The digital music revolution has very nearly delivered that long-coveted
celestial jukebox, with all the music you would ever want at your fingertips.
The problem is, it could be trapped in your computer or smartphone.
For many of us, ever-expanding digital music collections are ensnared in our devices -- liberated only by headphones, small speaker docks and portable speakers such as the Jambox.
Those work fine for many situations, but they can't fill an entire house with sound. Thankfully, there's a growing selection of wireless audio systems that get music from room to room. "There is a need in the home for distributed music," says Oliver Bergmann of Olive, maker of home music servers that connect like stereo components. The company has taken to crowd-funding site Indiegogo for consumer support of a new customizable home music hub called the Olive One. "We are fighting for that and better music in the home," Bergmann says.
Those are causes that should resonate with music devotees. For many older listeners, the decline of vinyl and compact discs resulted in cherished home sound systems getting dusty while iPods and other music players stole the attention. Other younger, more mobile music consumers have settled down in apartments or homes and found their small speakers not worthy of being cranked up to 11.
Consumer interest in higher-tech home music systems is on the rise, as are innovations in wireless technology and higher-resolution digital music files. "There's a convergence of technology that makes this a specific category that will definitely accelerate," says Tom Kerber, director of research, home controls and energy at Parks Associates.
Digital music sales surpassed physical sales of CDs in 2011. At the same time, sales of home audio components are expected to rise slightly, from about $1.3 billion in 2011 to $1.5 billion in 2015, the Consumer Electronics Association estimates.
Among the hot products are wireless speakers, which rose 175% from 2011 to 2012, amounting to sales of about $383 million, according to The NPD Group. "Mobile is really fueling a lot of that growth," says NPD analyst Ben Arnold. The need to spread the reach of digital music libraries to multiple rooms in the home "is something that is still building."
The old-fashioned way to get music circulating at home -- installation -- is still popular. About 27% of residential remodeling projects included a multiroom audio system, according to a recent Consumer Electronics Association builders survey. In most cases, however, "You can't ask people to run wires through their walls. Maybe on a rare occasion once in their life they are building a house or remodeling one," says John MacFarlane, CEO of Sonos, which makes wireless music systems that can be expanded throughout the house.
Sales are on the rise for the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company, founded in 2002. More than 2 million rooms have been outfitted with a Sonos system. It took Sonos five years to sell its first million players, but it has sold more than a million in 2012 and the first part of 2013.
The home music digital dilemma should have been easy to foresee. "If you took a step back, there were more people listening to music than ever before," MacFarlane says. But digital music and home playback "were not connected in the
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