The traditional loudspeaker market continues to wrestle with changes in consumer listening behavior, as headphones maintain their ascendance and streaming services move center stage, often playing out from smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
Despite these challenges, loudspeakers are maintaining a foothold in the marketplace, shipping 51 million units worldwide last year and generating nearly $3 billion in trade value, according to a new loudspeaker market report from Futuresource Consulting.
“We’re seeing several pockets of opportunity in the market,” said Guy Hammett, analyst at Futuresource Consulting. “For many people, headphones and portable wireless speakers cannot completely replace traditional loudspeakers.
“While the bookshelf and floor standing speaker market as a whole has suffered from the rise in wireless speakers, this has always affected entry-level models to a greater extent than the premium options, a trend that has been amplified in recent years," he added. "Those buying bookshelf, floor standing and home theatre products are likely to be audio enthusiasts and want to spend that little bit more to ensure a superior listening experience. This is occurring across all regions, although it is especially pronounced in more developed countries.”
High Quality vs Low Cost
The new Futuresource report provides insights and forecasts on all categories in the loudspeaker market—covering floor standing, bookshelf, home theatre, in-wall and in-ceiling, and PC speakers.
Futuresource forecasts show that every loudspeaker product category except computer speakers will experience an average retail price increase through to 2022. And although the overall loudspeaker market is shrinking, value is significantly outperforming volume, down 3.5 percent and 10 percent respectively.
The vinyl resurgence and an increase in stereo listening are both applying upward pressure to the higher end of the market, while the rise of high quality streaming amplifier receivers has also bolstered the passive speaker industry.
“A case in point is the $2,500+ segment of the floor standing speaker market,” said Hammett. “Accounting for around 10 percent of floor standing volume, our research shows that it’s responsible for more than 50 percentof retail value, with some value growth expected out to 2022.”
In-wall Makes its Mark
The in-wall and in-ceiling category is a particular market high-point. Growing in both volume and value, the segment continues to shine, and is dominated by the U.S.,, which accounted for more than half of the worldwide market in 2017. However, with three in four shipments going into new builds, the category’s future wellbeing is closely linked to continuing growth in the construction industry.
“People enjoy music, it’s as simple as that,” concluded Hammett. “In one form or another, traditional loudspeakers will be in demand for a long time to come. They deliver the pleasure of audio content in ways that headphones and wireless speakers just don’t allow. What isn’t so easy is identifying, engaging and arousing the key consumer segments, aligning brand and products accordingly. That’s where the savvy, switched-on vendors will reap the rewards.”