COLUMN: Headphones are the new status symbol
Whether you like your headphones on, in or over your ears, there is a pair of headphones for everyone. Even if you don’t invest in name-brand headphones, there are plenty of quality headphones out there for your listening entertainment.
Headphones have undoubtedly become an essential part of listening to music. Think back to when to you used to listen to music on your Walkman Cassette Player or Sony CD Player. Did you care about what kind of headphones you were listening to them with?
Up until the 1990s, headphones were only thought of as a necessity to listen to your favorite music. At this time, over-the-ear headphones were the only kind of headphones consumers could buy because nothing could compete against them. However, the pop music explosion of the 1990s changed music and the way we listen to music forever.
The invention of earbud headphones or earphones changed everything. Beginning in 1990, earphones commonly were sold with personal music players. The most popular device was the CD player. With the invention of these new headphones, people could take out one earbud and have a conversation with someone while still listening to their favorite 90s hit.
Everything changed after earphones were introduced. Companies who had not been making headphones began to make both over-the-ear headphones and the new earbud headphones. The craze continued into the 21st century, when Apple really stepped into the arena.
Apple began making iPods in January 2001. More than 600,000 iPods had been bought by end of 2002, meaning Apple made and sold more than 600,000 pairs of headphones during those two years for only their iPods, not counting the thousands it made for replacements and such.
Apple’s newly found success in the portable-electronic-device field has led to many other companies trying to cash in on the new headphone craze. Companies like Beats By Dre and Skullcandy became the two major brands of consumer headphones.
If you have been living under a rock for the past three years, you may not know that Beats by Dre has become the brand of headphones. Beats by Dre starting making new, stylish, over-ear and in-ear headphones with the iconic "b" in the middle of each headphone in 2009.
At that time, the company only made three kinds of headphones — on-ear, over-ear and in-ear headphones. To make the headphones more noticeable, Beats by Dre made the headphones in red, white and black, but in the fall of 2011, Beats diversified its headphones by adding silver, green, orange, pink, blue and purple into the mix of the colors.
Beats By Dre become so popular that in 2011, HTC — a popular smartphone company — bought a majority share of Beats by Dre's stocks for a mere $500 million. The move was primarily made so HTC could integrate the Beats technology into its new smartphones.
Another mogul within the headphone market is Skullcandy. While Beats by Dre cost more than $200 per pair of headphones, Skullcandy offers a wide range of headphones varying in price from $30-$300. Skullcandy started in 2003 and quickly became a popular brand within the headphone market.
For almost a decade now, Skullcandy has been making new, hip, designer headphones. The company has had special-edition headphones modeled after popular music stars, including Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg. Skullcandy also has started a line of headphones to compete with Beats by Dre.
In December 2011, Skullcandy released the Mix Master headphones, over-the-ear headphones with a built-in microphone. The headset costs $300, but it is different from Beats headphones because the Skullcandy headphones are more intricately designed than Beats. The Mix Master headphones also feature a skull in the middle of both headphones, without a doubt in response to Beats by Dre's “b” on their headphones.
Most recently, Skullcandy began collaborating with the NBA to make special-edition headphones modeled after NBA teams and superstars. With the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, former OU hoops star Blake Griffin, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and the Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo, Skullcandy has opened up a whole new line of headphones called the NBA Player Series.
In a society like ours, everyone likes to listen to their music in their own ways. Beats by Dre and Skullcandy are only two of the hundreds of companies fighting for a piece of the headphone pie. Other name-brand companies, such as Sony and Bose, are fighting their way up to the Mount Rushmore of headphones alongside of Beats by Dre and Skullcandy.
Brent Stenstrom is a broadcasting and electronic media junior.