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Looking Ahead At Wireless Multiroom Audio

TWICE: What is the outlook for wireless multiroom-audio speakers, preamp streamers, and amp/streamers in 2015 now that more brands have entered the market?
Henderson: Sonos is still king of the hill, for sure. They built a better mousetrap, to their great credit. Many brands will attempt to take share from them; few will be successful at it. Time will tell who the serious rivals are.

Rogers: The outlook for wireless multiroom-audio speakers, preamp streamers, and amp/streamers is positive as the category – in both units and dollars – continues to look positive. The market is clearly growing and there is an immense opportunity for brands to improve the experience and satisfy the consumer’s desire for easy access to content. Looking ahead, Harman will invest heavily in this category across multiple brands and price points; high-resolution will be a key factor in all of our designs moving forward.

Goedken: We feel this is a great area of expansion for our company as we are going after a different customer than the current market-share leader. Because of that, we are offering consumers a variety of solutions in a very big way — to the point that we launched 20 new products that support the MusicCast wireless multiroom audio ecosystem this year. Customers will be demanding more access to their content (external, high-resolution, streaming music services, Bluetooth, etc.) in more areas of their homes and want an ecosystem that seamlessly integrates this with a simple app that controls any type of audio gear, whether it’s an A/V receiver, a soundbar or wireless speakers. Too many others have just tried to copy the current industry market-share leader, but we’re offering different solutions to a different customer.

Casavant: Wireless systems are really just “less wires,” and for Klipsch this means that customers who are doing a custom install have some real alternatives with wireless products that deliver Klipsch performance.

TWICE: Will wireless multiroom-audio capability become the next in-demand feature for soundbars and AVRs?
Henderson: It all comes down to offering a better experience. If that remains a Sonos experience, then no. Bear in mind that Sonos, and other such devices, can serve as a source with an AVR or soundbar.

Rogers: Based on the growth of streaming features, wireless multiroom-audio capability is a frontrunner for the next in-demand feature for soundbars and AVRs.

Casavant: Klipsch believes the in-demand feature is truly great sound quality, while we also address the extra features that grow with the consumer’s needs. This means expanding their access to content — streaming wirelessly from a smart device as well as sending sound to another zone. A Klipsch soundbar sends great sound to other areas because you can safely crank it up, and it defies what a soundbar can do, acoustically speaking. But we are also addressing the zone-audio approach.

Talge: That’s definitely a possibility. In 2015, we’ve seen soundbars with Wi-Fi come into the market from us as well as the competition. Polk Audio and Definitive Technology are already seeing the demand now, and the trend is only going to grow. Consumers enjoy streaming music to soundbars, so it’s a logical evolution for consumers to demand the multiroom feature.

Growth of the wireless multiroom space was largely driven by the adoption of soundbars with wireless multiroom capability. In 2015, there were at least 13 soundbars launched with this capability. These new products are definitely having a negative impact on Sonos’ growth trajectory.

Zarow: Several soundbars already have this capability [wireless multiroom], and as we move into fiscal year ’16, we expect the number of SKUs that support wireless audio will increase. We also see this technology making its way into the AVR as it potentially opens the door to a larger base of consumers. With that said, we don’t necessarily see it as the next “in-demand” feature. The primary purpose of the AVR is enhanced connectivity and to produce an immersive surround experience, and the AVR excels in both aspects.