High-resolution audio is an indulgence for the ears, with an astute focus on musical detail and sound quality that listeners can’t often get with a mere digital download.
High-res audio offers far superior sound compared to music played from a smart phone, streaming service or through measly ear bud headphones. What it doesn’t offer, however, is a wide appeal for the multifamily market.
To describe high-res as a niche market is certainly not an understatement, as it more pertains to the specific resident and what they desire in terms of sound quality in their individual units.
“We do not install high quality audio with our products. That is an add-on. We will integrate with whatever the resident has and brings to the table,” says Sce Pike, founder of IOTAS, a company focused on the smart home experience for renters.
Steve Boyak, senior vice president of Laramar Group, has found similar trends in his communities.
“Anytime it comes to in-unit technology, the residents typically have their own preferences. For the most part, you’ll see them bringing in their own equipment,” says Boyak.
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Problems with High-Res
Pike and Boyak both note issues associated with high-res audio equipment and installation.
Mainly, the troubles reside in the fact that equipment is either too expensive, intricate or there just simply isn’t a demand for it in multifamily.
Boyak says it’s a particular market. “For us, bandwidth is an issue—being able to provide units with the biggest pipe for audio and visual needs. For us, it’s kind of a crapshoot for us to make big investments when only 10 percent of the people will understand what it is or appreciate it.”
Pike reiterates that there has not been a strong push for high-res audio and states where clients’ demands truly lie when it comes to in-unit technology.
“It’s more home management solutions, so it’s what makes their lives easier and more efficient. That’s what we’ve been seeing our clients push for most,” says Pike.
So when it comes to audio, what specifically has multifamily builders perking up their ears?
For one, both Pike and Boyak have implemented Sonos speaker systems in units to best integrate with home automation tech.
Boyak notes that Laramar has also worked with in-wall speakers, but believes the most important audio trend happening in his multifamily communities is in the common areas, such as the gym, home theater and lobby.
Audio is used to help create “environments” in these areas, based upon the time of day.
“For instance, as you walk into the lobby in the morning or evening, there is now more intention towards whether there is music playing and what type of music is playing,” says Boyak. “And as the building goes through the day, both the mood and lighting and music morph to correspond with the time of day.”
Where to Go From Here
Will high-res audio become more popular as the years progress and tech continues to evolve?
Perhaps. Pike and Boyak definitely both see uses and trends for powerful sound systems growing in their communities. For Pike, clients are all about the gaming and entertainment in their units.
“In multifamily, you’re getting people wanting music and entertainment systems. You often see things like XBOX or PlayStation 4 integrating with sound systems,” says Pike.
Boyak sees the shift towards entertainment as well and places a preference of video over audio.
However, this certainly doesn’t mean that audio will always be an afterthought. As multifamily clients discover the power of high quality video entertainment, high-res audio is sure to quickly follow.