INDUSTRY & PRODUCT NEWS

JBL Reimagines Personal Audio with the JBL Soundgear Around-the-Neck Wearable
One of the most curious announcements at CES 2017 comes from JBL and it's "a hands-free and ear-free wireless sound solution to provide immersive audio around the neck." The new JBL Soundgear is, according to Harman, a new way of experiencing personal sound. Some of us that have been around for a while will have a feeling of "déjà vu" and for good reason...   Read More



Blue Expands Premium Headphone Lineup with Three New Innovative Designs
Blue Microphones announced three new headphones at CES 2017. New models include Ella, a premium planar magnetic headphone (MSRP $699.99), and Sadie, a next-generation high-fidelity headphone (MSRP $399.99), both featuring custom, built-in audiophile amplifiers and a more refined design. From the wireless camp, Blue also introduced the Satellite, the brand's first wireless headphone with a built-in audiophile amplifier and dedicated noise-cancelling drivers.   Read More


Fraunhofer IIS Shows Immersive Sound Future with MPEG-H at CES 2017
One of the most important highlights at CES 2017 was from the Fraunhofer IIS booth, showing final versions of several MPEG-H solutions, in preparation for next year's rollout of the first broadcast services adopting the standard. On display was an MPEG-H-enabled LG UHD TV, scheduled to be available this year, and the final version of the MPEG-H-enabled 3D Soundbar reference design. Fraunhofer IIS also developed a trademark program for products incorporating its MPEG-H TV Audio SystemRead More


Dolby Laboratories and LG Electronics Announce First TVs to Support Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos Technology
At CES 2017, Dolby Laboratories and LG Electronics (LG) announced that, for the first time, LG 2017 OLED TVs will support Dolby Vision high-dynamic-range (HDR) technology and Dolby Atmos breakthrough audio in a new combined home entertainment experience with both cutting-edge imaging and state-of-the-art sound technology through one product (just add a soundbar, of course), supported by major studios and streaming services.    Read More
 
TIDAL Introduces MQA Streaming "Master Audio" Support
During CES 2017, TIDAL and Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) announced the much-anticipated support for MQA on the streaming service. Until now it has only been available on file-based downloads. Now, the bandwidth efficient high-resolution audio format (HRA) is available on a mainstream platform. TIDAL was previously the only music streaming service to offer a "higher-quality" subscription option. Those subscribers will now be able to access MQA encoded masters.   Read More


Knowles Launches New RAF Series Balanced Armature Drivers, Delivering Premium Sound in a New Design
Knowles Corp. launched the new RAF Series balanced armature drivers to improve how hearable and earphone designers create the next generation of premium headsets. Developed for wireless products, the receiver's small dimensions and high efficiency make it ideal for many applications, including premium music earphones, hearables, Bluetooth headsets, communications earpieces, and miniature sound amplifiers.  Read More


HDMI Forum Announces Version 2.1 of the HDMI Specification to Support 8K and Dynamic HDR
During CES 2017, the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) Forum announced the upcoming release of Version 2.1 of the HDMI Specification. This latest HDMI Specification supports a range of Higher Video Resolutions and refresh rates including 8K60 and 4K120, Dynamic HDR, and increased bandwidth with a new 48G cable. Version 2.1 of the HDMI Specification is backward compatible with earlier versions of the Specification, and was developed by the HDMI Forum's Technical Working Group, whose members represent some of the world's leading manufacturers of consumer electronics, personal computers, mobile devices, cables, and components.   Read More


HEAD acoustics Presents 3PASS Background Noise Simulation System at AISE 2017
Leveraging its presence at the ALMA International Symposium and Expo (AISE) 2017, HEAD acoustics introduced its new 3PASS Accurate Background Noise simulation solution to measure the true performance of noise suppression algorithms in voice-controlled speakers, multi-microphone handheld communication devices, headsets with Active Noise Cancellation, and so forth. The system enables manufacturers to record and playback any sound field that is representative of typical use cases, and gauge how well their products perform in real world conditions.  Read More






João
Martins
Editor-in-Chief



Editor's Desk


Looking Forward to CES 2019!

CES 2017 has passed and I am certain that everyone who visited the Las Vegas mega trade show are still recovering from the many walked miles and more likely from the return travels - which are getting increasingly painful for everyone.
 
Regarding CES 2017, all I can say is "Wow! Just Wow!" or maybe "Whoa!" as the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) proposed in the slogan for this year's event. This was a worthwhile event and it will take us a good part of 2017 (Happy New Year, by the way) to get through it all.

Gary Shapiro, CTA's president and CEO celebrated 50 years of CES. But CES 2017 gave us little time to celebrate with so much to see, companies to visit and so many people to meet.

 
I am certain that by now, many of you have read reports that nothing particularly exciting happened at CES this year or that the tone was downbeat, etc. That's easy to explain because the really exciting part of CES 2017 was not at all visible to visitors and press attendees who rely on what's visible on the show floor or the new products revealed in the press conferences. Were there products? Yes, there were many new products, but not exactly exciting in that regard. A few more new iPhone-clones running Android, including new ones from Blackberry (!), MacBook-clones running Chromecast and Windows, drones with heavier cameras, smaller and cheaper action cameras (poor GoPro...), thinner TV displays, all-in-one washing machines, and many new Bluetooth portable speakers, headphones, and wireless earbuds! Nothing to be excited about there.
 
After all, this is one of those years when Apple did not disclose any new product category for the usual suspects to copy - even though I couldn't help noticing that at least half the visitors to CES 2017 were wearing Apple Watches! It is incredible how more than 40% of the demonstrations at CES 2017 were directly related with Apple's ecosystem, including many with Apple's HomeKit, the iPhone, the Watch, and of course, the new MacBook Pros, which need plenty of accessories and dongles. Even in the automotive exhibits, Apple's CarPlay was one of the key enabling technologies - but those demos were, in general, pathetic.

Not much excitement around new 4K TV's... CES is increasingly the forum for consumer electronics innovation and a huge business platform for technology providers.

It was certainly the show for Voice Personal Assistants, with thousands of "it works with Alexa" products and many simply connecting with Google's Assistant and/or Chromecast. Is "voice" a revolution, as many insist? After CES 2017, it was obvious that Amazon did manage to impose the trend and that "voice" is a requirement for any consumer electronics company - but, to me, there wasn't a single convincing demo about it. Be it smart home, wearables, or fridges, this is clearly a novelty ...for now, until other players show their cards. And we clearly need to wait and see what the other key players (Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Nokia, etc.) will bring to the table.
 
There were a few key announcements - which we highlighted on our website - and some are included in this edition of The Audio Voice, such as TIDAL's introduction of Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) support, the introduction of the first MPEG-H reference designs, and the surprising HDMI Forum announcement of the new HDMI 2.1 specification. USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 products and demonstrations were ubiquitous, even if Intel decided not to have themed presentations at their booth this year, which I found surprising. And no doubt, the unveiling of more 4K UHD Blu-Ray players was one of the highlights (the new OPPO Digital UDP-203 model is a stunner and we already saw it with Dolby Vision support), in combination with the surprisingly good UHD TVs now with HDR support and improved image qualities (and mostly flat, almost no new curved models, hurrah!).
 
As I said, CES 2017 was a very exciting event, including for the audio industry, but the real news was not visible to those running around the show floor or the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). Even the audio suites in the Venetian provided a small sampling of what we can probably see in more detail at forthcoming high-end audio shows. This is because the real news was mainly new technology demonstrations and product development platforms that we had the chance to see in person in many closed rooms and private demonstrations spaces not accessible to everyone. Yes, the real news is that the industry is focused on pushing forward the existing standards - including Bluetooth 5, 5G, MPEG-H, USB, AoIP, etc. - and that the platforms exist. We've seen great presentations from Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, the USB-IF, and many other platform and technology developers.

Did we mention Virtual Reality? Yes.. Try to guess why many visitors and journalists didn't see anything interesting at CES 2017...

The problem now, is processing it all and the fact that we are still recovering from two intense and excellent days at the Association of Loudspeaker Manufacturing and Acoustics ( ALMA) Symposium and Expo (coverage coming soon) and four exhausting days of CES, running among hotels all over Las Vegas and a few pressed hours at the Sands, LVCC, and the Venetian (the CTA does need to concentrate more of the show in a single place...), which explains the absence of our newsletter last week and the sporadic web updates (we'll catch up on the product announcements, we promise).
 
A final word regarding the amazing environments at the Sands Tech West exhibits and the Eureka Park, where it was difficult to walk, even in earlier hours, and it was easy to find interesting demonstrations, including those from Universities. In contrast with the quieter environment at the North and South Halls, the Sands exhibits were vibrant and exciting, even if many of the presentations are still pure dream-concepts and a lot of smoke and mirrors, combined with start-up ingenuity. The important support of the crowdfunding companies and the communities is clearly making a difference in the consumer electronics industry and it was great to see once again how innovative companies from all over the world attended in force.
 
The CTA (CES.tech) is correct when it announced that the CES show is now the "world's largest innovation event." It used to be the marketing ramp-up platform for product introductions, but now it is transforming into a technology preview and engineering forum, apart from still being a great and unique business environment for technology companies. The CTA still manages the largest show floor in consumer electronics, with more than 3,800 companies taking a record 2.6 million net square feet of exhibit space, even if, as Gary Shapiro, CTA's president and CEO, noted, the focus has shifted to promoting innovation and "today's innovators."
 
The good news in general for the audio industry is that business is booming - if you are focused on the latest technologies. Because it is no longer only about high-resolution audio and wireless - which remain key trends - it's also about personalization, adaptive processing, and enhancing, voice recognition (yes), and the convergence with audiology, wearables, and the smart home and "smart me." Increasingly, voice and audio are recognized as key enablers for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality interfaces (to also include those two trending tags in my report...).
 
No doubt, smart home and wearables were key topics at CES 2017, with audio technology at the core of all the most interesting applications. Increasingly, the major players are discussing the emergence of "smart entertainment" and connected services. To provide an example, Juniper Research just reported that smart-home hardware and service take-up in entertainment, automation, healthcare, and connected devices is set to drive revenues from $83 billion in 2017 to $195 billion by 2021. Juniper recognizes that market leaders Google (Alphabet), Amazon, and Apple will "further solidify their positions by building on current assets such as their cloud services and incumbent device bases." But the interesting thing is that, the foundation for all those visions is based on solid business for the silicon manufacturers and development platform companies, with great integration opportunities for the audio industry.
 
audioXpress will be closely following these developments in forthcoming months. At CES 2017, we could confirm that we are going through a key transition period, in which technology and standards need time to evolve and mature. Product development cycles will take the next year to show the first results, while CES 2019, promises to be a truly exciting show, with many "revolutionary" product announcements. Meanwhile, there's lots of work to do.

From the Vault
Poddwatt Series II Stereo Integrated Valve Amplifier
By Bruce Heran
 
This article focuses on the Poddwatt Series II stereo integrated valve amplifier, a project with roots that go back several years. The design continues to be relevant and to evolve. I call the basic design an "Oddwatt" because of its "odd" configuration, using two stages. It is now used in an entire family of amplifiers up to 45-W RMS per channel. The amplifier described in this article is an evolutionary step up from the ones currently available. While the original amplifier is excellent, it was designed as a "budget" project for DIYers. It turned out well and has found favor with individuals who use high-efficiency speaker systems. These individuals generally choose single-ended triode (SET) designed amplifiers. Often, they won't even consider using a push-pull pentode-based amplifier - that is, until they hear this one. I have been told on several occasions the Poddwatt sounds like a SET, but better. I leave that up to others to determine. My sense is that its sound quality is related to the design simplicity and the few components that are actually in the signal chain. It is time to get into the Poddwatt Series II's details. This article was originally published in audioXpress, May 2013.   Read the Full Article Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Motus Audio UH130PW1 Midbass Woofer 
By Vance Dickason
 
These Test Bench samples came from a relatively new high-end home audio OEM manufacturer. From Motus Audio, I received the UH130PW1, a 5.25" mid-bass driver. The feature set for the UH130PW1, has a similar feature set as several other European high-end mid-bass woofer brands. Starting with the frame, Motus used a nicely configured six-spoke cast-aluminum frame with narrow 11 mm wide spokes to minimize reflections back into the cone. The area below the suspended spider mounting shelf is almost completely open, resulting in effective cooling of the motor and the voice coil. For the cone assembly, Motus chose a rather stiff curvilinear profile pressed paper cone with a fairly large (reinforcing almost at the midpoint of the cone) 2.5" diameter concave pressed paper dust cap. Compliance is provided by a nitrile-butadiene rubber (NBR) surround, designed with a shallow discontinuity where it attaches to the cone edge to minimize cone-edge breakup. Remaining compliance comes from a 3.75" diameter flat cloth spider. The FEA optimized motor design for the UH130PW1 is well thought-out and incorporates a ferrite ring magnet, a machined undercut pole piece, and dual copper shorting rings (Faraday shields). This drives a 1.75" (44.2 mm) diameter four-layer voice coil wound with round copper wire on a non-conducting Kapton former. Motor parts above and below the 110 mm × 20 mm magnet are machined and polished. Additional cooling is provided by an 8mm diameter rear pole vent plus six 3 mm diameter peripheral vents. Last, the voice coil is terminated to a pair of gold-plated terminals appropriately located on opposite sides of the frame. In terms of the overall physical appearance, the UH130PW1 is an impressive looking mid-bass transducer! This article was originally published in Voice Coil, January 2016.   Read the Full Article Online

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