SEAS Announces New FEA18RCZ Prestige Full-Range 6.5" Driver
Norwegian speaker designer and manufacturer SEAS Fabrikker is gearing up its new generation drivers, resulting from an extensive R&D effort. Since the company premiered its new full-range drive unit in Guangzhou in December 2016, audio designers have been anxiously waiting for news about availability. audioXpress met the SEAS team at High End Munich 2017 and received confirmation that the company is now accepting orders for the new H1794-08 FEA18RCZ.  Read More

MediaTek Launches 4x4 802.11n/Bluetooth 5.0 System-on-Chip with Dedicated Wi-Fi Accelerator
MediaTek announced the world's first 4x4 802.11n and Bluetooth 5.0 system-on-chip featuring a dedicated Wi-Fi network accelerator. The MediaTek MT7622 was created for premium networking devices including routers and repeaters, whole-home Wi-Fi, and home automation gateways that pre-integrates audio and storage features. MediaTek also announced its next-generation Wi-Fi low power chipset portfolio for connected smart-home devices.   Read More

LG Sophisticated Dolby Atmos and High-Resolution Audio Soundbar Now Available
As previewed at CES 2017, LG Electronics launched its new soundbar with Dolby Atmos, 4K pass-through support and High-Resolution Audio (HRA) to enhance the home cinematic experience. The new 2017 LG SJ9 5.1.2 channel HRA soundbar with Dolby Atmos has also been launched with the LG SJ8 4.1 channel version and LG SJ7 "Flex" soundbar with wireless subwoofer, all using technologies that maximize compatibility with premium LG TVs for an enhanced home experience with surround sound capabilities.   Read More

Intel Unveils New Intel Core X-Series Processors and Announces Thunderbolt 3 Everywhere
During the annual Computex 2017 event, Intel unveiled its new Intel Core X-series processor family with 4 to 18 cores, which now includes the new Intel Core i9 Extreme Edition processor, the first consumer desktop CPU with 18 cores and 36 threads. On what is possibly the most interesting front for computing, outside of pure processing power, Intel announced plans to integrate Thunderbolt 3 into all future Intel CPUs and to release the Thunderbolt protocol specification to the industry.    Read More

Cypress Expands Wireless Connectivity Portfolio with New 802.11ac High-Performance Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Combo Solution
During Computex 2017, Cypress Semiconductor announced a new wireless solution that delivers advanced coexistence combining 802.11ac high-performance Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The new highly integrated Cypress CYW4373 solution incorporates a USB 2.0 hub that provides a common WLAN and Bluetooth interface. The combo solution seems to be an ideal for connected audio systems, smart-home products, and network peripherals.   Read More

Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR SoundBar Voice-Controlled Wireless Smart Surround Speaker
Soundbar designs keep getting better and are gaining market share by complementing new-generation UHD/4K flat panel TVs that keep getting larger but don't necessarily have great sound. Soundbars are becoming smart connected speakers, and the center hub for expanded surround sound systems. Polk Audio is the latest brand to leverage the trend with its MagniFi MAX SR SoundBar, a true 5.1 surround system using patented technology and connecting to wireless surround speakers and Google Home.  Read More

Frontier Silicon Announces Smart Audio Solution with Google Assistant
Frontier Silicon announced that its Smart Audio platform, Minuet, has been upgraded to include Google Assistant. Minuet already enables brands and manufacturers to develop smart audio devices with Chromecast built in. With the addition of Google Assistant, users will be able to control their smart speakers via voice and use these speakers not only to play music but also to access Internet services, such as news, update personal schedules, and control a range of smart home devices.   Read More

Diodes Introduces Power Switch to Fully Support USB Type-C Power Delivery and Fast-Role Swap
Diodes introduced the DPS1133, a single-channel power switch that the company says is the world's first high-voltage power switch designed to meet all the demanding protection and fast-role swap requirements of USB Type-C ports. As such, it addresses the full gamut of mobile and desktop computing devices and peripherals, and numerous other applications in the consumer electronics.   Read More


Editor's Desk

The Intriguing Case of the Analog Tapes

As I continue to share my adventures in the world of high-quality audio experiences at High End 2017 in Munich, and the recent Audio Engineering Society (AES) 142nd International Convention, at the Maritim Hotel in Berlin, there is a very interesting story that I would like to share.
You have certainly heard that the three major music companies, Universal Music Group (UMG), Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment, together with the world's leading independent labels represented by Merlin, a global digital rights agency, have all committed to encode their master recordings in Master Quality Authenticated (MQA). The reasons are clear. First, because the MQA "folding" format enables streaming music efficiently in the best quality currently possible, while maintaining compatibility with all current technologies (it plays CD quality or 24-bit/48 kHz, even if you don't have a decoder). Second, it motivates record companies to remaster and relaunch all the existing catalogs in the best possible high-resolution audio (HRA) quality (which they are free to make available on all platforms, including non-MQA uncompressed HRA downloads). Third - and probably more important - it consolidates the industry around the streaming platforms, which are proving to be a strong deterrent to all kinds of piracy, while introducing a practical and transparent way for record companies to certify their digital files and for consumers to be reassured of their provenance.
Encoding files in MQA for new recordings will be a straightforward process for any mastering studio - certainly much better than what they are currently providing with compressed formats. But the real hurdle is the amount of work that remains to be done with archive remastering - something we all know didn't go very well in the first transition to digital, and was unfortunately simply perpetuated with the demise of physical formats and the introduction of highly compressed file formats for distribution. The MQA encoding process provides an ideal opportunity to go back to the best possible recording in existence in the archives - including, analog tapes - and apply the best possible conversion to digital that we can access today. For the early digital recording formats, from DASH to DAT, U-Matic to ADAT, MQA says it is possible to remove some of the distortion and smear in the timing information caused by the earlier-generation converters. But that's an aspect that remains to be explained and anyone interested will need to refer to MQA for that. The MQA team is working hard to provide all the tools needed for the encoding and mastering processes and all current users are apparently bound by non-disclosure agreements, until MQA completes the workflow.  Reading Bob Stuart's articles about provenance of master recordings is a good way to understand the process and the challenges.
But the thing that interested me the most in all this discussion about "going back to the archives" is the analog tape source. I've personally closely followed the evolution in the studio and recording industry for the last 30 years and I know that there are not many reel-to-reel machines in good condition to simply start playing everything there is - even on the "priority" shelves. While most of the earlier analog recording formats were already copied to other supports for preservation reasons, reel-to-reel tape recording (multitrack, stereo, and mono masters) was the massively dominant media source in music archives since 1945 until the 1990s. And, as we all know, analog tape recorders are still being used and remain in high demand, even though all the historical brands for the hardware and tape media have long disappeared.

RecordingTheMasters - the Mulann Group - currently holds all the knowledge and the processes for high-quality magnetic tape that originated in Europe.

While walking the aisles and demo rooms at the High End show in Munich, I couldn't help noticing how reel-to-reel tape recorders have also made a comeback and how they are frequently used in demonstrations to provide a superior analog source. For a few years now, tape recorders and even original tape recordings have been presented at high-end shows, serving to demonstrate the analog difference, side by side with the vinyl revival. I have seen working models from Ampex, Tascam, TEAC, Fostex, Revox, Studer, Technics, Pioneer, Akai, and even Nagras. But at this year's High End show and at the AES convention in Berlin, I learned that there even are new reel-to-reel machines about to enter production.
Much better than listening to vinyl, nothing sounds quite like the original master analog tapes - and I have experienced that first hand in the studio, playing music from those amazing professional Studer, Revox, or Tascam machines. There's also a reason why so many recording studios keep reel-to-reel recorders alive, from 0.5" 8 tracks to 2" 24 tracks and certainly many 0.25" master stereo machines, which are often used to play archive material for conversion to the latest digital format. I will not even delve on "audiophiles" playing analog recordings for simple enjoyment. I can only think of all the work that still remains to be done, playing back the original existing analog master tapes and converting them to digital, now that we fully understand all the problems with the first generations of A/D and D/A converters that were used to create what we have been hearing since the age of the CD - and most of the material that is available on file downloads and streaming services. It is now clear that the recording industry is truly committed to restore those archives to the best digital quality possible - propelled by the availability of MQA and all the benefits of remastering for high-resolution audio (see my previous editorial on The Audio Voice 132.)

So, I was certainly happy to meet Fred Van der Linden, sales manager for AM Belgium , a company specializing in professional magnetic heads. Van der Linden was attending the Berlin AES convention supporting RecordingTheMasters , a French company exhibiting at the event - and a familiar name for anyone attending AES conventions and involved in tape recording. I was lucky to be joined by our own expert author Scott Dorsey, someone who has been devoting most of his time to restoring film, broadcast, and recording equipment and knows magnetic recording. In our conversation, we were both fascinated to hear how AM Belgium and RecordingTheMasters are the last European companies in business, helping to keep those analog master tapes playing... and recording. Better still, we've learned from Van der Linden that his company is the only one left that is able to provide magnetic heads for those machines and to build new ones for any manufacturer still interested in this space - and there are some.
For some time, we have heard that Horch House, a company from Slovakia and a division of Lutz Precision that manufactures production machinery for the automotive industry, is working with the Revox Group, on introducing a new reel-to-reel machine, on what they call Project R2R. Horch House, was created in 2012 by Volker Lange, a tape enthusiast, together with mastering engineer Christoph Stickel, to create a business around reproducing tape copies of original analog masters (as well as direct cut vinyl). Revox, based in Regensdorf, Switzerland is currently selling those recordings.
Meanwhile, German company Ballfinger is also generating a big buzz in the industry with its new reel-to-reel tape machine, the Tonbandmaschine M 063, which was already shown in public in Germany. As AM Belgium confirms, the M 063 is a completely new machine, with drive motors, servo drives and electronics, completely designed from scratch and it will take standard Revox heads for 0.25" tape. It will sell for nearly USD $30,000, when launches. But Van der Linden also confirmed the rumors that Nagra is planning a comeback in this space...

The amazing Horch House and Revox Project R2R machine.

Thanks to this meeting, I learned that AM Belgium , established in 1969, is still designing and manufacturing professional magnetic heads for professional audio recording studios and all sorts of applications (and there are many - from early computers and banking systems to scientific, medical, legal, gaming, and military applications that still need the magnetic expertise). Over the years, AM Belgium developed its own in-house capability to design, prototype, manufacture, and market professional magnetic heads. Most of its business in the audio industry resulted from the company's previous work with manufacturing heads for Studer and Revox, which it continued to do, even after those companies stopped manufacturing recorders. Using MuMetal and Vitrovac core material, AM Belgium is able to provide butterfly (DIN) and standard (NAB) head types, and it regularly manufactures heads for 0.25" and 0.5" recorders and, on request, even for 2" 24-track. In fact, AM Belgium still has more than 5,000 models of heads on file and it is able to produce new ones if needed.

RecordingTheMasters is a trademark of Mulann Group, a French industrial conglomerate. In 2012, French company Pyral acquired Recording Media Group International (RMGI), a Dutch manufacturer of magnetic tape products, which in turn resulted from an earlier joint venture between DuPont and Philips. The RGMI factory in the Netherlands, built by Philips in 1968, was previously under control of a German company that acquired all the equipment, processes, and talent from EMTEC's Munich plant (ex-BASF), and with it, almost 100 years of history in magnetic tape manufacturing.
Pyral took over RMGI, closed the original Dutch plant, and moved all the equipment to the Pyral site in France. Unfortunately, the restructuring of those operations was too much and, in October 2013, Pyral declared bankruptcy. In 2015, Mulann acquired all the assets of Pyral. So, effectively, the Mulann Group now holds all the knowledge and the processes for high-quality magnetic tape that originated in Europe. AM Belgium recently partnered with RecordingTheMasters to offer newly manufactured high-quality magnetic heads for anyone who wants to have the best recording and playback capabilities offered by their current line of RTM Tapes. At AES in Berlin, RecordingTheMasters also announced a new perforated audio tape catalog for the film industry and archives. Amazing!

The Ballfinger reel-to-reel tape machine: the Tonbandmaschine M 063

RMGI America now distributes all the existing RecordingTheMasters tapes, including the latest LPR90, semi-professional analog audio tape, now available for the consumer market. In the US, following the demise of Ampex and Quantegy, that heritage fell into the hands of ATR Magnetics, and there's no one else. I certainly hope Scott Dorsey will find some time to help us explore this topic in further articles, but audioXpress will welcome any further contributions (Email here).
During our conversation with Fred Van der Linden, we debated the fact that the industry would again be entering a phase of strong demand for both retrofits on existing vintage equipment, as well as replacement heads for many unreplaceable machines. As Van der Linden confirmed, his company is already feeling that effect and it is ready to respond to any challenge. The fact that new companies are even considering bringing new designs to market - even if the heads are basically all based on existing models - makes this topic even more interesting to follow.
Most of this will probably sound familiar for that very restricted group of R2R tape aficionados and recording professionals who are still devoted to working with analog recording and/or are working daily on those precious music archives. But I was certainly fascinated to find out that some companies are committed to keeping those reel-to-reel machines working and are even able to provide solutions to restore all the glories from the history of recording. We are certainly going to need them.


Practical Test & Measurement
An Ecological Power Supply for Power Amplifiers
By Vincent Thiernesse
"You do not often find situations where several constraints are highly compatible with respect to a given solution. In this article, I describe a power supply dedicated to audio power amplifiers that exhibits ecological and economical qualities, which are ideal for audio enthusiasts."  This is how Vincent Thiernesse opened this article about an improved design of a power supply for audio amplifiers that behaves like a resistive load with respect to the mains network. As the author explains, in this power supply, "the current drawn from the mains has the same shape as the voltage delivered by the mains and has the same phase, so that the power factor is very close to 1. Consequently, the RMS value of the current drawn is as low as possible and that offers several audio benefits." The truly DIY project was designed to be relatively easy to build. "What you get from this power supply is good power rail regulation and low power rail ripple with low harmonics. You also get lower 50/60 Hz electromagnetic pollution," he adds. The power supply is dimensioned for 100 W RMS/4 or 8 Ω power amplifiers. Thus, the output power is simultaneously limited by the regulation of output voltage and the output current. This article focuses on a practical realization of the power supply. The design, development, technical, and theoretical background are explained in a more extensive article in Jan Didden's Linear Audio Volume 12 bookzine, and freely available online. This project was originally published in audioXpress, June 2016.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
B&C Speakers DE1090TN Compression Driver 
By Vance Dickason
The transducer I examined for this explication came from Italian Pro Sound OEM manufacturer B&C Speakers, who sent the DE1090TN, a 1.4" neodymium motor compression driver with a titanium diaphragm. The DE1090TN compression driver is coupled with B&C Speakers' ME90 80° × 60° constant directivity horn. At this time, the DE1090TN is the highest power handling model (120 W) in the line. The DE1090TN has a 36 mm (1.4") throat diameter. It is driven by a titanium diaphragm with a 100 mm (4") diameter voice coil wound with copper-clad aluminum wire (CCAW). Other features include a neodymium ring magnet motor structure, nominal 120 W rated power handling (240 W continuous), an injection-molded aluminum black heatsink, and color-coded chrome push terminals. The horn supplied with the DE1090TN is B&C Speakers' 1.4" throat 80° H × 60° V constant directivity cast-aluminum ME90 horn with a 0.9 kHz cutoff frequency. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, August 2016.   Read the Full Article Online

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