Jabra Set To Be A Major Player In Top End Headphone Market
When Apple dropped their headphone jack in favour of Bluetooth connectivity, my inbox exploded with press releases relating to new wireless Bluetooth headphones, among them was one for Jabra a headphone brand I am tipping is going to do well at the top end of the headphone market.
GN Audio the Company that own the Jabra brand has an excellent reputation for delivering audio solutions for the hard of hearing as well as Corporations and B2B businesses who need highly sophisticated headphones for open plan offices and call centres.
That technology is now filtering down into sophisticated consumer headphones that can be purchased at the likes of JB Hi Fi or Harvey Norman.
The GN Group is made up of GN Hearing with the flagship hearing aid brand ReSound and GN Audio with the flagship brand Jabra, they also recently acquired the VXi and BlueParrott brands which I suspect will be launched in Australia next year.
While I was in Asia last week research group Frost & Sullivan announced Jabra as its ‘Asia Pacific Headset Vendor of the Year’.
Mark Leigh, president of Jabra Asia Pacific said “Jabra is the only headset company that makes medical hearing solutions, enterprise and consumer headsets all under one roof,” he says.
So why is this relevant.
Sports enthusiasts have been benefitting from wireless headphones for years and when it comes to pairing fitness and wireless music, Jabra’s wares are among the best because under the bonnet is years of research and a deep understanding of miniaturisation.
Jabra’s Sports Pulse Wireless wowed me with their ability to incorporate an in-ear heart rate monitor for enhanced fitness feedback. Now With the latest version of the Sport Pulse Wireless, the new buds get a “Special Edition” moniker.
Jabra added the ability to calculate VO2 Max level – referring to the maximum volume of oxygen an athlete can use. Jabra says this metric is calculated by sending the earbuds’ in-ear heart rate monitor data to the Sport Life app where it performs some calculations and presents the result to the user via built-in voice coach, but how accurate is the technology.
I put the original pair to the test when I was in hospital recently with a broken leg and each time medical staff took my pulse and heart rate the Jabra in ear headphones delivered the exact same result.
Another product set to be released by Jabra this month is the Jabra Elite Sport – a pair of smart wireless earbuds.
Like the Bragi Dash and Samsung Gear IconX, the Elite Sport won’t have a wire connecting the two earbuds. With its heart rate sensor, VO2 Max testing and in-ear coaching, Jabra’s offering seems to have a leg up on the competition.
With four microphones (two in each earbud), you’re able to easily switch between calls and music, and apparently the earbuds will analyse external sounds and automatically switch to the ear with the least background noise for calls. Like the Dash and Gear IconX, you can use both buds or a single one as well.
If a call comes in while you’re out running or exercising, voice controls and audio prompts let you manage calls without needing to touch your phone. The feature also applies when you’re listening to music or trying to hear the in-ear training tips. There’s also an audio pass-through that will allow you to tune-in to your surroundings at the touch of a button.
In Australia Jabra, has grown their revenues more than 60% during the past 18 months. They are taking marketshare away from the likes of Plantronics and they see themselves a “challenger” brand that is looking to grow share in the consumer market in 2017 said David Piggott Managing Director at Jabra ANZ.
According, to Credence Research the Global Headphones and Earphones is expected to grow at around 6.2% from 2016 to 2023.
They claim that global demand for headphones and earphones is primarily driven by the perpetually growing demand for smartphones, tablets, and portable media devices.
With the advancements in technology, not only have headphones and earphones become more light weight and compact, but also more feature rich (ex- incorporation of microphones, noise cancellation technology, and water resistant among others).
This is technology that the GN Netcom Group and Jabra has been working with for decades.
Consequently, their applications have extended beyond hearing devices to personal entertainment and media to sports, gaming, healthcare, and corporate segments.
According to Credence Research the global market for headphones and earphones is highly fragmented and competitive with the leading four manufacturers of which Jabra is one acquiring less than 45% of the global headphone and earphone market revenue share in 2015.
In order to sustain and compete, manufacturers are required to focus on product innovation and new product developments claims Credence Research.
In addition, headphone and earphone manufacturers such as Jabra, are increasingly focusing on strengthening their distribution channels and hence their reach in Australia.
This will consequently enable stores such as JB Hi Fi and The Good Guys to push different headphone and earphone variants into the market.
The trend towards lossless audio file formats has also opened new avenues for high-end audio headphone maker such as Jabra.
Krishna Baidya, head of customer contact Research for Digital Transformation Practice at Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific said “Recognising voice as an integral part of current and future communications, within and outside the workplace, Jabra enables organisations to create a productive working environment that offers a seamless communication experience,” he says.
“Recently the European Company acquired VXi Corporation, the headset manufacturer of both the VXi and BlueParrott headphone brands for US $35M.
VXi is a leading US based manufacturer of professional headset solutions. The company was founded in 1989 and the acquisition of VXi gives GN Audio the opportunity to leverage VXi’s best-in-class expertise within “high noise” communication environments.
One neat product that we saw last week is the Jabra Evolve for both large and small business, users of this headphone system can now toggle between a call being made via a Cisco phone system and a call coming in via Skype.
Out of the box, the Evolve 80 (which comes in two variants, optimized for Microsoft Lync or Cisco UC) looks like a set of high-end entertainment noise cancelling over-the-ear cupping headphones that you might see from the big names in the space, such as SONY, Bose or Sennheiser.
Plug the 3.5mm mini-jack from the headset directly into your smartphone, tablet or other entertainment device, and you’ll be treated with incredible theatric sound.