Trends to Watch in Audio at CES 2017

While the progress in the audio somewhere seem to take a back seat to the hottest new tvs and the latest innovations in the field of computers, the market is still huge. At the big Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, manufacturers are slated to introduce a number of exciting, new ways to listen to music, of wireless earbuds that channel hearing aid good sounding smart speakers.

Here are some of the top trends we expect to see at the CES.

1. The progress in the Noise-Canceling Headphones

Although the active noise-canceling technology is already in commercial applications since the late 1980’s, and in the consumer on the basis of a pair of headphones since the beginning of the years 2000, it is still a technology in transition.

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In the past year, Bose, Sony, Sennheiser, and Apple already have a new noise-cancelling models, many of them wireless. And in the last six months, Sony and Bose have added an innovative feature that allows the listener to adjust his or her headphones, so they cancel less noise. Why would you want to do that? If you are crossing a busy street, this feature can help you hear an approaching truck.

Both the Sony and Bose headphones let you fine-tune the level of noise, either by adjustment of the control system in a mobile app, or through a gesture-control feature on the outside of one of the earcups.

We expect to see more developments in noise-cancelling technology at CES.

2. More Truly Wireless Earbuds

Companies like Samsung, Bragi, and Altec Lansing are promoting a pair of headphones that completely cut the cord—which means that there are no wires tethering the earbuds together. But it was Apple’s Airpods, announced in September, and only on the market now, which have really led to the public’s interest in unfettered earbuds.

We not only expect more cord-free earbuds at CES, but models that actually go further than the noise cancelling technology: The next generation of wireless earbuds is actually filters out ambient noise, and function a bit like a hearing aid to help you hear better in noisy environments.

3. Smart Speakers Worth Listening To

Amazon introduced its Alexa voice assistant just two years ago, but quickly established itself as a benchmark for interactive wireless speakers. Now, other companies are getting in the act, including Google with a new speaker. While these products continue to add new features or the “skills”, such as the dimming of lighting or the management of various electronic devices, a shortcoming of these smart speakers are the speakers themselves. In comparison with conventional wireless speakers, our testers discovered that the quality of the sound of the Amazon Touch, and Echo and the Google Homepage is not at all so spectacular.

Look for audio companies in this emerging niche of smart speakers with high quality sound. For example, Sonos in August announced that it is adding support for Alexa, for the entire line of speakers. We expect to see more wireless speaker and audio companies following suit.

4. Hi-Res and Immersive Audio

In the last years, many audio companies have introduced products that allow you to play hi-res audio files, which are, in fact, the 4K-video content of the audio world. This so-called “lossless” formats, you can listen to uncompressed music files that have subtle sonic details that are highly compressed files, such as Mp3’s, tend to lose. At CES, we expect even more devices hi-res audio.

Another new technology that is gaining steam is an overwhelming sound, which allows the sound from every angle, including above and behind you. We expect more consumer products using it, including headphones and car stereo installation.

5. Streaming Music Integration

As streaming music services continue to gain in popularity, we’re going to see those services integrated into more products. For example, Sonos announced that it has worked with Spotify to make for a more seamless integration with music streaming app in the app. This means that you don’t have to leave the Sonos app to your Spotify list to play. We excpect to see more of this consumer-friendly form of integration in 2017.

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