World's Leading Independent Labels Represented by Merlin Sign Multi-Year Agreement to Encode Masters in MQA
MQA and Merlin, the global digital rights agency for the independent label sector, have announced a multi-year agreement that will support the world's best-known independent labels to encode their master recordings in Master Quality Authenticated (MQA). Following agreements with music-entertainment giants Universal Music Group (UMG), and Warner Music Group, MQA now gets the support from the world's largest independent catalog.  Read More

Merging Technologies Promotes Advantages of RAVENNA Ethernet Audio Protocol as the New Benchmark for Connectivity at High End Munich 2017
At High End Munich 2017, Merging Technologies will again promote its network-connected NADAC and the new MERGING+PLAYER solution developed with Roon Labs for DSD and DSD multichannel playback. But the Swiss company thinks this is also the time to promote RAVENNA as the connection standard for high end audio, promoting drivers that can be adopted by other devices, and introducing ZMan, a new OEM RAVENNA circuit board for audio components as diverse as loudspeakers, DACs and server/streamers.   Read More

Audio Engineering Society to Join The 2018 NAMM Show in New Format: AES at NAMM
With a vision to continue to strengthen the music and pro audio industries, The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and The Audio Engineering Society (AES) have announced a new collaborative alliance that will integrate pro audio educational training activities related to live sound, performance audio, recording technology, and other topics into The 2018 NAMM Show, January 25-28 in Anaheim, CA.   Read More

Affordable Electrostatic Expanse Speakers Campaign on Indiegogo
Another week, another speaker design is promoted on crowdfunding platforms. While some ideas are better than others, there's nothing like taking an existing technology and giving it an updated use for modern needs. That's what IC One Two (IC12), a company from Australia, is realizing with its new Expanse Speakers range. A modern take on the best acoustic properties of electrostatic transducers in two affordable systems for desktop and home-theater use.    Read More

Hafler Introduces HA75-DAC Headphone Amplifier and USB DAC
Hafler (a division of Radial Engineering) announced the launch of the HA75-DAC, an audiophile-quality tube-based headphone amplifier and USB digital-to-analog converter. Basically, Radial took its existing Hafler HA75 "vintage inspired" headphone amplifier, a 100% discrete class-A circuit with a 12AX7 tube drive, and added a USB Digital-to-Analog converter input with 24-bit/192 kHz support in the same 14-gauge steel casing, making it a much more practical and complete unit in multiple applicationsRead More

Avermetrics Releases 8-Channel Switch for Audio Measurements
Audio and electronic production test systems specialist, Avermetrics, has announced the release of its new 9084 Analog Switch. Based in Los Angeles, CA, Avermetrics develops highly modular and scalable test solutions for electronics production lines. Its new 9084 Analog Switch was precisely designed to respond to the needs of audio equipment manufacturers with high-channel count devices that need to be tested.  Read More

MAGIX Releases Sound Forge Pro Mac 3 and Announces New Versions for 2017
Promising a bright future for the entire Sound Forge Line, German software company MAGIX confirmed it is committed to release upgrades to this popular family of audio editing software products. Currently under development by engineering teams in the US and Germany, new upgrades will arrive in May 2017, with upgrades for the entire line slated for completion within the next 12 months.   Read More

HEAD acoustics Test Equipment Allows HD Voice+ Logo Certification According to New GSMA Standard
The GSM Association (GSMA) has now specified test methods to assess the minimum performance requirements for allowing manufacturers of LTE mobile terminals and network providers to make use of the HD Voice+ (High Definition Voice+) logo. Combining HEAD acoustics' advanced communication quality analysis system (ACQUA) with the measurement front end MFE VIII.1, plus codecs and software options, manufacturers will be able to test their systems for the new Voice+ certification.   Read More


Editor's Desk

A Step Forward for Music

This edition of The Audio Voice will reach your mailboxes when audioXpress and Voice Coil teams are already enjoying another exciting edition of the High End Show in Munich. And while the sun is still shining here in beautiful Bavaria - with some rain and storms unfortunately in the forecast - we couldn't think of anything better to write about than the exciting news that we just received regarding Master Quality Authenticated (MQA), which will once again be a dominating topic at this high-quality consumer audio show.
Before we dive into MQA though, I am certain many of our readers have already seen the news about "The End of MP3," in newspapers, social media, and even on some respected industry websites. Unfortunately, the published stories are mostly based on very little knowledge of the facts.
MP3 is not dead but I wish it was.
What actually happened is that the research institute Fraunhofer IIS, published a press release stating that, as of April 23, 2017, Technicolor's mp3 licensing program for certain mp3-related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS has been terminated. And they add: "We thank all of our licensees for their great support in making mp3 the defacto audio codec in the world, during the past two decades."

mp3 was the result of many years of team work, involving numerous individuals and research organizations, including the Fraunhofer IIS team pictured here.

Knowing well how mp3 was not exactly the proudest moment of the institution, it's important to highlight what they say: "The development of mp3 started in the late 80s at Fraunhofer IIS, based on previous development results at the University Erlangen-Nuremberg. Although there are more efficient audio codecs with advanced features available today, mp3 is still very popular among consumers. However, most state-of-the-art media services such as streaming or TV and radio broadcasting use modern ISO-MPEG codecs such as the AAC family or in the future MPEG-H. Those can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bitrates compared to mp3."
And that's it. "Licensing has been terminated." It doesn't mean that a technology, which has been mostly in the public domain since it was invented (effectively there was nothing left to license, except the encoder) will simply disappear by magic, when the standard exists and, unfortunately, it is used by a lot of people who don't care about the alternatives. In fact, now that the MPEG-1 Layer 3 compression method for audio is no longer licensed, I'm afraid it will last even longer than it should...
But what really annoys me is that the mp3 story has not been properly told - and I still have hopes to publish one or more articles about it in audioXpress. Because it is important. The reason why mp3 is still used, is precisely because compression technology is important. But people seem to ignore that, following the original MPEG-1 technologies, there where decades of research on MPEG-2, which still powers digital radio, and much more work was done with MPEG-4, which was the foundation for the AAC codec family (AAC actually stands for Advanced Audio Coding) that Fraunhofer IIS mentions - and which is used to enable download and streaming services from many companies and is currently the foundation for all modern digital broadcast services. And the story didn't end there, as this Fraunhofer article details.  And Windows Media Audio (WMA ) , certainly deserves a mention for those interested in the topic of compression and audio file formats :) 
Fortunately for the world, data compression applications, including for audio and the lossless varieties that we now enjoy, has continuously evolved over the years. If people say they cannot tell the difference between mp3 and AAC files encoded at the same bit rate, it doesn't really matter, unless you really care. And we do. The same way we care about high quality audio experiences and we long for all digital audio to be high resolution. For the public in general, all compression will forever be called "mp3" and there's nothing we can do about it.
MQA captures and delivers master quality audio in a file that's small enough to stream or download. Click here to read the audioXpress article.
And now for the (really) good news.
That's why the news about MQA is so important and relevant at this stage. Because, in the digital streaming age, we really need MQA, and we are going to need it for a while. Fortunately, it is increasingly clear MQA is here to stay. As it was confirmed earlier this week, Merlin, the organization representing the world's largest independent music catalog - and considered to be the fourth "music major," after Universal Music Group (UMG), Warner Music, and Sony Music - already confirmed they will be encoding their master recordings in MQA. This follows previous agreements with Universal and Warner, both of which are already offering a significant number of MQA releases.
But in another very significant announcement for High End 2017, MQA has published an official comment from Sony Music on the expanding availability of high-resolution audio products and services powered by MQA, where Mark Piibe, Executive Vice President, Global Business Development and Digital Strategy, Sony Music Entertainment, states: "As a long-running supporter of MQA's high resolution audio solutions, we are encouraged to see a growing number of digital service providers and consumer hardware companies adopting MQA technology to make studio sound quality from Sony Music artists available to streaming music consumers."
Basically, Sony is referring to the fact that everyone else has already committed to supporting MQA and that it doesn't make sense for the missing one of the "big three" to ignore it.  As MQA confirmed prior to the Munich show, over the past 12 months, the company has been extremely busy concluding new partnerships, which included the launch on TIDAL's global streaming service earlier in the year, the release of the first MQA physical format releases and licensing to many new MQA hardware software and hardware partners. For High End 2017, this now includes names like AudioQuest, CanEVER Audio, dCS, Esoteric, IAG, Krell, Lumin, Mark Levinson, MOON by Simaudio, Pro-Ject Audio Systems, TEAC and Wadax.
Also, on the software side, TIDAL HiFi subscribers will be able to enjoy integrated MQA support with the new Amarra 4 Luxe media player from Sonic Studio. In March 2017, Audirvana released Audirvana Plus 3, the latest version of its software player, which now integrates MQA audio technology decoding.
Conversdigital is implementing MQA into its mconnect 24-bit/192kHz hardware modules, with integrated support for music streaming services.
More importantly, MQA is now supported by new strategic integration partners. StreamUnlimited is implementing MQA into their modular software solution, StreamSDK, and this will enable many new manufacturers to quickly bring MQA-enabled products to market. Conversdigital will also be implementing MQA into its mconnect modules and are already in discussions with many manufacturers on integration work.

Regarding streaming services, MQA is also expecting to confirm new agreements this year. As Mike Jbara, CEO of MQA, stated, "MQA launched on TIDAL at this year's CES in Las Vegas, enabling music fans to instantly stream thousands of MQA tracks, at no extra cost. The number of Masters albums, available on TIDAL's desktop application across all its markets worldwide, has grown rapidly and new releases are highlighted on its weekly playlists. With a number of other music services championing hi-res audio, expect more announcements to follow later this year."
And if anyone still has doubts regarding the merits of the MQA approach, which starts at the recording or mastering studio, we highly recommend reading the recent posts by Bob Stuart regarding the provenance and authentication of music recording masters. That's why it matters.


Practical Test & Measurement
Sound Cards for Data Acquisition in Audio Measurements (Part 6) - Measurement Examples
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. In the previous article, Yaniger discussed how to understand the measurements, choose the right measurement parameters, and recognize the artifacts in the data that are due to the parameter choices. In this article, a few measurement examples are used to illustrate the power and the versatility of sound-card-based measurements. The first example is a hybrid tube gain block intended for a RIAA preamplifier. The second example takes a brief look at the distortion characteristics of a commercial preamplifier. The third is rather more outré - a gadget that is intended to plug in between a headphone amplifier and headphones, claiming to significantly improve the sound through means about which the manufacturer is rather unclear. Finally, to illustrate the usefulness of sound card measurement in the design process, Yaniger explores the effects of load on power supply noise for a common IC regulator circuit. This article was originally published in audioXpress, November 2015.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
B&C Speakers 8NSM64 Closed-Back Midrange 
By Vance Dickason
The 8" 8NSM64 is a rather unique pro sound midrange driver from B&C Speakers. It's a closed-back midrange! Closed-back midranges are often associated with inexpensive speakers because by using a frame with no relief holes in the back, you don't have to build a midrange chamber. (Sonic speakers back in the 1980s used this technique to build three-way 12" vinyl v-box cabinet speakers that retailed for as low as $29.95!) There are also examples of closed-box "can" type midranges that were popular is some fairly high end speakers (e.g., the Peerless K0-40MRF). In this case, the 8NSM64 is a very high-power handling (500 W continuous) 8" midrange for professional PA applications, with a reasonable volume that can be damped with absorption material. (I'm guessing foam or fiberglass.) The 8NSM64's feature set includes the proprietary cast-aluminum frame and the enclosure that incorporates a substantial heatsink, a curvilinear pulp formulated cone with a waterproof coating, a 3.5" diameter paper dust cap (also with a waterproof coating), a 65 mm diameter voice coil wound on a glass fiber former with aluminum wire, and a motor structure that incorporates a neodymium ring magnet with a T-shaped pole. Compliance is provided by a double roll M-shaped coated cloth surround and a single-cloth spider. Last, the voice coil is terminated to a pair of solderable terminals. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, July 2016.   Read the Full Article Online

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