With music’s focus over the past decade having been on digital usability and convenience, new research from global intelligence firm Strategy Analytics reveals how sound quality has largely been forgotten as relatively low quality built-in speakers now dominate how people listen to music.

Built-in speakers on desktops and laptops are the most common way Americans listen to music (cited by 55% of respondents) followed by headphones connected to a portable device (41%), standalone radios (41%) and built-in TV speakers (29%).

Including radios, only four of the 10 most popular are dedicated music playback devices – connected loudspeakers (12%), wireless speakers (11%) and speaker docking stations (10%).

Despite the relatively low quality devices, 43% are ‘very satisfied’ with the audio quality and 26% are ‘somewhat satisfied’.

“Music’s focus over the past decade has been about usability and convenience – being able to get it on as many devices as possible – whilst sound quality has been largely ignored or forgotten in this race to portability,” says David Watkins, Strategy Analytics’ director of Connected Home Devices.

“It’s bred a generation of listeners who’ve never really known what it’s like to listen to high quality sound and, consequently, is already sounding the death knell for the likes of the hi-fi system.”

However, as awareness about the issue increases through the likes of acclaimed musician Neil Young – who removed his songs from Spotify due to sound quality and founded a company, Pono, to provide better quality music sound – over half (51%) report being interested in high-quality audio.

Watkins concludes: “There is an appetite among consumers to go beyond the limitations of what they get today but companies face a tough job in convincing people to upgrade to more expensive equipment. We’re only at the beginning of a long road for market acceptance of moving back to high quality audio.”

Neil Young removed his songs from Spotify due to sound quality

Neil Young removed his songs from Spotify due to sound quality

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