Turntable sales dip in 2017 as 4K TV and smart audio triumph

The latest market research report by industry stat specialist Gfk paints a generally positive picture of the hi-fi and home cinema consumer markets - and perhaps most interesting is the state of play of turntable sales.

While consumption of vinyl (and of streaming) is continuing to grow ­– in contrast to the decreasing popularity of CDs and downloads – the tables may have finally turned on record player sales. They were down almost 5% in 2017 from 2016's figure. Has the vinyl revival reached its peak? Or is everyone who's into the whole LP thing simply decked out already?

Elsewhere, and probably not all that surprising in the on-demand-dominated video world in which we live, the volume of Blu-ray player sales dropped 33% from 2016. Sadly, radios aren’t enjoying a renaissance either sales are down 16%.

It seems home theatre systems are struggling too, with Gfk finding (based on market turnover) 95% of the home cinema market taken up by soundbars. Only 5% of home cinema sales are for home theatre systems – a quite remarkable U-turn when you consider it was the other way around in 2009.

Naturally, where there are downs, there are ups - it’s no bombshell to learn 4K TVs and connected smart devices are on the steepest upward trajectory. To date, cumulative sales of smart speakers (those with voice assistants) are approaching 1.5 million sales – and that doesn’t include Amazon’s and Google’s own sales.

The headphones market is also looking rosy, with its value up over 25% - which we’d put down, in part, to the popularity, price and performance of true wireless buds.

But it isn’t all out with the old, in with the new. Despite the steady downward slide of the compact disc format, CD player sales and value increased slightly – as did that of loudspeakers. The Gfk report's ‘tuners/amplifiers/receivers’ category held more-or-less steady, too.

in 2012, home theatre products, traditional hi-fi separates and loudspeakers accounted for 50% of overall market share when combined. In 2017 they amounted to less than 30%, with networked audio products, Bluetooth speakers and soundbars accounting for 62% of the hardware hi-fi and home cinema market.

But the general state of play across the board is positive. And the bottom line: smart wins, dumb wins slightly less.


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Simon Lucas is a freelance technology journalist and consultant, with particular emphasis on the audio/video aspects of home entertainment. Before embracing the carefree life of the freelancer, he was editor of What Hi-Fi? – since then, he's written for titles such as GQ, Metro, The Guardian and Stuff, among many others.