CEntrance Announces BlueDAC Wired and Wireless Portable DAC/Amp
Promoted on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, the new BlueDAC by CEntrance combines the top-notch audio quality for which the company is known, in a portable device ideal for smartphone users looking for the most convenient and complete, wired or wireless, personal audio solution. Promoted as CEntrance's most advanced portable DAC/Amp, the battery-powered BlueDAC surpassed the campaign goal after just one day and will now benefit from new stretch goals Read More

COMSOL Announces Multiphysics v5.3 Software with Important Improvements on the Acoustics Module
COMSOL announced the latest release of the COMSOL Multiphysics and COMSOL Server simulation software. Version 5.3 provides notable performance improvements, a powerful app design, and deployment capabilities with new modeling and development tools, solvers, and user-driven features. Those using the Acoustics Module will benefit from new functionality that greatly improves time-domain simulations of acoustics phenomena and facilitates solving large acoustics-based models.   Read More

Genelec Announces New Genelec Loudspeaker Manager (GLM) Version 2.2 Software
During the 2017 NAB Show in Las Vegas, Genelec announced the release of its GLM (Genelec Loudspeaker Manager) V2.2 software, an update to the highly intuitive and powerful monitor control networking system that manages connectivity and operational parameters of all models of Genelec Smart Active Monitoring studio monitors and subwoofers. This is the "intelligence" that glues together the latest generation of the famous Finish active monitors, and an evolution of the update v2 software launched in 2015.   Read More

Blackmagic Design Announces DaVinci Resolve 14 Software now with Complete Audio Tools Following Acquisition of Fairlight
At NAB 2017, Blackmagic Design announced a game-changing version of its DaVinci Resolve 14 software. The biggest release in the history of the product with massive performance improvements, now features an entirely new audio post production suite with Fairlight audio built-in, together with multi user collaboration tools that enables multiple people from multiple systems to simultaneously edit, color, and mix audio the same project. And the basic software is completely free!    Read More

Master & Dynamic Rethinks Premium Wireless Speakers with the MA770
Lifestyle headphone brand Master & Dynamic has partnered with renowned architect David Adjaye to design a bold new speaker that draws upon distinctive premium materials for the home audio market. This is an excellent example of how manufacturers are targeting a new premium market and a new generation of consumers already rendered to the convenience of streaming services and seamless wireless connectivity. From headphones to speakers, the New York-based brand surprises with a new type of luxury.   Read More

Dirac Research Announces Appointments and New Investors to Accelerate Growth in VR/AR Applications
Investing further in the build-out of its senior management team, Dirac Research appointed Lars Isaksson as Business Director of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality. The Swedish company also received extra support from new investors to, in part, accelerate its growth into the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality markets. One of those investors, Jörgen Lantto, also joined Dirac's Board of Directors. Meanwhile, the company was awarded a research grant from the Swedish government.  Read More

Strong Momentum for AES67 Audio-over-IP Interoperability Standard at NAB 2017
Member companies of the Media Networking Alliance (MNA), the non-profit trade association - established in 2014 to promote the adoption of the high-performance AES67 AoIP interoperability open standard - are exhibiting and participating in a range of promotional activities to advance the cause of AES67 at this year's NAB show. MNA member companies are sponsoring education sessions and hosting live interoperability demos throughout NAB 2017, including the IP Showcase, promoted to demonstrate interoperability of the new SMPTE ST 2110 standard.   Read More

New OPPO UDP-205 Is the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Player Audio Enthusiasts Want
OPPO Digital finally unveiled full details on its new UDP-205 4K Ultra HD Audiophile Blu-ray Disc Player! The UDP-205 combines the incredible video technology of the UDP-203 with industry-leading audio technology, including dual ES9038PRO Sabre DAC chips from ESS Technology, an improved HDMI Audio Clock, an asynchronous USB DAC with coaxial and optical inputs, a headphone amplifier, and dedicated stereo output with XLR balanced connectors.   Read More

A New Dual Discrete Op-Amp for Audio Products from Orange Amplification
Once in a while, British guitar amplifier specialists surprise the industry with some unusual products. We've seen Orange introducing headphones, the VT1000 valve/tube tester and even an automatic bias adjustment kit, the DIVO OV4. But now, Orange has truly surprised us with the introduction of its new Dual Discrete Op-Amp, which has been specifically designed for audio use. Orange simply says, "It is one of the most musically sounding of its kind on the market today."   Read More

New CP2615 USB-to-I2S Bridge Chip from Silicon Labs for Simple Digital Audio Designs
Silicon Labs has introduced a fixed-function audio bridge device that provides a simple, turnkey solution for transferring digital audio data between the universal serial bus (USB) and integrated inter-IC sound (I2S) serial bus interfaces. The new CP2615 digital audio bridge simplifies USB-to-I2S connectivity and accelerates time to market for a wide range of power-sensitive, space-constrained USB audio applications based on Android, Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems, including headphones, speakers, and others.   Read More

Stuart Yaniger

Guest Editorial

Impressions from AXPONA 2017

AXPONA, the yearly consumer high-end audio show was held this past weekend in Chicago, IL. As usual, it was a remarkable conglomeration of equipment and people and an entertaining way to see what's new and interesting. Oliver Masciarotte will be doing an extensive article on it, so I'll limit myself here to some random impressions and my own highlights (and the opposite).
The show was crowded. The promo photo of the guy sitting in the sweet spot at a demo, seemingly alone in the room, must have been taken well after closing time! Most rooms were packed and frantic, which from an exhibitor's point of view is encouraging, but it does make any sort of sonic evaluation dicey at best. It was nice to see a greater number of younger faces and even a few females here and there, though the majority of the latter seemed to be there more to keep their significant others company than exploring on their own.

I generally don't like horns, but the Burwell Mother of Burl sounded excellent with a jazz combo playing. I'd want to hear these with voices and strings before deciding that my objections to the horn sound have been overcome. Sound aside, they were absolutely gorgeous.

One thing that struck me was, despite the crowding and noise, the attendees were a remarkably friendly and cheerful bunch. I struck up conversations with dozens of people, many of whom had come a long way to see the show, and everyone I talked to was interesting and enthusiastic about sharing their impressions - I got a lot of great tips on what to see and hear, so to those anonymous folks, many thanks!

Among exhibitors, there was a dichotomy. There were those who cling to the past and show basically the same old stuff but in this year's package with this year's stories. "We've improved the Diamond Series amplifiers by a new cryogenic process of treating the power supply diodes!" As a tube amp enthusiast who does some design work, I was disappointed (though not surprised) to find that every tube amp and preamp I saw fell into this category. The creativity seems to be directed toward perceived product differentiation and branding rather than any real performance enhancements.
Want cable lifters? There were at least a dozen kinds on display, all with varying stories - and no evidence that they do anything beyond lifting your cables. One exhibitor, at least had them priced at a level that isn't insane.
Then there were those who embraced new technologies, making electronics smaller, lighter, higher performance, and more versatile. When I visited manufacturers such as Benchmark and RME, I was struck by how their product categories have been revolutionized by the new silicon available from top chipmakers - they achieve distortion, noise, and bandwidth performance that would have been almost unattainable five years ago. As with everything else in our lives, digital connectivity was the story in lots of rooms, and it was great to see how this has been integrated into the listening experience.

Unfortunately, snake oil is still rampant, and there's a community religion surrounding certain "technologies." Wire, of course, but power conditioning seems to be gaining a higher proportion of floor space. Some of the explanations were highly entertaining, but the prices weren't! If you want a magic box that will make your 60 Hz mains much more 60 Hz-ish, or power cables that will reduce noise by techniques that increase bandwidth, there were many people who would gladly take your $15,000. Of course, there were magic dots and little bits of metal for sale that transform your room acoustics, despite being only a tiny fraction of a wavelength in size.
There was nothing new about these sorts of fraud and delusion, but what I found new was that so many of these peddlers have taken to heart the admonition of the economist Thomas Sowell: "A talented con man does not waste his time trying to convince knowledgeable skeptics. His job is to keep the true believers believing." If you weren't already sold on the idea that "Teflon foam dielectric will make your sound much more open and airy," then you'll be hustled out as quickly as possible. At the display of one company selling remarkably expensive USB cables, I asked, "What do these do that an ordinary USB-compliant cable doesn't?" The fellow responded by asking me what I believed about them. I answered, "I don't know anything about your cables, that's why I'm asking what they do differently than a standard cable." This was apparently not the right answer, and the exhibitor snapped, "You're just here to make us look bad!" and refused to engage in any further conversation. By contrast, he was happy to talk with other folks nearby who came in having read every cable review and article in the high-end audio magazines, and I have to admit that his rapid method of customer qualification is likely better for his company's revenue.
At High Fidelity Cables, the inventor of their special magnetic cables put on an entire show with explanations of how conductivity works that would come as a surprise to anyone with a physics background. The talk and Q&A afterward emphasized that the investors were aggressive litigation attorneys, so I'll merely quote from my conversation about the MC-0.5. "We call this 'the Skepticism Eliminator.' Plug it into the wall socket and it reduces noise in all of the other circuits in the room." I asked the obvious question, "OK, so if I attach a spectrum analyzer to this wall socket, then plug the MC-0.5 into another socket, I'll see the noise spectrum reduce in amplitude?" This was also not the right question to ask, apparently, because there's noise that we can hear but not measure. I was told again about their investors being litigation attorneys.
My funniest quote of the day came from a fellow at Synergistic Research who was showing me some little metal deals and stick on dots, which were claimed to fix acoustical problems in rooms. "Now we gave some of these to Michael Fremer, who is the biggest skeptic there is..."
Etalon Speakers
And best moment of the show was after a demo of phono cartridge assembly by AJ van den Hul. He also apparently sells a line of quack medical gadgets, and the person he chose for that demonstration was... my physician. My doc is a very smart but very mild and quiet fellow, and he just gave a slight Mona Lisa smile through the proceedings as his shoulder was "treated."

OK enough ranting, let's talk sound. On the bright side, in one room on the top floor, I encountered the Soltanus Virtuoso electrostatic loudspeakers, out of Serbia. These might be the finest speakers I've ever heard, and if my wife wins the lottery, they're going into my listening room. At $12,500 the pair, these were far from the most expensive speakers at the show, but easily the best I heard.

Another very interesting speaker was the Etalon, with a very Brancusi-like styling. Seated 2 meters or so away, I found the imaging and soundstage to be remarkably good. Detail was very in-your-face, with things like fingerboard sounds on guitars being very easy to hear. The sound falls apart with loud and complex material. I was surprised to see that the driver complement was two small metal cone full range drivers, looking much like the old EJ Jordans. I'm on the fence as to the value provided at the $12,800 asking price, but that soundstage was sure magical.
The Planter Piermont Speakers are designed to look like planters and sound nice.

On the other end of the price spectrum, Vanatoo offers a couple of powered mini-monitor models. I wasn't greatly impressed with the larger Transparent One (though I can't deny the solid imaging and huge soundstage) but the smaller and less expensive Transparent Zero seemed to punch far out of its weight class. I'd love to get a pair into my lab for extended listening and measurement. They feature digital and analog inputs, and can be run wirelessly.
Roger Sanders has always had a good sound in his room, and this year was no exception. The electrostatic speakers have a very narrow sweet spot and sound good elsewhere, but in that spot... near perfection.

An interesting oddball collection was offered by Planter Speakers, which are designed to look like, yes, planters. They are meant for outdoor use, and for what they are, the sound was very nice. Construction looked great. Best of the bunch for me was the Piermont (see photo). Not cheap, but they seem well-made and Art Powers, the designer, seems genuine and enthusiastic. They also sell electronics from the old-school brand Madison-Fielding, though the electronics seem quite up to date.
The Epique CBT24K Line Array Speaker Kit designed by Don Keele was on display at the Parts Express booth.
Joseph Audio was showing its Perspective speakers, which feature the "Infinite Slope" crossovers. Clearly they paid attention to the polar pattern - there was a sizeable sweet spot, the spectral balance was very natural, and the sound was easy and relaxing. I could absolutely live with these.

Parts Express had an interesting curved line array (see photo) designed by Don Keele. Unfortunately Parts Express wasn't set up in a location where any real listening could be done, but that's something I'd love to spend some time with.
My favorite accessory was the LP cleaning machine from Ultrasonic Records. This is a well-thought out design, sold without hype, and rather than pushing some magic cleaning juice, company principal David Ratcliff explains how to make your own fluid. And he also has a wicked sense of humor.
To wrap it up, unlike last year, which was almost uniformly depressing, I came out of this year's show with some optimism, having seen some very clever and innovative design work, some real technological advances, and some indication that the audience for high-quality audio isn't dying of old age.

Practical Test & Measurement
Sound Cards for Data Acquisition in Audio Measurements (Part 3)
By Stuart Yaniger
Interested in Practical Test & Measurement? audioXpress' June 2015 issue initiated a great series by Stuart Yaniger looking at some of the available options and methods to create a low-cost system for lab-grade audio electronics measurements and provide some examples. After examining what features to look for in a sound card targeted for audio measurement, in this third article Yaniger continues to explore the other necessary components, such as software, a signal conditioning interface and, of course, the right computer. Nearly all the (free or nearly free) measurement software is designed for Windows computers, and Yaniger recommends a dedicated computer just for measurement applications. "Having no interrupts or interference from wireless or antivirus or other unnecessary programs running in the background can save a lot of measurement frustration. If your computer needs to be used for other tasks, it may help to set up a dedicated boot profile which will disable any wireless or LAN adapters, and mail or antivirus programs on start-up. If you're using a laptop, the battery is your friend. Much effort in reducing noise and ground loops can be avoided if the computer has no connection to the mains. Get a good charge then unplug your power brick." This article was originally published in audioXpress, August 2015.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Spotlight
Boundary Effects on Sources at Low Frequencies 
By Christopher J. Struck, (CJS Labs)
A sound source, such as a loudspeaker, will experience an increase in directivity with increasing frequency, as the wavelength of sound becomes small compared to the baffle's size. Since the baffle the driver is mounted on is larger than the driver, this occurs at a lower frequency than for the driver diaphragm itself. The effect on the response is a shelving transition (see Figure 1), increasing to 6 dB above ka = 2, where k is the Wave Number (2π/λ). And, a is the effective radius (i.e., the radius of a flat circular piston with the same surface area). The Directivity Index effectively increases from 0 to 3 dB as the device transitions from radiating spherically (into a full space) to radiating hemispherically (into a half space).[1] Note that rise in frequency response is 6 dB at high frequencies. So what happens to a loudspeaker's free-field response when it is placed near one or more boundaries? Read on. This article was published originally in Voice Coil, July 2016.   Read the Full Article Online

AX May 2017: Digital Login
Audio Product Design | DIY Audio Projects | Audio Electronics | Audio Show Reports | Interviews | And More 

Don't Have a Subscription?
VC May 2017: Digital Login
Industry News & Developments | Products & Services | Test Bench | Acoustic Patents | Industry Watch | And More