, by Ben Popper
~ my spin ~
There was the iPod. It was cool, and the distinctive while earbuds that came with it showed people you had an iPod, so they were cool, too. A few audiophiles invested in better IEMs, but they tended to be expensive and discreet and anyway were only ever a niche thing.
Meanwhile the Japanese headphone makers - JVC-Kenwood, Sony, Audio Technica - tried competing with the iPod, and they came up with a spectrum of earbuds and headphones of every shape, price, and color. They sold as commodities, but none developed any real kind of identity or reputation. Certainly there was little effort at building a brand.
On the other side, Grado, AKG, and Sennheiser continued doing pretty much what they always did, making nice, expensive headphones for home/studio/DJ use.
Neither group addressed the obvious hole in the market: non-audiophiles wanting "good" sounding over-ear...