The First Year of Hi-Res and Hi-Compo Products

My proposal for modern hi-compo products, advocated through this magazine, has received nods of agreement from various quarters. And at last Sony has jumped into the fray. Sony's declaration that it is going to devote a lot of effort to the development of "hi-res" audio products is encouraging and a powerful support for the promotion of hi-compo audio sets. JVC Kenwood, Yamaha, and Panasonic are also proposing new-age hi-compo products suitable for adults―that is, for the baby-boom and baby-boom junior generations. Other makers can be expected to jump on the bandwagon too. I firmly believe that this trend is going to become the mainstream and, starting with the year-end sales battle, create a big splash in our industry.

I proposed the creation of a hi-compo market back in the 1990s. Let me quote from two articles that I wrote on the subject for this column.

"It must be said that the market-building momentum created by system-compo, mini-compo, and mini-mini-compo products had weakened by 1988. Makers realized that their lifecycle had been extended by the appearance of CDs, but conversely their pursuit of efficiency only accelerated the defection of users. 'Now is a hard time,' I said, 'but let's build a market with a new product genre to follow the mini-compo and mini-mini-compo so that we can enjoy prosperity again in a few years' time. Let's create a ¥100 billion market.' My suggestion was hi-compo products." (November 1998)

"The appearance of hi-compo products is only natural. Six or seven years ago I proposed a maker system, and my hi-compo proposal is an extension of that suggestion and one unmistakable answer to the audio demands of users. While mini-compo and mini-mini-compo products represent a shift to the young market and in a way are a by-product of function and price competition, hi-compo products aim to reach an extremely wide range of users, targeting young and old alike.

"Moreover, as a result of the creation of a hi-compo market, the market for single components is likely to grab the spotlight again as well, so I believe we will see the audio industry in its ideal form, able to contribute to users. Hi-compo products will not only pursue hi-fi but also realize compact and high-level design and embody the concept of simple-is-best. They are likely to transform existing systems, which tend to emphasize functionality.

"One elderly person said to me, 'I want to listen quietly to music, so I went along to a store, but there was nothing I wanted to buy. I don't much like those mini-compo and mini-mini-compo sets, but at the same time I don't have enough space at home for single components. If a hi-compo set was available, I would buy one straightaway.' Users continue to desire products that save space, have a good design, and produce the same quality of music as single components. The hi-compo is just the right product for the increasing population of people aged 60 years or over." (October 1993)

Today, the sense of crisis in the market and the hopes for a new product genre are the same as they were 20 years ago. Unlike then, though, we now have the added aspect of "hi-res," contents are more substantial, and the market for enjoying CDs and analog music is beginning to stir. I really do have high hopes for the end of the year.