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Thursday, September 18, 2014


Original Story: USAToday.com

As consumers stream more music, device makers have tuned in with new ways to stream tunes at home.

Spending on streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora surged to $1.4 billion in 2013, up 39%, the Recording Industry of America says. Digital download sales remained stable at about $2.8 billion, the largest spending category.

As consumers embrace digital sound, they are looking for ways to fill their homes with it. Sales of Bluetooth-enabled speakers rose 46% to $385 million, the Consumer Electronics Association says. Rising even more: sales of multiroom audio and video components, which nearly doubled in 2013, to $586 million. Stream music throughout your home with the help of a Fenton home theater company.

Interest in streaming music will likely drive healthy increases in both categories this year, says Steve Koenig, CEA's director of industry analysis. "These streaming services and streaming your own music is the big thing right now," he says. "It's liberating because you don't need to dock anything. It's all wirelessly transmitted."

With interest in digital music turned up, companies such as Beats Electronics have expanded their speaker repertoire.

Launched late in 2013, the 13.3-inch Beats Pill XL ($300) is a larger version of the Pill portable Bluetooth speaker ($200), brought to market in 2012. This helps Beats keep pace with competitor Jawbone, which most recently has added the slimmer pocket-fitting Mini Jambox ($150) to its lineup. Both speaker lines connect wirelessly to Bluetooth-enabled smartphones and tablets and have input jacks. Enjoy wireless music with a Bloomfield Hills home theater system.

Samsung has incorporated Wi-Fi and streaming video apps into its smart TVs for several years. It recently debuted its first wireless speaker, the Shape M7 ($350). The wedge-shaped M7 has five individual speakers built-in — two tweeters, two midrange drivers and a woofer — along with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and near-field communications (NFC) compatibility.

The speaker can be used individually, in pairs for enhanced stereo sound and used to create a surround sound system. You can connect via Bluetooth to play stored music or a streaming service from a smartphone or tablet stream stored.

A Samsung Shape Wireless Audio Hub ($50) connects to your home Wi-Fi network and lets you add more speakers into other rooms — all connected and controlled with a free Samsung Multiroom App on your Samsung Galaxy or Note device. And networked speakers can deliver better-sounding music than that of Bluetooth-connected devices.

"It's phenomenal from a consumer standpoint because it's all about building blocks. I can choose to buy one of these speakers now, and then later on when I want to expand from my living room to bedroom sound, I can buy another speaker," says Dave Das, vice president of home entertainment marketing at Samsung. "All of it connects seamlessly and wirelessly, so it's really easy and clutter-free."

Even more focused on multiroom audio is custom electronics company NuVo Technologies. After providing hardwired multiroom audio systems for more than 20 years, NuVo began offering wireless systems in 2012.

Its research and development paralleled the advent of Apple's iPod and arrival of streaming services such as Pandora. "The rise of the Internet of Things has led us, as a consumer buying group in the U.S., to also have the idea that you can have anything and it should be able to be wireless," says Desiree Webster, NuVo's marketing communications manager.

This system is ideal if you have a pair or two of stereo speakers sitting around the home collecting dust. NuVo's system can be easily set up with a $199 Gateway that connects to your wireless router and a Player (either the P100, priced at $479, or Bluetooth-supporting P200 at $599, available at www.smarthome.com or www.partsexpress.com; find a local dealer on the company website).

You connect a pair of speakers to a player in whatever room or rooms you want music in. NuVo's Android and iOS apps for phones and tablets walk you through the setup.

Once you are operational, the system will find and play music on any devices connected to your home network — computers, phones, tablets and hard drives — as well as USB drives plugged into the NuVo players. And you can stream audio from Net radio services, too. NuVo players also support playback of high-resolution tracks, including FLAC files, maintaining the CD-like quality.

"You can do up to 16 zones, and it can be in combination of any of the players we offer," Webster says. The room that most people want to add music to is the kitchen, she says. Next, they want music in the living room, the master bedroom-bathroom and on the patio.

"This isn't a one-to-one music relationship where you have one song somewhere and just send it to this one set of speakers. This is a whole-house system that accesses your music anywhere you have it, and you can control it and play it anywhere in your home. Even outside for that matter."

Market leader Sonos continues to add to wireless music system options. Its most recent speaker, the Play1 ($199) is smaller and works as an individual speaker or in pairs as stereo or surround speakers.

Sonos saw its wireless speaker sales nearly double in 2013 to $535 million, says senior public relations manager Eric Nielsen. "Streaming is finally going mainstream," he says.

At market tracking firm The NPD Group, analyst Ben Arnold expects the nearly $1 billion streaming speaker market to continue to grow, though consumers are just starting to become educated on the subject. "I think this is where home music listening is going," he says.