Let's face it, homeowners are more involved in the integration process than they used to be. Customers may ask for things by name (just ask any dealer installing Sonos) or know what kind of speakers, TVs, home control and even security they want their home technology professional to install.
A recent article on CE Pro sister publication Electronic House outlined seven speaker design trends that consumers are looking for. Speaker guys at KEF, Meridian and Leon Speakers weighed in with what they're seeing in the market right now, from customization to wireless to MQA.
Craving a cherry red speaker for your living room? No problem.
Envisioning cobalt blue bookshelf models for the kitchen? Completely doable.
Today, customization is king in speaker designs, with a number of manufacturers offering services that let you pick and choose your own colors, finishes, stains, whatever.
Meridian, for example, offers Meridian Select finishes. You can match the speakers to a specific Pantone sample or the hue of a sofa pillow.
This tailoring usually comes with a slight upcharge, but as Noah Kaplan of Leon Speakers puts it, “Sound and music are a reflection of your personality; the design of your speakers should reflect that personality too.”
Being able to install a speaker without running speaker wire will never go out of style. It’s just too darn easy and convenient.
Now, with so much content available to stream, wireless speakers are still trending hard.
With more and more steaming services offering high-res audio, it’s important that the quality of the speaker is on par with the quality of the audio.
Manufacturers have gone back to the drawing board to re-engineer their wireless speakers to reproduce high-res music with precision. It’s a killer combination of speaker design: wireless and high-performance.
Short for Master Quality Authenticated, MQA is the pinnacle of high performance. This advanced streaming technology replicates music at studio-quality level.
“It’s a revolutionary way of accessing and hearing hi-res audio,” says Ryan Donaher, vice president of Meridian America.
MQA captures all the sonic nuances of the music as if you are hearing it being played in a studio and folds it into a file that’s as small enough to easily stream without losing any of the quality of the original recording.
“The creation of high-res audio streaming through MQA is driving the speaker performance conversation,” Donaher continues. “Now that consumers have access to better quality content, they need better performing equipment like freestanding and powered speakers.”
“If you want a speaker to perform its best, don’t put it in the wall or ceiling.” That's been the golden rule of home audio since the dawn of home loudspeakers.
Although the audio quality of built-in speakers has improved vastly, bookshelf and tower style speakers are trending, and looking better than ever.
“Large, old-fashioned 70s style speakers are in,” Kaplan says.
Powered speakers reduce any degradation of the music signal that typically happens as the audio travels via wiring from an external amp to a speaker. The result is higher-quality music playback, as well as more versatility in the installation of the speaker.
Minus the physical connection to separate components, what you get is a wireless speaker that can be easily installed anywhere in your home.
Manufacturers like KEF are taking active speakers to another level by also building streaming technology. The result: A speaker that’s wireless, high-performance and able to stream.
“It’s like having a complete, full-featured audio system inside a single speaker,” says Dipin Sehdev, KEF brand relations, of the company’s LS50 Wireless speaker.
It’s an interesting time in home audio. Old and new come together with people pulling out their vinyl and to spin on turntables, while also streaming tunes from the Internet.
Vintage meets modern — the best of both worlds.
Next: The Industry Loves Sonos, So Is It Time to Stop Complaining?
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