A new survey indicates that the majority of Americans listen to music through computer speakers, more than any other available playback technology. The study indicates that convenience is the key factor in choice of a music listening source, and that most listeners are not interested in high quality audio.
These results appear to be confirmed by the fact that following headphones and standalone radios, TV speakers are fourth on the list, with 29 percent of music fans listening to music again via a secondary listening technology contained in a device with a different primary function. Technologies specifically designed for music playback had much smaller usage amounts, with home theater systems, TV soundbars and component system loudspeakers each only garnering between 10 to 12 percent in the survey. The report states, "Including radios, only four of the 10 most popular are dedicated music playback devices — connected loudspeakers (12 percent), wireless speakers (11 percent) and speaker docking stations (10 percent)."
The study indicates that most consumers are not interested in high quality audio and are more concerned with convenient methods of playback. The ramifications of this for the music industry are interesting, because, as the music streaming wars escalate, several of the players in the field have been attempting to differentiate themselves by offering high resolution quality playback.
Tidal was the first service to trumpet high quality streaming, offering what it promises is CD quality playback for all songs on its higher tier package, which costs $20 as opposed to the lower quality streams provided by Tidal as well as its competitors, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora and others. The service upped the ante recently by announcing it will now provide proprietary MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) files that improve on the CD-level quality it already offers.
Apple is also rumored to be entering the high-res streaming game via the Lightning port of the iPhone 7. The output will allow a 96 kHz, 24-bit sampling rate, and as we recently reported, it looks as if Apple may be planning on ditching its typical 3.5 mm headphone jack in the next incarnation of its flagship smartphones.
The question raised by the study is whether mass-market music consumers even care about these audio quality upgrades. Audiophiles will certainly be pleased, but they comprise just a small fragment of the music listening audience, most of whom, it appears from the survey, value convenience over quality.