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Onkyo, Maker of World’s First TWS Headphones, Files for Bankruptcy

by Ken Hyers | May 18, 2022

An end of an era came on May 13, 2022, when the Japanese audio technology company Onkyo filed for bankruptcy.

Best known for its high-end amplifiers and other audio and home theater components, Onkyo was also the first major vendor to bring TWS headphones to market when it unveiled its W800BT headphones in September 2015 at the IFA trade show in Berlin.  The TWS headphones from Onkyo retailed in the USA from Q1 2016 for $300.

W800BT_alternative_angle3

Onkyo’s W800BT TWS headphones were a breakthrough at the time, offering true wireless (no wires connecting the individual earbuds) Bluetooth headphones that came in a carrying case that also recharged the buds.  The headphones also had a built-in microphone so that users could take phone calls as well as listen to music. The earbuds offered three hours of battery life per charge and with the carrying case to recharge them, up to 12 hours of listening time (or 15 hours of talk time if used for making calls).

Onkyo W800BT case

While the W800BT were a breakthrough, timing was against them as phone vendors like Samsung and Motorola dipped their own toes in the water. But the body blow came in Q3 2016 when Apple announced on September 7 its own TWS, the AirPods, alongside its iPhone 7 introduction. Within two years the AirPods became Apple’s most popular accessory. AirPods went on to dominate the TWS market segment, and continue to do so today.

Onkyo’s early lead in TWS was hard (impossible?) to sustain in the face of the AirPods tsunami and, more recently, the arrival of ever more affordable TWS. Without a partnership / brand relationship with a major smartphone brand, Onkyo’s premium priced TWS were overshadowed by TWS from brand like Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi and others. This is a situation that other legendary premium audio brands, such as Bose, are also struggling with.

Clients of our Bluetooth Device Tracker (BDT) service can learn more about TWS vendors, along with forecasts by country and price tier, ASP and revenues, here.

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