Audio technology has advanced leaps and bounds in recent years and that momentum is not expected to change going into 2021.
Experts predict that extensive R&D and the emergence of new technologies will create greater product personalisation as well as more diverse and intense listening experiences for consumers.
Read on to learn more about the audio technology trends that experts predict will be shaping the industry for this year and beyond.
Clearer Brand Differentiation
Most smart speakers are designed with built-in voice assistants which can understand and respond to simple voice commands from users, such as queries about the weather forecast or traffic patterns.
However, you may have noticed that a lot of these voice assistants sound the same- very flat and unmemorable.
Experts predict that in 2021, we will see brands invest further into creating their own unique and easily distinguishable voice profiles.
The purpose of this is to improve engagement with customers and make their brands more memorable across different platforms, improving customer loyalty and driving future sales.
For example, we might begin to see voice assistants with pre-loaded voice profiles that reflect regional accents or language patterns being sold in different areas.
We can expect the more established brands to use complex technologies to create a sophisticated blend of realistic human voice profiles supported by advanced AI resources and eventually utilising deep learning to improve understanding and responsiveness to human, language-based, conversational cues.
Advanced artificial intelligence tools and projects such as Open AI’s Jukebox are being used to create original music. Jukebox specifically produces music that resembles famous bands and recording artists.
This technology is still in its relative infancy and does not at all match up to the quality of human-produced music so it does not yet have a place in the commercial music industry but in the not-so-distant future, we may see it used to generate audio for advertising or branding purposes.
This could be a key trend to watch for professionals working in corporate branding as it may be useful in the future for creating unique and easily recognisable brand sounds that appeal to customers in the specific ways they are designed to.
Home Audio Trends
Growing Innovation to Remain Competitive
One of the most in-demand home audio products being purchased today is wireless speakers, creating fierce competition between established and emerging audio brands alike.
According to Mordor Intelligence, the market as a whole veers closer to the fragmented side of the scale, with no clear dominant player currently emerging from this highly competitive market.
Rising consumer demand paired with the competitive nature of the industry means manufacturers are being pushed further and further to create more advanced products for their customers.
For example, Harman recently launched its first eco-friendly portable Bluetooth speaker which is made from 90% recycled plastic and is packaged in eco-friendly packaging with a biodegradable protective case.
On the more technical side of things, Sony’s new SRS-XB wireless speaker range measures 25% less distortion and 30% increased sound pressure when compared to its predecessor, the XB32.
This improvement is achieved with non-circular and off-centre speaker diaphragms.
With the wireless speaker unit shipments estimated to reach 500 million by 2026, there’s no doubt that huge technological innovations are to come from this sector.
Car Audio Trends
Designed Audio UX
As car technology becomes more powerful, the level of sound created by their operation increases. So, vehicle manufacturers have been working for years to reduce the noise pollution created by modern cars, however, with some cars the drivers experience will never be as appealing without that rich engine roar.
Take premium sports cars, for example, they just don’t give off the same appeal if they’re almost silent. For this reason, car manufacturers have been designing and curating artificial sounds that add to the car’s unique UX, giving a more authentic feel to driving.
Improved In-Car Audio Systems
Radio systems, music apps and media device connectivity technologies are becoming more advanced than ever and because of this, buyers are placing a higher value on the quality of the audio system when selecting a new car.
For this reason, we can expect car manufacturers to continue pouring research and development funds into making the in-car audio system experience as smooth, seamless and immersive as possible.
One of the newer advancements in this area is the development of radios that can access tri-platform hybrid radio apps, allowing drivers to select a radio station from the strongest signal available – starting with DAB+, followed by FM and then streaming, automatically switching between signals if the car moves out of coverage range.
This is an improvement to the customer experience as drivers can keep listening to the songs, audiobooks and podcasts they want, without annoying signal disruptions.
Audio App Trends
Two of the main audio streaming apps dominating the sector in the U.K at the moment are Apple Music and Spotify, experts predict that the two will develop many new features in the future as the two giants battle for market share.
New Services for Changing Consumer Streaming Patterns
Since March last year, the types of audio content we stream and the way we stream it has changed drastically.
If you’re a Spotify user you probably learned from Spotify Wrapped at the end of last year that you’re listening to a lot more content in general, especially podcasts, compared to previous years.
From this, we can expect streaming services to invest more in producing engaging content in a variety of formats for their users to capitalise on this increased streaming trend. An example of this is Spotify’s recently launched free audiobook feature – where premium subscribers can access free audiobooks such as Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, read by well-known celebrity voices.
Interactive Streaming Ads
With many of us using smart speakers and mobile devices as our primary way to stream audio content, technology is being developed that will allow listeners to more easily take action after listening to an advertisement on their selected streaming service.
For example, listeners could give commands to their smart speaker assistant asking it to load the website where a product being advertised can be purchased from on their phone or commanding the assistant to donate a set amount of money to a charity that was just promoted in an ad the user listened to.
Experts predict the rise of these technologies, giving advertisers an easier way to measure engagement.
Headphone Industry Trends
Revenue in the headphones sector is expected to reach £470m in 2021 and manufacturers are expected to continue building innovative new devices over the coming years to increase this number drastically.
The emergence of smartphones without traditional headphone jacks was the initial driver behind the growth in the wireless earphones market. Since then, the way consumers opt to listen to music has reflected this.
Truly wireless earphones are a much more stylish and portable option than the traditional wired alternative, making them more appealing to younger consumers, athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
Previously, earphones were the preferred choice due to their smaller size and portability. However, in recent years, on-ear and over-ear headphones have seen a rise in popularity due to new technologies such as active noise cancelling and the generally improved sound quality – which appeals greatly to audiophiles and music fanatics.
Active noise cancellation (reducing audio interruptions from outside sources) and near field communication (ability to pair wireless headphones to audio or mobile device just by tapping the two together) are two audio technology trends that are receiving massive attention.
As such, we’ve seen an increase in development funding so that earphone manufacturers can offer an improved user experience. These advancements, amongst others, are expected to lead to further market growth.
Battery life for wireless earphones and headphones will improve as research within the field develops. Manufacturers will be reluctant to sacrifice appealing price points, size and portability for improved battery performance as one of these are some of the main draws to these products.
However, in time, battery life that allows for long hours of listening will be commonplace within the market. There is even the possibility that headphone manufacturers will introduce solar-powered batteries as the world approaches new levels of eco-consciousness
Consumers are constantly demanding better sound quality in their headphone selection, which is great news for premium audio brands such as Bowers & Wilkins.
Generally, the quality of the music we stream nowadays is of a quality previously unforeseen (especially in comparison to CDs), leading to manufacturers striving to produce headphones that match this standard – leading audio brands are pushing the boundaries to bring the music studio audio experience to the everyday listener.
This focus is expected to drive huge innovations in headphone sound quality amongst other players in the market.
Headphones and earphones remain popular amongst sportspeople and fitness enthusiasts so the need for these products to be sweat, dust and rain resistant is a growing essential need for many.
For this reason, some manufacturers are creating their headphone ranges per IPX (ingress protection) ratings. An IPX1 rated device can withstand water droplets for up to 10 minutes, whilst an IPX9 rated set of headphones is protected against high-pressure water spray.
Over time, we can expect a majority of earphones and headphones to be designed as sweatproof, dustproof and waterproof.
Active Noise Cancellation
ANC is an area that has seen a huge growth in the last few years with high-speed internet connectivity and the rise of connected devices facilitating this trend.
This technology is great for improving the user experience from a consumer perspective but also has applications for commercial settings such as call centres.
Call centre operators with headsets that use ANC technology can benefit from improved call clarity and ease of communication.
As research continues and the technology becomes more accessible for smaller manufacturers, we can expect ANC to be a feature present in most headphones and earphones.
Are you interested in creating a high-quality audio app or software?
Coderus has years of experience creating custom, superior quality solutions for several leading audio brands. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you with your next project.