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Audio Vendors Await Rebound In Components

1/07/2010 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Component audio struggled in 2009, weighed down by the worst recession in a generation and ongoing structural challenges, but suppliers expect a gradual turnaround in 2010 as the economy recovers.

Last year, factory-level component-audio sales might have fallen below the $1 billion mark for only the second time since the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) began collecting statistics in the early 1980s. Projections made last July by CEA called for 2009 sales to drop 11 percent to $943 million. In 2003, sales plunged below the $1 billion level before rebounding the following year.

Component sales have a long way to go before they reach their 1990 peak of $1.93 billion.

The recession's end will certainly lift component audio's potential, but “even if there were no recession, component audio would still be stressed,” said Definitive Technology marketing VP Paul DiComo. A major factor is product complexity, he said. Despite the recession, “the relative strength of sound bars and convenient products of all types has to be a signal to manufacturers.”

For that reason, component-audio suppliers at CES will launch multiple products that diverge from the component norm. Such products include the industry's first Blu-ray-equipped A/V receiver from Denon, as well as sound bars and surround bars from multiple companies.

Also at the show:

  • Suppliers will show some of the first A/V receivers with HDMI 1.4 from Denon and Sherwood;

  • More audio brands will offer Blu-ray players, with Krell and Anthem launching their first, joining such brands as McIntosh, Denon and Marantz; and

  • NAD and Rotel will show their first selection of components that connect to a home network, and Sherwood will add its second networked AVR.

Despite the innovations, Doug Henderson, B&W Group sales and marketing VP, forecast “a slow start” to 2010 and expects a sustained turnaround may not happen until late in the year.

For his part, Klipsch Group president/COO Paul Jacobs forecast “some [2010 economic] growth,” which “will give consumers a little more confidence, and hopefully open up some discretionary income to spend.”

See story above for details on what select exhibitors will launch to capture that discretionary income if it opens up.