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'Smartphones May Wipe Out iPods..But Not Yet'

By Oonagh Reidy | Tuesday | 19/02/2013

John Davies talks high and lows of audio..and why iPod isn't dead, just yet.

Arcam rBlink
"Audio is in better health now than it was five years ago" says John Davies, National Channel Manager, Specialty Consumer Products for audio distributor Syntec.

"People have more interest and are listening to more music."

Music has gone portable, wireless and Internet ready, with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi ready devices all taking off and in big demand, says Davies.

In fact, with you can't do with audio these days isn't worth talking about.

Audio Highs and Lows

The proliferation of free music services like Spotify, Internet radio, DAB + radio and JB Hi-Fi Now music streaming service, which Davies says was a smart move by the retailer, have all increased demand for audio gear.

Retailers that are savvy will reflect the new digital economy and will get their website and services right, alluding to JB HiFi Now, which Davies notes targets their market bang on.

"There is still a market for CD's but you get the feeling demand is not as big as it was."

Digital music and MP3 players are also "bound to fall" and smartphones "may wipe out iPods..but we're not there yet", Davies predicts. Demand for audio docking stations for iPhone 4/4S has slowed as the new iPhone 5 connection came in last year.

But there are other unusual trends emerging in audio - like the huge surge in turntables, a market which Davies says is growing and retailers are selling more of than CD players.

Retailer saying both old and young, male and female are all looking for retro turntables, a trend which is a complete "juxtaposition" to the digital market, he notes.

It could be something to do with nostalgia, but admits turntables still have good sound quality despite their non digital credentials.

Generally, there are two audio markets - the consumer who wants the big speaker and big sound, and the Gen Y-er who listens to music via laptop or Mac and use wireless speakers, Bluetooth to connect other devices like smartphone, iPod.

Speaking of Bluetooth, Arcam rBlink out soon is a high quality DAC with bluetooth that streams high quality music from a mobile device,  launching in two weeks to retail and there is already a "significant backorder", says Davies.

"People like their mobile devices" and Android smartphones have also upped their game with Apt-x, the higher standard Bluetooth.

Consumers are now showing huge interest in wireless speakers like Sonos, Arcam and Syntec's new Dynaudio XEO 3 and 5 is at high end, and an important device for people who want a second audio zone in the house.

"People were fascinated" by the Dynaudio device at a recent demo in the Sydney HiFi show, as it transmits high end analogue or digital audio over WiFi network, without external amps or cables.

"Having wireless HiFi makes sense for Gen Y" as its far more convenient  and connects to any device in the home.

However, "the big speaker market isn't over yet and there is still a hardcore fanbase for the wired speaker but its a fairly static market."

 Its All in the Head

Overall, audio king Sennheiser is still Syntec's golden child, thanks to the German makers "strong brand and extensive range."

Speaking of headphones, which Davies admits is a "fantastic" market "we're selling a lot of the high end headphones priced from $500-$1600."

In terms of in-ear headphones, "we sell more of the high end" like Sennheiser ie81 in-ear with iPhone control with RRP of $759 and the ie800 ear phone costing a cool $1200 are in "good demand".

The $500+ models give high fidelity sounds you would get from a $16 or $20K stereo system so are worth the doe, he says.

 "Although the market continues to grow, there are a lot of new players and we have many more competitors" - even the likes of BMW who never touched the market before are attracted to the enormous size of the market.

"Headphones are a part of fashion now, you see people wearing them on the street, in work, but I don't see them getting too big in the future" size wise.

Most people who buy pricy headphones also purchase amps, which is also a good category for Syntec, the high end ones start at around $500 mark and there new one coming from Sennhesier and Bryson is another one.

Next week part 2: Davies talks high end audio and 4K.

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