Loudspeaker Industry Sourcebook 2017 Edition Now Online!
Our annual Loudspeaker Industry Sourcebook (LIS 2017) edition is now available in print and online. In the best tradition of the Loudspeaker Industry Sourcebook, the 2017 edition contains so much more than the listings. Combining the editorial resources of our monthly publications, audioXpress and Voice Coil, LIS 2017 contains cutting-edge articles from some of the finest industry leaders, Q&As on trending industry topics, and our annual industry reports about the state of the industry.  Read More

New PBN Audio CX871 Speaker Kit with SEAS Drivers Now Available
The results for SEAS Fabrikker's intense R&D program keep showing with more applications for the company's new generation high-quality drivers. Recently announced by Danish company PBN Audio, founded by Peter Bichel Noerbaek, the new CX871 speaker kit features two different SEAS drivers: the H1699-08/06 MR18REX/XF 7" Midrange Coaxial Loudspeaker and the 2x H1208-08 L22RN4X/P 8" Aluminum Cone Woofer. The result was recently presented by Madisound at the Los Angeles Audio Show (LAAS).   Read More

B&C Speakers Launches New Large Motor and High Output Coaxial Series CXN88
The new B&C Speakers 12CXN88 and 15CXN88 high output coaxial transducers are now shipping. These larger motor alternatives feature a long throw, 88 mm (3.5") voice coil woofer, combined with a 75 mm (3") diaphragm high-frequency driver. Both new coaxial drivers offer an excellent balance between high-frequency and low-frequency output, enabling cabinet designers to increase performance without compromise.   Read More

Cotodama Lyric Speaker is World's First Lyric Visualizing Speaker
There's always a way to differentiate a new product if you really think about it and know how to leverage available technology. Japanese company Cotodama did exactly that with its Lyric Speaker, which automatically visualizes lyrics in a beautiful way. When the user chooses a song on its mobile phone, the lyrics show up on the translucent screen. This speaker has won SXSW's Best Bootstrap Company in 2015 and is now available.    Read More

DTS Announces Virtual:X Technology to Deliver Virtual Immersive and Surround Sound 
DTS has announced the integration of its Virtual:X immersive sound technology into a new series of soundbars that are set to hit the market this summer, followed by receivers and possibly TVs. The first release will be the Yamaha YAS-207 soundbar in early July 2017, with the DTS Virtual:X firmware update coming in August. DTS says its Virtual:X technology can be implemented to provide an immersive sound experience without the need for additional height and/or rear surround speakers.   Read More

G.R.A.S Sound & Vibration Announces Availability of World's Smallest Measurement Microphone Set
G.R.A.S. Sound & Vibration announced availability of the 46DE, the smallest measurement microphone set in the world and the only microphone set where no parts are larger than 1/8". The 46DE is a 1/8" Constant Current Power (CCP) pressure microphone set with a nominal sensitivity of 0.8 mV/Pa and has a Transducer Electronic Data Sheet (TEDS). It is the latest in a long line of innovative and advanced microphone measuring products with the brand's proven seal of quality.  Read More

Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories Breakthrough Development in Speech Separation Technology
Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs, announced a breakthrough in speech separation technology at an annual R&D open house held in Tokyo. The research lab has created the world's first technology that separates in real time the simultaneous speech of multiple unknown speakers recorded with a single microphone. It's a key step toward building machines that can interact in noisy environments, in the same way that humans can have meaningful conversations in the presence of many other conversations.   Read More

Genelec Announces 1032C Studio Monitor, Updating Classic Design with Latest Technologies
Genelec announced the 1032C two-way nearfield monitor, now upgraded with the cutting-edge features and flexibility of Smart Active Monitoring (SAM) advanced monitor auto-calibration and networking software, plus significant across-the-board improvements including a digital input, higher SPL and increased low-frequency extension. The 1032C monitor uses the same drivers, acoustic design and soffit-mountable classic styling, simply upgraded for the most demanding modern studios.   Read More

RCF Announces Three New Precision Transducers for Professional Audio Applications
With an extensive range of drivers for professional audio applications, RCF confirmed that it is now shipping its latest range of products featuring advanced technologies and the precise designs that always characterize the Italian brand. The new products include the ND340 high-performance neodymium compression driver with an extremely reduced size, the LF18N405 extended low-frequency transducer, and the LF21N401 high power handling 21" subwoofer.   Read More


Editor's Desk

All Apple WWDC 2017 Audio Announcements

This week, the audio industry was once again shaken to its foundations by Apple's announcements at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2017. The product updates and sneak peeks made at this Apple Special Event, on June 5, 2017, were extremely rich in surprising technology revelations, even though its implications might not become clear until a few weeks or months later. After all, the WWDC conference - a developer's conference - is traditionally where Apple builds the foundations for what will be its underlying short-term/long-term strategies, serving mainly to motivate developers and strategic partners.

The WWDC 2017 keynote was so full of content that even Tim Cook, Apple CEO, had to dispense with the usual corporate updates meant to guide investors. For a summary, click here or any of the pictures. In quick succession, during more than 3 hours, Apple's executives made all the expected operating system update announcements for all current Apple platforms, revealing several mind-boggling implementations in software/hardware optimizations, graphics acceleration, adoption of new more efficient formats and codecs for video and photography, and updates on all APIs and SDKs. Nothing was forgotten, including strategic announcements on those buzzwords that are currently motivating the industry and the markets, which are Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and, of course, Voice Personal Assistants, an area that Apple pioneered with its Siri platform.
In terms of technologies and platforms, during WWDC17 we learned a few interesting things that might have significant implications on the development of audio products. One of those was the apparent support for NFC tags on Apple's mobile devices, coming with iOS 11 and watchOS 4. By supporting the reading of NFC tags, iOS 11 promises to enable new important applications, especially in retail. Previously Apple restricted the scope of its NFC implementation due to security concerns, which recent updates have addressed. This will allow exciting perspectives in product authentication, direct ordering and delivery, localized product information, and broader cross-platform support.
And while many of the new API updates on audio frameworks contain a wealth of new possibilities for developers and manufacturers, one of the features that caused some excitement is directly related with the Apple File System (APFS) and the availability of file management with cloud support on iOS 11. For the first time, this will enable users of iPhone and iPad to access files that typically previously had to be supported by the operating system and supported directly by the apps. While testing the possibilities on beta versions of the new iOS, some users report the ability to "see" FLAC audio files. This doesn't mean that those FLAC files can actually be played by actual apps yet, but it might be a sign that Apple intends to support the format, eventually.
What was clearly announced and promoted, on the audio front, was the introduction of AirPlay 2. The update of one of the key technologies that enabled Apple to wirelessly stream content among devices (audio, video, device screens, and photos, together with related metadata), will now expand to support multi-room audio over Wi-Fi. Airplay is one of the key technologies that Apple licenses to audio manufacturers to allow compatibility with Apple's devices and is certainly one of the most important components for home entertainment systems and speaker manufacturers.

Supported on all Apple hardware, and according to Phil Schiller, compatible with most existing wireless speakers, AirPlay 2 mainly focuses on whole-home audio and multi-room support.

According to Apple, with the new AirPlay 2, we can now control home audio systems and the speakers throughout the entire house, play a song in the living room and the kitchen at the same time, adjust the volume in any room, or have music start instantly on all speakers - in sync with one another. AirPlay 2 will also enable audio devices to be added as HomeKit accessories.
AirPlay 2 on existing speakers requires a firmware update, obviously, and Apple announced that it is already working with a significant number of partners, including Bose, Devialet, Bang & Olufsen, Denon, Marantz, Bluesound, Polk Audio, Naim, Libratone, and others. Most probably, older hardware will not support the update but AirPlay 2 promises to be an exciting development for many manufacturers. Bose already confirmed it will make AirPlay 2 available for "most" of its current lineup of Wi-Fi enabled speakers, including its SoundTouch lineup.
Among the many announcements, where Apple updated all its hardware and software, was also the expected preview of Apple's new home music speaker with built-in-far-field voice recognition, powered by Apple Siri: the HomePod. Everyone knew Apple was going to announce a voice-connected speaker powered by Siri. So, no surprises there. What is surprising is that it is a very simple proposition that focuses on doing well what it already does - typical Apple. The HomePod design is a powerful combination of electroacoustic mastery, digital processing, and smart connectivity.
Also, more importantly, Apple doesn't try to confuse consumers. It clearly states that far-field Siri control will only be recognized in English language - and that's the reason why the new HomePod will only be launched in the US, UK, and Australia to start. Also, among the many voice-related and natural language recognition technology announcements for Apple's multiple platforms - iOS, macOS, TV OS and watchOS - the company was clear when it stated that, even though they're clearly ahead in this, it will be some time until we get proper multi-language support. Apple is even working on language translation (text and voice) but it is very open about this being early stages and it is focusing on English to Chinese and four other languages. It's not that they are late at this (we all know how macOS featured those technologies from its earliest iterations). Apple is just being honest and not making foolish claims.

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes," said Apple's Philip Schiller.

When we say that everyone was expecting Apple to announce a speaker, we were obviously referring to the area of voice-controlled speakers, which are effectively also home hubs for connected services and audio automation. As the reputed industry analysts from Futuresource Consulting interestingly published just prior to Apple's WWDC17 event, "Apple is expected to enter the Smart Speaker market with a Siri-controlled HomeKit hub, rumors suggest its key differentiating feature will be superior acoustics (...) as well as the Apple brand, which alone will shift volumes on the most ordinary of devices."
Given that Apple has been solidly paving the way in this segment with its HomeKit (click here to see all recent announcements in regard to HomeKit), that was not a surprise, even though we are certain the Apple HomePod announcement will cause many companies to rethink their strategies and priorities - as usual.
In fact, before the end of that keynote, one could almost hear the screeching noise of companies pulling all the brakes on ongoing projects and preparing to launch its own voice-controlled VeryBigAndOhSoMuchBetter Speaker. Meanwhile, projects that don't feature voice assistant technology have been thrown in the bin and the hunt is on for any startup out there that says it has a voice assistant AI Machine-learning neural engine or anything of the sort.
But the most interesting aspects of the HomePod announcement is in fact the combination of subtle and not-so-subtle revelations regarding Apple's strategy in home audio. The HomePod is a Smart Speaker but it is clearly also a portable wireless speaker for whole-home audio experiences - something that all the leading audio companies know well. Apple is clearly focused on leveraging the concepts that companies such as Sonos and Amazon have explored in part, creating a robust and attractive proposition that effectively consolidates all its existing platforms, devices, and services.
As Futuresource details, the Smart Speaker market has seen dramatic growth. "The category was worth $1.2 billion in 2016 and is on course to achieve $2.5 billion this year. The category took 30% of total home audio units in Q1 in the US, compared with 5% one year earlier, and not even existing the year before that. Considering the audio market is relatively mature and the brands that sell Smart Speakers have never played any part in audio hardware prior to this category, this represents incredible impact."

The new Apple HomePod is a high-quality wireless speaker for the home that shamelessly makes use of all the best available technology that the audio industry has been developing for the past few years.

While a new concept powered by a company such as Apple represents an attractive business opportunity, of particular importance for the audio industry, in general, is also the impact on the consumers' budgets, as Futuresource highlights: "While much of the growth appears to be additive, the category has eaten in to the existing audio market growth. Prior to the category launching in 2015 the audio market was on course to grow 15% in North America in 2016, ultimately it grew 3% (when Smart Speakers are stripped out)."
One of the certain consequences is that Apple will immediately grab an important market share in all the segments that it announced it would enter. As Futuresource analyzes, "History suggests Apple's entry in to the market will lift overall market volumes and revenues, and it will also take shares from incumbents. Apple uniquely can depend on big numbers at launch, and it also enjoys price elasticity meaning it can charge a significant premium and its loyal customer won't flinch. In recent launches of new products, Apple shipped 10 million Watches in its launch-year (2015) and 16 million iPads in its launch-year (2010). In both cases, it immediately became the #1 brand with prices 2 to 3x that of incumbent brands/products. As a point of comparison with those figures - Smart Speakers (almost entirely Amazon Echo) did 1 million in its launch year and 8 million in its second year."


Practical Test & Measurement
Amplifier War and Peace - An Hybrid Amp
By Simon Brown
Simon Brown rethinks what he needs as the amplifier that will be the centerpiece in his own audio system and perfects a previous design with a true hybrid design. As he writes, "This amp is a 'hybrid' in many ways. There is the obvious way in which it uses both valves and MOSFETs. But it's also a hybrid in its use of enriched Class A/B, which means it is running Class A up to a few watts. This is deliberate. The bottom bit of the transfer curve is the wart on the face of MOSFET specs that Bipolar Bullies like to point out ('MOSFETs have higher distortion than bipolar transistors') before poking out their tongues. Running higher bias current moves you into a happier playground. If you choose suitable heatsinks and voltage rails, you can run this design in 'pure' Class A (or cooler if your budget points you that way)." Brown also comments that "a hybrid amp lets each device do what it's good at. Valves can provide good voltage gain but are limited when it comes to current. Power MOSFETs are great at driving real-world loads, such as speakers. So here is a 50W power amp with enough gain to be fully driven by a CD player without extra amplification. Yet you can view the circuit as one valve triode, one capacitor, and a MOSFET follower. It also manages acceptable distortion performance by maximizing the linearity of the circuits rather than relying on a bandage application of negative feedback." Read the complete project now. This article was originally published in audioXpress, March 2007.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
B&C Speakers 21DS115 21" Woofer 
By Vance Dickason
The transducer I examined in this edition of Test Bench came from Italian Pro Sound OEM manufacturer B&C Speakers, who sent the neodymium motor 21DS115, a 21" high power handling woofer. The B&C 21DS115-8 is rated at 1,700 WRMS with a continuous power handling rated at 3,400 WRMS. The 21DS115-8 weighs in at a modest (for a 21" woofer!) 32.8 lbs. The 21DS115-8's feature set includes a proprietary 12-spoke cast-aluminum frame (six dual spokes) that has six 55 mm × 6 mm vents below the spider mounting shelf, with additional cooling provided by eight 8 mm diameter peripheral vents and a 40 mm diameter pole vent with a flared exhaust. The cone assembly consists of a 21" curvilinear pulp paper cone and a large 7.5" diameter paper dust cap, both coated with a TWP waterproof coating (both sides on the cone). Suspension is provided by a three-roll M-shaped coated (sealed) cloth surround in conjunction with two 7" diameter flat silicone-treated cloth spiders (dampers), which I would assume are mounted back-to-back to cancel out odd-order nonlinearity. All this is driven by a 4.5" (116 mm) diameter high-temperature non-conducting glass fiber voice coil former wound with a round aluminum wire winding and terminated to a double set of solderable terminals. Magnetic drive is provided by a neodymium inside slug and a T-pole piece, and incorporates an aluminum demodulating ring. Overall, the 21DS115-8's build quality is excellent. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, August 2016.   Read the Full Article Online

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