12V Shrugs on Hi-Res Audio

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Sony RSX-GS9

Want a demo of Hi-Res Audio at a local car audio dealer?  It may be hard to find. Car audio dealers have been slow to embrace Hi-Res Audio, but don’t count the new audiophile segment out yet.

In the home audio market, Hi-Res Audio is expected to see sales of $8 million wholesale each year for the next few years, according to the Consumer Technology Association.

But the car audio market is seeing mixed acceptance.

Sony, which makes the RSX-GS9 ($1,500) Hi-Res Audio deck says sales have picked up in the past two months as consumer awareness is growing and as music is more readily available in Hi-Res Audio formats.

And most of the contestants in the car audio competition finals this fall were using Hi-Res Audio (HRA) equipment, said industry observers.

But many retailers, including leading chains say they just don’t see demand yet for HRA, which provides better than CD quality audio.

The president of a leading car audio chain, when asked how Hi-Res Audio was selling, did not know what it was.  Another retail executive of a major chain said he is not aware of consumers asking for it,

Freeman’s Car Stereo, NC said its seeing low demand for HRA.

“It’s not even in the top ten requests” from consumers said Ken Wiseman of Phoenix Gold, which showed a Hi-Res Audio DSP with WiFi streaming at CES last year.

In fact both Phoenix Gold and Dual Electronics withdrew their plans to release Hi-Res Audio devices that were shown at last year’s CES. Phoenix Gold did so to rework the product, but Dual did so to wait for higher demand for HRA.

It’s DWF916L–a head unit with Hi-Res Audio WiFi streaming that won an Innovation Award, was due for release in 2016 but has been delayed until spring to give the market time to catch up.

“We had it cued up and ready to build, and yes, we decided not to manufacture it last year after we showed it at CES and looked around at the rest of the market and talking to dealers….” said Dual CEO Jim Braun, noting “demand was not where it needs to be.”

He expects the format to grow, but said,  “It’s very early in the lifecycle of these products…Dual is ready to go as soon as we see the demand start to build.”

He hopes to deliver the DWF916L along with HRA ready amplifiers and speakers this spring under the Jensen brand.



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  1. That’s pretty funny Ray, and I agree. It is our job to create the demand, and maybe this can help to bring back some of the excitement and passion to our industry. If you can give someone an impressive sounding demo, and show them something different from everyone else in town, maybe they will become your customer for life. We have a few of those customers.

    We demonstrate Hi Res audio in our store a few times per week. The Kenwood Excelon DDX9903S does a good job of playing 24bit Flac and Wav files. To help with the price objection, Pro Studio Masters frequently emails discount codes once you have purchased from them. I have found that some albums are impressive and some are just ok. I highly recommend checking out the album Surfer Girl by the Beach Boys (yes I’m being serious), and Diana Krall Wallflower. Both of these albums are quite impressive in 24bit.

  2. I’ll respectfully add, if companies like Kenwood would offer the same level of high-resolution or generally nicer products in the US that they do in other countries, they might see better sales. That may sound snarky but DDX716WBT and DDX916WS for two examples. Why US consumers are reading about a traditionally bargain brand, while these types of products by mainstream brands are readily available overseas, but not here. Then we wonder what’s wrong with car audio in the states.. When the enthusiasts are contacting dealers in Singapore for “the good stuff”.

  3. We’d probably do well to encourage the manufacturers and commend their efforts in bringing products to market, and not mistakenly present a perception they’ve failed. This is the first time in the US market Sony has delivered serious high-end car audio in well over a decade. Sony gets a big “Bravo!” from me. As does Clarion for the NX706, though it’s a shame the aftermarket ‘market’ isn’t where Clarion wants to be. I believe education of the customers has always been the challenge in car audio. We shouldn’t shrug off the development of products presented and risks taken just yet. Hi-rez is getting more buzz talk daily. For me it took actual listening in a good “SQ” car with high resolution music to hear the benefit. That’s where we fail in car audio.. It’s hard to beat the good old school demo.

  4. Pricing needs to come down. I’ll show every customer that walks in how cool HRA is, but when the top of the line Alpine sells for $299 and the Kenwood Flagship sells for $249, it’s a HUGE jump to the $1499 Sony HRA stereo.

    Customers will buy my premium product recommendation but at a reasonable cost. If we can get a $399-$499 single din HRA headunit I’m sure they’ll start flying off shelves.

  5. This is a great conversation. Our aftermarket industry at large has been challenged by disruptive changes in technology and consumer behavior. Commerce and revenue is built on staying relevant to the changes in consumer behavior AND passionatly driving those key value factors behind the changes. Almost every friend that I have demonstrated HRA to in my home theater system has asked me “is it available for the car?” The demand is nacent because no one knows that they can have a better experience with their music. My iTunes is full of AIFF music because I have learned to appreciate SQ again. As a veteran of this industry I encourage you who nasay to get your passion on and demo HRA to your customers. And while you at it, demo the vehicle safety category like FCW, LDW, ADAS, 360° SVM to your customers. We didn’t build the aftermarket automotive A/V and sound system business by waiting for customers!

  6. Being forced to purchase their entire music collection over again (or, what is available in Hi-Res format anyhow) is a giant stumbling block to this technology. I think it will never grow beyond a tiny niche market in the car. But I’m glad some companies are stepping up and providing for the niche.

    1. This is just like with Blue-ray movies. People already owned the movies on DVD, now to get the full benefit of the experience they have to purchase the same movie again. What needs to happen is for the music and movie industry to allow for a discounted upgrade purchase. If I already own the cd then why should I have to purchase the better version of it again? Doesn’t this mean you sold me a downgraded version already? If I already own the DVD why do I have to pay for it again so I can watch it on my iPad? Keep it simple and don’t make consumers feel like their being ripped off. I’ve already heard this complaint in my store. Also, consider the amount of noise in a vehicle as it drives down the road at 60 mph. The average consumer isn’t going to notice the difference between a 320 bit mp3 and a HRA track.

  7. Personally I believe HRA has a place but the majority of consumers just want things that are going to work and not be complicated. Car Play and Android Auto have had WAY more impact on consumers than most tech that has come out recently and I would venture to say that those same consumers aren’t even coming in asking for it. We are SHOWING it to them. It is a true demonstrable technology with value. HRA only has value to a small percentage of the population especially when you consider how many people are fine with listening to streaming music services anyway.

  8. Andy,

    Great observation. One assumes (assuming is a dangerous policy) that the “Better than CD” claim is demonstrable and represents enough of a difference like cassette sound quality to CD sound quality for the consumer to appreciate. Then one also assumes that the suppliers and the specialty retailers will embrace it and SELL it.

  9. [email protected]’s response. Maybe that was because all of those other things in his list for which consumers didn’t know to ask actually provided demonstrable benefits and the industry demonstrated those benefits.

  10. This should be offered as another option(upsell). Shouldn’t someone be teaching the presidents of leading car audio chains and end user how to create better sound quality?? Hmmm…. Why are we not doing this? How can you wait for the end user to “ASK” for an HRA unit if “WE” don’t educate everyone that walks into the shop?

  11. Rather revealing wouldn’t you say…

    If consumers are not asking for it, what business do specialty retailers have teaching them about it. I recall when consumers started asking for security systems with a keyless entry feature, and when consumers asked for CD players instead of cassette tape players, and when consumers asked for cellular mobile phones instead of the terrestrial antenna phones of olden times, and when consumers asked for remote starters with by-pass modules and when consumers started asking for amp kits so you could install their amplifiers and speaking of amplifiers I remember when consumers started asking for amplifiers and crossovers and processors and ported subwoofer boxes…

    I just don’t remember who taught consumers to ask for these kinds of things…

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