About to import headphones, earphones or other portable audio products from China? In this article, we cover everything startups and other small businesses must know:
Earphone and Headphone manufacturers all tend to be specialized in a certain niche.
While they may cover one or more categories, you should only be on the lookout for suppliers that are making your type of earphones or headphones.
A few examples follow below:
Most manufacturers are either making wired earphones. These suppliers also often make USB cables and other related products.
At the other end of the spectrum, Bluetooth headphone and earphone manufacturers also tend to manufacture Bluetooth speakers, and other wireless audio products.
Below follows an overview of some established suppliers in China:
As you can see above, these suppliers are concentrated to the pearl river delta, and Shenzhen and Dongguan i particular.
When importing earphones and headphones from China, you can either buy an ODM or OEM product. Keep reading to learn the difference.
Most of our customers, in this category, buy ODM products. This is the fast track to launch a product, as it’s based on a factory designed product – not a custom design.
These are the products you see when browsing Alibaba.com or Globalsources.com.
There are, however, quality differences between each SKU. Most suppliers provide relatively detailed spec sheets, such as the following:
Source: Shenzhen Senshao Technology Co., Ltd.
ODM products also allow some customization, such as colors and logos.
Nearly every earphone and headphone manufacturer on Alibaba and Global Sources are OEM manufacturers, at their core.
This means that they can make any product, based on your design and technical requirements.
However, don’t expect them to develop your product ideas for you.
Most manufacturers will not even respond, unless you can show the following:
Alibaba.com and Globalsources.com are the two largest supplier directories in the world. Virtually every export focused earphone and headphone maker in China are listed on these websites.
In fact, there are so many suppliers on these platforms, that it can be overwhelming.
That said, there are ways to identify those that are the most qualified:
a. Product scope: Are they making your type of headphones or earphones?
b. Product compliance: Do they have RoHS or other test reports? (This indicates that they can make compliant products).
c. Quality Management System: Are they ISO 9001 certified?
d. Social Compliance: Are they BSCI or Sedex certified?
e. Factory or Trader: Are they actually making headphones, or are they only subcontracting production to another company?
f. Apple MFi License: Are they licensed to make headphones and earphones that are compatible with the iPhone, iPad or other Apple devices?
Based on these factors, you can filter down the list of potential manufacturers to 10 or 12.
That’s a lot more manageable the 42,174 results from 1,010 suppliers and 499 exhibitors for “earphones”, on Globalsources.com.
Earphones and Headphones are regulated by the various standards and labeling requirements. Importing non-compliant products is illegal, and can result in the goods being seized and destroyed.
When it comes to this category of products, different regulations apply based on whether the product is wireless or not.
Wireless (i.e., Bluetooth enabled) headphones and earphones must comply with various radio communications protocols.
In the United States, this includes FCC Part 15. In the European Union, wireless earphones and headphones must comply with Radio Equipment Directives.
In the EU, all electronics must comply with RoHS, which regulates heavy metals. Notice that RoHS also applies to wireless electronics.
In the US, you may need to ensure compliance with both FCC Part 15, and CA Prop 65.
In the EU, all electronics must be CE marked and have a WEEE label.
In the United States, the country of origin label is mandatory. Hence, make sure the packaging is labeled with ‘Made in China’.
Keep in mind that most Chinese suppliers don’t know how earphones or headphones should be labeled in other countries. They might have a vague idea, but it’s your responsibility to make sure that the product and the packaging are correctly labeled.
You cannot, legally speaking, sell any product that is incorrectly labelled.
Lab testing is the only way to be sure that your product is compliant with, for example, FCC Part 15, RED, RoHS or CA Prop 65.
While lab testing is not always mandatory, in the sense that it’s required by law, I strongly recommend that you get your imported earphones or headphones lab tested.
At least when placing the first order.
Further, retailers and Amazon will likely require that you provide test reports.
In addition to labeling and compliance with all mandatory standards, you may also need to issue documentation. A few examples follow below:
It’s worth nothing that access to design drawings and bill of materials can be quite a challenge when buying ODM products.
Many Chinese suppliers are, ironically, quite strict when it comes to sharing their own intellectual property.
A few price examples follow below:
The price estimate is based on a small order volume of 1000 pcs.
Most manufacturers require that their buyers order at least 500 to 1000 units per order.
Some suppliers may be willing to offer a slightly lower MOQ (300 pcs), but less than that is very rare.
When importing electronics, you need to make sure that you obtain the right licenses. Importing an unlicensed product can result in a recall.
If you intend to import Bluetooth Headphones or Headsets, you need to obtain a Bluetooth license, and go through a qualification process.
Keep in mind that this responsibility falls on you, as an Importer. Not your manufacturer in China.
If you intend to develop a device that communicates via the Apple lighting port, or with the ‘Made for iPhone’ logo on the packaging, you need to obtain an Apple MFi developer license.
In addition, you must also make sure that the supplier you work with has an Apple MFi manufacturer license.
More information about the Apple MFi program, when importing products from China, can be found in this article.
As far as I know, there are no trade shows exclusively for portable audio products. However, manufacturers in this industry attend many of the larger electronics shows in Guangzhou and Hong Kong:
It can be hard to go from a design drawing to finished product. To help you manage the entire process – from creating a specification, to sampling and quality control – we created a Starter Package for Electronics:
In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform.