HD microphones are biggest trend
The biggest trend in MEMS microphones, according to IHS is the market for very-high-end MEMS microphones (which are commonly called high-definition or HD) achieving greater than or equal to 64dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), which IHS predicts is the fastest-growing portion of the MEMS microphone market -- expected to generate more than 50 percent of the revenue by 2017. HD microphones will propel MEMS microphones past the $1 billion revenue mark in 2014 for the first time, up 24 percent from $837 million in 2013 and headed for $1.37 billion by 2017, according to IHS. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of all MEMS microphones is 18 percent, but for HD microphones the market is growing more quickly at 40 percent CAGR, Marwan Boustany told EE Times, an IHS senior analyst for MEMS and sensors in mobile and consumer technology. In terms of units, 5.4 billion will be shipped in 2017 up from 1.9 billion in 2012, Boustany said.
"Very high SNR microphones give much more richness to the sound," Boustany told EE Times. "And this is not just pure speculation -- we know from the manufacturers that have already adopted it that it is a very fast growing segment -- because of the value of good audio in a handset, whether is for phone calls, whether its for good quality audio when you are taking a video or to support voice commands -- microphone manufacturers are really beginning to appreciate this."
According to Boustany smartphones, tablets and laptops -- with Apple and Samsung leading the pack -- are still the driving force behind MEMS microphone adoption, all of which are moving to multiple HD microphone setups. HD MEMS microphones have a higher signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), which together with a higher maximum sound-pressure level (SPL) provide a wider dynamic range -- the main impetus to growing at the fastest rate in 2014, according to IHS, especially for noise cancellation and beam steering. IHS also argues that the burgeoning new markets for Internet of Things (IoT), medical and wearable devices -- including smart-watches and smart-glasses -- will multiply the demand for MEMS microphones in the future.
The market for HD MEMS microphones with the widest dynamic range was first adopted by Apple for its iPhone 5 -- to improve the accuracy of voice commands to Siri. Samsung added them to its Galaxy S4 and Note 4 models to improve the accuracy of its voice recognition applications. In fact, 96 percent of HD MEMS microphone revenue was due to Apple and Samsung in 2013, according to IHS. Now other vendors, including Motorola in its Moto X, are following suit. Even automobile makers are now choosing HD MEMS microphones to improve the accuracy of their voice commands, and hearing-aid vendors such as GN ReSound A/S (Ballerup, Denmark) whose LINX hearing aid uses multiple HD MEMS microphones to cancel ambient noise, improve clarity and to allow the hearing aid to double as a Bluetooth headset for listening to music.
According to IHS, HD models are mostly for mobile phones (70 percent), then tablets (13 percent), MEMS microphones in headphones that manufacturers supply with their smartphones (9 percent), in laptops (6 percent) and wearables (2 percent).