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Apple to benefit from home audio slowdown

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By LC Angell

Contributing Editor
Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006
News Categories: Apple

The wide-spread shift from CDs to MP3s and iPods has caused a drop in sales of large home audio systems, putting Apple in a prime position to sell its new iPod Hi-Fi to consumers looking for a simple way to enjoy their digital audio at home. While electronics manufacturers race to add iPod connectivity to their equipment, a new report in the Wall Street Journal says it may be too little too late.

“Sales of traditional stereos have taken a hit,” the Journal reports. “Last year, retail sales of home audio equipment, including stereo system components and surround-sound ‘home theater in a box’ rigs, dropped nearly 18%, to 10.2 million units, according to market-research firm NPD Group Inc. In the same period, sales of portable digital players like Apple’s iPod more than tripled, to 22.4 million units in 2005, from 7.1 million in 2004, says the Consumer Electronics Association, a trade group.”

Music fans aren’t just exclusively listening to their downloaded tunes on an iPod either. “Even when consumers aren’t using portable devices, more are shifting their music consumption away from stereos,” the newspaper says. “Among 1,031 adult respondents to a consumer-behavior survey published last year by the CEA, 34% said they listened to music at home primarily on a PC, compared with just 26% who said they used a stereo or surround-sound receiver as their main home listening system.”

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Comments

1

They are definently too late in introducing the hi-fi. I would rather have it then the bose sound dock, but since I have an ihome i have no reason to change. And whoever wanted a sound system for their ipod already got one.

Posted by Jonathan Keim on March 1, 2006 at 7:39 AM (PDT)

2

I don’t think that’s true at all Jonathon. Given the fact that I have been waiting for better, more functional sound systems for my iPod. I would imagine the millions and millions of new iPods being sold at an unbelievable pace would likely need something in the future. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Bose and their techniques to reproduce sound so I welcome anything as an alternative. I think the key will be home stereo manufacturers adding built in docks and functionality in the future. Until then, I’m happy using my PC or an aux. in on a boom box.

Posted by JWj on March 1, 2006 at 8:09 AM (PDT)

3

If I was going to spend $350 on a speaker system for my iPod, hands down I would choose the i-deck over Apple’s hi-fi.  I can’t post the link, but it’s i-deckusa dot com and appears to be vastly superior to the “hi-fi”.

Posted by redsoxnation on March 1, 2006 at 8:37 AM (PDT)

4

Never heard of the i-deck redsoxnation - looks pants - you wouldn’t happen to have a vested interest now would you?

I own a Bose and am very happy with it but, I have to say I would buy the Apple one now if I had the choice.

Posted by Steven R on March 1, 2006 at 8:43 AM (PDT)

5

Steven R - I have absolutely no dog in that hunt at all.  I had not even heard of the i-deck until this mornig when someone on the Yahoo Apple group posted the link.

Posted by redsoxnation on March 1, 2006 at 9:07 AM (PDT)

6

The Home Theatre is in no danger of becoming extinct. The rise of on-demand video, HDTV, as well as DVD Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, are requiring people to have higher quality systems to support the high-definition digital content coming into their homes. The iPod is one of many digital devices, but its existence poses no threat to Home Theatre sales.

Posted by Tim on March 1, 2006 at 10:16 AM (PDT)

7

The i-deck is manufactured by Monitor Audio, which has a pretty good track record in terms of quality speakers.  You could be sure that the quality is going to better than Bose (tm) in this respect.

However, unless you ripped lossless or very high bitrate lossy, it almost doesn’t matter because you’re not going to get anything significant below 62 Hz or above 16 kHz in any of these speaker systems.

Posted by Hepcat on March 1, 2006 at 11:05 AM (PDT)

8

I use a simple Minijack->RCA Jacks to my home theater system, my Model 88 in my bedroom, and just about any other audio device.

AAC 128 sounds fine on my big JBL Hi-Fi system in the livingroom… smile

I don’t see how Apple’s boombox is going to put out of business the surround sound guys - I’m an Apple man through and through - but this is one  (Apple) product I just won’t be buying.

Oh, might I suggest the iPal by Tivoli Audio if you are looking for a portable but high quality output device for your iPod.  Yes, it only is mono, but it can fill a room like crazy, has built in rechargeable batteries so you can take it to the beach, and it has POWER so you can actually hear it over the tide.

Just my 6 bits.

Posted by Adam on March 1, 2006 at 5:00 PM (PDT)

9

It OUGHT to benefit Apple, but they’re not taking advantage. Why don’t they release a full sized stereo with a built-in full sized 300 GB hard drive for ripping full bit rate CDs, and include some decent seperable speakers and even optional radio modules, etc etc. This Apple Hi-Fi thingy is no replacement for a real stereo, but Apple is in a position to make a replacement if they tried.

Posted by Countach on March 1, 2006 at 10:30 PM (PDT)

10

This Apple Hi-Fi thingy is no replacement for a real stereo, but Apple is in a position to make a replacement if they tried.

From what it sounds like, fewer people are actually using “real” stereos anyways. So why bother making something to replace a concept that the WSJ claims is going the way of the dinosaur?

I do unfortunately think there’s a lot of truth to this story; the two retail outlets I deal with the most did seem to have a slow go of it last year, though the more extreme end ($$$) one did do better (it’s those audio hobbyists like me that keep handing over our paychecks, I guess). But even the more mid-to-upper-end outlet did well in the high end; it’s the middle and lower end that they really got hammered.

At least when it comes to music, I believe that generally the majority of people are more than satified with the fidelity capable from lossy content and their VERY portable DAPs. There’s nothing sweeter than have ALL of your songs—or at least a great many—with you any place you choose to go. A notebook and an iPod, Zen or other DAP is pretty much all one needs. Traditional home stereo represents the essence of non-mobility and complexity with its endless spaghetti of wires and typically huge form factor. If a PC (preferrably a notebook) and iPod do the trick and take care of 99% of a person’s audio music needs, then why bother with the old school, especially if one isn’t interested in achieving perfect sound anyways?

Posted by flatline response on March 2, 2006 at 3:41 AM (PDT)

11

It’s true that we are using more and more PC/Mac to listen to music. I have a Sherwood amp and good speakers but most of the time I’m in front of my Mac and not in my living room.

iPod Hifi is just version 1.0, like the first iPod, there is a lot to do to make it better. I would love a new Airport Express with a big lcd screen in order to have playlist, covers, news, alerts etc. like the Squeezebox but with AAC Fairplay support.

For music and Hi Fi Lovers, Apple Lossless and Squeezebox and a good amp/speakers is the best solution, too bad Apple doesn’t licence Fairplay :(

Posted by Steph on March 2, 2006 at 7:27 AM (PDT)

12

I think its misleading to judge the whole home theater industry based on the sales of a relatively small timeframe.  As for myself—I have been holding off for the past year or so on any equipment purchases (and I am sure there are many others like me) until the blueray/hd-dvd format comes out, and HDTV prices come down.  And as for music, I do almost all of my home listening for both audio and video through my 5.1 surrond home system.  Once in a great while, it is off of a standard cd or for higher audio quality, from dvd-A disks that have 5.1 surround sound encoded on them, but about 95% of the time my music is playing from iTunes off of my computer connected to my surround receiver. I have been waiting patiently for a mac mini with Frontrow to be released so that I could add that to my home theater system as a media server for both audio, photos albums and home video display.  That, in my mind, is the missing link that will totally enhance the usefulness of my home theater and encourage me towards a wide screen HDTV—thus actually increasing home theater equipment sales.  I am willing to bet you will see a rise in home electronics sales again once all these things come together.

Posted by LannyR on March 3, 2006 at 7:55 PM (PDT)

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