Making High-Quality Audio Gear Appeal to the Wireless Generation

1/8/2014 2:35:00 PM
One of the first appointments of my day here at the 2014 International CES in the Venetian hotel’s high-end audio suites really set the theme for the day.

It seemed like a benign business conversation about high-resolution audio files and how they are becoming more dominant, as I discussed with Bill McKiegan, president of Krell Industries, but we were both drawn to the idea that it’s finally happening.

People have been talking about high res audio files for quite some time—it’s not a new technology or concept—but McKiegan and I mused about how we both think it is prime to finally take off with consumers.

Little did I know that this theme was the focus for many high-end audio products manufacturers exhibiting at the Venetian.

The theme resonated well with Bluesound, a recently launched brand from Lenbrook, which has had the foresight to target younger generation audiophiles, through its i Fi Zone initiative.
 
Bluesound
Lenbrook's Bluesound.
 
Bluesound, sporting the tagline, “HiFi for a wireless generation, ” has several audio products providing storage, CD ripping, and high res amplification in really sleek units designed to target a younger generation of audiophile. NAD’s D 3020 DAC amplifier is designed for a similar purpose and has been selling really well, according to Dean Miller, president and CEO of Lenbrook America. Read more about the D 3020 and NAD’s efforts to connect with this generation here.

Meridian Audio is also working on technology innovations for high res audio, but the company was super tight lipped about what this will entail. Stay tuned for more details later this year, but I was given a few tidbits about it. One major project has been in development for a few years, finally reaching the business development phase.

High-resolution audio streamers are being introduced by many other audio manufacturers, including McIntosh, with its MB100 Media Bridge, which streams from popular music streaming services, as well as from a personal music collection and 1TB storage system.
 
 
The McIntosh MB100 Media Bridge.
 
This theme resounded at SVS’s audio suites, where Gary Yacoubian explained SVS’s initiatives to attract a younger generation audiophile by challenge conventional standards of what an audiophile is. [Check out John Sciacca's report here.] SVS does this with its URS (unilateral resale model), and by targeting a younger audience educated about new sound from the headphone revo—“a huge opportunity,” Yacoubian said.

There was also the Hi-Res Audio Central, with a space at the Venetian’s expo floor dubbed the Hi-Res Audio Experience, where there were panel presentations on the topic. After a brief chat with chief content officer Mike Mettler, I’m keeping my eye out to see where this platform is going. Set to launch in Spring 2014, Hi-Res Audio Central will host aggregated content, gear, and software, as well as community forums and important links.

This is only a small tidbit of some of what I saw at the Venetian’s high-end audio suites at CES this year, but high resolution was certainly front and center for many companies.

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