Portable speaker releases work with Apple products and come in visually appealing designs.
Development initiatives in China's portable speaker industry reflect the fusion of feature and aesthetic upgrades. For the first, Bluetooth and vibration sound technology are the main trends.
Releases adopting the wireless standard comply with 2.0 or 2.1 specifications and support advanced audio distribution profile and APE and FLAC music formats. High-end models enable A/V remote control, headset and handsfree modes.
Vibration sound technology, meanwhile, involves the use of new acoustics resonance method instead of the conventional dynamic driver of traditional configurations. When attached to a solid surface such as a desktop or wall, devices adopting the said approach can deliver omnidirectional audio. Industry observers forecast speakers of this type will maintain their upward track in the next two or three years as suppliers continue to improve the technology.
Cowin Electronics Co. Ltd has recently developed vibration speakers in different designs with optional built-in Li-ion batteries, TransFlash card readers and 3 to 26W power output. The maker also released hybrid variants with both vibration and regular driver units. Its DF-003 model, meanwhile, has a Mini-USB port, a 3.5mm stereo jack, 3W power output, 80Hz to 18kHz frequency and 75dB S/N ratio.
Some manufacturers add value to their lineups by integrating clock radios. Such types have large LCD or LED screens, SD/MMC card readers, USB ports for MP3 playback, FM alarm, buzzers and snooze. Several versions come with an iPod dock and a remote control.
As for design upgrades, efforts revolve around ensuring compatibility with Apple's products and developing units with enhanced visual appeal. In line with the first objective, most releases have a standard iPod dock. The SD-015 model from Dongguan Jiaxing Electronic & Technology Co. Ltd supports most iPod and iPhone variants, delivering 2W power output and 250Hz to 20kHz frequency. It has a USB port and can work with other sound sources via a 3.5mm audio jack.
The I-2005 model from Shenzhen Deyiler Tech. Co. Ltd is suitable for the iPad, iPhone, iPod and other devices. The semisphere-shaped unit has two speakers, a clock radio and an LCD screen with backlight. The enterprise's I-6002 model, meanwhile, boasts an adjustable dock and pan/tilt viewing options.
Compact, visually appealing speakers with vivid colors are a major R&D thrust for many suppliers. More versions incorporate metallic textures and retro styles with wooden housings. The GESP1116 model from Shenzhen Good&EasyTechnology Co. Ltd, for instance, adopts the shape of a flower and is available in various hues. The unit supports a TransFlash card, a USB port, 2W power output and 200Hz to 12kHz frequency. The maker's GESP1124 model comes in a teardrop shape.
Dongguan Jiaxing has recently developed the Speaker Bag model. The solo speaker looks like a small bag and can accommodate an MP3 player or a mobile phone. It has a built-in battery, 2W power output and 275Hz to 20kHz frequency. The vendor has also released a solar version that can run on Li-ion battery.
For increased portability, makers offer foldable designs. The KHY-11 model from Shenzhen Cowin-Tec Co. Ltd is a football-shaped variant. The unit has two foldable speakers, a 6VDC battery and a USB port, and delivers 2x2W power output, and 250Hz to 18kHz frequency. Outdoor-use types, meanwhile, adopt an all-in-one design. They operate on dry-cell or rechargeable Li-ion battery, and are dust- and water-resistant. Some use aluminum alloy housing instead of plastic for increased vandal resistance.
Speakers for promotional, retail markets
The majority of makers target their products at the promotional and gifts market. Such models receive external audio input and allow MP3 playback via a built-in USB port and flash memory card reader. R&D efforts for this segment focus on cosmetic upgrades.
Companies catering to the retail sector offer upscale units such as full-spectrum portable speakers with a wide frequency response range, iPod dock station or clock radio. Enhancements in this category lean toward stylish appearance and improved audio quality. Some suppliers, including Hi-Vi and Edifier, manufacture compact variants that boast better speaker, subwoofer or amplifier designs and wooden housings.
Prices in the line range from $2 to $50. Entry-level models with an external sound input and powered by USB are quoted from $2 to $8. Midrange types supporting MP3 playback, built-in USB interface or flash card reader are between $10 and $20. High-end units, including those with an iPod dock and better audio quality, list from $25 to $50.
Quotes are expected to increase in coming months. The upward adjustment will be driven by the climb in raw material costs. Spending on ABS, for instance, rose by 4 percent in April. China's central bank has also raised loan interest rates from 5.85 to 6.4 percent, affecting most manufacturers' capital expenditure.
China's portable speaker segment evolved from the mini-multimedia speaker industry. Since the mid-2000s, vendors have been improving acoustic techniques and rolling out models that are compatible with various portable multimedia devices such as MP3/MP4 players, notebook and tablet PCs, and mobile phones.
There are currently more than 500 makers of the line in China, about 80 percent of which are focused on the promotional and gifts market. Guangdong province, particularly the cities of Shenzhen and Zhongshan, is the main production hub, churning out 70 percent of the country's output.
Hong Kong: Novelty designs, better audio performance emphasized
Hong Kong makers of portable speakers are improving the product's external design and audio performance, the latter through higher power output, deeper base or other sound enhancement technology. To emphasize portability, many models are thin and foldable. Novelty releases in egg and golf ball shapes are popular as well, especially for the gifts and premiums market.
Companies also refresh their lineups by adding new functions, installing decorative LEDs or exploring surface finishing techniques such as sublimation printing.
Suppliers are encouraged by the steady expansion of the portable speakers market each year. Apple's iPod, MP3 players and mobile phones were the main growth drivers five years ago. The emergence of the iPhone and other smartphones, netbooks and tablet PCs augmented interest in the segment.
Hong Kong has at least 30 manufacturers of the line, led by acoustic specialists that offer various audio products. The maker base also includes computer peripheral, mobile phone, and gifts and premiums providers. A number are EMS companies with extensive experience working with OEM clients. This group can easily handle large-volume orders.
Most other suppliers in the territory are small operations with fewer than 10 in-house models. Releases involving new molds are spaced out longer, usually every other year due to mold and tooling costs. Some companies have also been discouraged from creating new designs regularly by rival imitators.
Global Marketing Development Ltd has been making radios since 1988. It offers desktop portable speakers with multiple input ports, volume control, equalizer and Li-ion battery that can be charged through USB.
Ria Co. Ltd manufactures a range of consumer electronics, including DAB/DAB+, Internet and clock radios, and wireless LED lamps. Its portable speakers include an auxilliary-in jack, MP3 decoder, an SD card slot and a USB port.
Ryde Products Ltd concentrates on industrial, packaging and graphic design in developing electronic gadgets. Among its releases is the SCS-01 Mini Cube Star Speaker model, a square mono speaker with a built-in rechargeable battery and phone strap.
Read the full report at Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.