INDUSTRY & PRODUCT NEWS

Klawitter Designs Elite Studio Monitor Speakers Campaign on Indiegogo
Klawitter Designs is promoting its new studio monitors on crowdfunding website Indiegogo. Keith R. Klawitter publicly demonstrated the new KD Elite studio reference monitors at NAMM 2017 but has now decided to launch an Indiegogo campaign featuring the Elites at 33% off their regular prices - saving up to $2,000. As Klawitter states, "A chance to save big, get amazing speakers, make your work easier, and advance the art of recording - all while supporting Klawitter Designs."  Read More


Eclipse To Reveal The Performance Benefits Of Dual Subwoofers At High End Munich 2017
Once again, the avant-garde design and acoustic properties of the amazingly transparent Eclipse/Fujitsu-ten speakers will be on demonstration at the High End 2017 show, in Munich. This year, Eclipse will be highlighting the benefits of dedicated, high-quality subwoofers with a demonstration of a 2.2 configuration, featuring its acclaimed TD510ZMKII speakers plus two TD520SW subwoofers with its unique R2R Twin design and flexible input configuration. Eclipse can be found in Halle 3, room L04.   Read More


Sennheiser's AMBEO Smart Headset Binaural Sound Recording Solution Now Available
First showcased at the CES 2017 and NAMM 2017, the AMBEO Smart Headset is an intuitive, compact and mobile binaural recording solution that captures immersive 3D audio with mobile device simplicity. The binaural audio recordings created with the AMBEO Smart Headset deliver a stunning 3D experience - placing the listener inside the soundscape and playing back the direction of sounds and natural spatial characteristics of a location.   Read More


InfoComm Releases Updated Standard for Audio Coverage Uniformity
InfoComm International, the trade association representing the commercial audio/visual industry worldwide, announced the release of the updated standard Audio Coverage Uniformity (ACU) in Listener Areas (ANSI/INFOCOMM A102.01:2017). With advancements in technology and continual audio coverage problems, InfoComm considered it important to produce an updated version of the ACU standard, which was first released in 2009.    Read More
 

Bose Soundlink Revolve New Reference Design for Portable Bluetooth Speakers
Bose has launched the new SoundLink Revolve and SoundLink Revolve+, which could very well be an Amazon Echo killer, except that Bose is not pitching them like that, even though they feature voice-prompts and work with Siri and Google Assistant. Instead, Bose calls it "its best Bluetooth speakers ever," accentuating its true omni-directional performance, and an entirely new acoustic design from a seamless aluminum cabinet designed to be portableRead More


Harman Previews Harman Kardon Invoke Voice-Activated Speaker with Cortana from Microsoft
R&D departments in the all the global audio and mobile industries are currently focused on developing the next-generation of voice-activated speakers, exploring the success of the Amazon Echo, and trying to anticipate Apple's entry in the space. Most companies are exploring the tools and developments kits that make it easy to implement Amazon's Alexa or Google's Assistant voice personal assistants. Now, Harman has unveiled its own voice-activated speaker, working with Microsoft's Cortana and featuring improved audio feature.  Read More


New Worldwide Headphones Report Q1 2017 Available from Futuresource
The worldwide headphones aftermarket grew 5.2% to 349 million units in 2016, while revenues grew much more at 20.2% to generate revenues worth $13.4 billion. The latest "Worldwide Headphones Market Quarterly Report" from Futuresource Consulting looks at the current state of the headphones landscape, the major trends to watch, and provides a five-year forecast, as well as addressing the latest hot topics including Lightning and USB-C connectors, true wireless, and many more.   Read More


Driven by Function: Vanatoo Transparent Zero Wireless Powered Speakers
Recently introduced at AXPONA 2017, the new Vanatoo Transparent Zero active speakers ($299/pair) have caused quite a stir at the Chicago, IL, show. Not only for the extremely affordable price but also for its "convincing punch, far out of its weight class," as audioXpress author Stuart Yaniger noted. Assuming a daring approach to their designs, the Vanatoo Transparent Zero active speakers feature built-in analog and digital inputs and Bluetooth wireless with aptX and USB, providing a convincing all-in-one solution.   Read More



                                    



João
Martins
Editor-in-Chief




Editor's Desk


Amazon Announces Echo Show
...and It's Not a Speaker!

Is it a tablet? An Internet-connected alarm clock? The return of the videophone? The Amazon Echo Show will be released in the US only - for now - starting June 28, 2017.
This week, Amazon announced its latest member of the Alexa voice service hardware family, following the original Echo Dot ($49.99) and Amazon Echo (now $149.99) devices that kick-started the whole Voice Personal Assistant (VPA) trend, motivating every single consumer electronics and mobile devices brand to respond with similar concepts. The only problem is that the new Amazon Echo Show ($229.99) is not so much a speaker but a complete Alexa "videophone" and home automation interface with a camera.
 
After failing to gain some market share in the tablet wars with its Android-based Fire range, Amazon's engineers apparently decided to go back to the drawing board and rethink what exactly made the Amazon Echo so successful (including in terms of media attention). No doubt the ability to interact with the Internet and home automation systems with voice commands was the focus for the device's success. But as consumers start to understand the full potential of voice recognition, voice commands, and intelligent VPAs, there's one thing that becomes apparent - the concept's simplicity. In fact, the Amazon Echo concept was able to propel Amazon's Alexa technology to a mainstream position, and compete head to head with all the previously existing VPAs - Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant and more notably with the powerful Apple Siri ecosystem, available on the iPhone, iPads, and even Mac computers.
 
Apple executives have, in a somewhat unusual manner, made public comments about the Amazon Echo and have particularly highlighted its main strength, which is the device's ability to truly empower voice interaction in a favorable usage scenario. Because it's a speaker, the Echo is able to play voice and music at loud volumes and combines a complete microphone array for far-field capture, something that is truly vital for hands-free operation. Even though the Amazon Echo doesn't have a screen, the simple concept works for those users that are willing to talk to machines and don't actually mind that they have an object connected to Internet that's listening to everything in its vicinity 24 hours a day.

The Amazon Echo Show campaign was clearly designed to scare the competition...

So, if consumers responded positively to this way of interacting with Alexa, through a speaker, Amazon thought it would be logical to expand the concept with the remaining missing pieces. With the new Echo Show, Amazon also announced the new Echo Look, another "let's see if it works" concept, this time with a camera. The Echo Look ($199.99) is basically an Alexa-powered home hands-free camera that is able to take photos and short videos; featuring built-in LED lighting, a depth-sensing camera, and computer vision, complemented with a companion app. So, not only can Amazon listen to you, it can see you all the time as well!
 
Next up, comes the new Amazon Echo Show, that does exactly what any tablet can do, with an important difference - it stands on a purposely designed tabletop device that is dominated by a 7" touchscreen, topped by a 5 megapixel camera, allowing it to be used at a distance - a new usage scenario for video communications, which have until now focused on front-facing close-up cameras for tablets and smartphones, or the typical videoconferencing room usage of corporate applications (remember those purposely built videoconference rooms with everyone sitting around a table?). The Echo speaker experience enabled Amazon to envisage a completely new and interesting usage scenario of "far-field" video calls that should please a new generation of users, as the promotional video clearly shows. A FaceTime on steroids, if you will, is probably the most significant reason for Apple's executives to be scared since the iPhone launch.
On the audio front, the Echo Show expands the far-field voice recognition capabilities of the original Echo, with a simple two-driver speaker design, "powered by Dolby."

Inside the Amazon Echo Show, there is basically a dedicated "tablet," powered by an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor, complete with Wi-Fi connectivity (Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth connectivity with A2DP support for audio streaming from a mobile device to Echo Show or from the Echo Show to another Bluetooth speaker, and... most importantly, dual 2" stereo speakers (not exactly an improvement over the Echo sound quality), which Amazon says use Dolby digital signal processing.
 
The way Amazon is promoting its key application is by suggesting people use it for video-calls with other Echo Show users, or with users of the Alexa App on Android, Windows, and iOS. To enable good quality hands-free video calls from users which typically are not close to the device, the Echo Show uses eight microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation, allowing it to hear commands from any direction - even while music is playing. This way, as Amazon promotes, "voice responses from Alexa are now enhanced with visuals and optimized for visibility across the room."
 
A big if, known by anyone who owns an iOS device and rarely uses FaceTime, is that those "video calls" only work with other people who have an Echo Show or are running the Alexa App on their devices. Again, as with Skype, where users need to be online, there is no "universal" calling method that simply works, like we have with phone numbers. Still, Amazon has designed something interesting, which is a feature called Drop In, for "when you want to connect with your closest friends and family," as they explain. Drop In is a sort of automation feature that allows placing a call at a certain time, or simply "peek" at a camera on the baby's nursery, or check in on grandma. We will need more details to understand what else it will allow.

Introducing Amazon Alexa powered by Echo Show. Now Alexa can see you!
Like the Amazon Echo Look, the Echo Show also supports Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) over Bluetooth for voice control of connected mobile devices. So, it's also a complete automation hub with other compatible smart-home devices. On the screen itself, users can see videos on YouTube, see a streaming music service interface (e.g., Spotify), see music lyrics of the song playing, check remote security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All accessible hands-free over Alexa commands (even though you can actually approach it and use the touch-screen like with any other tablet...).
 
The Alexa Voice Service is able to trigger any of the features that manufacturers decide to implement on connected devices, like dim the lights, or open the garage, but also access services like book a restaurant or transportation, using connected platforms "Without lifting a finger." This means that you can easily program the Echo Show to display a live camera feed from the front door, whenever someone rings the doorbell. Amazon highlights the compatibility with home automation devices from brands such as Ring, WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, ecobee, Wink, and others. If users have more than one Echo Show, Echo, or Echo Dot, Alexa responds from the device that's closest, and Amazon says that you can always limit the interaction with Alexa by simply turning the mic/camera button off.
 
More importantly, with a new device like the Echo Show, Amazon will be able to increase the number of Alexa users, essential to improving the platform that's, "Always Getting Smarter." Alexa needs continuous user input to adapt to speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences. As with any Alexa-enabled device, the Echo Show is always connected, and updates are automatically delivered to the cloud. This is scary in many ways, but it's probably scarier for all the manufacturers that are starting to realize how threatening Amazon's strategy can be...


Practical Test & Measurement
Sound Cards for Data Acquisition in Audio Measurements (Part 5) - The User
By Stuart Yaniger
 
In this article series, Stuart Yaniger examines ways to create a low-cost system for lab-grade audio electronics measurements. The first four articles in the series looked at the hardware and software bits of the sound-card-based measurement system. The series provided an overview starting with the computer, moving on to the sound card, some of the software options, and the signal conditioning interface to the device under test (DUT) that we want to characterize. The last remaining piece is the user, as Yaniger explains: "One of the hazards of computer-based measurement systems is their uncanny ability to acquire impressive amounts of bad data in a surprisingly short time. The only way to minimize this is by understanding the measurement, choosing the right measurement parameters, and recognizing the artifacts in the data that are due to the parameter choices. Unfortunately, this is the hardest part of the process and unavoidably requires some understanding of the math." In this article, he discusses the importance of the Fourier Transform mathematical function, the sampling window, and averaging. This article was originally published in audioXpress, October 2015.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
TB Speaker 25-2176S Dome Tweeter 
By Vance Dickason
 
The Tang Band (TB) Speaker 25-2176S 1" dome tweeter is one of the latest additions to the expanding company's tweeter lineup. Features for the TB Speaker 25-2176S tweeter include a 25 mm wide surround coated fabric diaphragm optimized for high-frequency cutoff above 20 kHz, a unique aluminum assembly that is both self-shielding and acts as a heatsink, a unique aluminum mounting ring for screw down mounting up to 0.5" mounting depth, ferrofluid voice coil cooling and resonance damping, plus gold-plated terminals. This article was published originally in Voice Coil, July 2016.   Read the Full Article Online

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