What's new in home entertainment?
Pressing engagement? – Driven by double digit growth sales of LPs (that’s Long Playing records by the way), 30 years or so since it cut its ties with vinyl pressing, Sony has said it will start making records again. Indeed, a factory near Tokyo could be up and running as soon as March next year, we read, to help satiate local demand for some of that good old snap, crackle & pop…
Streaming US music medium of choice – Music streaming, according to Nielsen, accounted for more than 60% of all US music consumption in the first half of this year, up from 50% last year.
Pandora closes ANZ box – Interesting factoid: having recently deserted ANZ in favour of its US home market, music streaming service Pandora recently reported no less than 282% growth in the number of people listening to its service through voice activated devices like Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home etc etc. That’s fully 1.6% of its 76 million adherents. The ANZ markets apparently “only” counted some 5 million registered users…
Virtual soundstage – Sennheiser is helping deliver “an immersive audio experience” for visitors to the Revolution exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Exploring the social fabric of the late 1960s, the show was previously at London’s famous V&A and, like the London show, the Montreal version also employs Sennheiser’s AMBEO immersive 3D audio technology and guidePORT audio guide system to add to the visitor’s experience with “an unforgettable soundscape”.
C.E. is OK, TV ASPs climb…
GfK’s New Zealand market stats for Q2 2017 (April-June) show revenue in the consumer electronics sector growing by nearly 4% year-on-year, driven by categories like wireless mini speakers, soundbars, and headphones.
In terms of TV, with most major brands releasing new models between April and May, and these focusing on premium UHD/4K, large screens and OLED, June’s Average Selling Price was the highest for the last seven years, back when the first 3D and Smart TVs were launched.
However, adds GfK, despite this increase in ASPs, the TV market remained flat in Q2 2017, just +1% in revenue year-on-year.
Related news is that sales of soundbars also increased significantly during the last three months, offsetting the sharp decline of home theatre systems, whose decline we hear is ongoing.
GfK also confirmed portable audio’s upward trend in the second quarter of this year, thanks to significant value gains in both wireless mini speakers (+26%) and headphones (+33%).
Home audio on a roll but is “smart” disruption just ahead?
Looking globally now, a new report from Futuresource Consulting shows home audio continuing to outpace the wider home electronics market
Home electronics’ value shrank by 2% in 2016 but home audio revenues were +20% and are on course to grow a further 17% in 2017, thanks to the success of smart speakers, continued growth in soundbars and Bluetooth speakers.
Wireless speakers alone were +32% and generated revenues of US$6.2 billion in 2016, while soundbar revenues were +18% at US$2.7 billion.
Faced with these newish alternatives, legacy categories like hi-fi systems and loudspeakers and home-theatre-in-a-box systems fared less well, says Futuresource.
Further disruption to audio hardware is predicted with the spread of smart speakers and voice assistants, a category currently led by Amazon and its Echo (90% of smart speaker sales so far says Futuresource).
An additional interesting insight is that a proliferation of voice products should help drive Wi-Fi penetration and this will benefit features like multi-room, sales of which Futuresource says could double by 2021.
Another tip for the top is 3D audio or object-orientated sound (like Dolby Atmos), despite limited content availability and a currently limited range of products which provide 3D audio playback.
LG Signature Wallpaper OLED TV
Key feature of LG’s 65” OLED65W7T is that it is just 4mm thin (or thick). Its OLED is packing Active HDR with Dolby Vision and comes with a Dolby Atmos soundbar for a fully integrated, atmospheric sound. Active HDR dynamically enhances the contrast of all content scene-by-scene and incorporates Dolby Vision HDR technology. Combined with stunning colours, LG OLED TVs deliver a truly cinematic viewing experience.
Samsung “The Frame” TV
Samsung has launched its new “lifestyle” TV, dubbed “The Frame”, it is a 4K UHD TV with HDR that is designed to hang on a wall like an artwork. In which respect, in Art Mode, when switched away from TV viewing, instead of fading to black, the panel displays custom-designed digital art or the user’s own content. In Art Mode, its brightness sensor allows the content being displayed on-screen to adjust to ambient light levels, so it resembles a piece of framed artwork. The Frame is available in 55” and 65” versions, there are interchangeable frames at extra cost, an optional Studio Stand, although The Frame has been designed to be hung anywhere, without visible cables or wires.
Sony BRAVIA 4K OLED A1 and 4K X Series TVs, Soundbars and AV Receiver
Both 65” and 55” BRAVIA 4K OLED TVs have now landed. Taking advantage of the OLED panel’s no-backlight structure, Sony developed a world-first Acoustic Surface technology which can emanate sound directly from the screen itself, producing a wide sound and image synchronisation, even off to the sides. The result is a unique speaker-less and stand-less form factor. The new A1 series also supports Dolby Vision, the HDR format from Dolby Laboratories, to enrich the visual experience.
Sony has also expanded its 4K HDR TV range with the new X Series, featuring improved LED backlight technology for superior brightness and exceptional contrast and support for Dolby Vision. The following are in the X Series and all are 4K HDR models: X94E (75”); X93E (65” and 55”); X90E (75”, 65”, 55” and 49”); X85E (75”, 65” and 55”); and X80E (49”, and 43”).
To go with the TVs are a pair of soundbars, the HT-MT300 compact Bluetooth soundbar with separate subwoofer and the HT-CT800 full-width model with Bluetooth, Chromecast Built-in and Spotify Connect.
Sony’s STR-DN1080 AV Receiver has Dolby Atmos, Bluetooth, Chromecast Built-in and Spotify Connect. This Object Audio compatible hi-fi AV receiver offers flexible speaker solutions and support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X as well as legacy surround formats, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. To complement this, the STR-DN1080 includes sound field compensation technology which balances output to closely simulate sound as if the speakers were optimally positioned, even when they’re not.