Component Audio Hits A High Note At CES

By Joseph Palenchar On Jan 10 2012 - 6:01am




LAS VEGAS — Component-audio suppliers are coming to International CES in a relatively good mood following healthy market growth in 2011 despite lackluster economic growth and continued consolidation in the specialty-A/V retail channel.

Many of the factors driving last year’s growth will continue into 2012, including a continued re-emphasis by retailers on promoting high-margin audio to offset declining sales and margins on TVs. Suppliers also cited growing consumer desire for component electronics that access content from PCs, the Cloud, and – through wired and wireless connections — from smartphones and tablets.

For their part, A/V receiver sales surged because of a need to improve the sound quality of ever-thinner TVs and to upgrade to the latest HDMI technology for optimum connection to 2D and 3D TVs and Blu-ray players, suppliers said. Midpriced A/V receivers fared particularly well in unit and dollar sales in 2011 as technologies such as Internet and smartphones connectivity trickled down in price point and as consumers remained pressured by the economy.

Speaker sales also grew as suppliers downsized products, made them more cosmetically appealing, and brought more soundbars to market to deliver a quick, easy boost to TV sound. (See page 33 for soundbar introductions at CES.)

To take advantage of growth in the new year, dealers here at CES will find brands such as McIntosh, NAD, Rotel and Mark Levinson bringing out new electronics components that access new digital music sources, with McIntosh launching its first component with Apple AirPlay technology.

To make speakers more appealing to décor-conscious consumers, Opalum is unveiling its latest slim active speaker pair, and Klipsch Group’s Jamo brand is unveiling a pair of small speaker spheres with 180-degree dispersion.

Also at the show:

• Startup GoldenEar Technology is expanding its speaker selection again. (See p. 22.)

• Niles Audio is launching its first garden speakers.

• Elan is adding to its g! series multiroomaudio/ home-control lineup.

• Harman’s luxury audio group, formerly known as the high performance audio video (HPAV) group, is turning up with new products bearing the Mark Levinson, Revel, JBL Synthesis brands and Lexicon brands.

• Companies such as Wisdom, McIntosh and Revel are sharpening their price points with new models to expand their potential customer base.

• A variety of companies are showing off high-end equipment, including products from BMC Audio, startup Bob Carver LLC, Thiel and Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems.

In docking speaker developments, iPaddocking speakers are proliferating as Coby and newcomer Behringer launch their first, Sharp launches its first two iPad-docking microsystems, and Soundfreaq and Spectra’s Jensen brand expand their selections. (See stories on this page and p. 116 for a closer look at what these and other suppliers are launching.)

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