Wireless will redifine the home audio market as we know it

February 14, 2012 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Over the next five years, wireless connectivity to mobile devices and the Internet will redefine the mainstream products within the home audio market. Despite differences in capabilities, form factors, and usage scenarios, a variety of home audio products will all increasingly incorporate wireless functionality in order to play audio streamed from mobile devices, home networks, and the Internet.

In recent years the home audio industry has been challenged to adapt to changing trends in consumers’ media consumption habits and the proliferation of Internet-based streaming audio services. As a result, consumer home audio is rapidly evolving by integrating wireless connectivity into devices such as A/V receivers, soundbars, standalone speaker docks, and home theater in a box (HTIB) systems.

The soundbar and speaker dock categories have seen growth thanks to consumers trending towards mobile devices, streaming services, and less-expensive intermediate audio solutions, driven by current economic conditions. This is in large part to address the lackluster audio of thin-bezel HDTVs. Though these same trends have challenged the market for traditional A/V receivers and HTIBs, the inclusion of wireless connectivity is expected to aid both product categories going forward.

According to the IMS Research report, “A/V Receivers and Advanced Home Audio – 2012 Edition,” in 2016 over 60 million audio devices will ship with WiFi and/or Bluetooth connectivity, including AV receivers, speaker docks, HTIB systems, and soundbars. Indicative of trends taking place in the consumer marketplace, the majority of this volume will be driven by speaker docks and soundbars.

According to IMS Research, as wireless home networking increases along with consumer expectations of wireless connectivity in consumer electronics, the use of wireless streaming in audio playback is expected to naturally rise on a complementary basis. Though connectivity to mobile devices is expected to be a major driver, the growing popularity of services such as Spotify, Deezer, Pandora, iCloud, and Google Music drives the need for direct Internet connectivity in some of these home audio products as well.

In the opinion of Paul Erickson, senior analyst at IMS Research, “With the move towards smartphone- and tablet-centric media consumption, and the proliferation of Internet-based music services, the home audio market is gradually adapting to meet the needs of consumers. We’re clearly headed for a future where various forms of wireless streaming will be