LAS VEGAS —
Soundbars 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 demand.
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) solutions.
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.