Nordic Semiconductor Releases Bluetooth 5 Pre-Qualified, Production-Ready Development Solution
Nordic Semiconductor released its Bluetooth 5 pre-qualified, production-ready development solution for building Bluetooth 5 qualified products using the company's nRF52832 system on chip (SoC). The solution combines Bluetooth 5 software - S132 v5.0 SoftDevice and nRF5 SDK v14.0 - enabling developers to design high-performance Bluetooth 5-ready products, taking advantage of increased throughput, longer range, advertising extensions, and increased broadcast capacity and co-existence.  Read More

Audio Collaborative 2017 - "A Change is Gonna Come"
Keeping up with its tradition of combining market research intelligence with insightful industry events, Futuresource Consulting announced the return of its highly successful event dedicated to audio trends, to be hosted at the Ham Yard Hotel in London, November 9, 2017. Audio Collaborative 2017 brings together key industry influencers to discuss the services, hardware, and content plays that will shape the future audio landscape. Use the code: AudiocollaborativeAExpress10
to get 10% off the ticket price
Read More

VANA Unveils the Audio Physic Step Plus and Tempo Plus Loudspeakers to US Market
VANA, Ltd., has announced the availability of the Audio Physic Step plus and Tempo plus loudspeakers in the US market through a carefully selected network of audio retailers. The Step plus is an ultra-high-performance bookshelf speaker and the Tempo plus is a floor-standing speaker utilizing the same midrange and tweeter technologies as the Step plus with low-frequency drivers integrated within the enclosure. Both loudspeakers have been completely redesigned with many of the technological advances realized by the German company.   Read More

Attero Tech Helps Solve the Audio-Over-IP Puzzle
Attero Tech accelerated the pace of product introductions in direct response to the growing popularity of audio-over-IP (AoIP) and wireless solutions in professional audio and commercial AV applications. The Fort Wayne, IN, company has just launched a new website to promote its fast growing catalog of solutions, featuring many new products recently introduced at InfoComm 2017, including its new Synapse series of high channel density Dante/AES67 audio interfaces.    Read More

Digigram Eases Audio-over-IP Migration with New Audioway Bridge 
French Audio-over-IP (AoIP) pioneer, Digigram announced the release of its new Audioway Bridge, the first in the company's new Audioway range of IP studio solutions. Serving as an all-in-one gateway between legacy and IP audio equipment in the studio and in multiple studios connected by a managed network, Audioway Bridge enables users to input MADI, AES67, RAVENNA, Dante/AES67, Livewire+, or AES/EBU and route audio to output in any one of these formats. It also guarantees clock synchronization between systems.   Read More

Skybuds Truly Wireless Earbuds and Skydock Charger Now Sold Individually 
Here is an interesting announcement from truly wireless earbuds pioneer Skybuds. This leading company in the hearables space, announced that, in response to users' requests, it will now be possible to purchase earbuds and charging docks separately. The brand's individual Skybuds and Skydocks can now be purchased as separate pieces, assuring users that they'll never be left without their wireless earbuds or chargers.  Read More

Cadence Announces Tensilica HiFi 3z DSP Architecture with Enhanced Voice and Audio Processing
Cadence Design Systems announced the Cadence Tensilica HiFi 3z DSP IP core for system-on-chip (SoC) designs targeted for the latest mobile and home entertainment applications, including smartphones, augmented reality (AR)/3D goggles, digital TVs, and set-top boxes (STBs). The new HiFi 3z architecture offers more than 1.3 × better voice and audio processing performance than its predecessor, the HiFi 3 DSP, which leads the industry in the number of audio DSP cores shipped.   Read More


Editor's Desk

Let's Talk About Buying Headphones

Following up on my previous article about headphones and ongoing trends in design choices, I would like to address the important considerations about user preferences - and not necessarily regarding frequency response curves.

The ideal sound sources and an ideal environment for listening. The Focal Utopia in demonstration.

In this increasingly competitive category, it becomes even more important for headphone manufacturers to clearly differentiate their products and understand the different applications segments - as it is important to understand the consumer itself and their primary motivations when acquiring a new set of headphones, in-ears, or earbuds. When I look at most of the stores that offer a good display of headphones and in-ears, most of the time, I don't like what I see... There's a saturation of all kinds of products, with obscure brands side by side with the established players. Most importantly, even with those retailers that understand how to display the different classes of products, there's no clear indicators on the packaging that help differentiate their main features and explain the price differences - and many times, when there are labels, they can be misleading.
To make things harder for consumers, frequently I have seen the newest wireless products that offer the latest technologies and better specs for music listening, mixed with mobile accessories or gaming headsets, or the high-quality wired models "segregated" from the leading brands in a "reserved" area for audiophiles - that doesn't necessarily resonate with how today's consumers behave when selecting headphones. And when there is a listening area with a decent sample of products, the entire experience is terrible - with alarms sounding unexpectedly, no real choice in music sources, or immediate interference from sales people.
No wonder the market leaders by volume, such as Apple/Beats, Bose, Sony, and the Harman brands (AKG, JBL, and Harman Kardon), usually have their own branded displays, clearly appealing to an emotional engagement with the consumer. But when we dive in into those displays, frequently things are not clear and it becomes very hard to differentiate between models or features, other than the price range.
From another perspective, we increasingly see new and established players pushing direct sales online, or leveraging the main retail platforms such as Amazon - where the chance of differentiating and detailing their offerings is theoretically greater, but unfortunately, there is such a massive amount of promotions, cheap unknown brands, and confusing arguments, that unless a consumer clearly knows what to look for, the choice becomes overwhelming. Manufacturers like to think that a consumer clearly shops online already looking for a specific product and basically to compare prices, but more often, any online sales platform will easily divert that process with a flood of "Customers who viewed this item also viewed" or sponsored alternatives. Even when looking for a very specific (more expensive) wireless model, a visitor is immediately confronted with a promotion of a "Wireless Bluetooth Over Ear Headphones with Superior Active Noise Canceling" model, from a totally unknown brand, for just USD $109. And the trouble is, they look good!
Other than for those buyers looking for very specific models after doing a thorough research in magazines or dedicated headphone review websites, it's very difficult for brands to influence a direct sale online - and it's getting more expensive.
So, how should manufacturers address these challenges? Clearly by identifying what defines consumer choice when buying a certain product. Within a wireless class, things like clearly indicating Bluetooth Low Power/Long Range, or the duration of playtime with a single charge should help. For the buoyant truly wireless earbuds class, clearly define the targeted user, separate the action/sports types from the convenience, music-oriented user, or someone looking for a commuting and office solution. When adding sensors, clearly show what users can do with it (and that's a challenge by itself...), etc.
I am not saying that a key feature is less important than another. I am just saying that we need to understand exactly what consumers look for when deciding to buy new headphones. For instance, I see a lot of brands focusing on the "convenience" of wireless for mobile use, when in fact many wireless products are the least convenient when it comes to moving out of home - simply because no one remembers to charge their headphones everyday (as we do with smartphones and far too many battery-dependent gadgets we already carry...). So, if we can use headphones that have smart features, like active noise cancelation or equalization, directly powered by a mobile phone (Lightning, USB-C), that becomes a clear selling-point.

beyerdynamic at High End Munich 2017. How it should be. Attending trade shows is the opposite of the average consumer experience.

And what about specs? As it has been frequently illustrated, it's difficult to standardize headphone measurements, and even more difficult to interpret measured results, many times again translated into subjective impressions. That's precisely what Harman's research is trying to accomplish, by removing as many variables as possible from the subjective impressions. That research is indeed extremely relevant for manufacturers and anyone involved in designing transducers, headphones, or speakers. The problem is, it doesn't necessarily help creating selling arguments for consumers, even if we know the frequency response preferred by 80% of the population. Consumers' perception of those elusive concepts, such as "neutral response" or "sound accuracy," will always change in real usage conditions and according to the many identified variables.
When we check the websites and online communities that devote their time to being headphone-obsessed (e.g.,, and we check the reviews, or when we read the commentaries to the (brilliant) reviews by Tyll Hertsens on, we quickly realize how one person's favorite product quickly becomes another's personal aversion - be it because of the weight, the shape of the earpads, the way it adjusts around the head, the excessive bass, the excessive mids, the thin detail of the treble... There are as many preferences and opinions as there are actual products - and basic product designs. While some users would never listen to music with closed-back headphones, others simply focus on how good the music sounds while riding the subway or the train, and they need the best possible acoustic isolation. When we mix any other variable, such as the source of music (hi-res or highly compress streamed files), wireless, or active noise canceling, it really doesn't get any easier to evaluate.
Here at audioXpress, we once thought of creating a set of objective metrics for headphone measurements to support our own reviews. We even got excited when we heard (and reviewed) the latest series of headphone test and measurement solutions that were being released, but before we could even start, we read and compared the work of those "objective" reviewers, such as Jude Mansilla, the editor and founder of, or the before mentioned Tyll Hertsens (Innerfidelity), among others, and we quickly realized there would be no point in trying to emulate their unique focused work. Instead, we opted to write an article series about objective evaluation parameters for headphones and earphones and we started by looking at the technology, design and materials, before we would even focus on sound. It's been a year and half and... we are still working on that : )


You Can DIY!
An Accurate Bias Meter for Tube Output Stages
By Mark Driedger
Accurately setting the bias level for push-pull output stages is important to maximize amplifier performance and tube life. Most bias meters measure the absolute bias current of each tube (e.g., measuring a target of 60 mA on a 0-to-100-mA meter). While those old Westinghouse meters look good, the method is not very accurate. In contrast, this circuit measures error relative to the target bias current and error relative to a balanced condition in the push-pull pair. The meter is compact, low-cost, simple, and accurate thanks to the use of a window comparator IC - a Linear Technology LTC1042. The LTC1042 has differential inputs, which can float between ground and the 5-V supply. In this project, the comparator drives three LEDs through logic gates, which indicate if the input is below, within, or above the window. The meter can be built into the amplifier, or you can use the circuit externally. The project details a stereo version of the meter, and the meter can be modified to work with amplifiers which have independent bias controls, such as for parallel output tubes.
This article was originally published in audioXpress, July 2012.  
Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Spotlight
MEMS Microphones - Vesper Delivers New MEMS Microphone Technology 
By Mike Klasco
While still a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, Bobby Littrell founded Vesper Technologies in 2009, with the support of his advisor Karl Grosh, a University of Michigan Professor and Vesper's co-founder. Not only did Littrell, Vesper's CTO, have the vision for a technology based on a fundamentally new MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) architecture and material, he also had the entrepreneurial drive to secure a series of grants to fund the technology.
Since 2009, Vesper has built a broad and deep patent portfolio around its proprietary MEMS piezoelectric technology, which works quite differently from conventional capacitive MEMS microphones. Instead of a traditional diaphragm, which requires a perforated back plate that creates self-noise via squeeze film damping between the back plate and the diaphragm, Vesper's piezoelectric transducer is square and divided into four triangular cantilevers, in the shape of an "X" cut between opposite corners with just enough space between them that they never touch. As Matt Crowley, CEO of Vesper, says during an interview with Voice Coil, "We are just beginning to realize the potential of piezoelectric MEMS microphones." This article was originally published in Voice Coil, December 2016
Read the Full Article Online

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