High-res Audio: Is a Resolution Revolution at Hand?
More manufacturers are offering High-res Audio product options than ever since the dawn of the portable-music-device revolution. There is more High-res content available than ever to fuel the hardware. But are the products and content now available oversaturating a market that is only slowly awakening to the benefits of superior-quality audio? Are competing manufacturers closing ranks tightly enough to increase consumer awareness and desire for High-res Audio? Is the category ready for the increasing preference of consumers for streaming as a preferred music source?
These were some questions addressed at a CE Week panel Tuesday entitled, “The Future of High-res Audio.” Moderated by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group’s Marc Finer, the panel included Aaron Levine of Sony Electronics, John Quick of dCS North America, Nathan Call of Kimber Kable, and Owen Kwon of iRiver.
Quick, in commenting on the fact that there are 70 manufacturers now in the High-res Audio space with around 100 models, all vying for dollars from a relatively small consumer pool, said those numbers “only underscore the desirability of High-res.”
“The more people are talking about it, the more awareness will be generated,” added Levine.
The panel was agreed that suppliers are realizing that providing high-quality gear is not enough. To cater to the uninitiated consumer who is not an audiophile, they are increasingly designing products to answer that newer consumer’s expectation of convenience and ease of operation. “Sound quality isn’t enough” when designing a High-res product, Quick added.
Each manufacturer represented is in partnership with others to further the evangelization cause as it relates to High-res Audio. Call of Kimber Kable cited his company’s “great relationship” with Sony in developing high-end, specialized cables.
Kwon’s company also forges strategic partnerships to further the cause; one partnership he cited is with Blue Note Records in the form of a 75th Anniversary limited-edition box set and Blue Note-branded Astell&Kern AK240 high-resolution portable audio player. He said High-res Audio is akin to a fine car: “The car might be great but it needs gas [to run].” The celebratory recording issue, bundled with his company’s player, “helps our listeners focus on pure music quality” – the overarching goal with High-res Audio.
Hearing familiar music helps to engender consumers’ engagement with High-res Audio, said Levine. But do they perceive the quality improvement being delivered to them? “Consumers across all demographics al want sound quality to be the best possible. And surveys have shown that 60 percent of consumers who [have been exposed to] High-res Audio are willing to pay a premium for the enhancement,” Finer said