How audio is changing in 2019: the biggest trends we've seen so far
Predicting technology trends is something of an imprecise art; a lot of the cool gadgets we see at CES don't ever take off, and at the same time, you never know when a technological breakthrough will come along to disrupt the entire industry.
Saying that, we have noticed a few audio trends taking shape over the last few months, partly thanks to tech and audio get-togethers like CES 2019 and the Bristol Hi-Fi Show.
So, while we can't say for certain which audio trends will take off and which ones will flop, here are our predictions for 2019 in headphones, speakers, and audio gadgets.
The true wireless revolution continues
Thanks to aptX HD and Sony's LDAC codec, wireless audio sounds better than ever, and the abandonment of the headphone jack by many flagship smartphones means that more of us than ever are cutting the cord.
Battery life is also getting better all the time, with some models able to go as long as 38 hours between charges.
The true wireless revolution can be partly attributed to the popularity of Apple's AirPods. This year we're expecting to see the launch of the long-awaited Apple AirPods 2, which will likely propel the popularity of true wireless audio even further.
How can we be so sure? The AirPods 2 haven't yet been officially announced by Cook and Co, but thanks to some trademark and Bluetooth SIG filings, we know they're close – and they might be radically different than the AirPods you know and love.
The trademark filings say that the second generation AirPods will be a health and fitness device, in addition to being a pair of true wireless earbuds. That designation is usually reserved for fitness trackers, so it's interesting that Apple is pursuing it for its earbuds and could integrate nicely with what Apple's doing with the Apple Watch.
It's not all about Apple, though. Samsung recently released the Galaxy Buds which can be charged wirelessly, while Audio-Technica showed off two new wireless earbud models at CES 2019.
Even the fashion world has got involved, with French fashion house Louis Vuitton announcing the launch of a 'new' pair of earbuds for the fashion conscious audiophile.
The Louis Vuitton Horizon Earphones feature the famous LV monogram and are set to cost an eye-watering $995 (around £770/AU$1,400).
At CES 2019, it was all about the immersive audio. Sony announced its 360 Reality Audio, an engaging new music format designed to be streamed over mobile music platforms and played through compatible headphones.
Although Sony already has support from Hi-Res Audio streaming platforms like Tidal and Qobuz, the company has some way to go before 360 Reality Audio will become, well, reality.
This is because music producers will need to start create object-based audio; in the case of 360 Reality Audio, this involves placing every individual instrument and effect within a sphere.
Sony wasn't the first company to look at 360 audio however. At CES 2018 Creative unveiled an ambitious new holography platform called Super XFi that could replicate the soundstage of a full surround sound system in a pair of over-ear headphones.
At this point in time, the technology required a specialized amp designed specifically for the show as well as calibration software only Creative had access to.
One year later Creative returned to CES 2019 with a Super XFi-enabled amp the size of a USB stick and, even more interestingly, a pair of wireless headphones called the Creative SXFI Air that directly integrates the technology.