Sonos Unveils Sonos One Smart Speaker with Support for Multiple Voice Services
Sonos unveiled Sonos One, an all-new, voice-controlled smart speaker capable of supporting multiple voice services and audio content from more than 80 streaming services. Sonos One launches with Amazon Alexa support, and Google Assistant to follow in 2018. The Sonos One is priced at $199 USD and will be available globally on Oct. 24. The company also confirmed that additional free software updates will unlock Alexa voice control for current Sonos owners, as well as Apple AirPlay 2 and Siri support.   Read More

Google Unveils New Home Smart Speakers and Wireless Pixel Buds
Google is all-in in its determination to compete with Amazon, Apple, and everyone else on the hardware front. On the same day, Google unveiled its second-generation family of consumer hardware products, including new Pixel 2 smartphones, Google Home Mini and Max smart speakers, an all-new Pixelbook tablet/laptop, Google Pixel Buds wireless earbuds, and more. No longer releasing "reference hardware" for its software ecosystem, Google is apparently determined to emulate Apple's successful strategy.   Read More

Achieve Balanced Audio with the Industry's Highest CMRR Line Receiver
The INA1650 SoundPlus audio line receiver achieves an extremely high common-mode rejection ratio (CMRR) of 91 dB while maintaining ultra-low THD+N of -120 dB at 1 kHz for 22-dBu signal levels. The excellent CMRR performance of the INA1650 is achieved through precise matching of on-chip resistors which deliver far superior matching compared to external components and are immune to mismatches introduced by printed circuit board layout. Unlike other line receiver products, the INA1650 CMRR is characterized over temperature and tested in production to deliver consistent performance in a wide variety of applications.    Read More

XMOS Delivers Amazon Alexa Voice Service Development Kit with Linear Mic Array for Far-Field Voice Capture
XMOS announced its VocalFusion 4-Mic Dev Kit for Amazon Alexa Voice Service (AVS). A far-field linear mic array solution, the XMOS kit is ideal for developers who want to integrate Alexa into smart panels, kitchen appliances, and other commercial and industrial electronics. Being a leading supplier of voice and audio solutions to the consumer electronics market, XMOS can combine its unique silicon architecture and software at the interface between voice processing, biometrics, and artificial intelligence.   Read More

Bowers & Wilkins Launches PX Adaptive Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones 
Bowers & Wilkins, the British speaker brand known for its high-performance audio products, announced the launch of the PX headphone, the company's first adaptive noise cancelling wireless headphones. Combining sound quality, sophisticated design, and aptX HD Bluetooth streaming, with responsive interaction, the new PX responds intelligently to the wearer's behavior - pausing audio when it senses the headphones have been lifted from the ear Read More

u-blox Launches NINA-B3 Full-Featured Bluetooth 5 Modules
Swiss company, u-blox, specializing in wireless and positioning modules and chips, announced the launch of its full Bluetooth 5 compliant NINA-B3 wireless MCU (microcontroller unit) module. Featuring Bluetooth low-energy long-range connectivity, high data transfer rates and supporting Bluetooth mesh and 802.15.4, NINA-B3 caters to applications in smart buildings, smart cities, and the Industry 4.0, including home automation systems, sensor networks, and high-quality wireless audio applications.   Read More

Legacy to Showcase New VALOR Speaker with Wavelet Digital Processor at RMAF 2017
Legacy Audio will premiere its new VALOR loudspeaker system at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) 2017 show. Powered by an incredible 2750 W per side, the VALOR is the first speaker to employ Stereo Unfold technology, licensed from Bohmer Audio of Sweden and implemented in the Wavelet Preamp/DAC/Processor. By combining a controlled-directivity front array for the initial wave-launch and a side/rear-firing ambient array, VALOR is said to be able to "reconstruct the natural sequence of sound arrival of the live performance space."   Read More

Audio Recordings Perpetually Stored on DNA for the First Time
Twist Bioscience, a company dedicated to DNA synthesis, working with Microsoft and University of Washington researchers, announced that they have successfully stored archival-quality audio recordings of two important music performances from the archives of the world-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival. Recordings were encoded and stored in DNA, for the first time. This is the first time DNA has been used as a long-term archival-quality storage medium. The tiny specks of DNA will preserve a part of UNESCO's Memory of the World Archive, where valuable cultural heritage collections are recorded.   Read More


Editor's Desk

Around-the-Neck Wearable Sound

audioXpress closely follows innovations in the truly wireless earbud space, because it simply is one of the most exciting categories in the audio industry right now. Within the headphones category, wireless earbuds are a fast-growing segment. But truly wireless earbuds can be much more. They are truly wearables, which can do a lot more when equipped with the latest connectivity and sensors. In fact, they can become "hearing enhancers," like glasses for hearing, allowing us to listen, perceive, and engage better in difficult environments (e.g., open space offices, public transport, trade shows or any busy public spot). In fact, many companies, including the leading hearing aid brands, are now anticipating a convergence between the categories. The market potential for truly wireless earbuds is huge.
Just think about it. Traditional hearing aids were actually very basic and limited filter/amplifiers. Now, they have sensors, they can be connected to the Internet, they connect to smartphones... This enables people with hearing disabilities to fine-tune their own hearing aids in a precise way, while also monitoring their health, use voice assistants, take calls and efficiently communicate with the world. With Bluetooth 5, NFC/NFMI and improvements in battery life, very soon these products have the potential to become the most popular format and sell in the same numbers as prescription glasses.
An alternative to "true wireless earbuds," the Sennheiser HD1 In-Ear Momentum Wireless offers a leather neckband design with 10 hours of battery life.
Probably the biggest constraint right now is battery life. If we want earbuds to be light and comfortable, while being always on (especially now with some models featuring built-in voice assistants), processing audio all the time and communicating efficiently (and streaming music), there's no way the battery will last a normal 12-hour day. One current alternative is to connect those earbuds with short wires and connect them to a neckband storing a larger capacity battery. LG Electronics (LG) was not the first company to explore the idea, but they had the first commercially successful model in 2015 with the HBS-900 and their TONE around-the-neck wireless headsets. Basically, a slim and elegant design, combining convenience with longer battery life, allowed by the neck piece. Many other brands have started to explore the concept and virtually all have a similar model - I would highlight the recent Sennheiser HD1 In-Ear Momentum Wireless Neckband, which offers great audio quality, great design and 10-hour battery life. The leather neckband is so attractive and nice to wear that I thought Sennheiser could actually sell a new fashion line of jackets and shirts with the neckband attached to the collar. (You're welcome!)
But LG is still probably the leading company exploring the concept and its TONE range keeps expanding, including most recently the LG TONE Free, adding wireless earbuds to the familiar neckband concept. That is, the neckband is the charger that holds and charges the earbuds. It provides extra battery power and vibration alerts for incoming calls and text messages, and also provides a secure place to store the earbuds when not in the user's ears. The obvious trade-off is limited mobility during sports and fitness activities (unless you sew the neckband to a collar...)
But let's forget for a moment the earbuds and focus more on the neckband. I remember in the 1990s, when Sennheiser introduced a much-improved version of its RF wireless headphones - using tiny plug-in rechargeable battery packs that unfortunately would get lost, and wire antennas that broke easily. Still, those allowed me to listen to the TV at night and, as I soon discovered, even walk the dog around the house, wearing headphones and listening to music with minor interferences. I used to wear them while working on my writing, but soon they would make me feel tired and too warm on the ears since they were not that light. That's when I started to simply wear it around the neck, with the earcups turned upwards, allowing me extended periods of music listening without so much fatigue (how many of us have done that with regular headphones?). Yes, I would have to turn the volume up a bit and the bass would always lack, but it was not that bad. Since then, I have been intrigued with the idea.

This was the Sennheiser Surrounder Pro around-the-neck answer to personal surround sound in 1997. Ahead of its time!

By coincidence, that was exactly the time when Sennheiser released the ridiculously looking Surrounder Pro contraption (1997). It was one of the very first attempts to solve the challenge of mobile surround sound for people with only two ears, so the neckband format was an obvious choice. Sennheiser tried to market it as a "3D Sound" solution, but I guess it was too early. Like 3D TV, 15 years later, it flopped big time. But the Surrounder Pros are still admired to this day in certain gaming circles and are prized by collectors. And this wasn't the first headphone neckband concept. Much earlier, in 1979, there was the Bone Fone AM/FM radio neckband with two speakers that was sold at RadioShack and via mailing catalogs. Both before and after that, there were several attempts to combine around-the-neck contraptions, or around-the-head using bone/body conduction.

In 2017, Harman introduced the JBL Soundgear around-the-neck with updated wireless technology. Available for $199.

Quickly moving forward to January 2017, I was surprised to hear that Harman/JBL had reimagined the concept in its JBL Soundgear around-the-neck wearable At CES 2017, it was presented as "JBL Reimagines Personal Audio," and the big thing about it was the combination of improved wireless technology for "hands-free and ear-free wireless sound," with better quality sound, emanating from new-generation drivers that enabled a nice sound field. One of the key ideas for home and office use was simply its hands-free convenience, enabling users to take calls on Bluetooth, and listen to music while working or cooking or anything else. It is targeted at people who don't like the isolation of traditional headphones and need mobility (and it is great for watching TV as well). We can buy it now for $199 but the fact that no one is talking about it makes me believe that it wasn't a success. Limited battery life (6 hours) might have something to do with it...
Significantly, the JBL Soundgear was introduced as a new concept in wearable design, and correctly, Harman highlighted the dual-microphone conferencing system with echo and advanced noise cancelling technology for "crystal clear conversations." But apparently, that's not something consumers will find very exciting - since they prefer to blast off their tiny smartphone speakers to take calls on speakerphone. And as for listening to music out loud, unless you are alone in your environment, no matter how low you listen, that thing is going to annoy others around you.

With the TONE Studio, LG Electronics tried to take its popular TONE neckband a step further, working with DTS to tune a hybrid solution for gaming and watching movies.

But there must be more to it than convenience. Announced also at CES 2017, LG Electronics is testing the market with a "hybrid" product. Expanding its TONE range, LG introduced the TONE Studio "wearable personal surround speaker and earbuds."  It combines a high-quality 32-bit DAC, a neckband with four speakers - two full range on the top and two vibrating on the bottom - and attached earbuds. More, LG designed the TONE Studio in consultation with DTS, testing the ground for "a personal surround sound experience when watching a movie, playing a video game, or simply streaming music."
Again, maybe it's just me, but I think this $229 product is trying to be too many things at once. Still, there's a new target here as well: video games and TV sound. As for the "enhanced audio experience," that's where the DTS-tuned sound, especially the two vibration speakers underneath make a difference. More than enough to "enhance" viewing a movie on TV at night. In fact, the new LG TONE Studio is optimized to complement the Bluetooth audio capabilities of the newest LG Smart TVs running WebOS, to "experience true surround sound comfortably at home."
Bose is the latest company to release an around-the-neck solution and its full of technical innovations.

Fast forward again, two weeks ago Bose announced the SoundSport Free, its first attempt in the truly wireless earbuds category, "designed especially for active users who want to work out with music."  That was the week that Bose announced an upgrade for its best-selling QC35 active noise cancelling headphones.  In both cases, Bose sent out a dedicated press release. Searching for the technical details often absent from press releases, we visited the (excellent) Bose website and noticed another new product highlighted there: The Bose SoundWear Companion, the brand's own iteration of an around-the-neck concept.
The SoundWear Companion is promoted online as one of Bose's biggest technical innovations, on par with the 901 speaker, the acoustic waveguide technology, the Wave radio, and noise cancelling headphones. The strange thing is that the company didn't send out any sort of press release and no official announcement or promotional effort was made. The new around-the-neck design was simply "released" (shipping now.) And I think the Bose SoundWear Companion deserves attention. Bose is promoting it correctly as a "wearable speaker" that offers "the best of both worlds" - convenience and connectivity. Bose also highlights the fact that the SoundWear Companion "rests comfortably on your shoulders, with sound that is full and clear to you - yet minimizes the sound for others," leveraging the company's research. It plays up to 12 hours, and a quick 15-minute charge offers up to 3 hours extra. It features haptic alerts for incoming calls, it is water and sweat resistant, it's flexible and is made from comfortable and light materials. Most importantly, it is optimized for calls, including Skype and FaceTime.

The Bose SoundWear Companion is flexible, ergonomic, fashionable, and truly wearable.

Being myself an earlier "naïve" adopter of carrying headphones around my neck with earcups turned upwards, I have to wonder why doesn't Bose think this new product is worthy of a simple press release... You could use Alexa or Siri with this thing and have no far-field challenges. I'll do my best to get one and do a review, and we will let you know.


Fresh From The Bench
Vienna Suite Pro High-Precision Stereo and Surround Audio Plug-Ins: Processing for the Orchestral World
By Fernando Rodrigues
This is an authoritative overview of the Vienna Suite Pro, a collection of high-precision stereo and surround audio processing, reverbs, metering, and utility plug-ins that Fernando Rodrigues applied in both orchestral and non-orchestral files. The Vienna Suite was created by the famous Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL) for use with its orchestral libraries and has been refined and expanded to make the software bundle even more attractive and comprehensive. The Vienna Suite Pro includes a collection of 14 64-bit high-precision plug-ins for a variety of audio-processing tasks - from dynamics and filter processing plug-ins to analysis plug-ins. As Rodrigues can attest, this collection is a prime example of transparency for individual track processing and mixing, as well as for the final mastering process, now greatly enhanced with an improved user interface. This article was published in audioXpress, February 2017.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
SB Acoustics Satori MR13P-4. A New Home Audio 5.25" Midrange Driver 
By Vance Dickason
The January 2017 issue of Voice Coil reviewed the new SB Acoustics MR16P-4 Satori line midrange. The subject of this month's explication is the recently released SB Acoustics 5.25" MR13P-4 Satori midrange. As with the MR16P-4, the MR13P-4 is nominally a midrange version of the SB Acoustics MW13P-4 5.25" woofer, but with higher sensitivity and shorter Xmax. The original Satori woofer, the MW18R, while looking cosmetically similar to the Scan-Speak Illuminator 18WU series, was a well-designed driver that has established itself as a true high-end home audio competitor. The feature set for the MR13P-4 is similar to the original Satori MW13P. The MR13P-4 is built on the same cosmetically attractive six-spoke frame that has a minimal reflective footprint behind the cone to reduce reflections and a completely open area beneath the spider mounting shelf for enhanced cooling- both highly desirable attributes. Additional cooling is provided by venting the voice coil former and a 12 mm diameter pole vent. The spider mounting shelf itself is pinned to the frame to limit vibration transfer from the frame to this part of the suspension system. The neodymium motor cup attaches to the bottom of the frame and has a separate cosmetic/heatsink part that looks like the continuation of the frame attached to the peripheral of the motor. The motor is comprised of a neodymium ring magnet and the cup that completes the field and forms the gap area. The cone and dust cap material are also unique and composed of 60% pure Egyptian papyrus parchment fibers, an expensive, but light and stiff material. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, February 2017.   Read the Full Article Online

AX October 2017: Digital Login
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