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Component Audio Hits A High Note At CES

1/10/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

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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