2015 – Headphone Brand Review
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Looking for better sound quality or a more stylish look from your headphones? Compare some of the biggest brands in the market with our customer satisfaction ratings.
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Canstar Blue research finalised in September 2015, published in October 2015.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Bose is the boss in headphones customer satisfaction
When you leave the house there are a few things you’ll always take with you – keys, wallet or purse, phone, etc. – and for some people, that list also includes their favourite headphones.
For those who regularly use them for listening to music, the radio or any other reason, leaving your headphones at home will leave you with a similar emptiness as forgetting your credit card on a big night out. But while your mates might shout you a few beers, you’re unlikely to find anyone prepared to lend you their headphones. There’s something extremely personal about headphones and let’s face it, who wants to use something that’s been in contact with another person’s ears.
Our survey of almost 700 consumers, who have purchased new headphones in the last two years, found that 18% take them everywhere they go. And the extent of your headphone usage is likely to determine the investment you’re prepared to make in them – if you’re quite literally never seen without them, you’ll probably be looking for headphones that give you outstanding sound quality, but are also robust enough to survive the rough and tumble of everyday life. But if you’re just an occasional user, you might be like the 27% of our survey respondents who tend to buy cheap headphones and regularly replace them when they stop working.
But does price always relate to quality? To find out, we asked the people who know best – the Australian consumers you see every day on the bus, train or walking down the street with their favourite tunes playing. And in this, the inaugural year of our customer satisfaction ratings for headphones, we got the message from Bose customers loud and clear. Bose has been rated 5 stars in Overall Customer Satisfaction for its headphones, receiving the award for Most Satisfied Customers in 2015.
Types of headphones
There are numerous types of headphones, but in this particular study we’re focusing on the larger end of the spectrum – lightweight, full size or noise cancelling headphones. Basically, you don’t stick headphones inside your ears. If you’re interested in those that you fit in your ears, visit our earphone reviews.
Types of headphones included in these results:
- Lightweight headphones – these rest against the outside of your ears and have a thin headband that goes over or behind your head. They tend to fold up easily, making them good for travelling, but their sound quality can vary between brands and their comfort will largely be driven by the quality of the headband over your head.
- Full-size headphones – these fully cover or surround your ears and their often generous padding can make them very comfortable. As closed in headphones, they block a good amount of outside noise and also keep your music from disturbing others. Their sound quality is usually very good, but the downside is they’re large, bulky and not particularly good for travelling with.
- Noise-canceling headphones – these are similar in size and weight to normal full-size models, but the difference is they use noise-canceling circuitry inside the ear piece to create a wave of sound that blocks out, or at least reduces, ambient noise like traffic or other people’s conversations. The downside is that some models require batteries even for use as standard headphones.
In the case of large headphones, we found consumers spent an average of $134 on their latest pair, with men ($143) outspending women ($126) and those aged in their 40s ($144) spending most of all. But regardless of who spent the most, a consistent trend across the board was that around two-thirds (66%) of adults spent more on their new headphones than on their previous pair. On average, those previous headphones lasted about five years.
Two-thirds (66%) of survey respondents said that the brand of headphones was an important factor in their buying decision. But while different marketing campaigns will attract consumers to different models in the first place, their satisfaction with their purchase will be determined by other factors – like whether or not the headphones live up to the expectations that come from the ads or celebrity endorsements. We found the drivers of customer satisfaction to be:
- Value for money: 22%
- Design: 20%
- Sound quality: 18%
- Audio enhancements (e.g. passive noise cancelation): 16%
- Comfort: 13%
- Weight: 11%
Despite the fact that headphones tend to be marketed around providing more enhanced sound quality, better design or comfort, it’s interesting that consumer satisfaction is ultimately driven by the cost more than anything else. It seems that consumers are happy to pay for quality up to a point, but they still want to feel like they’re getting good value for their money.
Frequently asked questions
Bose is an American corporation that specialises in all manner of audio equipment, including home speaker systems, professional sound systems, automobile sound systems and various types of headphones. The company’s goal, it says, is to create products and sound experiences that its customer simply couldn’t get anywhere else. Founded in 1964, Bose also has a strong focus on innovation and creativity.
Beats By Dre
Beats Electronics is a division of Apple which produces audio products, including headphones, earphones and speakers. The company was founded in part by American music producer and rapper Dr. Dre – after whom its signature headphones are named. Beats was founded in 2008 and claims to have “introduced an entirely new generation to the possibilities of premium sound enthronement.”
Philips is a Dutch technology company that makes all manner of electrical products, including TVs, DVD players, radios and other appliances. It also produces a large range of earphones and headphones – branded as Fidelio, CitiScape, ActionFit and DJ Headphones. Philips has a strong focus on comfort and style. “Carefully chosen design materials and detailing allow you to convey a sense of style while listening to your favourite tunes in cool comfort,” it says.
Sennheiser is a German audio company that specialises in the design and production of a wide range of consumer and high-fidelity products, including microphones, headphones, telephony accessories and avionics headsets. It has a large range of over-ear, on-ear or in-ear headphones and says “no matter what you expect from your headphones or headset, there is a Sennheiser for you – offering high-quality design and the legendary Sennheiser sound”.
Sony is a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation, perhaps best known for its gaming and entertainment devices. The company produces all types of electrical equipment, from TVs to games consoles, and boasts an extensive range of different headphones, including overband headphones, wireless headphones, in-ear headphones and related accessories, such as portable headphone amplifiers. Sony promises high-resolution audio from its headphones, which it says are “the definition of sound and style”.
Panasonic is another Japanese multinational electronics company that produces TV, radios and most household appliances like air conditioner units, refrigerators and clothes dryers. It also has a large range of earphones, headphones and related accessories. Panasonic promises “powerful sound on the go” from its headphones and says its earphones – which come in a wide variety of styles and colours – are “comfortable and fashionable”.
Canstar Blue commissions Colmar Brunton to regularly survey 3,000 Australian consumers across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased new headphones in the last two years– in this case, 671 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.