5 headphone trends to watch in 2024
The business technology news website and creator of tech buying guides, ZDNET, has examined the leading trends that have dominated the world of headphones and earbuds in 2023, and identified five trends it expects to carry over and continue to develop in 2024.
Low latency with gaming in mind
One of the top headphone trends ZDNET predicts will reach into the new year is low latency because lowering latency in headphones enabled audio to reach a listener’s ears faster. Speeding up the arrival of audio is something the tech site says is of particular interest when it comes to headphones designed for mobile gaming.
While most consumer headphones are not optimised for gaming, headphone manufacturers are striving to improve the capacity of their products with low latency. As an example of this trend, ZDNET sites Google’s announcement that it will be introducing low latency into its premium earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro, through a software update.
Bluetooth is by no means a new technology, but ZDNET expects it to continue to develop in 2024. Qualcomm, the chip manufacturer that supplies a number of leading headphone brands, including Bose, Audio-Technica, Jabra, Edifier, and Anker, has several highly-adopted Bluetooth codecs and in the tech site’s view, the company will build on the two new audio chips and platforms via Bluetooth connectivity it announced this year.
In addition, in 2022 Bluetooth SIG, the association that oversees Bluetooth protocols, came out with specifications to define a new audio technology: LE Audio, which operates on the Bluetooth Low Energy radio and includes a new codec called LC3.
LC3 is set to provide high-quality audio streaming while introducing a new feature, Auracast, which allows a single audio source to broadcast to an unlimited number of devices. ZDNET foresees more consumer audio brands equipping their Bluetooth speakers with Auracast in 2024 and beyond.
Another headphone advancement the technology website expects to see more of in 2024 is improved drivers. Drivers are the tiny speakers in the headphone’s interior and according to ZDNET, more improved versions of them will be rolled out in the new year.
xMEMS, a California-based startup, for example, is using silicon-based drivers to replace the most often used paper or plastic in traditional drivers, an upgrade which should improve noise-canceling, spatial audio, and overall audio clarity. ZDNET expects to see more adoption of these new drivers from audio manufacturers in 2024.
Still a fairly new technology, spatial audio has been adopted by headphone makers to create immersive gaming experiences. ZDNET predicts continued improvements to spatial audio tech as more companies move into virtual reality and cites Apple Vision Pro and the Meta Quest 3 as examples.
Already in 2023 Bose launched a new line of QuietComfort Ultra headphones and earbuds using spatial audio. The Bose products were particularly notable because they made it no longer necessary for listeners to have a compatible streaming service in order to experience spatial audio.
New wireless charging standard to become the norm
Finally, ZDNET predicts that the new wireless charging standard, Qi2, launched in 2023 by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) will become the norm going forward. Leveraging Apple's MagSafe charging, Qi2 allows for faster charging of all compatible devices, including Android phones.
While certain Qi2-enabled charging accessories are already available and all iPhone 13, 14, and 15 models are compatible with it, ZDNET expects more wireless earbuds to become compatible with Qi2, including those made by Apple, Sony, Google, Bose, and Samsung, starting in 2024.
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By Bettina Badon