Qualcomm Adds Support for DTS Virtual:X Technology on MAPX Audio System-on-Chip Platform
Qualcomm announced that its MAPX audio System-on-Chip (SoC) family now supports DTS Virtual:X immersive sound post processing. This next-generation technology is designed to translate any input source, from stereo to 11.1-channel content, into a format that can play back on a traditional 5.1, 3.1, or 2.1 speaker setup, including soundbars, which help deliver a compelling immersive listening experience for consumers without the need for height speakers. In addition, DTS Virtual:X technology supports bass enhancement and multiband hard limiter features.  Read More

Eighteen Sound Expands Subwoofer Range with High Performance Tetracoil Technology
Targeting the most demanding sound reinforcement applications, particularly touring systems, Eighteen Sound continues to design better-performing low-frequency solutions with reduced size and less weight. Already a recognized leader in low-frequency designs, the Italian brand continues to extend its subwoofer range featuring Tetracoil technology, with the introduction of the 15TLW3000 Very Low Frequency 15" woofer, and the announcement of the new 21TNLW5000 21" Neodymium woofer.   Read More

Bang & Olufsen Unveils BeoLab 50 Speaker System
The new top-performing loudspeakers from Bang & Olufsen, the BeoLab 50, were just unveiled. The new speakers combine sophisticated sound and a beautiful design, with everything one
c ould wish for in the home of the future ... today. You wouldn't tell from the outside, but the technology inside was inherited from the state-of-the-art BeoLab 90. As the brand explains, the BeoLab 50 is the first design from Bang & Olufsen, emerging directly from the prestigious and innovative BeoLab 90 loudspeakers.   Read More

AudioControl New SA-4140i High SPL Measurement Microphone Now Shipping
AudioControl (the US distributor for Studio Six Digital) is now shipping the new SA-4140i high SPL measurement microphone for the iPhone. With the new microphone and the AudioControl Mobile Tools app, users are able to check SPL up to 140 dBA and analyze the acoustics of any environment, including visualizing the acoustical spectrum. The new package includes the improved microphone, a clip holder, and a windscreen. The Mobile Tools iOS is available in the App Store and includes SPL Meter, RTA, FFT, DQ Alignment, and Polarity.    Read More

Bryston Launches Cubed Series BP-173 Preamplifier 
Bryston has announced the introduction of the new BP-173 (Cubed Series) preamplifier, utilizing the patented technology that debuted on its much-heralded Cubed Series amplifiers. The BP-173 is the first to employ the patented Salomie input circuit and a new highly flexible input/output configuration for enhanced system flexibility. Like all analog components from Bryston, the BP-173 is covered by an industry best 20-year warranty.   Read More

MAGIX Releases Sound Forge Audio Studio 12 
German software powerhouse MAGIX continues to expand its catalog of audio recording and editing solutions, targeting both casual users as well as top studios and professionals. MAGIX announced the release of Sound Forge Audio Studio 12, a stereo version of the famous multitrack software, introducing a new look, new functionality, new edit modes, new plug-ins, new meters, and much more, all for only $59.99. The Windows-only application is now 64-bit code and includes Ozone Elements from iZotope for LP and tape digitization, repair, and audio conversion.  Read More

IK Multimedia's ARC System 2.5 with New MEMS Microphone is Now Shipping
IK Multimedia confirmed that its ARC System 2.5 with a MEMS microphone is now available for shipping. Version 2.5 of the Advanced Room Correction (ARC) System combines a new highly accurate MEMS measurement microphone that provides dramatically increased precision measurement software together with an audio correction plug-in for Mac/PC DAWs and employs Audyssey MultEQ XT32 patented technology to greatly improve the audio monitoring accuracy of speakers in any studio or listening room.   Read More


Editor's Desk

Personal Headphone Responses

Even Earprint technology targets our own hearing abilities, offering the benefits of a personalized target response, including independent left/right adjustments.
Following up on my two previous articles about headphones - discussing ongoing trends in design choices and user preferences - I will now address the topic of frequency response and personalization.
No doubt, we need to understand what it is that explains the perception of high-quality sound reproduction in headphones. Understanding the key factors for that perception includes understanding frequency responses, but I believe manufacturers should focus on the key inherent technologies that provide high quality reproduction, and less on "tuning" the response to a particular (elusive) target. Also, achieving high quality sound reproduction doesn't depend on using just the most expensive and sophisticated materials and technologies, as many designs have proven.
As discussed in a very interesting recent article published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 141, there is "No correlation between headphone frequency response and retail price.". The paper, by Jeroen Breebaart, addresses the variability of measured headphone response patterns and aims to uncover any correlations between headphone type, retail price, and frequency response. The article highlights: "Research suggests that factors influencing consumers' choices as to which model to purchase are mostly based on wireless functionality (Iyer and Jelisejeva, 2016) and attributes such as shape, design, and comfort (Jensen, et al., 2016). Interestingly, sound quality does not seem to be a major attribute for purchase decisions."

Of course, the article recognizes the important research on subjective metrics for sound quality on headphones, such as the subjective quality correlated with linear (spectral) attributes instead of non-linear (distortion) metrics (cf. Temme, et al., 2014; Fleischmann, et al., 2014), and frequency (magnitude) response (Olive and Welti, 2012; Fleischmann, et al., 2012; Olive, et al., 2013). Breebaart particularly recognizes the recent work of Sean Olive and Todd Welti, and the team at Harman International's Northridge lab that determined a preferred response curve (now already labeled as the "Harman response curve"). Even though that research is still ongoing, several manufacturers seem to be adopting the conclusions presented by Olive and Welti in their "Factors that influence listeners' preferred bass and treble balance in headphones," Audio Engineering Society (AES) paper (2015). As Breebaart also writes, "Nevertheless, if one aims for a one-size-fits-all target response, diffuse field or free-field responses seem to be less preferred than a response based on measurements of a calibrated loudspeaker system in a listening room (Fleischmann, et al., 2012; Olive, et al., 2013)."
More importantly, in my opinion, this article highlights the fact that one headphone can effectively be transformed into another one by means of headphone equalization (Welti, et al., 2016). In fact, Olive, Welti, and McMullin did just that in their study "A Virtual Headphone Listening Test Methodology" where they used filters to make their Sennheiser HD 518 headphones sound like other headphone models. Interestingly, Breebaart notes, "In light of this, it looks to be possible to have an inexpensive headphone mimic the sound quality of an expensive headphone, so long as the frequency band range and dynamic range are available."
The highly successful Nura Headphone project will soon be a reality and promises exciting measurement and personalization possibilities.
It Can Be Emulated
In professional audio applications, companies such as Sonarworks and Waves are already capitalizing on the concept that we can emulate any response curve. Sonarworks' headphone calibration solution measures and adjusts the frequency response of headphones to precisely match flat and neutral sounding studio monitors in a well-treated studio. "Standard studio headphones are transformed into perfectly engineered precision devices," so users can mix and master with total confidence. As they also say, "Reference headphones don't exist. Every headphone sounds different due to physical properties and limitations of materials and composition. None is neutral enough for critical listening." Sonarworks offers an online demonstration for those interested.
Sonarworks also offers a studio monitor calibration solution, in case anyone wonders if they also can trust their ears in a standard working environment. The measurement solution and calibration software, Reference 3, is sold as a complete kit that allows using "calibrated sound for critical listening from any playback source."
Waves also recently announced Headphone EQ Calibration for its Nx Virtual Mix Room plug-in. This new feature leverages the digital processing capabilities of its Nx software and enables users to select a correction EQ curve for specific popular headphone models. Like Sonarworks, Waves currently offers emulation of several models from Audeze, Audio-Technica, AKG, beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, Shure, and Sony.
Within the consumer space, the trend is not so much about emulating a certain reference headphone model or a studio listening environment, but more about using response adjustment to offer personalization - preferably, variable personalization according to usage scenarios. That's why we see companies such as Even introducing its Earprint technology, which the company describes as "glasses for your ears." Even's quick and easy built-in hearing test, maps the way a user hears different frequencies in each ear and creates a unique hearing profile (EarPrint) that is stored on a dedicated processor in Even's headphones. An article by Mike Klasco, "Earprint - Precision Listening for Earphones and Headphones" (audioXpress, June 2017), details how the EarPrint process allows "correcting earphone and headphone responses each time we put them on, taking only 90 seconds.". Even recently introduced its new H2 Wireless Headphones that combine the same EarPrint processing in a Bluetooth model - which makes complete sense, since the concept already demands charging the internal battery for the built-in EarPrint processor.
Curiously, it seems that many start-up companies - some of which are betting on crowdfunding campaigns - are quicker to recognize these important trends and use them to promote personalization concepts. A quick visit to Kickstarter and Indiegogo - two of the most popular global crowdfunding platforms for consumer electronics - reveals that new companies are able to identify what resonates with consumers, even if sometimes their ambition is greater than their ability to actually ship the product. Leveraging the trend of personalization, the Nura Headphones is one of the most intriguing success stories in Kickstarter, with an amazing $1.8 million USD received from 7,730 backers. The Australian company not only promises personalization but also actually designed a solution that measures each user's hearing and is able to adapt the response, matched to each listener. Nura is currently in the manufacturing stages in Shenzhen, China, and promises to ship in September 2017.
Nakamichi has recently surfaced on Indiegogo to promote another cutting-edge concept on headphones, combining multiple features
(when in doubt, use them all...)
As another example, well-known brand Nakamichi has recently surfaced on Indiegogo to promote a cutting-edge concept on headphones, combining multiple features (when in doubt, use them all...). The Nakamichi EDGE Difference headphones, promising next-generation dual speaker drivers plus Artificial Intelligence (AI) applied to personal sound enhancement and active noise cancellation, as well as hearing loss protection, by intelligently alerting the user or adjusting the loudness response. The concept was developed by AEGIS Acoustics (a company acquired by Nakimichi in 2016), combining four high-performance noise cancelling microphones and "AI enhanced" audio processing. The headphones feature a larger (40 mm) driver for low-mid frequencies, and a smaller (23 mm) driver for high frequencies, both dynamic transducers. Now, in a partnership with Nakamichi, the EDGE crowdfunding campaign promises to bring it to market. Check it out here.
The above examples are clear indicators that headphone manufacturers are approaching the market with personalization strategies. This illustrates the large potential in exploring personalization, comfort, and convenience features, instead of focusing on more subjective arguments and targeting elusive quality benchmarks that will not be perceived the same way by consumers. Of course, it all depends on how you market the benefits and how well manufacturers convey the message. But as headphones are personal items and increasingly they are evolving to wearables and hearables, it becomes increasingly difficult to base your assertions on someone else's views, including those of renowned reviewers - with or without measurements.


You Can DIY!
Repurposing Antique Radios as Tube Amplifiers
By Bill Reeve
Antique tube radios are some of the most coveted vintage electronics any audio enthusiast can acquire. They sound absolutely great, both as for what they are intended - to work as a good old analog radio - but also as an amplifier for external audio sources, including any digital source. In this audioXpress article, Bill Reeve shares how to approach such projects and provides excellent advice. As he explains in the article, "Manufactured from the 1930s through the 1960s, vacuum tube radios often contain high quality audio amplifiers at the end of their RF signal chain. You can repurpose these radios into vintage, low-power tube amplifiers - without marring them in any way or detracting from their original charm and functionality as working analog radios."
"The three most significant recommendations I can make concerning restoring old mains-referenced electronics are: be sure to install a polarized power cord; add a fuse at the hot mains power entry; and if necessary, re-wire the external power entry so that the on/off knob switches the hot mains wire so that the internal chassis is neutral-referenced."  This article was originally published in audioXpress, May 2012.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Eighteen Sound ND3ST 1.4" Compression Driver 
By Vance Dickason
This Test Bench measures Eighteen Sound's ND3ST 1.4" compression driver in combination with the Eighteen Sound XT1464 60° × 50° horn. The ND3ST 1.4" exit Natural Sound neodymium high frequency compression driver has been designed to fulfill very high quality sound reinforcement applications. Features for the ND3ST include a titanium diaphragm (with proprietary suspension) driven by a 75 mm (3") voice coil wound with edgewound CCAW wire on a treated Nomex former. The self-centering diaphragm assembly is made by joining the former directly to the titanium dome on its upper bend edge. According to Eighteen Sound, in comparison with a usual straight former joint, the driver's design assures extended frequency energy transfer for improved response linearity and unparalleled reliability. Other features include a cast-aluminum body, a 120 W AES-rated power handling (240 W program material maximum), a neodymium ring magnet motor, a four-slot metal alloy phase plug design with a copper shorting ring, and solderable terminals. The horn supplied with the ND3ST driver is Eighteen Sound's injection-molded polyurethane 1.4" throat 60°H × 50°V elliptical constant directivity XT1464. This was designed to match the 1.4" Eighteen Sound neodymium motor compression drivers. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, December 2016.   Read the Full Article Online

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