I’m getting ready to head off to Las Vegas to this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Before I get there, I thought it might be fun to make a few predictions of what I think we will see in 2016. When you’re talking about consumer electronics and the a/v industry, one thing is for certain -- things are always changing!

Streaming Music Takes Center Stage

I like to take a peek at www.riaa.com from time-to-time to check out some music industry statistics. As of today, they have stats up through the first half of 2015. While overall revenue has remained steady from 2014 to 2015, sources are changing dramatically. As I sit here writing this while listening to streaming music on my favorite service, Tidal, I can say for sure that I am part of the change.

Physical media now represents only about 25% of music industry income with downloads and streaming services making up the other 75%. Within this large piece of the pie, downloads have been dropping off while paid streaming services like Tidal, Deezer, and Spotify have shown a huge spike in growth. I predict that once the remaining stats for 2015 are tallied, we will see that this trend is, even more, drastic.

If you haven’t yet immersed yourself in the joy of streaming services, I highly recommend you take a look at them. For $10-$20 per month, you can have 25-30 million songs at your fingertips! With Tidal and Deezer, they stream in CD quality! What’s not to love about that? With the release of the entire Beatles discography just last month, there are no longer any good reasons to hold out! I had a blast over the holidays listening to Beatles songs I hadn’t heard in decades!

As a direct outcome of this increase in streaming subscriptions, I predict that more and more new audio products will come out with direct access to these streaming services baked in. We’re already seeing a lot of this with inexpensive Bluetooth speakers, but now high performance has begun to get into the game. Oppo’s latest software works with Tidal and Naim recently added Tidal and Spotify to their streamers as well.

The Vinyl Renaissance Continues

While we see a clear trend away from physical media, vinyl sales were up 52% in the first half of 2015! I believe we will continue to see vinyl sales surge in 2016. If the increase in streaming services speaks to a demand for a large library that is convenient to access and easy to play, vinyl is the polar opposite. So why the renaissance?

Vinyl is an entirely different experience when compared to streaming. People seem hungry for more genuine experiences. There’s just something special about taking a classic album of your favorite genre from the 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s, placing it on a well-constructed and beautiful turntable attached to a full analog playback system, sitting back, and enjoying the artistry. Older generations are rekindling their love for it, and new generations are discovering the warmth of vinyl. As we move into 2016, I think we will continue to see even more folks set up dedicated systems for playing back and listening to their favorite albums.

4K Moves into Mainstream

Let’s jump over to video for a bit.  I think it's pretty obvious that 4K Blu-ray players will emerge in 2016.  The studios have a host of movies that were filmed in 4K and we’re getting to the point where there is a large enough base of 4K display owners dying for more 4k content to make it worthwhile. For more on this, take a look at our post, “2016 is the Year to Upgrade to 4K.”

Laser Projectors for All

In projectors, I suspect and hope we will see more laser-based light engines.  Sony has a new high-end laser coming in 2016 and Epson already has a couple of models. Far brighter and with almost 20 times the life of lamp-based projectors, laser-based technology has so much to offer.To me, the laser-based technology has so much to offer.  You can now get a huge screen with a laser projector that you can use in a bright room.  Prices are coming down too! You can get an Epson laser projector with a 133” screen for under $9,000.

Dolby Atmos is a Game Changer

When it comes to surround sound, Dolby Atmos will be the new go-to format in 2016. Object-based surround sound is just so much more immersive and gives audio engineers a level of control they’ve never had before. Add a few speakers, upgrade to a receiver that can handle Atmos, and you’re ready to go! If you have not heard Atmos, you owe it to yourself to come have a listen in our showrooms!

Room Correction That Actually Works!

A number of manufacturers came out with room correction technology for their audio products in 2015. In 2016, this trend will continue as bigger players adopt room correction features and the technology improves.

If you’ve ever moved what you thought was a great sounding system into a new room and been disappointed with the way it sounded, you can understand the draw of these features. Of all of the factors that contribute to the way a system sounds, the room itself has the biggest impact. With processing power getting less and less expensive, I am hoping to see more things like Direc making its way into less expensive gear. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) Still Needs Time to Bake

The fastest changing field in the consumer electronics business is the world of home automation.  Lately, it seems like everywhere I turn there is a new Internet of Things (IoT) company. In 2016, we will continue to see this area expand rapidly.

“Internet of Things” is a great new buzzword, but it reminds me a lot of the “.com” of the late 1990's. Over the next year, we will see all kinds of new folks come into the space, trying to capitalize on the perceived gold rush, looking to become the dominant player when it comes to controlling our homes.

My guess is that many of these new companies will eventually flop. Some perhaps more quickly than others. Why is this? Well, let me let you in on a little secret. It’s one of the rules I’ve used for years when judging the future success of a product. Here it is…

Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Many of the products that have come out use if/then conditions to enable them to do all kinds of things. At first, these seemed cool, but when you use them daily, they begin to lose their cool factor and become annoying. I mean, do you really want your door to unlock every time your iPhone gets close to it?

2016 will be the year where a lot of this shakes out. You will see lots of brands both old and new who have virtually zero experience in home control enter the automation market on the IoT bandwagon. I would recommend you let things settle before you decide to piece together a home control system from IoT parts.

The way these products speak to each other reminds me of the early days of HDMI. Back when HDMI first came out, it was very flaky, even controlling some things it wasn’t supposed to. We’ve been deploying IP control as it has emerged in many devices in the past couple of years. IP control is what the entire IoT phenomenon is based on. What we are finding is that IP control for many vendors, even in the automation space where it’s been used for years, is still not 100% reliable.

Security is also an issue in the current state of Internet of Things. Just think about it… Do you really want all of the cameras and door locks in your home controlled by a company that is brand new to the automation space with zero experience in what it means to keep your home totally secure? It sounds like a hacker/thief's dream to me!

2016 is shaping up to be a really exciting year for home technology, audio/video, and consumer electronics. We’ve got some really exciting things going on here at Audio Advice as well and we couldn’t be more excited for the next twelve months. Happy New Year!