Speakers, soundbars, headphones - having access to excellent audio in the home is easier now than it ever has been. It's definitely a market we've seen go from strength to strength as we ship more Bluetooth® Audio platforms to fuel the demand for more wireless devices. And as a recent report by Futuresource Consulting found, it is these wireless products that have played a crucial role in ensuring the home audio market has continued to grow at a healthy rate.
Based on my interactions with customers and my general view of the marketplace, I believe there have been a few key factors that have led to this aggressive growth in the wireless market:
1. Celebrity endorsement
The musicians such as 50 Cent, Dr Dre and Ludacris that have associated themselves with headphone brands have increased their popularity and turned owning and wearing headphones into a fashion statement. The development of wireless versions of these accessories has opened the market up to a whole new audience, providing them with an opportunity to experience the convenience that wireless brings.
2. The impact of Apple
With so many consumers owning Apple devices, when the company makes changes, it almost always impacts the market. Looking back, the change from the 30-pin connector in 2012 seems to have been pivotal in the transition of a market previously dominated by docking-speakers to one dominated by Bluetooth wireless speakers. Since Bluetooth had already become a standard feature across smartphones, adoption of Bluetooth streaming for speakers assured compatibility between smartphone generations, as well as between smartphone brands.
3. The growth of soundbars
The demand for soundbars has increased recently for a number of reasons. Televisions have progressively become thinner, and the slimmer they get, the bigger the audio challenge becomes. The audio performance of the small built-in speakers tends to struggle to match up to the richness of the screen display, resulting in a disjointed sensory experience for the viewer. This can be corrected by the addition of an external soundbar, thereby delivering a fully immersive audio experience and without the need for a full blown multi-speaker surround sound system. Simultaneously, the addition of Bluetooth streaming to the soundbar extends the audio value beyond just the TV, enabling music content on tablets and phones to be enjoyed equally impressively.
4. Multi-room audio
This is a burgeoning sector, but one that is rapidly attracting more interest as people are gaining more of an understanding of the benefits of wireless audio. As these devices become increasingly widespread, there will be inevitable changes to the market. The devices that have proven to be popular so far are proprietary but that is unlikely to continue to be the case. Moving forward, I would expect there to be a strong need for interoperable systems from multiple brands. For example, high end and high quality products may be purchased for the living room, but consumers may want cheaper speakers for children's bedrooms or the kitchen, but at the same time those same consumers don't want to compromise on the huge benefits that networked audio streaming offers.
If you are interested in hearing more about the expanding role of Bluetooth in Audio, you can view the panel discussion we were involved in at Bluetooth World here.