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Audio At CES: Bars, Bluetooth, Wireless, And High Resolution

LAS VEGAS — Audio buyers attending International CES will encounter a broader selection of products in a variety of growth categories ranging from Bluetooth speakers and wireless multi-room audio systems to high-resolution audio components and active soundbars.

The selection of under-TV speaker bases will likewise grow and include the first models with embedded Blu-ray players.

Dealers attending the show will find a growing selection of soundbars at a variety of price points to leverage future growth. Also at the show, more soundbars will offer Bluetooth, streaming of Internet- based audio and video services, and HDMI switching. At least one more model that doubles as a networked Wi-Fi speaker will also appear.

Soundbar sales continued to post strong growth in units and dollars in 2013 because of growing consumer demand for simple solutions and a growing selection of options, including more step-up options. Quixel Research found that factory-level soundbar dollar volume rose 82 percent in 2012 to $658.1 million and forecast growth of 74 percent in 2013, 24 percent in 2014, and 25 percent in 2015 to $1.78 billion.

In the high-resolution audio segment, defined as any device with better-than-CD sound quality, dealers will find more high-resolution audio DACs embedded in preamps, CD players and headphone amps. They’ll also find more portable USB DACs for use with laptops and headphones and more highresolution portable headphone-equipped music players.

In the wireless multi-room audio segment, at least three companies will enter the market, and several others will expand their selection. New products include Wi-Fi speakers that use smartphones and tablets as whole-house music sources. Some also use networked PCs as whole-house music sources, with a smartphone or tablet acting as a system controller. Some also access streaming services.

The introductions at the show will follow the entry last year of such companies as Bose, Samsung and Lenbrook start-up Bluesound into the market.

In Bluetooth speakers, which include portable models and AC-only models, multiple suppliers will expand their selections, and new companies will enter the market.

Sales of active Bluetooth speakers are soaring because of Apple’s change in docking-pin connectors, the rise of Android smartphones, and the rise of music-storing smartphones, which consumers prefer to keep in hand, audio suppliers said.

The same factors are encouraging a proliferation of Bluetooth in shelf systems, boombox-style portables and alarm clocks.

Dealers will find more companies embedding Bluetooth in AM/FM/CD-equipped shelf systems, boomboxes and alarm clocks. More soundbars will also turn up with Bluetooth in lieu of multi-pin Apple docks.

In addition, a greater selection of Bluetooth speakers is turning up with ability to stream the AptX or AAC codecs, or both, over Bluetooth. At least three companies will use AptX in their Bluetooth speakers for the first time.