September 2021

having a voice assistant built in. It is also evident that more products will feature Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi in the same product.” On the point of voice control, Mr O’Rourke says

he’s not convinced that it’s important for products such as his… “but the ability to request playback from these may be expected from some consumers, so we are keeping a close eye on this,” he notes. Mr O’Rourke is of the view that while connection

Yamaha's MusicCast multi-room audio He adds: “We are excited to see where these

products will lead us, but unfortunately consequences of the pandemic and now component shortages are causing us and everyone we know major delays.” Elsewhere, portability is a key feature of many

speakers nowadays; this is something Harman offers in abundance. Latest gadgets include the sixth edition to the Flip portable series and bigger and bolder JBL PartyBox 710 and 110 editions. Says Jurjen Amsterdam, Senior Product

Marketing Manager Home Audio for Harman EMEA: “We consistently strive to update our products and supply solutions to our consumers’ needs. We have sold over 20 million Charge units globally to date thanks to JBL Original Pro Sound, rugged water and dust proof build and 20 hours of battery life.” Music and content providers such as TIDAL and

Amazon are pushing for more 3D audio formats for immersive sound, and Mr Amsterdam explains that Harman products – like the JBL Live PRO+, Quantum ONE, JBL Tour ONE, and JBL BAR 9.1 Dolby Atmos soundbar – already bring this quality. “It is a continued focus in our new product developments this year,” he adds. Harman has also recently released its brand new

True Wireless earbuds (JBL Reflect Flow PRO, JBL Tune 130 and JBL Tune 230 NC) and a new JBL Quantum 350 gaming headset.

Immersive sound This isn’t the only brand with connected headphones. Indeed, wireless connectivity is at the top of so many users’ wish lists these days. Lucy Gaby, Video and Sound Product

Communications Manager at Sony UK and Ireland, says that consumers will continue to favour headphones which provide a truly immersive experience and can be quickly and easily tailored to suit the user. In June, Sony announced the latest addition to

its award-winning 1000X range – the WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Headphones. There’s Adaptative Sound Control, a smart feature that senses where you are and what you’re doing – for example travelling, walking or waiting for a train – and cleverly adjusts the level of noise cancellation or ambient sound let in depending on the situation.

L-R: LG XBOOMGo 360; Sony XP700; XG500; and XP500 speakers. Two of LG’s latest launches are the TONE Free

UFP8 and UFP9 earbuds – featuring enhanced Active Noise Cancellation, not to mention Headphone Spatial Processing from Meridian Audio, and 3D Sound Stage to expand the sound stage via spatial up-mixing. In addition, the UFP9 model sees the

introduction of Plug & Wireless, which allows users to plug the case into any 3.5mm headphone jack input which can then wirelessly transmit the audio to the earbuds. LG’s Mr Thomas says the future of wireless

headphones and the portable speaker market is an exciting one! “In conjunction with smart technology, wireless

earbuds are taking the market by storm with brands continuing to develop these models to have different smart features. LG’s TONE Free App offers an extensive range of features, from access to an equaliser, Ambient Sound mode, touch control customisation and Find My Earbuds to help locate misplaced earbuds. “The audio sector will develop in relation to

smart technology by offering an even more personalised usage experience and unparalleled ease of use,” Mr Thomas adds. Mr Amsterdam believes that voice functionalities

will continue growing as an essential device control feature. “Products are becoming more ‘work with’, so that they are compatible with voice-enabled speakers,” he says, “rather than

and communication is important, internet speeds in many parts of the world are not as great as the UK and in these countries local sources such as DVD, CD and FM radio are still important. “In some areas, such as Japan and Korea, music

streaming has not taken over to the extent is has here,” he goes on, “and CDs are still popular because customers like the fact they actually own their music!”

Quality, not quantity Smartphone and tablet technology guides listening habits, so product features will follow where the likes of Apple and Android lead. Manufacturers must make it simple for consumers to get the best from their current listening habits. Platforms like Amazon and Spotify increasingly talk about better quality audio, and it’s expected that more consumers will look to improve their home sound systems as well as their headphones. “Many are ready to upgrade from a little

Bluetooth speaker to something more capable, including stereo wireless setups,” comments Simon Powell, Operations Director at Henley Audio. “We were thrilled this year to add HiFi Rose to our brand portfolio. It really ‘gets’ today’s users, with standalone streaming models and others with built-in amplification, they offer superb sound performance, plus touchscreens and HiFi Rose’s bespoke operating app.” So far in the UK and RoI, Henley Audio has

launched the RS201 E, RS 250 and RS150(B) streamers; they all support Bluetooth, DSD, hi-res audio, MQA and Roon. The RS201 E houses its amplification, while the RS250 can output 4K video to a connected TV, and the flagship RS150(B) brings HDMI ARC.

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