Cirrus Logic Announces Voice Capture Development Kit for Amazon Alexa Voice Service
Cirrus Logic introduced a development kit for Alexa Voice Service (AVS), optimized for smart speakers and smart home applications including voice-controlled devices, hands-free portable speakers and networked speakers. With the Cirrus Logic IC and software design, the Voice Capture Development Kit for Amazon AVS helps manufacturers quickly get to market with new Alexa-enabled products that feature high-accuracy wake-word triggering and command interpretation even in noisy environments and during music playback.  Read More

Sensaphonics Publishes Isolation Metrics for In-Ear Monitors
Sensaphonics, a company devoted to hearing health in in-ear monitors, has published a study showing the broadband isolation achieved with its proprietary soft-silicone earpieces, with broadband attenuation averaging 34 dB. According to Sensaphonics, this distinguishes the company's products and challenges other IEM manufacturers to document isolation, the most important factor to consider when comparing IEMs.   Read More

Google Releases Do-It-Yourself Voice Recognition AIY Project
With an increasing number of audio manufacturers and consumer electronic companies experimenting with voice recognition application development, Google naturally wants to make it easy as possible for anyone to get familiar with the company's Google Assistant SDK. Billy Rutledge, Director of AIY Projects at Google, recently revealed a new voice recognition DIY kit and voice HAT for the Raspberry Pi, to implement voice interaction.   Read More

Audio Engineering Society Confirms Annual US Convention to Stay in New York and Reinforced Partnership with NAMM
Audio Engineering Society President, Alex Case confirmed in a statement that the association's annual International Convention in the US will stay in New York also in 2018, leveraging the strong synergies with NAB Show New York that will occur for the first time concurrently with the 143rd International AES Convention, October 18 to 21, 2017, at the Jacob Javits Center. For the West Coast, the AES will instead reinforce its AES@NAMM partnership with the NAMM Show, in Anaheim, CA.    Read More

SoundTube Adds Pendant Dante Network-Enabled Speakers to Line 
An industry first, SoundTube added three pendant speakers to its Dante-enabled line of PoE installed speaker products. The IPD-RS62-EZ and IPD-RS82-EZ use SoundTube's BroadBeam Ring high-frequency dispersion technology for clear, understandable messaging and music over a wide area, even off-axis from the speakers. The high-power IPD-HP82-EZ uses a BroadBeam HP compression driver with waveguide for use in rooms with extra high ceilings.   Read More

iFlyTek On-Device Speech Recognition Software Now Available For CEVA's Ultra-Low Power Audio/Voice DSPs
CEVA, a leading provider of signal processing solutions for smart, connected devices, announced that an optimized implementation of iFlyTek's speech-recognition software suite is available for CEVA's audio/voice DSPs. The tightly integrated solution is now available for developers, and the company confirmed it will start production of an ultra-low power voice processor targeting high-volume consumer electronics.  Read More

Wireless Apple CarPlay Aftermarket In-Dash Receiver Now Shipping from Alpine Electronics
Following its presentation at CES 2017 and enthusiastic response from the market, Alpine Electronics of America, is now shipping the iLX-107. The Alpine iLX-107 with 7" touch screen is the first aftermarket in-dash receiver dedicated to wireless Apple CarPlay, now available in North America. Great news for everyone that doesn't intend to buy a new car soon, but wants the best iPhone integration possible - wired and wireless.   Read More


Editor's Desk

From Smart Speakers to the Smart Home

As we have extensively reported on and The Audio Voice weekly newsletter, we are witnessing a pivotal moment for the audio industry with the prominence of far-field voice recognition and connected speakers now top of the mind for consumers. In the aftermath of Apple's recent HomePod speaker announcement, the home audio experience, by itself, was confirmed as the key selling argument, with its potential as an interface for interaction with consumer electronic devices and services, paving the way for the Smart Home.
Google's strategy for developers encompasses the Google Cast SDK allowing apps to direct streaming video and audio to a home entertainment device, Chromecast built-in technology, and the Google Assistant SDK, to implement voice interaction.
While the Amazon Echo is serving as the "reference design" for many companies wishing to capitalize on the voice-control hype - and Alexa Voice Service (AVS) certainly provides one of the better supported and thriving development ecosystems - Google seems to have better understood this "trojan horse" strategy to promote its Google Home initiative by offering Chromecast to the consumer electronics industry, focusing on the audio and video product category. Currently visible in products from hundreds of companies, including giants such as Sony, Chromecast integration allows televisions, integrated receivers, soundbars, portable speakers and all sorts of home entertainment devices to activate and control connected services such as streaming music and multi-room features, while "also" providing access to Google's Voice Personal Assistant. Still, even though Chromecast is highly successful as a strategy, consumers remain largely indifferent to it. Consumers simply want to access and stream Spotify, they have no idea what platform they are using. And the voice-control features remain "nice-to-have" but not key for purchasing behavior.
Apple came later to the game, but refined this strategy extremely well. After all, they already had Siri in all their devices and they knew Siri is not the killer app when consumers buy an iPhone or an iPad. Apple also had an evolved smart home strategy with HomeKit, and has experience in the "home entertainment hub" strategy with Apple TV. Apple even introduced Siri voice control functionalities on its fourth generation Apple TV, but it was not a far-field solution, and depended on a very clumsy "talk to the remote" concept, which does the trick, but is perceived as silly by the user - the reason to use voice commands is precisely because you don't want to reach out for the remote! After the Amazon Echo was launched, Apple recognized that far-field voice interaction was the next logical step and could be the key for home adoption.
Everyone knew Apple was going to announce a voice-connected speaker powered by Siri. No one expected a speaker to "rock the house."
Apple's HomePod refines the concept to create a simple proposition that simultaneously can offer the best music listening experience, and the best combination of digital processing and acoustical optimization, to optimize audio playback
and enable far-field voice capture and Siri-powered recognition. Essentially, Apple is targeting the "wireless home audio" vision, which the company knows is something consumer's will buy, while HomePod paves the way for consumers to discover the full potential of other HomeKit connected devices... and quickly grow from there.
Apple defined the strategy as "Reinvent Home Music." While the HomePod speaker can be controlled also via a remote iOS app, it is significant that Apple wants to make sure that the concept will be introduced first in those countries where consumers will be able to leverage its Siri voice-interaction features - hence the initial limited launch to English-speaking countries (US, UK, and Australia) in December 2017, before they make it available elsewhere. The remaining announced OS, AirPlay 2 and fundamental API updates, including for HomeKit, will do the rest.
A recent research by the consumer electronics team at Futuresource Consulting, helps to connect the dots on this strategy. According to the just published Smart Home Consumer Study , the smart home is poised to emerge by stealth as consumers who install their first device will be keen on automating further. "The research reveals that almost 1 in 3 consumers live in homes where at least one smart home device has been installed. Over 4,000 consumers in France, Germany, UK, and the US were surveyed on smart home devices, appliance ownership, perceptions and purchase intent. Voice Personal Assistant (VPA) speakers were included, looking at both current and future adoption."
Among the four countries surveyed, the US showed the highest smart home penetration, with 38% of respondents claiming to be living in a home with at least one smart home device installed. In Germany, respondents seem more resistant to the idea of adopting smart home devices, as only 1 in 5 have installed at least one smart home device in their home.

Speakers with voice assistant are giving a boost to smart home growth. Consumers use them primarily for listening to music but increasingly also for a myriad of home automation tasks.

According to Filipe Oliveira, Analyst at Futuresource Consulting, "Smart lighting and smart thermostats are among the most popular smart home devices and are common first steps into the smart home. However, it is home security that more respondents report as the first smart home device that they have installed. Products that fall under climate control are growing but our survey revealed that this is a fragmented category with relatively low levels of brand recognition, a challenge to manufacturers in this field."
According to this latest report, audio and video content is often the first step into automation in the home. Two in three respondents considered music and other audio/video content to be important in the context of the smart home. "The results provide evidence that the smart home can grow by stealth as users who installed one device are more likely to want to automate their homes further," continued Oliveira. "Across all segments, 30% of consumers expect to control more of their homes wirelessly in the near future. However, the number is substantially higher among those who already own at least one smart home device, with 89% of advanced users expecting to control more of their homes wirelessly in the next 6-12 months, the report breaks this down for each segment."

41% of smart home adopters started by installing wireless multiroom audio. The US shows the higher penetration of wireless multiroom audio (15%) followed by Germany (13%). When asked about the importance of audio/video content in the context of the smart home, 66% of consumers say that it is either very or somewhat important.

The Futuresouce research recognizes VPA speakers can be an important driver of smart home adoption. While the most common use of the devices is music streaming, a substantial number of respondents claimed to use their VPA speakers for home automation purposes such as controlling the heating or the lighting.  Futuresource also adds that bundling seems to be an important retail opportunity as "a small but not negligible number of consumers report that they acquired their smart home devices bundled with a VPA speaker."


Fresh From the Bench
CEntrance DACportable High-Resolution USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier
By Oliver A. Masciarotte and Stuart Yaniger
In this Fresh From the Bench article, audioXpress reviews the CEntrance DACportable High Resolution USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier, which Oliver A. Masciarotte experimented with during several days, including during his daily commute in Minneapolis, all the while listening to TIDAL or podcasts via Bluetooth from his phone. And to confirm Masciarotte's positive impressions, Stuart Yaniger does the full bench measurements of the CEntrance DACportable.
Headquartered near Chicago, IL, CEntrance is known for its co-development and technologies licensed to many pro-audio and high-end consumer companies. In 2009, CEntrance introduced a portable product called DACport, a small, USB-powered digital-to-analog converter plus headphone amplifier. In 2015, it added DSD playback and sampling rates up to 384 kHz on the ultra-slim DACport HD. Recently, CEntrance added a rechargeable battery to its new DACportable, featuring the AK4490 D/A chip coupled with a Class-A headphone amplifier with digital volume control, which audioXpress received for review. As Michael Goodman, the man responsible for all things CEntrance, sums it up, "We wanted to make the smallest, most powerful, most usable portable DAC/Amp that would work with the widest array of sources, from computers to portable devices, and I think we have achieved this goal. We have famous producers and mastering engineers using DACportable for work, and it's nice to know that music is being made with it, not just enjoyed." This article was originally published in audioXpress, April 2017.  
Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Wavecor's SW223BD03 8.75" High XMAX Subwoofer 
By Vance Dickason
For this month's Test Bench, Vance Dickason characterizes Wavecor's new 8.75" high Xmax subwoofer, model SW223BD03. As Dickason reminds us, this new subwoofer is part of a rather extensive line of subwoofers - 20 models in all, ranging in size from 2.75" to 12". Accompanying this lineup of subwoofers, Wavecor also includes a broad range of passive radiators with sizes from 6.25" to 12". Voice Coil featured the 4 Ω version of this device, the SW223BD02, in the April 2015 issue. Wavecor's SW223BD03, which is the 8 Ω version, has a generous feature set that includes a proprietary eight-spoke cast aluminum frame that has minimal reflection surfaces and is completely open below the spider mounting shelf. Other features include a very stiff flat black anodized aluminum cone, further stiffened by a 3.5" convex black anodized aluminum dust cap. Suspension is provided by a low-loss (high Qm) NBR surround plus a 5" diameter black flat cloth spider (damper). All this is driven by a 51-mm diameter (2") voice coil wound with round wire on a black fiber glass non-conducting former. The motor system powering the cone assembly utilizes two 20-mm thick 125-mm diameter ferrite magnet sandwiched between a black plated 6-mm thick front plate and a black plated and shaped T-yoke that does not use a pole vent. This format drives more air out the gap area and across the front plate below the spider mounting shelf for enhanced cooling of the motor system. The SW223BD03 further incorporates an aluminum shorting ring (Faraday shield) that reduces distortion caused by eddy currents. Last, the braided voice coil lead wires terminate to a pair of gold terminals. In past issues of Test Bench, Dickason was positively impressed with the design, quality, and excellent consistency of Wavecor's well-crafted transducers, motivating him to look at another of the brand's products. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, October 2016.   Read the Full Article Online

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