Ultimate Ears Pro Releases UE Pro Sound Tap Personal Monitoring System
In its continuous quest to bring the benefits of in-ear monitoring to all musicians, during the NAMM 2017 show, Ultimate Ears Pro released a device that makes personal stage monitoring simple with a plug-and-play solution, the UE Pro Sound Tap. This compact stage accessory plugs directly into any on-stage speaker and taps into the sound mix, passing sound through, without impacting the system. Musicians can then plug in their custom or universal in-ear monitors, and turn the existing stage monitor mix into an in-ear mix.   Read More

THX Launches Approved Components Program For ODMs And Consumer Electronics
THX, renowned for the certification of world-class cinemas and consumer goods, has launched a new program designed to help product manufacturers and brands deliver premium entertainment experiences by certifying key components used to build complete electronic devices. "Approved by THX" allows top-tier original design manufacturers (ODM) to certify superior audio and visual quality components that meet the high-performance requirements necessary to achieve THX certification.   Read More

Neumann KH 80 DSP Aims to Raise the Standard in Monitor Sound
With the new KH 80 DSP, Neumann launched its first studio monitor with digital signal processing. "Our DSP engine is an in-house development that primarily takes a formerly unknown variable and makes it calculable: the room. Expect clear, high-precision sound wherever you are monitoring," explains Wolfgang Fraissinet, President of Neumann. The two-way active bi-amplified near field monitor is now also the most compact in the brand's portfolio.   Read More

Cymatic Audio Adds Dante Compatibility to AudioLan Option Card
Following a series of interoperability demonstrations at previous trade shows, during NAMM 2017, Cymatic Audio announced the addition of Dante compatibility to the AudioLan option card for its uTrack24 multitrack recorder, player and interface. Cymatic also added an all-new Playlist feature ideal for "virtual sound check" purposes and/or enhancing live band performances with pre-recorded tracks, for its uTrack-X32 expansion card.    Read More
Celestion Introduces Impulse Responses of Classic Celestion Guitar Speaker Tones
In a very interesting development for the speaker industry, during NAMM 2017, Celestion announced their revolutionary new line of Impulse Responses (IRs), a collection of definitive digital representations of their renowned classic guitar speaker tones. With musicians and studios increasingly using digital representations of classic equipment and acoustic modelling, Celestion decided to take matters in their own hands, making the IRs available in a new dedicated website.   Read More

QSC Introduces K Cardioid Single-Box Powered Cardioid Subwoofer
As QSC approaches the celebration of nearly one million K Family loudspeakers sold since their introduction in 2009, the company announced the newest member of the family, the K Cardioid Subwoofer. Deploying QSC amplification and advanced DSP in a single, compact enclosure, the K Cardioid Subwoofer represents the world's first-in-class single-box powered cardioid subwoofer solution for highly portable entertainment and installation applications.  Read More

Sennheiser's AMBEO Smart Surround Records Binaural Audio Directly to Smartphones
Seen for the first time at CES 2017, Sennheiser is now showcasing its new AMBEO Smart Surround solution - a compact earphone for immersive 3D audio recording - at NAMM 2017. This product lets consumers capture and listen to binaural audio recordings on their smartphones with unprecedented simplicity. Following the unveiling of Sennheiser's AMBEO 3D audio technology program and the introduction of the AMBEO VR Mic, Sennheiser's Smart Surround will be the brand's first AMBEO consumer product.   Read More

Universal Audio Unveils New Apollo Twin MkII Desktop Audio Interface for Mac and Windows
First day of NAMM 2017, and Universal Audio unveiled its new Apollo Twin MkII desktop audio interface, a much improved version of the popular Apollo Twin, introduced in 2014. The new MkII version delivers next-generation 24-bit/192 kHz AD/DA audio conversion with Unison Technology, Realtime UAD Processing, now up to UAD-2 QUAD processing, talkback functionality, and improved monitoring functions to Mac and Windows users over Thunderbolt 2.  Read More

Oliver A. Masciarotte

Guest Editorial

Master Quality Authenticated On Tidal

The fave TLA of the month is MQA, and if you don't already know what that means, you need to get out more. The recent announcement by lossless streaming service TIDAL is a big moral boost for the whole MQA camp.
TIDAL has started streaming a subset of their library in MQA format. While busy attending more trade-shows, João Martins, editor in chief of audioXpress, mentioned to me that he saw social media comments saying folks were disappointed because some of the available music was "old jazz records (so) there's no chance of those being high res." Let's not conflate the concept of provenance with resolution, though they often are related. Archival sources, including lacquers, tape and especially mag film, can store exceptional fidelity in some, but not all, aspects.
For those not happy with highly compressed music streaming, Tidal already offered a CD-quality service. Now it offers lossless high resolution audio with MQA-streaming in its HiFi Master option.

TIDAL is streaming 44.1 kHz or 48kHz/24-bit MQA-encoded data. In order to hear a big improvement, you need to completely decode those bitstreams. Think of MQA decoding as a three-legged stool. The first leg is detecting that an unsullied MQA data stream is present. If the bitstream has been altered in any way, then decoding cannot occur. The second leg is "unfolding," or unpacking the hidden HRA data stored in the 17th through 24th bit. Unfolding losslessly decompresses the hidden data, transforming quotidian quality into the original, high resolution yumminess with all its high frequency, low amplitude detail intact. The third leg occurs in an MQA-enabled DAC, where the MQA software provides compensation or deconvolving of temporal damage done to the audio by the DAC itself.
Say you don't own an MQA DAC... If you play back MQA data without decoding it, you may hear a small improvement since temporal and distortion ADC deficiencies were compensated for during encoding but, that's it. The data stays at CD quality, with all the high rez goodness still hidden, so unless you have a highly resolving (in the time domain) system, you won't hear much if any difference between an MQA version and a CD version... until you actually decode it!
As João wrote me, "Others confess that they do not have an MQA-enabled DAC and expect that their player software should be able to support MQA decoding. Why should they need to buy a new DAC?!" There's some good news on this front as well. Damien Plisson, developer of one of my two bit perfect, reference music players, Audirvana Plus, told me that the forthcoming version 3 is implementing the MQA Core Decoder. "It performs the first unfolding to retrieve the upper half of the recording frequency spectrum. That is, a 44.1 kHz MQA file is... (decoded into) full 88.2 kHz" in his software. However, the deblurring/temporal compensation, achieved by tuning the DAC filters (the 3rd leg mentioned above), can only be performed in an MQA DAC. Sonic Studio's Jon Reichbach, maker of my other bit perfect reference player, also announced that the upcoming Amarra 4 will have MQA Core decoding as well. By the way, these are both MacOS-only products.
Mytek's alchemical Brooklyn desktop DAC magically unfolding 44.1/24 into 352.8/24 via TIDAL's desktop app.

So far, I've counted 537 albums, mostly old and new pop, with a few classical, country and jazz titles thrown in for good measure. That doesn't bother me, as that number will grow quickly. At the recent CES, representatives from Rhapsody, Pandora and HD Tracks expressed enthusiasm for HRA streaming. In future, multiple providers and multiple libraries means a plethora of choice. For now, MQA data delivered over TIDAL is an astoundingly luscious entreé into the world of high rez audio. Hats off to both TIDAL and MQA for making it happen.

Show Report
The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) 2016 Report
By Oliver A. Masciarotte
In this report for audioXPress, Oliver Masciarotte provides his personal perspective as he explores the most interesting new products at The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) 2016. In his Show Report from Denver, CO, Masciarotte finds headphones and earbuds, wired and wireless solutions, new digital players, DACs, amplifiers, speakers and much more. As  Masciarotte writes, "Fall in Denver is a glorious time to be on the high plateau, with golden acacia leaves falling like snow, and the real white stuff high on the mountain peaks. This year, the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (October 7-9) faced quite a challenge, as the promised renovations to its preferred venue had not been completed on schedule. The result: perplexed exhibitors and attendees, with substandard space for exhibitors and poor lighting for all parties in the tent where most headphone vendors were exiled. Still, show traffic was decent but not exceptional, and your intrepid reporter got his harried self to quite a few "rooms" during the three days of the event." This article was originally published in audioXpress, January 2017.   Read the Full Article Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Morel TSCT 1044 High-End Tweeter 
By Vance Dickason
For this Test Bench I received Morel's new soft dome tweeter, the 28 mm TSCT 1044. As part of the Supreme line, the TSCT 1044 and the similar TSCT 1144 (which is the same tweeter with a larger faceplate) are both an entirely new design for Morel and incorporates the company's Improved Dispersion Recess (IDR) faceplate design, which is a shaped inset in the round metal faceplate. The shape is intended to increase the high-frequency output in the tweeters off-axis response. Additional features for the TSCT 1044 include a 28 mm Acuflex hand-coated fabric dome, a 104 mm IDR metal faceplate, a vented "flat pancake" ring-type neodymium magnet structure, a Hexatech hexagonal shaped aluminum voice coil wire (originally licensed from Dynaudio) wound on a titanium former, an underhung 1.125" diameter voice coil (4 mm gap and 2 mm coil height), a replaceable voice coil assembly, a damped die cast aluminum rear cavity, magnetic fluid in the gap for enhanced cooling, and gold-plated terminals. Because of the motor configuration, the top of the magnetic return path (pole piece) is about 60% open, providing a relatively small reflective surface beneath the dome. The remaining surface is damped with a round "donut" shaped felt ring. Last, the Din power handling specification for this tweeter is a robust 200 W. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, February 2016.   Read the Full Article Online

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