billion by the end of this decade.

Which is the no. 1 headset brand?

There’s a lot of debate about this subject, especially considering the fact that not every brand aims for the same part of the market. For example, Sennheiser is very popular among audio enthusiasts and producers, while JBL is more of a casual listener brand. 

At the same time, Sony is preferred by the crowd that wants unmatched noise cancellation from their audio cans. Still, Apple owns the largest headphone market share right now.

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