CES 2009 preview: Home audio
John P. Falcone offers a preview of the home audio offerings at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show.
The 2009 Consumer Electronics Show will be the sixth consecutive CES event I've attended. And for most of those, we've had to write up previews of what we're expecting or anticipating at the show as a whole, or in one category. Looking back at those pieces, you can see how far a lot of the technology has come in just half a decade (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, ). Indeed, plenty of features, options, and product categories we take for granted today didn't really exist just five years ago. But you can also note how some predictions seem to keep resurfacing year after year--without ever really coming to fruition.
Perhaps the biggest vaporware offering in the home audio realm is wireless speakers. Several vendors have promised
Network audio is another perennial "next big thing" at CES. This one's actually entering the category of a maturing technology at this point. Plenty of standalone products--from the multiroom
Somewhat related is satellite radio. With federal approval of the XM/Sirius merger, the consolidated programming offerings and--perhaps--begin to discuss hardware that can access content from both XM and Sirius satellites. But the fact that the company is now a penny stock will weigh heavily, as will the troubled U.S. auto industry--the sales from which traditionally drove satellite radio subscriber growth.can begin touting its
Being iPod- and iPhone-ready is another feature that went from a major value-added to a default bullet point over the course of the past decade. While nearly every home audio product now has an Apple-compatible dock built-in (or available as an add-on), look for companies to up the ante with tighter integration--such as using on-TV menus to navigate an iPod's video and audio directories, or using the iPod Touch or iPhone as avia Wi-Fi.
Blu-ray compatibility will undoubtedly be a buzzword in 2009. It was only about a year ago (CES 2008, in fact) that Blu-ray dealt ato archrival HD DVD, becoming the default high-def disc format of choice. Last year, home theater systems with were the exception to the rule. In 2009, look for it to the be standard in high- and even mid-level home theater systems--with full-on to boot.
Look for single-speaker audio and virtual surround products to again dominate the major brands' audio lineups. The '09 products will likely be offered at more accessible prices than ever before--probably starting at the sub-$500 range, instead of closer to $800 or $1,000. (Check out our current virtual surround champs--with with video connectivity and without.)
If you're noticing that nothing there is particularly new compared to previous years, you're absolutely correct. The home audio category remains the red-headed stepchild of the consumer electronics landscape, wedged uncomfortably between eye-popping flat-panel TVs and increasingly indispensable cell phones and portable devices.
I'm of the opinion that most of these product categories have
A home theater system that was easy to set up, easy to use, and had a menu system that was in plain English instead of technojargonese? That would be an easy pick for Best of CES.
Hey, there's always next year.