Soundbar shipments double globally, but European take-up is slow

15 May 2012

Soundbar speakers are gaining worldwide popularity but consumers and retailers in Europe are slow on the uptake, according to a new CE report from Futuresource Consulting.

Worldwide shipment of soundbars (wide speaker units containing two or more speakers that can easily be mounted to a wall) doubled between 2010 and 2011, reaching nearly 2.5m units.

The report from Futuresource forecasts that growth will continue through to 2016 as more and more consumers want an improved sound system but not the high cost of a home-theatre system.

As flat-panel TVs get thinner and thinner, sound quality is often compromised in aid of slimmer and sleeker design. Soundbars are targeted at consumers who want good sound quality that will require little investment and also less effort to install with one unit and, therefore, fewer wires to contend with.

A missed opportunity for European retailers?

That said, Europe accounts for only 20pc of this global shipment figure, with the US taking the lead, accounting for more than two-thirds of the market, and expected to continue to do so through to 2016.

The difference in distribution could be down to a comparative lack of space in European homes, or the lack of retail-driven marketing in Europe. In the US, vendors and retailers alike have been enthusiastic in the promotion of soundbars to consumers and premium brands have benefited from bundling TV sets and soundbars, often at a discounted price.

It seems Futuresource is not optimistic that European retailers will catch on to this marketing opportunity in the period considered as penetration is expected to reach just 2pc of global households by 2016.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.