Audio hardware sales continue to outpace the wider consumer electronics sector, according to new data from Futuresource Consulting’s quarterly audio tracking service.

Global Q4 sales grew 28 per cent year-on-year to $10.2 billion. “This resounding Q4 performance underscores a record breaking year for audio hardware sales, clearly demonstrating how recent advances in the market are really connecting with consumers,” says Rasika D’Souza, a Senior Market Analyst at Futuresource.

“Our quarterly figures show that home audio and headphones are both pushing the market forward, growing by 33 per cent and 24 per cent respectively, and our forecasts show continued growth throughout 2017.”

Smartphone uptake and the popularity of music streaming services continue to drive market growth, but this is being boosted by Amazon’s Echo and Dot launching into more countries, the US launch of Google Home and widespread consumer adoption of wireless headphones.

“Our Q4 figures show that Echo and Dot sales are surging forward, accounting for around 30 per cent of wireless speaker sales in the US and seizing 34 per cent of the category’s sales in the UK,” says Research Analyst Zlata Jelisejeva. “Additionally, Apple’s decision to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack accelerated wireless headphone sales and boosted the wider market, with wireless representing 49% of US headphone sales in Q4.”

In the wireless speaker category, Amazon moved up from fifth position during Q1- Q3 2016 to become the number two brand in Q4 2016 for units shipped worldwide. The wireless speaker segment remains highly concentrated, with a few top audio brands accounting for nearly half of all unit sales.

Despite strong overall performance from the sector, many sub-categories are beginning to shrink or slow down rapidly, placing some vendors in a precarious position. Hi-fi systems, loudspeakers, separates and soundbars are all among the losers in 2016, although audio growth elsewhere is eclipsing this downturn.

“As the world of audio revolves and consumers make their increasingly discerning choices, new technologies, software, content and fashion trends all play their part in the performance,” says D’Souza. “The world is changing. Ten years ago the audio market was dominated by vendors from Japan and Philips, whereas now we see the likes of Bose, Beats/Apple, Harman and Sonos as well as Sony jostling for position among the leading 5.”

The big areas for growth are predicted to be Voice Personal Assistant (VPA) speakers and wireless headphones.


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