Diffusion Group

Earbuds and/or headphones are now used by 77% of U.S. adult broadband users, with penetration up 20% since early 2016, according to a new study from The Diffusion Group (TDG). The stat is perhaps surprising, given the fact that headsets have long been considered a mature component of the audio toolkit.

“The use of laptops, smartphones and tablets among consumers is virtually ubiquitous, with consumers tethered to one or more of these devices for most hours of the day,” the TDG study found. “For many entertainment applications such as listening to music or watching video, the use of earbuds or headphones is required if not preferred.”

The report says that there are four primary types of Personal Audio Devices, or PADs: earbuds that came with a tablet or smartphone; in-ear headphones purchased separately (fit into your ears); on-ear headphones purchased separately (fit on your ears but do not cover them); and over-ear headphones purchased separately (cover your ears).

“As many people use audio headsets as use laptop PCs,” notes Michael Greeson, president and principal analyst for TDG. “For most consumers, they are a regular part of their daily life.”

Though earbuds come standard with virtually every mobile device, TDG found that half of headset users never use them, while 22% use only earbuds. “This speaks to the widespread appeal of today’s headphones,” Greeson adds. “Whether purchased for a better audio experience or to score cool points, headphones are in demand.”

In addition, demand appears to be heating up. According to TDG, 70% of headphone users bought their primary headset in the last two years, 39% in the last 12 months. Among Beats users, 44% purchased their headset in the last year, compared with 29% of Bose users.

TDG’s report, “Audio Headset Use among Adult Broadband Users,” offers results from a Q2 2017 survey of 2,000 U.S. adult broadband users regarding their use of earbuds and in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphones.