With the headphone market going from less than a billion dollars a year, to 2.2 billion dollars annually in under 2 years, there's a lot of money to be made for headphone manufacturers coming to market in 2016. In this post, we break down the top 10 under the radar brands to out to watch out for in 2016. Could one of these brands be the one to finally unseat Beats By Dre as the dominant force in mid-high end headphones? Perhaps, but for now these are definitely some brands you should check out if you're looking for audiophile headphones.


Jays

This year. Jays introduced their Q-Jays 2nd Generation earphone, complete with a sleek, no-frills design that underscored its no-nonsense approach to quality sound. While the original plasticky Q-Jays were released years ago, and discontinued in the not-so-distant past, the re-vamped steel model brings us hope that other staple models, like the A-Jays and the T-Jays will see a similar reincarnation - one that brings better design and better audio. Or, in an even more awesome vein, perhaps the resurgence in interest will goad this manufacturer into offering even more diverse models - perhaps something even fancier than the Second Gen. Q-Jays.


Xiaomi

Not a day goes by anymore that I don't see a knockoff Piston 3 on eBay, and with good reason - no online retailer can keep them on the e-shelf. Of course, for a budget headphone brand there's a lot of confused customers out there. Is it a cheap good headphone? Or is it a good cheap headphone? The world may never know the answer to these questions, but I do know that Xiaomi has plenty of good press to capitalize on in 2016.


Ultrasone

While the Performance 820 has just begun arriving at stores, and hasn't gained much steam as of yet, the overwhelming quality of this sub-$200 headphone auspices even greater options in 2016. As Ultrasone seems to favor lightweight plastic builds with fantastic drivers, it will be exciting to see just how good their inexpensive models can get. And, while no new models came to market this past year, the premium reference-turned-portable Edition Series has been accumulating awards all over, leading us to believe 2016 may bring some flashy additions to the stylish menagerie.


Hifiman

Hifiman released the HE400i in February and the HE400s in May, offering an updated successor to the original HE400 as well as bringing full-size planar magnetic headphones down to a price point we can all enjoy. What really sets the "s" version headphone apart from the rest of the pack, though, is the relatively light design and fantastic bass. So naturally, we're hoping 2016 will bring even more affordable orthodynamic headphones that still offer amazing sound. Heck, maybe we'll even see a re-vamped HE560 in the running.


MEE Audio

MEE Audio has made quite a splash this year with their highly-regarded wireless models, as well as the cheap-as-chips M6 Pro IEM, which make your ears and your wallet happy at the same time. While their wireless market will doubtlessly grow in the coming year, we're particularly looking forward to a quality successor to the M6 Pro - especially when you consider that this inexpensive earphone can go toe-to-toe with headphones that cost three or four times as much. Yowch.


Koss

A brand that may be less-under-the-radar than any other manufacturer on this list, Koss has been making headphones since the 1970s. And while the past year has been devoid of any eye-catching Koss models, the darlings of 2014 - the ever-capable Pro4s and the wireless wonder that is the BT540i - are still holding strong. This, taken in conjunction with the fact that Koss is turning actual profits from headphones sales this year, spells out a very optimistic landscape for Koss in 2016 - perhaps with even more high-end models or (dare I dream?) a more advanced iteration of the iconic Porta Pro Classic..


Grado

In 2015, Grado produced the GH1, the first headphone in their new Heritage Series. Made with maple wood from a tree that was felled in Brooklyn, this ultra-hip headphone turned more than a few heads. And while it's hard to keep our fanboyism in check on this one, it's even harder to deny that the GH1 was a perfect addition to the Grado lineup, especially for Jazz and Classical aficionados. Will 2016 bring more models to the Heritage Series? Hopefully made with more exotic tonewoods? I've got my fingers crossed for a model made with some purpleheart or koa wood earcups.


Audio-Technica

Also far from under-the-radar, but deserving a nod all the same, Audio-Technica has broken new ground in 2015 with the release of the M70x and R70x - two budget-conscious models that offer more accessible audio perfection. And, on the consumer front, they've also introduced some fantastic wireless models that sound phenomenal. We'd love to see something wireless with greater audio fidelity than what is currently offered by either the WS99BT or the S700BT. Here's hoping 2016 brings even more high-end audio and wireless options from Audio-Techinca.


Parrot

Parrot may be far from your usual headphone brand, instead specializing in all sorts of electronic gizmos and whiz-bangs with only two headphones in their product catalog. While the Zik II has seen a mixed reaction, there seems to be no end to the new Bluetooth headphone's converts. And with ample room for improvement (battery life, earpiece extenders), the reasons for a Parrot Zik III beg the question of not "if?" but simply "when?"


Beyerdynamic

Beyerdynamic has been cranking out quality headphones for ages. And despite a fairly solid lineup, they still don't receive the props they so righteously deserve. Mid-2015 saw the arrival of the DT 1770 headphone - a headphone prematurely lauded as an upgraded DT 770 Pro. Of course, this proved to be less of an upgraded 770 and more of an alternative option, replete with a wider frequency range and a higher impedance. But thanks to the Second Generation T1, there's plenty of impetus for a facelift to the aging 770. And thanks to its enduring reputation as a studio staple, there's a customer base just aching for it.



This post was written by Carroll Moore from Audio46.com as part of Audiophile Week, a partnership and celebration of audiophile culture from Audio46 and The 405. Carroll Moore is a Tech lover and audiophile headphones enthusiast, and Photographer. Audio46 is one of the USA's leading headphone specialty stores serving headphone lovers with outstanding content, customer service and expertise. They offer a huge selection of headphones under $100 as well as high-end headphones.

Want to Win $100 Gift Certificate to the Audio46.com headphone shop? 
Click Here and Enter to Win!