Originally Posted by p a t r i c k
Different terms with different definitions, there is "mass market" and "mainstream" and "wildly popular". I don't know how to distinguish clearly between these.
They are impossible to define, cuz hipsters don't need such silly things as definitions.
Taking a look at this: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/these-are-the-hottest-headphones-for-the-holidays-2012-11-29
I would call the brands in it as mainstream. They are, in order
Beats, Sony, Monster, Skull Candy, Bose, Sennheiser, House of Marley, Soul, Logic3
No AKG, no Denon, no Grado, not even AudioTechnica (mildly surprised because them M50's are rather popular)
Out of those, only Sony and Sennheiser get regular praise. Even then, the headphones mentioned (Sony X10, Sennheiser RS180) isn't the stuff that is most wildly popular within the HeadFi communitiy.
Taking a look at this: http://articles.marketwatch.com/2012-11-29/industries/35427092_1_headphone-market-x-headphones-high-end-headphones
Wildly popular for high end headphones is Beats, Sony, Bose, Monster, and Sennheiser.
Maybe also relevant: Ignoring the regular-word-brands, Sony and Bose are recognized by my spellcheck dictionary, Sennheiser isn't.
Here in the UK Sennheiser is an extremely well known brand for headphones and I think that this is the case throughout Europe. I think their brand image is one of delivering the goods sonically.
I'm in the US most of the time. Sennheiser is a rare sight, maybe more common than AKG or Denon, but nowhere near even Sony much less Beats and Bose.
Also, do note that the brand image of Monster, Beats, and Bose is one of delivering the goods sonically. I think Monster and Beats are starting to lose that distinction, but Bose is still going strong in the perception of sound quality department.
There are also brands now that focus on fashion more than quality of production for sales.
And they are getting sales. “traditional headphone brands struggle to regain shelf space lost to lifestyle branded headphones such a Skullcandy and Beats.” - one of the articles I linked
Thus some people have a "hipster" reaction of "we liked headphones before they were cool."
I think that BetaWolf makes a good point. There is a big tendency amongst those of us who place quality of reproduction first to be snobbish about those who buy for fashion reasons.
We forget that the audio industry is itself driven by fashion but it has a different nature from that of the clothing industry and unlike that of the clothing industry the consumers are in a denial about it.
Valve amplifiers ("tube" amplifiers in US) have become fashionable. People choose to overlook the disadvantages of them and concentrate on the advantages.
I remember when valve amplifiers were deeply unfashionable and that the idea that they were likely to reproduce music accurately would have been thought rather funny.
So here we see that fashion matters in audio the same as it does in the clothing industry.
Excellent point. I wouldn't call it fashion though (despite it technically meeting the dictionary definition of it), more like fads and positive hype feedback loops.