i3 | April 17, 2020

Audio at CES 2020: Innovation has a Soundtrack

Steve Koenig

Witnessing the innovative audio solutions at CES 2020 — from earbuds to amplifiers — you could hear the cash register ringing and with good reason U.S. consumers are all ears when it comes to audio content. In fact, CTA research forecasts they’ll spend $9.1 billion this year on streaming audio services. What’s more, audio listeners crave premium experiences that deliver convenience, quality, immersion and value. Before we describe today’s audio consumer in more detail, let’s examine the audio technology we saw — and heard — at CES 2020.

True wireless earbuds were arguably the hottest audio commodity in 2019 and signals from CES 2020 point to more growth. No surprise, really, given CTA forecasts nearly 70 million pairs of true wireless earbuds will ship this year, generating $8.2 billion in wholesale dollars. And while noise-cancelling has become table stakes, many solutions were also sporting improved battery life. If you’re worried about losing your earbuds, never fear; Technics announced a companion app for their earbuds to help locate them.

Home Audio

CES 2020 also featured incredible innovation in soundbars. Answering the call for more immersive entertainment experiences, support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are standard for most 2020 products. But looking deeper at the soundbar solutions shown at CES 2020 reveals innovation so clever you might miss it. Take LG, for example, which is using AI in its soundbars to ‘self-calibrate’ for room acoustics. This is another great example of AI handling small tasks. No more walking around the listening room with a microphone to do the job.

VIZIO showed its new Elevate soundbar featuring speakers at each end that rotate upward when a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X signal is detected. And Samsung featured a new technology called Q-Symphony on its Q-series TVs that when paired with a compatible soundbar uses the speakers in the TV to create a more immersive sound field.

Sound Quality

It’s clear the audio category at CES 2020 brought the noise. But what about the acoustics of the marketplace? Enter CTA’s latest research study published in December 2019, Consumer Audio Market: A Segmentation Analysis that identifies audio customers based on listening and buying behavior.

The study confirms the addressable U.S. market for audio products is massive: 199 million adults (83% of the U.S. adult population). First in line to buy are the “audio lovers,” younger technology and music enthusiasts who want innovative audio equipment with advanced features and are willing to pay for quality. Audio lovers represent only 10% of audio buyers, so we must look beyond them to grow our businesses. “Luxury spenders” are another, albeit small, group (about 9% of today’s market) that can help. These buyers are moderately tech savvy and have an interest in music but spend big on audio products thanks to high income.

“Intentional listeners” are the inverse of luxury spenders but represent a sizable 43% of the addressable audio market. Intentional listeners are early to mid-tech adopters who enjoy music and appreciate audio quality but are price sensitive.

As new technologies restructure the audio category, they also reshape the audio customer. Sharpen your understanding of the audio market with the latest CTA Research reports and industry forecasts.

Subscribe to i3 Magazine

I3, the flagship magazine from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, focuses on innovation in technology, policy and business as well as the entrepreneurs, industry leaders and startups that grow the consumer technology industry. Subscriptions to i3 are available free to qualified participants in the consumer electronics industry.