Audio-Technica Starts Shipping ATH-DSR9BT Pure Digital Drive Bluetooth Headphones
Audio-Technica is now shipping its ATH-DSR9BT Wireless Headphones with Pure Digital Drive technology. Winner of a CES 2017 Innovation award, the ATH-DSR9BT is one of the first headphones with Bluetooth wireless technology to employ Audio-Technica's new Pure Digital Drive system, which keeps the audio signal completely digital from source to driver to offer a new level in sound quality.  Read More

Global Smart Speaker Market Forecast to Grow at 50% CAGR from 2017 to 2024
According to Global Market Insights, the global market for Smart Speakers represented more than USD $400 million in 2016 and is predicted to grow at an estimated CAGR of over 50% from 2017 to 2024. The market research company says the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to be a major factor driving growth. "The rising penetration of the Internet has extended to everyday applications and has increased the consumer demand for smart devices that offer a wide range of functions," they state.   Read More

Samsung-Owned Harman International Industries Acquires Arcam
The news is already circulating in the British press and there's been a message sent by Arcam to its own distribution network, shared on social media. Apparently, Harman has decided to acquire the famous British audio brand Arcam for reasons yet unknown. No details are available about the transaction. On Arcam's Twitter account, the company confirmed the news by stating, "The current team carries on and joining Harman opens the door to major R&D and manufacturing resources for our future."   Read More

Bluetooth SIG Adds Mesh Networking Capability to Standard BLE Ecosystem
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced that the wireless connectivity global standard now supports mesh networking. This enables many-to-many (m:m) device communications and is optimized for creating large-scale device networks, ideally suited for building automation, sensor networks, and smart home solutions where tens, hundreds, or thousands of devices need to reliably and securely communicate with one another.    Read More

Ultrasone Announces SIRIUS aptX Bluetooth Adapter to Transform Conventional Headphones to Wireless 
Now, there's an original approach to wireless! Instead of forcing happy users of its standard headphones to buy a new Bluetooth model, German company Ultrasone designed the SIRIUS aptX Bluetooth adapter. This ultra-compact Bluetooth adapter can be simply attached to any Ultrasone Performance headphone series model, converting standard wired headphones into a wireless Bluetooth headset, complete with microphone.   Read More

Radial Starts Shipping Di-NET DAN-TX and DiNET DAN-RX Dante-Enabled Direct Boxes 
Already previewed at different shows, Radial Engineering announced that the DiNET DAN-TX and DAN-RX, stereo Dante audio converters, are now shipping. The new Dante products signal a significant new commitment from the Canadian company to solving all modern connectivity needs, wireless, networked, and long-distance wired. Radial carefully considered all of the engineering aspects for its first AoIP product, while keeping with the company's "problem-solver" tradition.  Read More

Fulcrum Acoustic Unveils New CCX Subcardioid Coaxial Loudspeaker
Fulcrum Acoustic has announced its latest innovative product, the CCX1295 single 12" Subcardioid Coaxial Loudspeaker, expanding its range of high-performance installation solutions. Unlike conventional loudspeakers that trade off low-frequency (LF) directional control for compact enclosures, Fulcrum's Passive Cardioid Technology enables the CCX1295 to achieve unprecedented LF/HF control for a product of its size.   Read More


Editor's Desk

Voice Application Opportunities for the Audio Industry

In previous editorials, I have highlighted the important role of smart speakers in promoting the user case for voice personal assistants (VPAs) and voice recognition applications - given the ideal combination of far-field microphone arrays with a complete audio ecosystem that encompasses digital signal processing, acoustic echo cancelation, noise cancellation, and many other technologies.

Those in truth make total sense when integrated into a speaker, first because those technologies can be used to enhance music listening, making the investment in the object itself easier to justify for the consumer less familiarized with voice assistants. Second, for a virtual assistant to talk back to us, supply answers to our questions, or simply acknowledge our commands, we actually need a loudspeaker connected to an audio amplification system.
Of course, once users start to recognize the use of voice commands, using voice as an interface, or frequently engaging with virtual assistants, the market will be ready to evolve to integrate those functions in other devices - eventually becoming ubiquitous in any connected IoT device. This opens an opportunity to create a single virtual assistant for the smart home.
What is important in this concept is that users can successfully interact with the VPA, no matter where they are in the home. Meaning, if you are away from the smart speaker, but are close to the refrigerator, or washing machine, or TV set, any of those devices will be your interface and can listen to your voice requests/commands. But, to reply and interact with the user, all those other classes of devices will need a decent audio system, similar or even more sophisticated than what we have in current smart speakers - sometimes posing significant challenges in terms of environmental conditions.
Simply applying more voice command interactions to any appliance will not make sense to users. First, you don't want to be shouting your orders to every single appliance in the home much less want all those devices to interpret your commands wrong when they are all listening at the same time. Second, as attractive as it might seem to embed voice command interfaces in every gadget, a limited functionality is not exactly what sells the concept - users will expect the same level of consistency they get from a VPA, which will always require connectivity. If the user is forced to be close to a device to use voice commands, then he probably can also press a button or make a gesture. The whole "smart" concept is based on the notion that you can remotely control things from a distance, and that those "things" will gain use cases that are not currently available.

ReSpeaker successfully crowdfunded its open modular voice extension interface that enables interaction with home appliances, Internet-equipped devices, and any other things.

We all remember the pains of the very first voice-command solutions, including smart TVs... The user experience was bad - and even when it worked, it was essentially futile. You needed a room in almost complete silence and most of the time something wrong would happen - including the TV changing channels when you were watching your favorite sports game. And what was the point of shouting at your TV when you were already in front of it, remote in hand?
Many of the companies involved in voice recognition and some of the most sophisticated technologies currently available were involved in those terrible experiences. But lessons were learned. Implementing simple voice-commands in appliances is not the solution - as "clever" as it all might sound to the marketing people who just want to sell more coffee machines or expensive refrigerators.
For the smart home concept to be successful, you need fully connected systems with a single VPA that connects all the devices and systems - including different voice recognition engines. Exactly like smart home solutions need to integrate the thermostat with the air conditioning, heating, ventilation, and window blinders (at least) to effectively control room temperature, so voice recognition engines need to be effective in any part of the house, and need to be coherent.
If the user asks a question, the system will need to know where the user is, from which room the command originated and provide the answer visually on the closest screen, or audibly through the nearest speaker - also knowing that someone is asleep in another room and doesn't need to hear the response. If you want to see a movie and ask for it from the bedroom, you will see it on the bedroom TV set and you will not activate the complete home entertainment system in the living room downstairs.
The other essential part of the concept will be multiuser. We want the system to be used by the entire family, meaning multiple users (and multiple voice characteristics) must be recognized from any room inside the home, while the VPA itself needs to know how to manage different simultaneous (and possibly contradictory) commands originating from all the users at different source locations.
We are still far from this scenario but that's the only way I could envisage those technologies becoming successful. We cannot create a complete concept such as VPAs and sell the smart home concept, thinking that all the potential users will live alone at home and there will not be other voices all the time. And let's not even start discussing the dilemma with all the different languages, idioms, accents, etc., which are the largest challenges currently faced by voice recognition technologies, before we even mention machine learning or "artificial intelligence" (in which language was "intelligence" programmed?)

According to Global Market Insights, the global market for Smart Speakers represented more than USD $400 million in 2016 and is predicted to grow at an estimated CAGR of over 50% from 2017 to 2024.
One thing is for certain, for voice technologies to be successful, every single accomplishment and successful implementation that we are currently witnessing with the first-generation Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod, etc., will essentially be the foundation for those audio systems that will need to be integrated in virtually every appliance - or at least connected with other appliances. In the next few years, we will see many new appliances and even children's toys that will be equipped with full audio and voice systems. Eventually, users will realize that only an integrated solution makes sense, and eventually those systems will be part of a standard home installation.
Meanwhile, many devices will need to be connected, and they will need a microphone, audio engine and speaker solution. That's a lot of MEMS microphone arrays, audio systems, and speakers. For users to truly trust and understand how to use VPA technology (if they do use it), there will be lots of challenges and opportunities for the audio industry. While all the companies in the world are trying, the audio industry will be busy.


Fresh From the Bench
Benchmark DAC3 HGC Stereo D/A Converter
By Gary Galo
Benchmark Media Systems' DAC series of high performance digital-to-analog converters (DACs) have earned the respect of audio enthusiasts and professional users alike for their state-of-the-art performance, including exceptional audio transparency and vanishingly-low levels of noise and distortion. Now Benchmark has made its DAC3 even better with the upgrade to ESS Technology's new ES9028PRO DAC chip. ESS Technology hasn't let grass grow under its feet. In 2016, it announced a new line of audiophile-grade, 32-bit DAC chips, including the ES9028PRO. Now, Benchmark has recently introduced its DAC3 line of D/A converters based on the new ESS chip. The ES9028PRO has a 64-pin footprint, and is pin-compatible with the previous ES9018, enabling Benchmark to drop it into the same PC board used in the DAC2. This makes the DAC3 a cost-effective upgrade. Benchmark's Vice President and Director of Engineering John Siau notes that the DAC3 is like a DAC2 on steroids. In addition to the new ESS chip, the software and the analog gain structure are different from those in the DAC2. Like its predecessor, the DAC3 is available in three versions-the DAC3 HGC, the DAC3 L, and the DAC3 DX. The DAC3 HGC reviewed here combines an analog preamplifier with the DAC. There are two stereo, unbalanced (RCA) analog inputs and two stereo, unbalanced analog outputs, along with one stereo balanced (XLR) analog output This article was originally published in audioXpress, July 2017.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
B&C Speaker 8MBX51 Midbass Woofer 
By Vance Dickason
In this issue of Voice Coil, we received the 8MBX51 woofer, from premier Italian Pro Sound OEM driver manufacturer B&C Speakers. The MBX series of mid-bass woofers offers acoustic designers a new range of high efficiency, wide bandwidth alternatives that were not previously available from B&C Speakers, and are especially well suited for two-way loudspeaker applications. Features for the 8MBX51 are fairly impressive. Starting with the frame, B&C Speakers has come up with a proprietary four twin-spoke cast-aluminum frame incorporating eight 30 mm × 2.5 mm rectangular vent holes in the area below the spider mounting shelf for enhanced voice coil cooling. The cone assembly consists of a curvilinear paper cone with a front side waterproof hydrophobic coating and a 3.5" diameter inverted paper dust cap, also with a waterproof hydrophobic coating. Compliance is provided by a triple-roll "M"-shaped pleated coated cloth surround while the remaining compliance comes from a 4" diameter flat cloth spider. The 8MBX51's motor design utilizes a neodymium ring magnet, T-shaped pole piece fitted with an aluminum shorting ring located below the yoke (Faraday Shield). The neodymium ring magnet motor was FEA designed using a 51 mm (2") diameter voice coil inside/outside (one layer wound on the inside of the former and one layer wound on the outside of the former) with round copper-clad aluminum wire (CCAW) on a non-conducting glass fiber former. Last, the voice coil is terminated to an injection-molded terminal block with solderable terminals. Cosmetically speaking, this is good looking driver. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, November 2016.   Read the Full Article Online

AX August 2017: Digital Login
Audio Product Design | DIY Audio Projects | Audio Electronics | Audio Show Reports | Interviews | And More 

Don't Have a Subscription?
VC July 2017: Digital Login
Industry News & Developments | Products & Services | Test Bench | Acoustic Patents | Industry Watch | And More