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Survey of User Perspectives on Headphone Technology

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Headphones are widely used to consume media content at home and on the move. Developments in signal processing technology and object-based audio media formats have raised new opportunities to improve the user experience by tailoring the audio rendering depending on the characteristics of the listener’s environment. However, little is known about what consumers consider to be the deficiencies in current headphone-based listening, and therefore how best to target new developments in headphone technology. More than 400 respondents worldwide took part in a headphone listening experience survey. They were asked about how headphones could be improved, considering various contexts (home, outside, and public transport) and content (music, spoken word, radio drama/tv/film/online content, and telecommunication). The responses were coded into themes covering technologies (e.g. noise cancellation and transparency) and features (e.g. 3D audio) that they would like to see in future headphones. These observations highlight that users’ requirements differ depending on the listening environment, but also highlight that the majority are satisfied by their headphone listening experience at home. The type of programme material also caused differences in the users’ requirements, indicating that there is most scope for improving users’ headphone listening experience for music. The survey also presented evidence of users’ desire for newer technologies and features including 3D audio and sharing of multiple audio streams.

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