IFA 2019 – HARMAN International Industries, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., focused on connected technologies for automotive, consumer, and enterprise markets, has commissioned a new in-depth consumer research study1 on contemporary listening habits and how the future of listening might play out.
What if your headphones could detect your mood and adjust your music choice automatically to meet your mood? Feel like dancing? How about an app that could turn your favorite ballad into a bass-filled EDM track at the touch of a button? More than 8000 people from six countries helped define the latest consumer audio preferences in HARMAN’s compelling new study.
Perhaps better than anyone, HARMAN knows how much music matters. For more than 70 years, HARMAN has continuously sought to meet listeners where they are—in the studio or on the stage, at home or in the car—in order to offer them the highest-quality sound and the most gratifying listening experience possible.
“At HARMAN, we believe that music empowers people to improve their lives—that it enables them to tune in and actively enjoy the magic of the moment no matter where they are. As we look to the future of listening, HARMAN is more committed than ever to harnessing the power of new technologies combined with show-stopping design to deliver consistently immersive listening experiences. Above all, we remain devoted to our highest purpose: helping people get the most out of each and every moment they spend listening,” said Dave Rogers, President, Lifestyle Audio at HARMAN.
Personalized sound has universal appeal
The ability to personalize sound quality preferences is especially appealing. Regardless of context, listeners want to customize their music. Three-quarters of all respondents are interested in having an “all-in-one” solution that can remember and adjust their listening preferences according to the different environments in which they listen to music, thus removing the need to reconfigure their music in each environment.
Additionally, there is high interest in AI applications to personalize music style. 6 in 10 people find the concept of personalizing or manipulating music attractive. For example, the ability to convert a favorite ballad into a dance track on the go.
Video gaming is a bridge to music listening
Video gaming has shown itself to be a means of triggering an appetite for music listening: more than half of respondents who play video games have discovered new music while doing so. In South Korea, over one-third of gamers sampled believe they listen to more music now as a result of playing video games and more than half say that they listen to a wider variety of music due to the exposure to different genres through the gaming platform. Furthermore, amongst video gamers who are planning on buying headphones, almost 1 in 5 are doing so either solely or partially for the purpose of listening to non-game music while playing video games. Gaming has thus spurred an increase in the consumption of music as well the adoption of enhanced quality hardware for better listening.
The right ambiance can boost music enjoyment
Everyone knows that music can improve ambiance. But the opposite is true as well. Almost 7 in 10 listeners find it appealing to have an audio device that can control their physical environment while listening to music in order to create the right ambiance. The ability to have a listening app that can also control lighting or heating settings in the home or car is attractive to 80% of respondents sampled in South Korea. By comparison, only half of their counterparts in Germany are interested in this. The question of ambiance is also relevant when it comes to live music: almost 6 in 10 consumers would enjoy watching more concerts or live music events at home if they could recreate the ambiance.
Personalized listening at concerts and events is largely welcomed by consumers
The concept of wearing headphones or individual devices to enable a customized listening experience (e.g. volume control or sound reproduction adjustment) at live music events is positively received by more than 6 in 10 respondents, overall. South Korea and the US have the highest concentration of supporters for this.
The future of listening is about quality and personalization
Looking ahead, listener preferences are anything but set in stone. Across all six markets, improving sound quality is currently the primary requirement, followed closely by noise-cancellation features and battery life/size. In the future, consumers indicate that 3D/surround sound, voice-user interface, and smart audio devices will become more important, with consumers in most countries showing a growing appetite for these technologies.
Sound quality is key
If there’s one thing nearly all modern listeners agree on, it’s the importance of high-quality sound in the listening experience. If music has proven positive effects on the emotions, these effects can be either heightened or hindered by sound quality. According to survey respondents, good sound quality triggers positive emotions such as a sense of the music coming to life (60%), feeling uplifted (49%) or feeling relaxed (38%), while bad sound quality triggers negative emotions such as dissatisfaction (45%), annoyance (42%), or disappointment (34%). Moreover, survey respondents confirm that the make-it-or-break-it role of sound quality in the enjoyment of music is likely to grow over the coming years.
The right audio equipment + new technologies = better future listening experiences
The latest technological innovations can have a real effect on the listening experience, and users appear to be well aware of this: advanced features such as sound enhancement, noise cancellation, battery life/size, true wireless, and voice control are familiar and appreciated. On the other hand, only one half to two thirds of respondents were aware of immersive sound/3D sound technology. Across the board, people feel that the right audio equipment encompassing some of the above technologies can enhance the listening experience, with a mean average score of 7 out of 10. However, listeners are more receptive to certain technologies than others. Mood detection, which reads the user’s emotions and automatically selects and plays music according to their state of mind, has so far been met with mixed reviews.
Ad hock comments from respondents were clear. The future of listening lies in personalized audio experiences that are immersive, intimate and fine-tuned by the user.
Notes to Editors
1 The Harman Future of Listening Report was conducted by FutureSource Consulting Ltd in August 2019. A total of 8,143 interviews were carried out online in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and South Korea. The breakdown of interviews was as follows: 1,000 in the UK, 1,003 in France, 1,013 in Germany, 972 in the Netherlands, 2,059 in the USA, and 2,093 in South Korea. All questionnaires were localized to the country and conducted in the local language.
HARMAN (harman.com) designs and engineers connected products and solutions for automakers, consumers, and enterprises worldwide, including connected car systems, audio and visual products, enterprise automation solutions; and services supporting the Internet of Things. With leading brands including AKG®, Harman Kardon®, Infinity®, JBL®, Lexicon®, Mark Levinson® and Revel®, HARMAN is admired by audiophiles, musicians and the entertainment venues where they perform around the world. More than 50 million automobiles on the road today are equipped with HARMAN audio and connected car systems. Our software services power billions of mobile devices and systems that are connected, integrated and secure across all platforms, from work and home to car and mobile. HARMAN has a workforce of approximately 30,000 people across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In March 2017, HARMAN became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
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