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CES 2018: Sound Still A Growth Market As Demand for High Res Grows

If there is one thing that is coming through loud and clear at CES It’s that sound is still a big growth market especially when it comes to streaming and premium high res streaming along with hardware built for high res playback.

From a content prospective the introduction of voice access to music libraries by Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa is going to make the playback of music content easier.

The overall number of products capable of reproducing high-res files of any sort has grown in the past year with more than 80 suppliers globally offering almost 200 different devices released to date, said The Digital Entertainment Group. That’s up from 65 suppliers and more than 100 high-res products at the end of 2016.

We are also set to see an expansion in car audio products that support various high-res formats. Thou I am not sure that this will work in Australia due to the high cost of broadband delivery.

A recent RIAA report said that in the first half of 2017, retail-level music-industry streaming revenues grew 48 percent to $2.5 billion to account for 62 percent of total industry revenues of $3.99 billion. 

Downloads accounted for only 19 percent of industry revenues in the first half, falling 24 percent during that time to $757 million.

The shift in consumer preference has also had an impact on high-res music downloads. “High-res downloads are holding their own,” said David Chesky, co-founder and CEO of download site HDtracks. “We feel the streaming pinch but nowhere as much as the industry standard.”

What manufacturers are seeing is growth in high-res home and portable products supporting studio-quality MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio, and more wireless-multiroom speakers supporting high-res playback.

Recent MusicWatch statistics also underscore the shift to streaming vs downloaded music.

Seventy percent of the Internet population ages 13 and older streamed music in the past month, or about 156 million streamers, based on Sept 2017 data, said managing partner Russ Crupnick.

That compares to 19 percent of the population that, in 2016, bought at least one music download, or about 42 million people, and they’re listening less to their downloads as “download listeners increasingly substitute streaming,” said Crupnick.

as demand for high res audio grows new players are entering the market.

HDmusicStream, a streaming site featuring MQA-encoded music is now offering new content along with Tidal.

HDmusicStream will join Tidal, which launched an MQA streaming service in 2017 with titles from the big three music companies and independents.

Groovers in Korea was expected to launch MQA streaming before the end of 2017. AndNugs.net, which offers high-res MQA downloads globally, is gearing up for a global MQA streaming launch through iOS and desktop players. In addition, Deezer made an “announcement of intent” to stream MQA in 2018, said MQA inventor MQA Ltd.

In addition, European streaming and download service Qobuz who is at CES is announcing its 2018 entry into the market, but they are not sure whether they can get the rights for the Australian market.

they offer more than 40 million CD-quality download titles and 1 million high-res download titles in such formats as FLAC, WAV and DSD.

It lays claim to offering more high-res titles for download than any other site in the world. It will also offer 192/24 FLAC streaming in the U.S. at launch. The streaming and download titles will be playable on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android apps and through home audio products from more than 50 brands, a spokesman said.

In 2017, Pandora and Napster also announced intentions to offer high-res streaming, but the projects had not yet come to fruition by the end of the year following management changes.

Currently Tidal’s MQA streams are available through home-audio products from Bluesound, Cary Audio, Lumin, Meridian and NAD, with Esoteric products coming soon, said MQA Ltd.

Tidal’s MQA streams are also available through Wi-Fi-equipped DAPs from Pioneer, Onkyo and Astell&Kern as well as through Tidal’s desktop app. Tidal is also testing an iOS app for its MQA service, MQA said. One U.S. smartphone, LG’s V30, already supports MQA streaming and features high-res DACs. An Onkyo-brand smartphone now sold out in Japan also featured MQA.

About 30 brands in all offer or have announced plans to offer MQA products, MQA Ltd. said.

According to Sony executives at CES there are now 40,000 high-res albums globally as of late 2017.

Also, up is demand for high-res portable digital audio players, or DAPs, this is helping reduce the rate of decline in portable media player (PMPs), according to various sources at CES.

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