Consumer affection for loudspeakers continues to hold strong, as global retail value grew by 13% in 2021, to achieve revenues of $5 billion. That’s according to a new report from Futuresource Consulting, which points to the pandemic as a key market force, driving strong demand for loudspeakers in all world regions.
“Throughout 2021, the home remained a focal point for consumers,” says Alexandre Jornod, Senior Market Analyst, Futuresource Consulting. “As the pandemic continued to shape our world, people were eager to increase spend on audio products to improve their in-home music and movie experiences.
“The market was also given a satisfying boost by the resurgence of vinyl, particularly with younger audiences taking an interest for the first time. The doors were opened on the world of hi-fi, introducing a new generation to the value of loudspeakers.”
It wasn’t all good news for the loudspeaker market, which includes bookshelf and floorstanding, home theatre, architectural and computer speakers. Chip shortages and raw material supply problems, as well as shipping, transit and transportation disruption, created substantial logistical challenges. As a result, many manufacturers didn’t have the necessary stock to satisfy demand.
Futuresource anticipates supply challenges to continue to impact the market throughout 2022, with an improvement expected in 2023, as supply side issues and consumer demand begin to stabilise.
Bookshelf and floorstanding speakers continue to represent the core of the market in value terms. The bookshelf form factor has experienced the strongest growth during the pandemic, due to its affordability and availability online. Shipments were up 12% in 2021, compared with 10% for floorstanding speakers. Futuresource’s long term outlook for both these speaker types is bullish, with the firm expecting demand to continue over the forecast period, yet stabilise in 2023 after exceptional levels of growth. Value is set to rise steeply, outstripping volume growth thanks to active speakers.
“Active speakers have been the star of the loudspeaker show in recent years,” says Jornod. “They’ve helped the market get back to growth, and pushed hard to make a big impression in value terms. The success of products such as the KEF LS series has opened up new opportunities within the bookshelf and floorstanding market, notably by introducing new types of customers to the world of hi-fi.
“Younger demographics, who predominantly grew up with wireless products, are increasingly buying active and wireless speakers. That’s because they offer superb sound performance, while still allowing the user to play music wirelessly using streaming services. Some models also have the facility to plug in a turntable, and they may even include an HDMI port to use for TV or movie audio. That makes these products incredibly versatile and appealing.”
Demand for in-wall and in-ceiling speakers accelerated during the second half of 2020. Yet supply challenges and difficulties in meeting demand for installers meant the market experienced limited growth in 2020, before bouncing back in 2021 with a 12% volume uptick. Now, with a growing interest for fully integrated and near-invisible speakers, Futuresource expects in-wall and in-ceiling speakers to be the fastest growing category, achieving over five million annual shipments by 2026.
While home theatre bundles have been declining, separates have seen a significant uptake during the pandemic. Volumes were up 14% in 2020 and up 10% in 2021. With consumers increasingly willing to invest in premium home theatre products to get the best experience when watching movies at home, Futuresource expects separates to experience healthy levels of growth across the forecast period.
“There have been positive signals coming from the loudspeaker market over the past two years,” says Jornod, “and we expect that to continue. The societal effects of the pandemic will leave a lasting impression on consumer lifestyles and behaviours, as well as repositioning the role of audio.
“The shift from a mobile society to a population that’s more focused around the home will certainly help to maintain a strong demand for loudspeakers. People will be more willing to invest in high end products if they are able to spend more time enjoying them. We’ll also see growing awareness around high resolution and spatial audio, introducing more consumers to the value of premium audio.”
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