Over recent years, the audio market has witnessed a progressive shift to more premium products. Take, for example, headphones and models such as the Apple AirPods Pro, along with the Sony WH-1000XM series.
These, Futuresource Consulting notes, have helped democratize higher audio quality to the mass market.
This trend, which can be seen across most audio product categories, including wireless speakers and soundbars, took another turn in 2020.
Consumers homebound due to the COVID-19 pandemic have created a unique opportunity for premium audio product demand to thrive, Futuresource notes. “With movies and music consumption playing a central role in entertaining consumers during lockdown, having good audio quality at home has never been as important,” it says.
In the soundbar segment, consumers trying to replicate a cinema experience at home, with notably premium soundbars fitted with Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, has driven demand for models costing $1,000+.
In line with this, shipments have risen significantly, up 32% year-on-year in the period Q1-Q3 2020, according to Futuresource’s Home Audio report.
“People spending less on out-of-home activities such as going on holiday or eating out has freed up discretionary income to spend on high-end audio products,” Futuresource finds, noting that 2020 was a year where consumers who always wanted to invest in products such as a nice pair of speakers, a high-end amplifier or a turntable could justify this purchase, which ultimately drove average selling prices up across many audio product categories.
Record-high demand has also been seen for luxury audio products costing over $5,000 in 2020.
“The surge in vinyl consumption during lockdown has triggered a strong interest for luxury turntables, especially as wealthy individuals had more funds available to spend on ultra high-end turntables that can easily cost over $20,000,” Futuresource says.
The recently published Luxury Audio Report from Futuresource notably highlights that consumer spend on turntables costing over $5,000 was set to witness an impressive growth of 15% in 2020.
Another strong testament to this shift to premium devices is Apple venturing into high-end headphones with the AirPods Max, which retails at $549. “It demonstrates that Apple is confident that consumers are increasingly willing to pay for high-quality sound, but also for products using exquisite materials and integrating more tech features,” Futuresource says.
While 2020 provided exceptional circumstances, the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have a long-term impact on consumers’ lifestyles, notably with remote working set to become more common, and with commutes and business travel also expected to reduce. The post-COVID world is likely to be more home focused, creating more opportunities for consumers to listen to music and watch movies at home, which will ultimately place a stronger emphasis on the quality of home audio products.
Futuresource, consequently, anticipates this trend to drive long-term growth for high-end audio products, especially as consumers who have experienced high audio quality are usually more likely to upgrade to perfect their listening experience or access the latest tech features.