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Wired computer headsets secure grip in mainstream supply

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Wireless computer headset

Dongguan Runming’s model LM-9109 wired computer headset has a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response, 105±3dB sensitivity and 32ohm impedance.

Makers highlight wired computer headset category’s mature price, ease of use and sound quality advantages over cable-free versions.

Wired models continue to lead the computer headset industry in China. Developments in wireless technology, however, are drawing makers to venture into the production of cable-free variants.

Companies specializing in the former ride on their price advantage over nonwired types. The first lists at less than $1, with some units incorporating a 3.5mm jack, 20Hz to 20kHz frequency range and microphone going for $1.50 to $5. Bluetooth and 2.4GHz RF rivals are between $18 and $30. FM headsets are available for $16.

Wired variants also boast ease of use and maintenance. Cable-free versions usually operate on batteries that either need to be recharged or replaced.

Sound quality is another factor. RF interference is a common problem in wireless configurations.

Low demand for cable-free types will keep this category a minority line in China’s computer headset industry in the near term. Wireless models currently account for only about 10 percent of makers’ total output. R&D on 2.4GHz units, however, will likely gather momentum as declining chipset costs encourage adoption.

Aesonic Electronics Co. Ltd, Dongguan Xuya Industry Co. Ltd and Dongguan Runming Industry Co. Ltd, for instance, plan to release 2.4GHz versions in coming months.

Some manufacturers are looking to step up to 5.1-channel headsets. Others are enhancing external design.

In terms of output, makers expect stable yield in the months ahead as the global economy continues to improve. Apart from a more favorable business climate, product promotion and cost-cutting measures have helped suppliers maintain competitiveness. Dongguan Xuya, which registered a 30 percent rise in turnout this year, expanded R&D and launched an aggressive marketing campaign.

To boost margins further, China’s headset specialists, which provide 80 percent of global output, are reducing manufacturing costs by setting up factories inland. Dongguan Xuya expects total spending to drop by 15 percent as it transfers some processes from Guangdong to Anhui province, where labor costs are lower.

Headset features & prices

Wired headsets typically use a 3.5mm jack. This enables easy connection as it is supported by various audio devices, including MP3 and MP4 players, and mobile phones.

USB interface is increasingly being adopted to broaden user options. Models with this feature are typically priced $2 more than 3.5mm jack versions. Companies, however, have yet to increase output of this type because demand remains low. Aesonic sales manager Luke Deng forecasts market penetration will speed up once chipset costs fall to $1. USB ICs, the major component, take up 20 percent of total expenditure.

USB computer headsets range from $6 to $10. Aesonic’s AH-168MV stereo model is equipped with a microphone, USB port and 3.5mm jack. Designed for gaming and PC use, it has 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response and 108±2dB sensitivity.

Units delivering 5.1 channels are between $10 and $25. Most products are exported as local demand remains small. Dongguan Xuya sends such versions to Europe and North America, where orders are climbing. At least 20 percent of the maker’s outbound shipments belong to this type. The company plans to direct R&D toward 5.1-channel models in the next six months given their market potential.

Wireless headsets come in FM, Bluetooth and 2.4GHz configurations. Their adapters connect to PCs via a 3.5mm jack or USB interface.

For the last two types, chipsets make up about 30 percent of the total outlay. USB and wireless solutions are usually purchased from either local or Taiwan enterprises. Some mainland China suppliers, however, develop their own. Shenzhen Rapoo introduced the M3 2.4GHz chipset this year, which it incorporated in new wireless headsets.

Continued breakthroughs in USB and wireless ICs will boost output and lower prices. For wired counterparts, makers expect manufacturing costs to remain stable as the technology for the line is mature.

Most China manufacturers source other raw materials such as rubber and cables locally, while some produce their own. The latter strategy allows companies to develop materials based on their requirements. Dongguan Xuya carries out mold design, plastic injection, cable making and assembly. Other enterprises purchase cable and molds directly from factories.

Hong Kong: Diverse lineup matches varying user needs

Suppliers of computer headsets in Hong Kong are striving to diversify their products to meet varying user requirements.

Units targeted at gamers create the impression of being in an actual battlefield. To imitate military gear, many models are heavy and come with a camouflage finish. They also feature deep bass for better sound quality. Other versions include a detachable microphone and vibration feedback for a more realistic gaming experience.

Netbook and laptop owners who frequently use their headsets outdoors can rely on units with noise-canceling capability. For the education sector, specialized configurations are also available. Realizing that most variants in the market could potentially damage the fragile eardrums of young students, some suppliers have integrated a loudness limit to prevent the volume from being set to dangerous levels.

The headbands are designed to fit smaller heads more comfortably. Such types have a nontoxic cord and hypoallergenic ear cushions.

In the wireless computer headset segment, most enterprises prefer 2.4GHz RF technology to the costlier Bluetooth. Those specializing in the latter have models using in-house-developed modules. A number of suppliers also offer 5GHz solutions mainly for OEM clients.

Some telecom headset makers are leveraging their extensive design and manufacturing experience to bring to market professional-grade variants for PCs. These units’ industrial design enables comfortable listening for long hours. They have dual USB and 3.5mm interfaces, digital volume adjustment, inline controllers with LED status indicators, microphone mute, noise cancellation and Skype buttons. To widen buyer reach, models with assorted mobile phone adapters for both PC and handset use have been introduced.

There are at least 20 suppliers of computer headsets in Hong Kong, most of which have factories in Guangdong, Jiangsu and Fujian provinces.

Cobalt Industrial Co. Ltd’s selection includes variants for gaming and educational applications. Circumaural ear cups, deep bass and vibration feedback are the common features of the former kind. The educational-series headphones have a gooseneck-type microphone boom and built-in active circuitry to preserve a 90dB sound level.

Accutone Technologies Ltd offers professional USB VoIP headsets with 40mm speakers, an inline controller and a noise-canceling microphone typically found in telecom counterparts.

Related report:
Computer speakers: 2 and 2.1-channel units remain dominant

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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