The Death of Wired Whole-House Audio
With the multiroom audio market maturing through the development of wireless technologies, traditional wired systems are rapidly becoming things of the past.
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There’s been a lot of buzz in the custom electronics world following a successful CEDIA Expo 2013. And system sales are expected to grow as we head into 2014.
But today’s consumers are different. Instead of seeking excess and glamor, they’re driven by value. Homeowners still want entertainment, but their idea of entertainment may not be a dedicated home theater that’s used a handful of times a year, or a whole-house A/V system that requires a substantial infrastructure. Today’s homeowner wants affordable entertainment that performs well and is easy to use.
About a decade ago, Sonos developed a product line that represented those traits in the home audio market. Not surprisingly, Sonos grew rapidly and quickly adapted to the explosion of smart devices by introducing interface apps that facilitate the operation of its products.
With 2013 winding down, Sonos is seeing more competition in the surging wireless audio market thanks to new products from Bose, Lenbrook and Samsung, as well as solutions from NuVo Technologies, Russound, and Voco.
With the launch of these products, and more likely coming over the next few months, change is certainly coming to the whole-house audio market. Roll out the Fat Lady because wired whole-house audio is going the way of dinosaurs and eight tracks. While not likely to completely disappear, wired multiroom audio systems will be minimized as consumers embrace affordable and easy-to-use wireless systems.
And while various economic forecasts estimate the new home building market will increase its number of starts, installers shouldn’t expect home builders to beat down their doors looking for whole-house audio systems. The greed of this industry is well documented, and this market will not be looking outside of its traditional partners as it slowly recovers from economic turmoil.
Ignore Specs, Listen with your Ears
Another category within the consumer audio market gaining momentum is high-resolution audio. But high-resolution audio doesn’t necessarily mean improved sound. Theoretically it adds more “1s” and “0s,” but that doesn’t mean better sound.
The way a recording is mastered affects the listening experience more than the medium in which that music is delivered (mastering is a process that ensures all tracks on a recording at set at equal volume levels). So while vinyl’s dynamic range may be only about 60dB and the CD’s dynamic range may only top out at 96dB (24/96 digital audio offers a theoretical dynamic range of 144dB), the experience of listening of these older formats may be better.
This isn’t to knock high-resolution audio, but there are things even terrific retailers like HDTracks can’t control. For the time being, it may be best to hang onto that vinyl release of “Led Zeppelin II” or that Guns N Roses “Appetite for Destruction” CD you bought in high school, until websites like DR Database confirm the high-resolution release of your favorite records do provide better quality than their original versions.
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Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at email@example.com
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