We don’t usually cover company business news unless it seems like a pretty big deal (such as Panasonic’s decision to end plasma TV production), but this news from wireless speaker manufacturer Sonos seems like a big deal in part for what it says about the overall growth of the wireless audio market.
What’s the deal? Good news for Sonos. Yesterday the company announced that in 2013 its revenue was over half a billion dollars—$535 million. Sure, that’s a lot of money, but the company’s been around for a while, right? Sonos was founded in 2002 and has been steadily growing, but recent growth has been off the chart. 2013 revenue represents a 97 percent growth over 2012. Sonos says that’s 10X growth since 2008.
What happened in 2013? For starters, the company launched two important new products. The first was the PLAYBAR, a soundbar that integrates with an HDTV but also pulls in the whole Sonos family of streaming music features. That product, while pricy, combined two popular trends in one. (Read our review here.)
The next big thing in 2013 was the introduction of the Sonos PLAY:1 wireless speaker. This $199 product cut the price of entry for Sonos buyers in half and helped raise awareness of the Sonos brand in a big way. (Read our PLAY:1 review here.)
Awareness is likely another key issue here. Sonos has been around for more than 10 years, but the company’s profile has been much more in the spotlight in the last three or four years. The system’s ease of use has definitely been one of the reasons, but the increased use of smart phones combined with the rise in streaming audio sites such as Pandora and Spotify created a perfect storm for a company already entrenched in app-driven wireless music distribution.
Though largely a do-it-yourself whole-house audio system, Sonos has a very strong, though sometimes controversial, following among professional installers. Customers of high-end home automation systems often request Sonos as their music distribution product. Most of the major home automation systems now have drivers for operating Sonos.
The company’s 2014 Super Bowl commercial put the brand name in front of millions of people who may have never heard of Sonos before.
Sonos has lifted the bar for the wireless audio category, but it now has a number of competitors aiming for the same buyer. Bose, BlueSound, Nuvo, Samsung, LG and others either have or are in the process of launching similar products. Does a rising tide float all boats, or will Sonos continue to be the leader in the category it was fundamental in creating?
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.