Three conclusions from Munich High End 2018
I'm back from Munich.
It was the usual hectic visit: out on Wednesday night, straight to my hotel and bed (ok - just one Paulaner first), then up, exhibition, straight back to the airport and then home again.
Overall it was another worthwhile visit, ruined only when arriving back at my car, which had a flat tyre! Thank goodness for old fashioned replacement wheels on my trusty Mk4 Golf...
Here are my general thoughts from the event...
Software is winning
Software just seems to be part of the industry more generally now.
It's required for better user experiences, integration with external services, library management, updates of format support and more.
Software has always been used right? It's just that it was hidden within the black-box of the music server, streamer, or whatever. Well - yes - but other developments have begun making software more exposed. Integration with playback apps on mobile devices, integration with other whole house solutions, streaming integrations...
I used the word integration a lot there, and I think this is at the root of it. Hi-fi manufacturers understand that to keep up with developments they have to allow integration points to enable a stronger experience for their listeners.
For example, a hi-fi manufacturer cannot compete with all the user experience developments of a tablet with their own device, so it's best to re-use the tablet and make sure apps (potentially their own) can connect to their own devices.
There's an interesting place I see this manifest...
Music platforms are on the rise
Traditionally there have been a small group of software firms that sold software platforms for basing music devices on. That group appears to be growing and the platforms appear to be changing.
One of the manufacturers I work closely with are now reselling their platform to others. Walking around the show, some developers were openly marketing their platform to third parties.
Not all manufacturers have the expertise, or access to expertise, to build software platforms, so it makes sense to reuse and rebrand the ones that exist.
If music playback platforms are virtualised in this way, I also wonder if library management can be. You could conceive a service which stores existing information about a music library, and presents a "cleaned up" version back to the music playback platform. Not just "cleaned up" but also manipulated in certain ways, e.g. case rules, genre consolidation... sounds familiar ;-)
Personal/portable hifi growing
I'd noticed this online, but it was tangible at the show.
To generalise, portable hi-fi seems popular with younger listeners for a bunch of reasons.
In many markets, younger (by which I mean: in their 20s) listeners cannot afford to purchase houses any more, so, for them, buying a large room-based system is not expedient. Instead, their route to hi-fi is via portable players with high quality headphones.
In addition, and potentially because of a lack of accommodation affordability, younger listeners are more likely to share housing. As a result, using headphones is the less anti-social route to hi-fi, to avoid annoying your housemates!
I'm looking forward to attending Munich High End 2019!
Thanks to Angelo Abear for the image above.