The appeal of voice-activated digital aides that perform numerous tasks — and smart homes equipped with such functionality — is undoubtedly on the rise, led by Amazon Alexa, Apple's Siri Home and the Google Home assistant. This technology's popularity varies in individual consumer-product areas, but if the fast-paced nature of tech advances in the past decade are any indication, we will find voice control more fully integrating into our lives sooner rather than later.
Home audio buyers purchasing AV receivers from Marantz, for example, can enjoy previously unknown interactivity and streamlined control of their entertainment experience via their products' expanded compatibility with Alexa. Let's take a look at how voice control brings more value to sound equipment.
An innate aspect of humanity
Brendon Stead, senior vice president of product development at Sound United which is the parent company to Marantz, explained that voice activation ties into one of society's most basic and essential communicative functions.
"One of our major abilities as human beings is speaking," Stead said. "Talking is very natural, so using speech to control products in our homes also feels natural."
Consider how often we "talk to" either inanimate objects or other things that don’t have the ability to conventionally respond back to us, like pets, for instance. You might have yelled in frustration at a troublesome car feature or glitch-stricken computer at least a few times, or mused about life to the dog. So by this rationale, leveraging voice control to skip a track or raise the volume is as natural as it is practical.
Importance to AV setups
Stead pointed out that voice agents are essentially AI-enhanced web browsers, with Apple most connected to personal entertainment, Amazon to shopping and Google to general searches. With an Alexa- or Google Home-augmented sound system, you don't just direct the ebb and flow of one album but can also, almost instantly, find similar artists and records, buy someone's elusive first album or learn new facts about how a song was written or recorded. And that’s just for music, with consumers also reaping numerous benefits for home theater — like switching inputs on the receiver or adjusting the volume output from your speakers via the receiver, and all with your voice. Essentially, it affords the consumer a previously unprecedented level of control.
"At the end of the day, [adding voice control] is just about providing different avenues for getting the most out of our products," Stead said.
Elaborating on this, Stead recalled how universal remotes had a brief surge in popularity and a subsequently quick decline. Consumers loved the convenience of managing all devices through one instrument, but detested the complex setup process and constant need to add device codes. Marantz's voice-controllable AV receivers, by being perpetually connected, receive upgrades automatically as they're released, eliminating consumer tasks and enhancing overall product quality.
Blending old and new
Marantz's legacy of excellence in audio dates back more than half a century, characterized by innovation at every juncture. Embracing the still-building rise of voice control exemplifies this quality yet again. All Marantz AV receivers in both the SR and NR series are Alexa-compatible, as are a number of hi-fi components and AV separates, and many of the products also include Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay connectivity. The Marantz tradition of effortless evolution, meanwhile, all but guarantees that future voice control advancements are still yet to come.