Worldwide Home Audio Market Finishes Year On $11 Billion Dollar High
Worldwide demand for home audio devices continues to gather momentum, with the category outperforming the wider CE market and on track to finish 2016 at 102 million units shipped and close to $11 billion in trade value, according to the latest market report from Futuresource Consulting. The rise of voice-controlled, connected-speakers promises to propel further growth, according to the market research firm.   Read More

Merging Technologies Launches New Benchmark AKD8D and AKD8DP A/D Cards
Swiss manufacturer Merging Technologies introduced two new A/D cards for its Horus and Hapi range of Networked Audio Interfaces. The new boards are available in two versions as it was with the previous AD8D generation. The AKD8D is the standard version giving superlative results up to 192 kHz PCM. The AKD8DP extends the range up to 384 kHz and includes all variants of DSD up to 256 and DXD. Both boards offer ultra-low distortion and noise floor at low levels while reducing latency even more.   Read More

HelloEar Promotes Ergonomically Designed Arc Earphones on Kickstarter
"Never will your earphones cause you pain, or fall out of your ears again," pitches HelloEar, promoting its ergonomically designed Arc earphones. HelloEar used its experience in the custom IEM market for musicians to build an extensive database of inner-ear shapes and sizes. The result is now being applied in the new Arc earphones, now campaigning on Kickstarter, and featuring technology from Danish balanced armature experts, SonionRead More

New THX AAA Headphone Amplifier Offers World's Lowest Levels of Distortion, Noise, and Power Consumption
THX, renowned for the certification of world-class cinemas and electronic devices, has partnered with Triad Semiconductor to manufacture its revolutionary TSTHX-88 headphone amplifier ASIC. According to THX, the THX AAA Headphone Amplifier technology offers the world's lowest levels of distortion and noise alongside incredibly low power consumption and it outperforms every other amplifier technology in the marketplace.    Read More

Nielsen Acquires Music Metadata Service Gracenote for $560 Million
Nielsen announced it has entered into an agreement with Tribune Media Co. to purchase Gracenote. Gracenote is the industry's premier provider of media and entertainment metadata, including the music metadata provided to all major digital music services (e.g., including Spotify and Apple iTunes). With this transaction, Nielsen will acquire the data and the technology that underpins the programming guides and personalized user experience for major video, music, audio, and sports content.   Read More

ams Expands Its Active Noise Cancellation Technology Portfolio with Incus Laboratories Acquisition
ams is closing out the year with another acquisition to boost its leadership in audio sensors and active noise cancellation (ANC). The company will acquire Incus Laboratories, Ltd., a UK-based privately held provider of intellectual property (IP) for digital ANC in headphones and earphones. Incus' design tool suite and acoustic characterization technology, enables ams to offer easier OEM implementations.  Read More

Primacoustic Launches New Website Featuring Expanded Educational Contents
Primacoustic announced the launch of its new website featuring a streamlined user experience that customizes a brand new blog section to the individual user's needs, enabling the user to announce the latest product news and featured applications as well as providing an extensive library of educational resources. The site retains the popular online room calculator/quote feature from the previous site.   Read More

Denon Unveils New AH-D7200 Flagship Reference Over-Ear Headphones
Denon has announced the new AH-D7200 flagship over-ear headphones designed for the most demanding audio enthusiasts, combining innovative technologies and carefully selected materials for the finest in private listening. The new Denon AH-D7200 headphones feature new FreeEdge nano-fiber drive units and real walnut housings, combined with Japanese-developed soft synthetic leather ear-cushions and are expected to be available in January 2017 for $999.  Read More


Editor's Desk

Bluetooth 5 and Audio Applications

Following the announcement made earlier, on December 7, 2016, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) officially adopted Bluetooth 5 as the latest version of the Bluetooth core specification. Key updates to Bluetooth 5 include longer range, faster speed, and larger broadcast message capacity, as well as improved interoperability and coexistence with other wireless technologies.
As the Bluetooth SIG stated, "The increased speed of Bluetooth 5 lays the groundwork for the next generation of Bluetooth audio, and the increased range will deliver reliable connections that make full-home, building, and outdoor use cases a reality. All this while maintaining its low-energy functionality and flexibility for developers to meet the needs of their device or application."
A few days passed since the specification was published, and audioXpress asked for comments from the industry to better understand its impact for audio applications and wireless headphones and earbuds, particularly looking at how the update addresses known problems, such as left/right (stereo) channel synchronization. We received comments from industry analyst and consultant Nick Hunn, CTO at Wifore Consulting Ltd  and Hearing Aid Working Group Chair of the Bluetooth SIG; Michael Abrams, MD, Chief Executive Officer, FreeLinc Technologies, Inc.; and Mark Powell, Executive Director, Bluetooth SIG, which we are sharing this week. We also learned that the Bluetooth SIG is planning a future update to the specification that was published, specifically addressing audio enhancements.


Every new Bluetooth specification release incorporates advancements and improvements to a widevariety of core features. The goal being that all products and applications using the latest specification, including wireless earbuds, will provide a better end-user experience. Ultimately, implementation is key when it comes to creating the best Bluetooth audio experiences. It is clear to us that the future of wireless audio needs low energy and interoperability to work. Bluetooth 5 lays the foundation for the next generation of Bluetooth audio over low energy. The SIG is working closely with our member companies on an audio update that will address more audio specific enhancements - details on this update will be coming in the future.
Mark Powell, Executive Director, Bluetooth SIG
It 's difficult to fully comprehend how much wireless technology has changed our lives. Just 25 years ago, digital mobile phones didn't exist. It was a world before laptops and only a few tens of people around the world had used the precursor of Wi-Fi. Connectivity was largely tethered to the phone on your desk or in your hall and the web didn't exist. Today, wireless is pervasive and billions expect instant connectivity wherever they are.
We can't see the wireless spectrum. If we could, we would be worried. What would have looked like a deserted rural lane in 1990 would now appear as a multi-lane highway close to gridlock. Particularly in the unlicensed, 2.4 GHz spectrum, which is used by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Zigbee, we can envisage things grinding to a halt. That's why Bluetooth 5 is so important.
Bluetooth 5 is the first major Bluetooth release, which is not based on a specific application feature (e.g., high speed or low power). Instead, it provides a package of features that are aimed at robustness. These don't just enhance performance, with longer range, higher throughput and greater payloads, but also concentrate on better reliability and coexistence with other wireless technologies, both in the same band and in adjacent spectrum. It builds on 15 years of experience of being the world's most successful personal wireless standard, to create the foundation for increased performance and user experience over the next 15 years.
It's a very brave decision to concentrate on solving problems before they appear, but one that is vital to future applications. Behind the scenes, work is going on aimed at more specific application areas. We will shortly see the release of a Bluetooth mesh standard, followed by a second generation of audio, which supports the new ways in which we will use voice. Both of these applications will work better because of the features of Bluetooth 5.
Bluetooth started out in mobile phones, but today it has spread far wider. From children's toys to smart home to medical devices, wearables and factory automation, retail beacons, wireless headsets and hearing aids, Bluetooth has become the wireless connection of choice. We will not stop using wireless. However, the wireless spectrum is not a flexible commodity. We cannot increase it, so we have to use it more efficiently. Bluetooth 5 embodies that recognition and lays the ground for an on-going generation of amazing, new applications.
Nick Hunn, CTO at WiFore

When considering the new Bluetooth 5 specifications, it's important for us to remember that at its core, Bluetooth is simply a wireless LAN platform that was adapted to offer wireless Personal Area Network (PAN) solutions. By providing a longer range with higher data rates and by leveraging recent improvements in DSP to avoid the increases in power consumption, Bluetooth 5 appears to be a shift back toward those roots as a wireless LAN platform... while still providing the wireless PAN capabilities. Bluetooth 5 appears to fill gaps in the Wi-Fi ecosystem by offering a "mobile" wireless LAN platform for the Industrial IoT and M2M markets. It may also create value in the Mobile Consumer ecosystem by offering a more seamless integration of consumer devices with geolocation and CRM services. However, in an attempt to do many things, we always have to wonder whether it's possible to do any of them very well. 
Bluetooth 5 does not appear to be offering new solutions for the security and the reliability problems that have plagued its predecessors. And depending on how these new capabilities are deployed, Bluetooth 5 may worsen the spectrum crowding in already-congested areas, may decrease reliability for the end-users, and may increase the Negative Networking Effects already being felt along the Bluetooth supply chain. As with previous releases of Bluetooth, there seem to be rumors spreading that a more reliable point-multipoint networking experience is just on the horizon, but Apple's apparent difficulties synchronizing even the left and right channels of its AirPods, using its own W1 chip suggests otherwise. Given that the previous iterations of 4.0 will remain the WPAN solution in Bluetooth 5, improvements in the point multipoint networking performance seem unlikely.
In conclusion, it's always important to recognize what you do well, and to leave to others what you don't. I applaud Bluetooth 5's strategic shift back toward its roots as a wireless LAN solution, while continuing to support the wireless PAN ecosystem it helped to create. Hopefully, others will see this as an opportune time to add new and complementary wireless PAN solutions, and to step in where Bluetooth has begun to step back.
Michael Abrams, MD, Chief Executive Officer, FreeLinc Technologies, Inc.


The Core v5.0 Specification document is now available for download on the Bluetooth SIG website. Any further comments regarding audio applications with Bluetooth 5 and its impact in the industry are welcome and may be submitted by email.

From the Vault
A 6-Channel Volume/Balance Control
By Dennis Colin
This versatile control circuit is pure Class A analog, allowing control over the ultra-high transparency SACD (Direct Stream Digital) or DVD-A multichannel surround formats with up to six power amp channels. An interesting project published by audioXpress in 2003, from an era when SACD was still promising to be the format of the future and the first multichannel recordings - in particular for classical musical and live recordings - promised to be the logical production progression from conventional stereo. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out to be that way and, just a few years later, record shops starter to promote sales of existing SACD stocks. The physical format that was Super Audio CD is now practically extinct - even though we can still buy copies of some excellent albums in that format. In its place, we can continue to enjoy DSD material now available as downloadable files, in which case this project could still be useful for a six-channel discreet system, connected to a popular OPPO Digital BDP-105D player, with the benefit that it's also an excellent Blu-Ray/SACD player. As the author wrote when he experienced multi-channel music in SACD, "With a good recording, this transparent naturalness extends to an enveloping soundfield that at its best can make you think you've been listening from just outside the concert hall doorway, and now you've walked inside!" This article was originally published in audioXpress, February 2003.   Read the Full Article Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Scan-Speak Discovery D2604/833000 1" Wide Surround Silk Dome Tweeter 
By Vance Dickason
This Test Bench characterizes Scan-Speak's 1" wide surround silk dome tweeter, D2604/833000, a high-end home audio driver from their Discovery lineup. Founded in 1970, Scan-Speak is still working out of the same address in Videbaek, Denmark, and with the same "no compromise" philosophy that was always a part of the company's mission. One of the latest efforts for Scan-Speak was to develop a new high-quality line of more competitively priced OEM product, dubbed Discovery. The D2604/833000 is the latest tweeter offering from the Discovery line and features a large surround 1" diameter silk dome, a low 475 Hz resonance, CRT shielding, a separate rear chamber, a ferrite magnet motor, an injection-molded faceplate with a five-point mounting configuration, voice coil wound with copper-clad aluminum wire, and gold-plated terminals. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, February 2011.   Read the Full Article Online

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