Industry News

Headphones appearance and sound quality fall into bottleneck

Bluetooth and active noise reduction technology have been no good reputation in headphones circles ,the users always dissatisfied with the tone quality. But during the CES in 2014, AKG released its flagship product N90Q; Sennheiser released its Momentum Bluetooth version .The former carry active noise reduction technology, the latter has Bluetooth & noise reduction technology, do they wants to take the opposite approach ?
Headphones appearance and sound quality fall into bottleneck
Audio is a very conservative industry, headset has developed so many years, the vocalism principle has no much difference with the beginning. Take Hi-Fi earphone as example, major manufacturers seems can not do better in the improvement of tone quality. Such as circle of iron, multi-unit iron, multi-unit moving coil, flat headphones, wire ...... in fact these techniques has been around for years, engineers seem to fall the development bottleneck.
however , user requirement can not be waited and the change speed of new products can not be stopped, so later most of the brand manufacturer began to take the appearance line, the Beats is the winner of that era, the sound is mixed but appearance looks very beautiful & fashionable, consumers suddenly found the sound quality is almost ok , nobody wants to wear a ugly earphone out to the street. Even AKG, Sennheiser has also joined the ranks of improve appearance. This breakthrough of design let those senior leaders who had been worked as an engineer are very uncomfortable. They began to find the user were not to pay 100% attention to sound.
the appearance of those headphones has not big changes in the past two years, if you carefully to contrast, you will find today's consumer-grade  headphones' sound quality very close to the few years ago. To keep the consumer's freshness, headphone manufacturers constantly changing the appearance. Until one day, they found one products appearance hard to make all the customers satisfied. if only change the products' appearance, it will harm to the brand value and also customer loyalty began to decline.
When a road to nowhere,people usually will choose another road. Following the sound and appearance,the vendors start to think about whether mainly push Bluetooth and active noise reduction functions, the starting point of these two technologies is relatively low, before also has been ignored by headphone manufacturers.  A few years ago Sennheiser and AKG have all launched similar products, MM450X, K480NC ......,  their sales volume were very bad because of its short life or poor tone quality and high prices.
The bluetooth function is a rush decision or suitable remedy?
To sum up the previous failures, active noise reduction and Bluetooth headphones is the victim in that sound quality first era.  On one hand, technology has not yet reached the requirements; on the other hand, it is the wrong product under wrong time and wrong demand. Some dealers warehouse until today there was a batch of unsold goods.
What is the difference between today's consumer market and the old,? Today's consumer are like new products, products also experienced several generations of evolution, neither tone quality nor appearance can meets their picky needs. Meanwhile, with the popularity of smart phones, users need to disruptive change,the demands directly point at wireless and noise reduction function.
Wireless is a innovative point of headphones at the most beginning. From infrared headphone, FM, wireless 2.4G to the present Bluetooth 4.2 version, manufacturers want to use wireless function to open a new market in this bottleneck period. Bluetooth organizations are also did a good job, apt-x algorithm and 4.2 standards make sound closer to non-destructive, at least much better than a few years ago.
The current Bluetooth audio technology still has problem that it has too many conversions. the audio signal after the "original audio signal - Bluetooth audio - digital audio signal - analog audio signal" this process can not avoid loss of detail, so bluetooth currently only stay in the "near" lossless level, that's why we always feel the coad rate is low when we use bluetooth headphones to listen music. It is very easy to distinguish the bluetooth headphone & wired headphone.
Of course, the headphone manufactures will release bluetooth headphones to carter to the smart phone audio needs aim at fashion consumption level customers.
If in 2015 you see a lot of Bluetooth headsets do not panic, you can buy if you need, it is much better than a few years ago.
what is active noise reduction technology?
Active noise canceling headphones is an emphasis on functional products, the early used at the military dimension.   Most of us know the active noise reduction technology by BOSE, BOSE in this field has a position like Intel's. The passive noise reduction should be mentioned before  active noise reduction. Passive noise reduction is physical sound insulation, like using something plug your ears to reduce noise.  Low cost is its advantage, but it is not suitable for outdoor environment, because  low-frequency noise can not filtered.
Original acoustic noise + Reverse sound waves emitted by the speaker = Noise offset
The active noise reduction technology principle

Active noise reduction technology is to collect environmental noise through the microphone , and then turn the noise into a digital signal , next through the built-in processor calculates a wave to offset the opposite wave. Ideal for planes, trains, subway noise elimination, but does not filter into the high-frequency signals such as car horns. Principle is not difficult, the effect is obvious, it seems that this is the headset industry savior.
But in practice, active noise canceling headphones , when calculating the noise signal, will  unconsciously calculate a wave which in contrast with the music signal, resulting in loss of signal . Active noise reduction technology is not only involved in the traditional acoustic, it also comes to algorithms, processors, design of internal circuits, which are established manufacturers do not have. The most crucial point, the noise reduction effect is good or bad closely related to a large number of actual environmental sampling.
So, AKG launched N90Q is a very risky behavior before they solved the problem of  active noise reduction technology .  For high-end headphones, once the improper use of active noise reduction technology will be greatly reduced sound quality. And the Sennheiser put NoiseGuard active noise reduction function in the "wooden bread" , be more appropriate way.
Who is the next headset industry turning point  ?
Bluetooth and active noise canceling headphones are not completely drive the industry into the next inflection point, which is the product of some users demand, technology is not perfect. If I have to choose one, I would probably choose the "Bluetooth", it is a big trend to replace wired, active noise reduction is not a rigid demand , so bluetooth relatively has better prospects

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