Audio Equipment Shoppers Seeking Quality and Interoperability

Global listeners have become more sophisticated with their audio preferences and have higher expectations regarding sound quality, however, just one in four believe that their current systems are delivering the premium sound they desire. According to research commissioned by CSR plc, 82 percent of those surveyed rate excellent sound quality as one of the most important features in home audio systems with 79 percent agreeing that the quality of sound is becoming more important than the appearance of devices.

Along with the desire for CD-​quality sound everywhere, the research highlights a growing shift to streaming music from the internet, and a preference for easy to install systems that can be networked in the home and accessed through multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets.

The quest for quality

The State of Play global snapshot of listener habits, commissioned by CSR plc, surveyed 2,000 music lovers across China, Germany, USA, Japan and the UK, to find out what drives the audio equipment choices of today and what will drive them in the future. Over three quarters of respondents are prepared to research devices before making a purchase, with 70 percent willing to pay more to get excellent sound quality from their audio equipment, particularly in the home. Consumers also have less patience for issues like latency, with 81 percent saying they would be frustrated if the visuals and audio were not synchronized when watching a video.

Music is hugely important to consumers and a way many of us make a personal statement, manage our emotions and deal with the daily grind. The desire for quality sound, particularly in the home is not surprising, but the fact that consumers are seeking more from their existing home audio equipment is,” comments Anthony Murray, Senior Vice President, Business Group at CSR. “While people historically liked to show off the look of their speakers, today they value sound. The fast pace of technology innovation is a key driver for this, because as technology has matured, consumer tolerance for anything less than superior clarity has diminished.”

Greater control, simplicity and interoperability

As well as a shift towards digital, more control over music is a priority with 69 percent of consumers stating that they would listen to more music if they could control music as they move into different rooms. When asked what they would expect from their audio equipment in 10 years’ time, 72 percent of listeners want control over the music playing throughout their home using a mobile device, allowing them to effortlessly change the music they listen to as they move from room to room.

With great confidence in the future of audio, consumers still crave simplicity in setting up and using technology due to varying levels of technical confidence. While four in ten listeners think they are technically adept and up to date with the latest developments, 66 percent feel that technology changes so fast that it is often hard to find an audio product that is built to last. The top five things respondents look for when it comes to buying a home audio system are that it’s easy to use, easy to set up, upgrade and built for the future as well as interoperable between brands and devices.

Consumers have demonstrated that they view their sound systems and equipment as something worth investing in but they increasingly have less patience for poor sound quality, difficult set up procedures, multiple remotes and devices that aren’t interoperable with the equipment they already have. When it comes to the home audio experience, music lovers have high expectations and the opportunity for manufacturers to deliver on this demand is evident,” concludes Murray.

The study also revealed:

  • 77 percent state that they would like to get better audio sound quality at home, with over half (54 percent) of listeners saying it would improve their home audio experience
  • 65 percent think they could tell the difference between a ($471) and a ($47) set of headphones purely by the sound quality
  • It is important for home audio technology to be easy to use (76 percent), set up (69 percent) and upgrade (57 percent), to be future-​proof (69 percent) and device/​brand agnostic (59 percent)
  • 81 percent say that they would be frustrated if the visuals and audio were not synchronized when watching a video
  • 76 percent think that controlling devices at home directly from their smartphone or tablet would make their life easier

In the next year, nearly 8% of adults plan to purchase stereo or home audio equipment. Nearly 2/​3 of these audience members are men, according to AudienceSCAN.  55% of these consumers are under age 35 and they over-​index as being urban residents. These audio enthusiasts also enjoy other forms of technology. In the next year, 30% will purchase high-​speed Internet access for home use and 57% will purchase a high-​definition TV.

Direct mail marketing has prompted 21% of these consumers to start an online search in the past year while radio commercials have driven 20% to do the same, a rate that is 73% higher than average.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.


Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.