Components, Systems CES Focus: Networking, Blu-ray, Convenience

By Joseph Palenchar On Dec 21 2009 - 8:00am

Home audio suppliers exhibiting at next month's International CES will target the growth segments in the declining home theater in a box (HTiB) market and continue their efforts to turn around a slumping component audio market.

HTiB suppliers will expand the selection of Blu-ray-equipped HTiBs, with prices expected to fall to around a suggested $399. At least two companies will launch their first HTiBs with Internet music and movie-streaming services, and others will expand their selection of iPod-docking HTiBs. New powered surround bars will show up with embedded virtual-surround technologies, and others will launch powered stereo sound bars without virtual surround technologies to fatten up the thin sound of many flat-panel TVs.

In component audio, suppliers will show up with more thin wall-mountable LCR speakers as well as thin passive three-channel speakers to complement thin flat-panel TVs. Wireless subwoofers will also turn out in greater numbers to simplify placement in a room.

Component suppliers will also expand the selection of components that connect to a home network to stream music and video from networked PCs or to connect directly with online music- and movie-streaming services. At last September's CEDIA Expo, for example, Sherwood launched the industry's first A/V receiver to stream audio and video from the Internet. For its part, NAD will again show its first two Blu-ray players that stream content from networked PCs. And Rotel will host an encore presentation of its first two components that stream Internet radio directly from the Internet and stream audio and video from a networked PC. They're due in January.

HD Radio will also make news at the show, where A/V receivers with embedded HD Radio will fall well below their current starting price of a suggested $999. And at least one more brand will launch its first component-style HD Radio tuner. In addition, at least two more component suppliers, including Krell, will show their first Blu-ray players.

In the tabletop radio category, dealers will find at least three new brands offering tabletop Internet radios, following the entry of at least seven companies at this past CES into the market.

The introductions will follow what many suppliers expect to be a down 2009 in component and HTiB sales.

Unit and dollar sales of HTiBs fell at a single-digit rate in 2009, many marketers said, although sales of systems equipped with Blu-ray players, movie-streaming services and iPod docks were all up during the recession. So were HTiBs that take the shape of active surround bars, which simplify the integration and set-up of multi-speaker surround systems and deliver matrixed- or discrete-channel virtual surround through passive or active techniques.

Component-audio sales were forecast by CEA to decline 11.3 percent in factory-level dollars in 2009, based on projections revised in mid-2009.

Home Audio: MP3 Speakers Take Lead

2008 2009* 2010*
*Projections made July 2009.
Source: CEA ( © TWICE 2009

Component audio $1,063 $943 $930
Systems (compact + HTiB) $1,082 $937 $885
Docking Speakers $995 $1,094 $1,127
Home/clock radios $178 $240 $249
Total $3,318 $3,116 $3,099

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