The high quality audio industry as a whole has really taken a broad hit with the dramatic changes in recent years due to online music impacting the recording industry as well as equipment providers. Revenue generated from those sources has definitely felt these changes and yet, the value of quality music has not diminished in the purist form. Sales of vinyl recordings still show signs of growth even as the interest in non-physical mediums increases. What is still very prevalent is the need and use of high quality output products such as speakers and headphones.
Sound equipment as such is relevant in both music playback and home theatre in many households.
Access to entertainment on-the-go is revolutionizing the industry and digital downloads are fast becoming the primary source of most personal entertainment. Companies such as iTunes, GooglePlay and eMusic are leaders in downloaded digital files and streaming sources such as Spotify, Pandora and Songza are experiencing high growth. Along with these on-demand services comes the need for playback devices such as smartphones and tablets and the use of devices such as MP3 players which are more one dimensional is now decreasing, with a market prediction of further slowdown. Streaming sources will continue to grow and thus, how to develop and improve playback quality will become the most significant area of focus in the audio market. Many artists have bemoaned the poor quality of digital files, particularly in this age of instant gratification, where files get reduced in size to improve the immediacy of file downloads and this is rapidly eroding the quality of sound in playback.
Solutions are being developed to improve upon the quality of sound now achievable from digital sources – formats such as FLAC (free lossless audio codec) and ALAC (Apple lossless audio codec) are stating that they reduce quality loss due to compression and deliver higher than CD quality playback. Playback devices are being developed to support higher resolution sound such as the PONO Player, a product that is supported by music artist, Neill Young, and being produced in conjunction with Ayre Acoustics. The product is rumoured to hit the U.S. market this spring and audiophiles are anxiously awaiting its introduction to world markets and the subsequent product reviews.
The product will have 128GB of available memory with the capacity to store more than 1,000 high resolution digital albums although it isn’t clear how that translates into single tracks. The release also purports that the player release will be accompanied by recommended headphones and/or ear buds. While not much is entirely clear about the PONO Player at the moment, a Kickstarter campaign is reportedly about to be announced at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas this month and along with that will come greater details.
The audio industry is quickly morphing and changing and one thing is clear – audio will always be a significant form of entertainment that will never disappear and as the industry changes, so will formats and products to continue to bring users high quality audio for personal and business use.