Listen, sales are up for ear cams

Headphones and earphones these days are no longer designed to be one size fits all.

These days, you can find different models designed for a wide range of purposes. It does not matter if you are an athlete, audiophile or fashionista. There is a pair of headphones or earphones to suit you.

According to market research firm GfK, more than 100 new headphone and earphone models were launched in Singapore in the past 12 months.

As of last month, there were 634 models selling in Singapore, according to GfK. The figure was 516 in November last year.

This growth in the headphone and earphone market has also changed consumers' buying habits. People are starting to buy multiple pairs of earphones and headphones to suit their lifestyle needs.

"It wasn't so common in the past, but people these days tend to own several models for different purposes," said Mr Tony Tan, marketing manager at Stereo Singapore.

For example, he said, consumers might have a big, over-ear pair for home listening and something more compact or even wireless to carry around with them.

GfK noted that wireless headphones and earphones are growing in popularity. In Singapore, sales of these products grew from $2.7 million last year to $4.07 million this year.

It is easy to imagine that wireless headphones and earphones could supplant their corded cousins as prices of the former continue to fall. But traditional earphone and headphone makers do not have much to worry about for now.

This is because wireless models still have hurdles to overcome despite being an up-and-coming segment.

"Wireless headphones and earphones have been gaining popularity, but we haven't seen them overtake wired ones in terms of sales," said Mr Tan.

"Some of them suffer from quality issues and some people find that the cables between the two earbuds on wireless earphones a hassle," he added.

Digital Life tested five of the latest headphones and five pairs of earphones.

We tested these in daily use with a standardised playlist, along with some of our personal favourites.

ebeltang@sph.com.sg

joshchen@sph.com.sg

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H6

Price: $649

Type: closed-back, dynamic; driver: 40mm; frequency response: 20Hz to 22,000Hz; impedance: 30 ohms

Audiophile brand Bang & Olufsen is known for its product design. The Beoplay H6 does not disappoint and is a good bet to turn heads with its natural leather finish and polished metal earcups.

It oozes class too, with the use of lambskin, aluminium and genuine leather in the headphones' construction.

Such premium materials likely played a big part in its $649 price tag, the highest in this round-up.

The comfort factor is high with the H6. It weighs a neck-friendly 230g and the earcups fitted well.

One of the more unique functions of these headphones which I like, is its "daisy-chain" capability.

You can connect another pair of headphones or earphones to its 3.5mm jack and share tunes with your friends.

In terms of sound, the word "timid" is the one I kept going back to in my review notes when listening to them.

For one thing, they sounded softer than the other headphones I tested in this review, when plugged to my phone and PC.

When I turned the volume all the way up to get to my usual listening levels, I felt that the bass was lacking with many of the tracks in my playlist.

For example, the bass guitar intro to Red Hot Chilli Pepper's Around The World sounded flat and muted.

However, the mids and highs fared much better. I found easy-listening and ballad tracks, like George Benson's Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You, more forgiving of this headphones' sound signature. The emphasis on Benson's rich vocals and keyboard rhythm made for pleasant listening.

Perhaps partnering the H6 with a dedicated headphone amplifier would help take the overall sound quality up a notch.

It has killer looks, great comfort but not quite the sound to match the high asking price. Its "daisy-chain" function is nifty.

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