Cochlear Introduces the World's First Made for iPhone Cochlear Implant Sound Processor
Cochlear Limited announced its new Nucleus 7 Sound Processor, the world's first Made for iPhone cochlear implant sound processor. According to the implantable hearing solutions specialist, the new solution enables users to stream sound from iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch directly to their sound processor, offering greater accessibility, connectivity, and wireless control, for those with hearing loss.  Read More

Home Audio Revenues on Target to Grow 17% in 2017
A new report from Futuresource Consulting shows the home audio market continues to outpace the wider home electronics market, thanks in great part to the success of smart and wireless speakers, and soundbars. Futuresource's new Worldwide Audio Report highlights that Amazon commands 90% of smart speaker's sales as well as other key trends. However, the story is not so good for many legacy categories such as hi-fi systems, loudspeakers, and home-theater-in-a-box systems.   Read More

USB 3.0 Promoter Group Announces USB 3.2 Specification Update
The USB 3.0 Promoter Group has announced the pending release of the USB 3.2 specification, an incremental update that defines multi-lane operation for new USB 3.2 hosts and devices, effectively doubling the bandwidth to extend existing USB Type-C cable performance. During the upcoming USB Developer Days 2017 event, the promoters will provide detailed technical training covering USB 3.2, fast charging advancements in USB Power Delivery, and other topics.   Read More

James Loudspeaker Unveils Ultra High-Performance Q-Series Floor-Standing Speakers
James Loudspeaker, designers and manufacturers of high-performance installation speakers, has announced the introduction of the new Q-Series floor-standing loudspeakers, a built-to-suit array of three models, combining Beryllium quad tweeter arrays in a powerful three-way design. Superb craftsmanship in a refined, customizable loudspeaker to fit any room, leveraging the company's know-how in two-channel and multi-channel residential solutions.    Read More

RØDE Microphones Announces Videomic Pro+ On-Camera Microphone 
The Videomic on-camera microphone was undoubtedly one of the microphones that help propel the Australian microphone brand to a leading position in the global market. Continuously updated and improved, RØDE Microphones has now announced the VideoMic Pro+, which was among the products unveiled at the company's RØDEShow 2017, Freedman Electronics 50th anniversary celebration. The new VideoMic Pro+ is set to consolidate RØDE Microphones' position in the prosumer filmmaker market.   Read More

IEEE Publishes 802.11ah-2016 Standard Amendment Extending Range and Improving Energy Efficiency in the Sub 1 GHz Band 
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the IEEE Standards Association announced the availability of the IEEE 802.11ah-2016 standard amendment, providing for an extended range Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) in the sub 1 GHz band. IEEE 802.11ah-2016 significantly lowers propagation loss through free space, walls, and other obstructions and offers a networking alternative to augment the heavily congested 2.4 GHz band and the shorter-range 5 GHz band used today. This is critical for smart home and many other applications.  Read More

GSMA Mobile World Congress Americas in Partnership with CTIA Coming to San Francisco, CA
The 2017 GSMA Mobile World Congress Americas, promoted in partnership with Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), is the new mobile industry event, following the overwhelming success of its Barcelona annual trade show. Under the theme "The Tech Element," Mobile World Congress Americas will be held September 12-14, 2017 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.   Read More


Editor's Desk

Let's Talk about Headphones

I know that the current trend is all about smart speakers, but since we have discussed that topic extensively in recent editorials, I thought the time was ripe to discuss what is happening with headphones, a still-growing market segment showing some signs that deserve attention.
There clearly is too much discussion on this segment about the sound characteristics of headphones (e.g., frequency response curves) and not so much about differentiating the inherent features of specific drivers like planar magnetic or different design choices in dynamic drivers. And when there's a focus on drivers, as with with in-ears, there's far too much attention on the number of balanced armature drivers and not so much about how those are tuned and contribute to generate a coherent response. Plus, in my opinion, most manufacturers that target audio quality are not sensitive to key ergonomic and design aspects, which in a mass market are clearly main differentiators.
audioXpress is privileged to have on its team some of the world's leading experts in the field, and there's always a continuous exchange that goes on about what is there that is new, deserves praise or - sometimes - what is actually different, outstanding, or revolutionary. It is intriguing to hear about new headphones that set a new benchmark in "quality" - regardless of the price. Internally, on different occasions there was praise for the OPPO Digital PM-1 (and the affordable PM-3) and virtually all outstanding Tesla products from beyerdynamic, including the new Xelento remote in-ears. There was also praise for Grado, Audeze, and Audioquest, and of course a lot of talk about the new Sennheiser Orpheus system. But the list could go on and on.
The recent model that we heard "caused a stir" was the Sonoma Model One Headphone System, which apparently is now finally available ($4,995 retail). As Sonoma Acoustics details, the Model One was designed from scratch as a complete system - an audio chain - to deliver "unprecedented hi-res performance." The British company paid attention to every component and material choice, design considerations, and engineering aspect, targeting the highest performance possible.
The Model One is the first headphone system in the world to incorporate the High-Precision Electrostatic Laminate (HPEL) transducer developed and manufactured by Warwick Audio Technologies (WAT), combining Injected Magnesium Ear-Cups for low weight, superior acoustical damping, and RFI/EMI shielding. The Model One also features ear-pads and headband handmade from top-grain hair sheep leather, among other unique details. The electrostatic headphones are then complemented with a special ultra-low capacitance cable, developed in collaboration with Straight Wire, and a dedicated high-performance, discrete FET Class-A amplifier with USB, coax S/PDIF digital as well as RCA analog inputs. The USB input accepts all High-Resolution Audio formats up to 32-bit/384 kHz PCM and DSD via DoP (DSD64 and DSD128), while the S/PDIF input accepts all PCM formats up to 24-bit/192 kHz. Inside there is a ESS SABRE 32-bit Reference DAC chip, a custom 64-bit double-precision fixed-point DSP, a multi-channel 32-bit/384 kHz AKM Premium ADC, and a custom universal voltage switch-mode power supply. The Sonoma Model One System even ships with its special USB cable with gold-plated connectors, co-developed with Straight Wire.

If ever there was a benchmark in high-quality headphones, the Sonoma Model One Headphone System is it.

There's a very interesting article about how Warwick Audio Technologies used COMSOL Multiphysics modeling software to design the High-Precision Electrostatic Laminate (HPEL) transducer - a patented technology based on an ultrathin diaphragm and a single conductive plate instead of a pair - used in the Sonoma Model Ones.
From the existing published reviews and from the opinions I've heard from our own experts in the field and even some respected professionals in the recording community (it's important to highlight Sonoma's prior involvement in professional high resolution audio recording systems and DSD development), we now know what a high-quality headphone system can be. If anyone would need a reference in terms of quality, the Sonoma Model One Headphone System is it - even if it costs $5,000 USD. How relevant this is for anyone shopping for headphones to use daily with an iPhone and listen to Spotify? Not really. Very soon, someone could very well create a DSP preset to emulate the Model One response on any $200 headphone - if that would be a selling argument.
Manufacturers need to look at significant existing trends, such as the fact that we are now able to use active processing to "tune" the response of a headphone to our personal preferences - not only in general, but according to the environment where we listen. When we use headphones at home or in a plane, when we are totally relaxed or stressed out, our hearing changes, and our ability to deal with certain types of music, volume tolerance, and (yes) frequency sensitivity changes... Independently, if the headphones have the best "tuned" frequency response in the world, they will sound different to our ears on different occasions, and if we can do something to improve that... we do it. Soon, headphones - especially in-ears - will be able to measure some key hearing and environmental parameters and automatically adjust the response in terms of loudness and frequency response, with awareness of the surrounding noises, etc., directly in real time, at any moment. So, the "best headphones" will be those that feature drivers that will have the highest ability to translate a quality response within those variables.


You Can DIY!
Build a BCD-Digital Potentiometer
By Robert Nance Dee
In this high-quality project, Robert Nance Dee designs a potentiometer for accuracy and flexibility. A pot with 64 levels and precision metal film resistors that is hard to beat for sound or facility, as he describes it. The project started with a clean sheet, looking to address potentiometer design with a quality that rivaled existing designs while maintaining a reasonable cost. As the author explains, "I wanted flexibility-that is, I wanted to be able to use it in audio or any design and I wanted to be able to manipulate the value of the pot with just a few components to simplify other applications. Also, it must have a high degree of accuracy along with its flexibility. Next I wanted it to have as few-if any-moving parts and a long life that didn't require any maintenance or lubrication. I wanted it to work as well in 10 or more years as it did the day I built it. I also wanted to know what level the pot was at all times so I could return to a specific point or listening level at any time." To do this, Dee used an Atmel ATtiny2313V, 8-bit microcontroller programmed in assembly to control the LCD and the output to the relays, enabling him to use a small capacitor 0.33 F to save settings with the power off so the circuit would not draw - nor require - any external power in the off condition. The design uses binary-coded decimal (BCD) to select any level from 0 to 63 by manipulating six double-pole relays.
This article was originally published in audioXpress, September 2011.  
Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Spotlight
How to Select MEMS Microphones 
By Mike Klasco
Today, most audio products, from Bluetooth speakers to appliances with voice command, now contain at least one microphone. If the product was designed a couple of years ago, it had an electret condenser microphone (ECM), but today it will most likely use a MicroElectrical-Mechanical System (MEMS) microphone. Spec'ing MEMS microphones has some differences and this article touches upon these points. MEMS microphones are semiconductor micro-machined devices that replaced more complex and bulky transducers. Knowles introduced one of the first commercially produced MEMS microphones almost 25 years ago, a micro-miniature capacitive topology. While there were another dozen other early developers of MEMS microphones, most did not survive to maturation or were acquired due to the challenges this technology presented as well as the lack of staying power of the venture capital investment behind many of these efforts. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, November 2016.   Read the Full Article Online

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