In 2020 the value of the Home Audio market was the highest it has ever been, rising 4% to $19.8 billion. This is partly driven by the pandemic, which in forcing people inside has supercharged interest in music and media consumption. At Futuresource we track the Home Audio market by quarter to a high level of granularity, carefully measuring the trends and developments of key product types in both sales volume and retail value. Upon examination of last year’s data, we found Soundbars and Wireless speakers to be the standout categories, with consumers spending 9% and 7% more than 2019.
Wireless speakers have seen strong growth in recent times and their success in 2020 was not unexpected. However, the resurgence of the relatively mature soundbar category has been encouraging to audio vendors and TV brands alike. Soundbars have typically gained success from their simplicity and ease of use, with bundling deals emerging as a way for TV brands to increase sales. However, in recent times they have evolved into much more than a modest TV audio device or perhaps a simple alternative to a complicated home theatre system. They are now increasingly feature rich, versatile devices capable of becoming a standalone audio product. In fact, Futuresource’ s consumer research ‘Audio Tech Lifestyles’, which interviewed over 10,000 audio hardware owners in the US, UK, Germany, Japan and China, has shown that over 60% of soundbar owners use their device to listen to audio even when the TV is turned off. Yet the primary use case of a soundbar to enhance TV sound has never been as crucial as it is today. With modern TV sets getting slimmer and wider there is simply not the real estate necessary for powerful speakers in the hardware.
One key feature which has helped promote the quality and usability of soundbars is 3D audio. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X have been steadily driving the interest over the past few years and drawn consumer awareness of the immersive movie theatre experience. Despite many successful blockbusters having been produced in Dolby Atmos or DTS:X over the past few years, it has taken time for the content to be available inside the home. However, in 2021 most leading premium streaming video services now support 3D audio formats, notably Dolby Atmos. Additionally, in 2020 with over 10% of all Soundbar units including built-in 3D audio capabilities, it is clear that the technology is well on its way to becoming a household name.
Amongst the key drivers of this growth is what can be described as a great dispersion of cinema into the home. Particularly in the developed world, consumers have been yearning for a more immersive experience in their living rooms. This was only accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has increased music and video consumption. With various forms of leisure made impossible by COVID restrictions, many have turned to Television and film for comfort, spurring interest for an immersive movie theatre experience which a 3D audio capable Soundbar can provide. Unsurprisingly, some of the highest performing companies over the past 12 months have been those involved in streaming with the likes of Amazon Prime, Apple and Netflix all competing for consumers time with seemingly limitless budgets. In addition to this, Warner Bros decisions to launch every 2021 movie on HBO Max simultaneously with theaters will strengthen the desire for high quality home theatre solutions this year, particularly if other media companies follow suit.
Futuresource expects this trend to continue, as additional vendors include 3D audio in Soundbar models at accessible price points. Historically the flagship models in the $500 plus segment has held the greatest share of volumes, yet as the likes of Anker launch a model with Dolby Atmos for less than $250, major vendors will be forced to compete. Furthermore, at the virtual CES this year LG showcased their pastry sized Éclair Soundbar, an innovative solution for those wanting 3D sound but lacking space. Futuresource projects that this balance of innovation alongside falling prices is set to catapult 3D audio soundbars to over 12 million units in 2024, over 50% of the entire market.
For more information about our latest Home Audio Quarterly tracker, or to discuss our Consumer Audio services in more detail, please get in contact with Leon Morris via email@example.com.
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