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Soundbar Sales Surge, Choices Proliferate


proved their value in 2011, and
suppliers are coming to International
CES with models at
the low and high ends to capture
their share of burgeoning

The products tapped into
consumers’ desire to improve
the sound quality of their thin TVs
and find a virtual-surround solution that yields less clutter
than more traditional home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB)

For the first 10 months of 2011, factory-level sales
of soundbars rose 138 percent to 984,413 units with
dollar sales rising 53 percent $167 million, Consumer
Electronics Association (CEA) statistics show.

“Active sound bars are a hot category,” said Paul
DiComo, Definitive Technology marketing and product
development senior VP. “Their space-saving nature
and ease of set up and use make them a compelling
choice for consumers across a wide range of price
points.” Ultra-thin TVs, he continued, “are an important
factor in both component speaker sales and active
sound bars. More and more TVs are ultra-thin, and as
the TVs get slimmer, the sound quality of the built-in
speakers gets worse.” As usual, he said, “there will
be a rush to the bottom, but at the same time there is
a segment of luxury consumer who will be served by
high-priced, premium performance bars.”

For his part, Atlantic Technology marketing director
Steve Feinstein sees soundbar sales growing for
several reasons, including a need for “quality sound
and lack of clutter/ease-of-installation-placement.” He also sees sales driven by a decline in the addition of
new dedicated home theater rooms and basement
conversions that include home theaters. “Most sound
systems are being integrated into the main living area,
where the primary TV lives — in those cases, placement
ease and appearance are prime requirements,
on a par with sound quality,” he said.

Said Doug Henderson, B&W Group sales and marketing
VP, “The fact that TVs have gotten so thin as
to make quality sound impossible is beneficial to our
position in general, and certainly to the Panorama
[soundbar] in particular.”

To tap into soundbar growth here at CES, Harman
Kardon, LG and P&F USA (Philips) are expanding their
soundbar selections, and others, including Alco’s licensed
RCA brand, are incorporating such differentiating
features as Internet audio and video streaming
services. Companies are also slimming out their
soundbars to take up less space, with Sharp launching
a model that’s only 1 inch tall.

At least one model, due from P&F USA under the
Philips brand, incorporates Apple’s AirPlay.