Parks: Headphones, Earphones See Sales Spike With Work-at-Home, Home Schooling and Entertainment

With more states advising shelter-in-place guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic, new data from Parks Associates finds that 44% of U.S. broadband households own speakers, 37% own headphones bought separately from a phone or music player, and 33% own a separate set of earbuds.

While purchase intentions were flat prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, due in large part to the emergence of smart speakers, demand for headphones and earbuds is projected to see a spike with work-at-home and entertainment-in-place now the standard for many households.

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“Everyone in the household now needs their own headphones and earbuds for privacy during this time of shelter-in-place orders and work-at-home mandates,” research director Steve Nason said in a statement.

Nason contends people buying head/earphones are doing so expecting to integrate these standalone products with their smart speakers and other connected devices in the home. This trend was already underway with the gradual dissolution of the “home theater system” concept, according to Nason, with households now featuring a collection of varied audio products.

“Brands and devices that must work together to deliver a seamless user experience,” he said.

Soundbars are now a prominent standalone product category in the audio device landscape, with adoption at nearly 25% of domestic broadband households, according to Dallas-based Parks. It is the most likely audio device to be connected to the TV, so soundbars have not been as impacted by smart speakers and displays as other audio products. However, growth has remained flat. Adoption of more niche audio devices such as internet-connected audio visual receivers and multiroom music systems has remained low.

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“Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the traditional audio device category was at a crossroads,” Nason said. “Adoption and usage of devices such as wired/wireless speakers without voice assistants, audio/visual receivers, home theater systems, and multiroom music systems had waned.”

He said that while consumers are now buying electronics to accommodate work-at-home and home schooling needs, manufacturers need to maintain their emphasis on innovation, particularly the integration with voice assistants, so that their devices can have value beyond the initial stop-gap usage.

Parks notes device manufacturers and voice assistant providers alike have to better market and communicate the value that integrated voice control brings to audio devices.

“Increased integration of audio devices and use of high-resolution and 3D audio with the most-used CE video device, smart TVs, will also raise the profile of the audio category,” Nason said.

Roku Adds Surround-Sound to Branded Speakers

Roku Jan. 29 announced a software update that will enable surround sound expansion of its branded soundbars, making it easy for consumers to use Roku TV Wireless Speakers.

Walmart will also be expanding its “onn.” Roku surround system with the addition of Roku wireless surround speakers, expected on Walmart shelves and Walmart.com in February.

“We want to simplify home theater the same way we simplified streaming and we’re taking a big step towards that by expanding our Roku Smart Soundbars to support surround sound capabilities,” Mark Ely, VP of retail product strategy at Roku, said in a statement. “We want customers to be able to expand their system over time without having to spend a lot of money or run wires throughout the home.”

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Roku’s soundbar is marketed as a cost-effective two-in-one device that enhances sound and streaming video to a TV.

“Customers are responding well to our onn. brand,” said Ryan Peterson, VP of consumer electronics for Walmart. “Roku is known for their quality and affordability as well, and we’re looking forward to offering our customers a premium surround sound experience.”

The Roku Smart Soundbar claims premium sound quality with crisp dialogue and dynamic bass, easy-to-use 4K and HDR Roku streaming player built in, simple set up and a remote with TV power and volume buttons.

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Roku wireless surround speakers can be placed behind the sofa or in the back of a room to provide immersive multi-directional sound. In addition, stereo content will sound better when adding rear speakers.

Roku soundbars support Dolby Audio, which delivers enhanced surround sound experience when streaming content from compatible platforms such as Netflix, the Apple TV app and Disney+, among others.

Roku Surround Sound capability will be available as a Roku OS software update for all Roku Smart Soundbars and will begin rolling out to devices in February.

The onn Roku Wireless Surround Speakers will be available for $149 in Walmart stores and online at Walmart.com mid-February to pair to the onn Roku Smart Soundbar and onn Roku Wireless Subwoofer.