To look to the future of speakers, we start with the future of consumers—particularly how their consumption of audio is changing. At Core Brands we see a resurgence of interest in home theater audio, stimulated by new 3D Audio formats like Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D. These new systems don’t just create the opportunity for consumers to incorporate additional speakers into their theaters for a more dynamic listening experience; their in-ceiling speakers are also “aimed” for enhanced audio realism.
A home’s ceiling architecture is not always designed with speaker placement in mind, and retrofit installations in particular will require “aim-able” speakers more than ever. We’ve been focused on this type of speaker for decades, and this year we have been designing our products specifically toward this continued evolution. Speakers designed specifically for the surround, such as side/rear channel effects, will also escalate in use.
We see increased growth in the in-ceiling and in-wall categories of speakers, and the trend toward “heard but not seen” will continue with flangeless designs to help speakers blend into the surrounding architecture. Invisible and seamless designs will become more commonly used by homeowners who absolutely want the speakers to disappear into the wall.
Subwoofers play a prominent role in home theaters and many homeowners are asking for bigger, highly dynamic sound in smaller spaces. These spaces require subwoofers that can deliver big sound in a more compact enclosure. Again, we’re actively designing—in this case, our new XTEQ line.
Of course, having music everywhere and anytime is an ongoing trend. For the ultimate outdoor on-the-go sound, wireless speakers offer the solution, although few deliver great quality simultaneously to multiple speakers. Indoors, there are many more options, both wireless and wired. We see a huge opportunity in bridging the two categories. Consumers are streaming more media from mobile devices and, generally, these devices are what “moves around the house” while the speakers remain in static locations. So, at Core Brands we’re focused on solutions that allow for multiple streaming sources driving through a multiroom audio controller to traditional wired architectural speakers.
Consumers also want their speakers to handle multiple roles, particularly music and home theater. This is the puck we’re skating toward with our Auriel system. The mix of on-the-go (music) and immersive (home theater) audio creates challenges, more so for the systems delivering the sound than for the speakers themselves; however, the speakers do have to be up to the task.
For years, home systems integrators, designers, architects, and discerning homeowners have struggled with a common dilemma that can arise with traditional midsized speakers. While being great providers of audio, 6- and 8-inch speakers can be a visual disturbance in a cleanly designed lighting plan or custom wall finish. As manufacturers have reduced the size of recessed luminaires to a mere 3 to 4 inches, speaker manufacturers have an opportunity to rethink and design components to take up less space, as well. Advances in speaker driver design have made powerful two-way speakers fit within the same footprint of 4-inch LED or halogen luminaires, without sacrificing tonal quality. Deep, rich bass can be added too, by utilizing band-pass technology and porting the sound through the same 4-inch opening, rather than a 10-, 8-, or 6- inch opening. Additionally, as lighting and air vents have evolved to incorporate very thin or even flush trims, speakers have progressed to further blend in with the surrounding decor. Finally, for the ultimate expression in aesthetics, voice coil technology has been greatly improved in the world of invisible speakers. Fully concealed within walls or ceilings for a totally invisible result, these speakers provide the widest dispersion range while delivering crystal clear treble, natural midrange, and deep smooth bass response. The combination of flush, luminaire-size, and invisible speakers has provided the home listening market with discreet distributed systems that deliver amazing sonic performance with minimal or no visual intrusion.
While the advancements in aesthetics have made less intrusive speakers, they have also added the benefit of more flexibility when it comes to positioning and coverage around the home. The size of speakers will typically limit their location and quantity in a given room. This often results in uneven sound coverage in a room. Smaller, visually discreet systems allow for more accurate alignment and spacing with downlights and other ceiling fixtures while delivering even audio coverage and superior tonality throughout a space.
These new speaker designs are impacting our outdoor listening, too. Small, attractive weatherproof speakers can be arranged to fully immerse any size backyard with amazing sound. And because the speakers are directional, audio can be contained within a predetermined area rather than spilling into surrounding properties like a neighbor’s backyard.
Today more and more consumers are looking for a harmonious blend of technology and design to complement their homes’ decor. The ideology of speakers being heard and not seen, and that sound should appear to emanate from everywhere, is changing how manufacturers develop and refine speaker technologies while providing homeowners with exciting new ways to incorporate speakers into their listening environments.