Vicoustic Introduces VicTotem Configurable Acoustic Solution for Hi-Fi and Pro Audio Applications
Acoustic solutions specialist Vicoustic continues to expand its portfolio. Following the recent release of several new acoustics products for building and construction applications, Vicoustic has announced the release of its VicTotem configurable acoustic totem, combining absorption, diffusion, and bass trap in a single modular structure. VicTotem combines VicPET Wool, Vicycle Microsuede Fabric, and Wood materials, available in a series of modules with multiple finishes and colors.   Read More

Eminence Introduces Custom Shop for Custom Design, Tuning and Modification of Existing Drivers
For 50 years, Eminence has provided high-quality solutions for any audio application. Whether it's a custom designed speaker for an OEM customer or an off-the-shelf stock model available on its website, Eminence has a design to fit virtually any need. The skilled technicians in Eminence's Custom Shop are now able to customize a product by offering an existing model in an alternate impedance, break-in speakers so that the tone becomes exactly what users expect, or design a new driver from scratch and custom manufacture it.   Read More

Rational Acoustics Releases Smaart v8.1 Update
Rational Acoustics confirmed that Smaart v8.1 is now available. This first major version update for the Smaart v8 audio analyzer and measurement platform includes significant feature additions and interface modifications, improved data handling as well as a host of new feature additions for usability, security, and efficiency. The company says this update is recommended for all Smaart v.8 users, on both Microsoft Windows and Mac OSX. The update introduces improved Windows 10 touchscreen supportRead More

DACS Test Lab Multifunction Test Unit and Universal Tool for Installers
DACS Audio is a company with more than 25 years of field experience in Audio Installation, Studio Design, and Acoustic Treatment. In addition, DACS designs and builds a range of highly regarded pro audio equipment, from microphone preamps and analog processors, to monitor controllers. The company's Test Lab is a portable trouble-shooting solution for all pro audio engineers, which addresses all the problems that could be encountered, and is a must-have tool in live sound, installation, and studios.    Read More

Benchmark Media Systems Introduces New DAC3 D/A Converters
Benchmark has recently previewed and is already taking orders for its new DAC3 HGC D/A converter! Following the success of the previous DAC1 and DAC2 D/A reference converters, Benchmark's newest two-channel DAC3 features the new ESS Technologies ES9028PRO converter chip and has lower total harmonic distortion (THD) and THD+N noise than Benchmark's DAC2. The DAC3 also employs an advanced high-headroom digital filter design, and all inputs are fully isolated from interface jitter by Benchmark's new UltraLock3 jitter attenuation system.   Read More

Freedman Electronics Group Acquires Soundfield from TSL Products
On the eve of its 50th year in business, The Freedman Electronics Group, home to pro audio brands RØDE Microphones, Event Electronics, and Aphex, expanded its company portfolio, purchasing the surround-sound recording SoundField range of products and technology from broadcast equipment manufacturer TSL Products. With this acquisition, RØDE gains access to the leading brand in surround production and Ambisonic audio, just when the format is gaining momentum.  Read More

DVB Approves Specification for Future UHDTV Services including MPEG-H Audio
In the world of broadcast standards, a few countries depend on their own specific set of terrestrial broadcast technologies, such as the United States (ATSC), Japan and Brazil (ISDB), and China (DTMB). The rest of the world uses DVB standards. Now that everyone is preparing for the next generation of standards to support 4K UHDTV, the news that the new DVB UHD-1 Phase 2 was approved is a big deal. More important for the audio community is the news that MPEG-H is part of that standard.   Read More

Cambridge Consultants Announces Completion of Pizzicato Software-Defined Radio Development
Following its reveal of Pizzicato, the world's first all-digital radio transmitter, product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants has added a digital receiver to create a complete Pizzicato radio system. It's a glimpse into the future of wireless design: Radios built purely from computing power. Pizzicato promises to vastly increase the range of wireless applications and to be a powerful enabler for both the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G technology.  Read More


Editor's Desk

Innovations to Watch in 2017

There's always that question at trade shows: "Have you seen something new?" Yes, that's why we are there! To find what's new and exciting and understand what's next, and then tell you about it... But it's not always that easy. Sometimes you see technologies, ideas, innovations, or simply astonishingly good products that you need to study and understand before getting overexcited about it.
CES 2017 is approaching fast and - as you've probably seen, this year's ads simply use the catchphrase "Whoa!" I like it, even though it rarely happens - if it's going to happen it's there. I couldn't help noticing that, on this years' list of Best of Innovation Honorees for CES 2017 - and in the audio product categories, in particular - there are mostly products that we've seen in 2016 and they didn't generated exactly that "Whoa!" In most cases, they generated a faint smile when we saw them or a "what the..." reaction. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) focuses mainly on products, and it's always interesting to look back at the real innovation happening in the industry and displayed at shows such as CES and actually separate what's groundbreaking from simple design, marketing pitch, or unusual ideas. That's why it takes time.
The new Crazybaby Air true wireless earbuds feature a "pure carbon nanotube speaker driver," Bluetooth 4.2 and a Qualcomm/CSR aptX streaming solution.
Among the Best of Innovation Honorees for CES 2017, we find the Mars by Crazybaby levitating speakers. Last year, I quickly discarded that product as more of a gimmick than anything else. But, we have been following this company, and clearly there's something more to it as its latest product, the Air stereo Bluetooth 4.2 earbuds - currently campaigning on Indiegogo and 3717% funded, with a week to go - reveals.  The wireless earbuds market segment is getting more interesting every day and I am certain we will hear more about Crazybaby. And we cannot forget the upcoming Bluetooth 5 standard will be revealed soon, promising interesting things in this area.
CES 2017 promises to be a decisive moment in terms of technology transition, with the new SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen 2) specification, the new USB Type-C interface, Thunderbolt 3 technology, and the new USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification, which standardizes audio over USB Type-C, all promising to be a decisive factor on new products revealed for next year. The audio industry will probably take a little while to absorb the impact that these new specifications represent, but this is the moment to watch for. That's the reason why we have already dedicated two of our Standards Review articles to this topic (audioXpress December 2016 and January 2017 issues). Print copies will be freely available at the CES 2017 show floor.
FreeLinc Technologies' Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI) technology promises to power new wireless audio applications solving many of the current limitations of both Bluetooth and NFC.

Also included in our January 2017 edition is another very important technology article discussing the challenges of designing new "truly" wireless earbuds and the promising use of Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI) complementing Bluetooth. This technology is certainly one of the hot topics for 2017 and among the pioneers in its development is Massachusetts-based FreeLinc Technologies. For our January 2017 edition, audioXpress invited Dr. Michael Abrams, FreeLinc's Chief Executive Officer, to share his valuable perspective about the role of NFMI in wireless audio applications. NFMI is one of the technologies to watch for at the moment and FreeLinc, which is already working on a new-generation silicon implementation, is decidedly one of the companies to follow in 2017.
Vesper's piezoelectric MEMS transducer promises to open new frontiers in mobile applications and offer a viable alternative for efficient microphones.
Looking at other promising technologies and companies, we have to mention Vesper Technologies - again, a Boston, MA-based company, founded by researchers from the University of Michigan. Vesper promises a radical technology shift, exploring piezoelectric materials to create the most reliable and advanced MEMS microphones on the market. This is a major leap over the capacitive MEMS microphones that have dominated the market for more than a decade. Since 2009, Vesper has built a broad and deep patent portfolio around its proprietary piezoelectric technology, which works quite differently from conventional capacitive MEMS microphones. Vesper offers the first MEMS microphones rugged enough to withstand water, dust, and particle contaminants. They're high-performance devices that are able to rival conventional condenser microphones or ECMs, offering a superior alternative also to capacitive structure MEMS microphones.

Vesper MEMS don't require a bias voltage, have faster startup times, are low power devices (50% always on), have lower noise floor and lower self-noise than other MEMS and are now being used in current-generation smartphones and car audio applications in 68 dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) iterations. Future generations of Vesper's piezoelectric MEMS are said to offer >74 dB SNR, enabling applications in consumer and even professional microphones, at a very low cost.  You can read all about Vesper Technologies in our latest Voice Coil issue ( December 2016 ). Mike Klasco (Menlo Scientific) details these exciting developments, discusses the features that make Vesper's technology so unique, and interviews Matt Crowley, CEO of Vesper Technologies.
A working speaker prototype from ORA Sound uses the revolutionary GrapheneQ Loudspeaker Technology
For those who always say that "nothing exciting happens in loudspeakers," we need to mention another important innovation in the works. We are talking about the GrapheneQ Loudspeaker Technology by ORA Sound, a technology start-up in Montréal that is working to commercialize the use of graphene in acoustic transducers. Graphene has become a buzzword in the audio industry ever since a research group out of UC Berkley announced the first electrostatic loudspeaker made from graphene in 2014. Graphene is ideal for use in loudspeakers since it is incredibly light and extremely strong, allowing for more efficient speakers, and all but eliminating speaker break up. Earlier that same year, at McGill University, Dr. Robert-Eric Gaskell filed a patent with Dr. Thomas Szkopek and Dr. Peter Gaskell on a different approach to bringing the amazing properties of graphene to the audio industry. Now, they have formed a company to explore the promise of Graphene Oxide (GO) - a material made by functionalizing flakes of graphene with oxygen groups that act to bond layers of graphene together.
ORA has already built a promising working prototype, currently undergoing further testing. Preliminary results were recently introduced at the 141st Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention in Los Angeles, CA, and the company is looking for partnerships willing to explore the full potential of the technology in actual products. "The beauty of Graphene Oxide is that it is inexpensive to work with and it can easily be formed into different shapes such as cones and domes for standard woofers and tweeters," says Xavier Cauchy, co-founder of ORA. "Graphene Oxide allows a lot of latitude in the mechanical characteristics since it can be crosslinked by different materials providing variation in its stiffness and density." Graphene Oxide can reach a Young's Modulus of more than 130 GPa at a density of less than 1 g/cm3. Look out for a forthcoming article in Voice Coil, detailing this important innovation in loudspeaker technology.
Genuine beryllium from Materion Truextent is now available in drivers for very high-quality headphone applications.
Also, in transducer innovations, watch out for some truly revolutionary performances in headphones featuring genuine beryllium drivers. As already introduced in a prototype form, Truextent, the acoustics division of Materion Electrofusion perfected a new large-sized beryllium driver for very high-quality headphone applications, which promises to truly deliver high-resolution audio reproduction with all the known benefits only this material is able to deliver. Since the introduction of an experimental headphone driver at ALMA 2016 (documented in the photo), Materion has produced a new reference design of a 50 mm driver, which is currently being offered to manufacturers. This is not the same beryllium driver that French company Focal introduced in its exquisite Utopia headphones, which was an internal development using genuine beryllium in raw form from Truextent and the first of its kind in the world. The new driver is now in production and available as an OEM component from Materion Truextent. Watch out for these high-performance new products coming to market soon

You Can DIY!
Tube Amplifier High-Voltage Delay
By Jan Didden
How to extend the useful life of those precious tubes: Use a Tube Amplifier High-Voltage Delay! This article was originally published in audioXpress, February 2014. We made it available online at shortly after it was published, but there's a good reason to highlight it again. This is a great DIY project with the quality and attention to detail typical of Jan Didden's projects, which are always focused on solving audio's problems. In this case, extending tube life by delaying the application of high voltage until after the heaters have warmed up and current can flow. This little module does just that: depending on the setting of a jumper, it delays the high-voltage for 40 or 60 seconds after the amplifier is switched on. It can easily be retrofitted to any amplifier because it is wired in between ground and the power transformer center tap (or between ground and the bridge in a full-wave rectifier). It needs a floating heater winding or equivalent to power it. The small PCB and the controller chip are now available online on - Jan Didden's website - where you can download Gerber files that should be usable by any reputed board house, and download the Hex file for the controller firmware.   Read the Full Article Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Eminence Alphalite 6A Midrange/Midbass Woofer 
By Charlie Hughes
Eminence sent a 6.5driver from its lightweight Professional Neodymium Series, the Alphalite 6A, which, along with the Kappalite and Deltalite series, makes up the neo woofer/midrange offerings from Eminence. The Alphalite 6A is described as a lightweight pro audio mid/bass driver, designed for sealed, vented, or infinite baffle applications. Features include a lightweight curved profile uncoated treated paper cone, a 1.5" diameter uncoated solid composition paper dust cap, and a stamped steel frame. Cooling is provided by a 0.81" (20 mm) pole-type vent. Compliance is provided by a two-roll pleated coated cloth surround and by a 3.5" diameter elevated cloth spider. The motor assembly is powered by a neodymium ring magnet with conventional-looking steel front and back plates. Driving the cone assembly is a voice coil that consists of a 38.1 mm (1.5") diameter polyimide (Kapton) former wound with round copper wire. Voice coil tinsel lead wires terminate to a standard pair of solderable terminals. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, June 2010.   Read the Full Article Online

AX December 2016: Digital Login
Audio Product Design | DIY Audio Projects | Audio Electronics | Audio Show Reports | Interviews | And More 

Don't Have a Subscription?
VC December 2016: Digital Login
Industry News & Developments | Products & Services | Test Bench | Acoustic Patents | Industry Watch | And More