HARMAN International Joins the Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association
The Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association, an industry group dedicated to bringing high-resolution, wireless, multi-channel audio products to the home theater market, announced HARMAN International as its newest member. Will this signal a comeback for what was a great technology proposition? It was successfully implemented and is still used by Bang & Olufsen and Klipsch, among other companies. It's been a while since we last heard from WiSA, and the audio industry certainly needs it.   Read More

New Futuresource 2017 Worldwide Headphones Market Report
Futuresource Consulting continues to release consistent market research that provides guidance for any company in the consumer electronics space and specifically for the audio industry. In its latest 2017 Worldwide Headphones Report, Futuresource predicts further growth in the global headphones aftermarket both in units shipped and average prices. The report predicts 4.1% growth to 362 million units in 2017, generating revenues worth $15.5 billion.   Read More

Audio-over-IP, AES67, and more at the 143rd International AES Convention
With the recent publication of the new SMPTE ST 2110 suite of standards for real-time media transport over IP and the critical role of AES67 in defining the audio component of these, the 143rd International Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention in New York, co-located with the NAB Show New York 2017, will be an important moment for the audio industry to learn, engage, experiment, and plan its future. The Audio Engineering Society, the Media Networking Alliance, and other industry organizations will focus on education, education, education.    Read More

Dynaudio Unveils Music Wireless Multiroom Music System 
Dynaudio announced its first wireless multiroom music system. Not just any set of speakers that are able to stream music wirelessly to the whole home, but a series of speakers that bridge the best concepts of what is now called "smart speakers," and the best use of standard wireless technologies for a high-quality listening experience. After all, the new Dynaudio system is called simply "Music," and the Danish company highlights the fact that this is an intelligent wireless multiroom music system that automatically learns our tastes, our home, and our lifestyle.   Read More

New COMSOL Multiphysics Software Unveiled with Major Acoustics Improvements 
Once again, the 2017 COMSOL Conference in Boston brought together the COMSOL community. Attendees got a chance to test the latest features for COMSOL Multiphysics 5.3a and COMSOL Server, scheduled to be released in the fourth quarter of 2017. New features include acoustics and acoustic-structure interactions based on a hybrid boundary element-finite element (BEM-FEM) method, impulse response for ray acoustics, magnetostatics, shape memory alloy (SMA) materials for structural analysis and much more!  Read More

Aiming for the Top: The New Focal Clear High-End Headphone
Leading French speaker and headphone manufacturer, Focal unveiled Clear, the company's newest reference headphone. Clear is Focal's new circum-aural open-back headphone for audiophiles and represents a new evolution of Focal's now famous open-back, full-range speaker headphone family. With this new introduction, the French brand consolidates its market position in the high-end headphone segment with a reference open-back model for less than $2,000.   Read More

Synopsys Delivers Industry's First USB 3.2 Verification IP and Test Suite for Higher Performance USB Designs
Synopsys announced the availability of the industry's first verification IP (VIP) and UVM source code test suite to support the latest USB 3.2 specification. USB 3.2 enables new hosts and devices with USB Type-C to be designed as multi-lane solutions, allowing for up to two lanes of 5 Gbps or two lanes of 10 Gbps operation, doubling the data rate over the existing USB Type-C cables. It also supports re-timer enhancements.   Read More

Mike Klasco
(Menlo Scientific)

Guest Editorial

Premium Earphone and Headphone Bundling by Smartphone Vendors

In a recent blog post on Consumer Electronics, Futuresource Consulting analyst, Rasika D'Souza, writes, "A trend is emerging of handset vendors bundling premium headphones 'in the box' as a point of differentiation, in what is an increasingly homogeneous handset market. Headphones have become an important accessory - from both a wearable fashion and technology perspective. Earphones have become a visible point of differentiation, as phone designs have become standardized and are in pockets and bags as opposed to a visible, wearable accessory. With this in mind, the incentive for mobile vendors is pretty clear, especially when one considers that consumers are spending $13 billion at retail on headphones, more than ten times what they were a decade ago."
A Samsung smartphone bundled with AKG headphones. Well... Harman is now a Samsung company.

"A key value driver of headphones in the aftermarket stems from consumers' desires to own a 'better' pair. If handset vendors start bundling premium headphones, this might satisfy the need for that 'better' pair and consequently, replacements for bundled headphones could potentially lengthen beyond one year, negatively impacting the aftermarket. The handset market is worth over $330 billion in trade value and the cost to bundle headphones - even premium models - is negligible. Retail margin on premium headphones is more than 50%, whilst the bill of materials (BOM) cost is relatively small."
"However, the headphones aftermarket is much smaller ($9 billion at trade level this year), so there is the real prospect that bundling strategies in the mobile handset market (which shifts 1 billion pairs of headphones per year) could adversely affect the retail aftermarket, which shifts barely a third of this total."
"Bundling of premium headphones with mobiles could be hugely beneficial to headphone vendors savvy enough to partner with smartphone companies for 'in the box' bundling, as it would drive up volumes significantly. Flagship phone models from LG and Samsung ship on average 3-5 million and 55-60 million units per year respectively. Consumers would also get a good deal from this strategy. However, those retailers who deal in high-end headphones but are not involved in selling smartphones, will need to keep an eye out for this trend, as it could deprive them of a lucrative business."
In its latest Worldwide Headphones Report, Futuresource highlights that "premium headphones are being bundled in the box with smartphones," and explores the potential impact of this trend on the aftermarket.

I am sensing a bit of déjà vu having read this blog post. Various blogs triggered by this report already see this as a brilliant idea and great opportunity for earphone and headphone brands.
Samsung is bundling the S8 smartphone with a headphone with the AKG logo stuck on (well, exploiting that Harman brand by Samsung did not take long!). LG announced that it will bundle its flagship V30 smartphone with Bang & Olufsen (B&O) Play headphones. The spin is that LG's smartphone audio is tuned by B&O and the headphones are made specifically to produce optimum playback with the V30 handset. This tuning story of special signal processing and complimentary earphones is reminiscent to the HTC Beats story - but I will get to that shortly.
There are also rumors Apple will push AirPods more aggressively with the new iPhone X. Already Apple just had a back-to-school promotion for the MacBook laptop with a Beats Bluetooth headphone thrown in. Of course, Beats is an Apple product now, but seven years ago, you may remember HTC bought a tad over 50% of Beats. The strategy was that Beats would enhance HTC's brand prestige and premium Beats-branded earphones would be bundled with HTC smartphones. Additionally, signal processing and tuning was optimized for the bundled Beats earphones. A year later HTC sold off half of its investment and the following year got out altogether. While HTC did make a good profit on its Beats investment, some would say that was the point where HTC began its death spiral - the point in time where HTC's market share took a dive. What went wrong with the HTC/Beats bundling program?
The consumer would love to have a quality earphone or headphone "thrown-in" and the perceived value is high. Yet, this is also cannibalizing the retail opportunity for a very high markup add-on sale. The customer selects a phone and calling plan and then turns to the earphones on the accessory wall and pulls out his wallet - that is unless the earphone is already in the smartphone box.

Apple could easily bundle its successful AirPods with new iPhones but so far has chosen not to do so, as the product continues to fly off the shelfs on its own...

HTC branded its high-end handsets and in-box earphones with the Beats logo as if this was a magical talisman that would enhance the perception of what was really lipstick on a pig. Yet it was not the consumer's disdain for a pimped up earphone masquerading as an in-ear-monitor. HTC eventually got the message of the angry rejection by the carriers of bundling by the smartphone brand of an accessory (earphones) that had been very profitable with a high attachment rate at the carrier retail level.
In the smartphone business, the carrier is king and controls the options of smartphones for its end-user subscribers - in the US, the retail stores of the carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, etc.). No question Apple has its following and the iPhone is a demand item, but what the carrier stores offer aside from iPhones and Samsung products is up to the carrier. The bundled models from HTC were not promoted or stocked or otherwise put forward to consumers and their market share has never come back.  I do not see how the carriers' thinking will have changed for another go at bundling unilaterally by the smartphone vendors.
And HTC today? Google has agreed to buy part of HTC Corp.'s engineering and design - some 2,000 employees along with a non-exclusive licensing agreement for HTC intellectual property. HTC stock has been suspended from trading. In reading the various blogs on bundling earphones with smartphones that are oblivious to the HTC downfall, a line from Sir Winston Churchill seems appropriate to close this rant "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." .


From the Vault
Constructing and Reviewing the SEAS Froy Mk3
By Edward T. Dell, Jr. | Review by Joseph D'Appolito
and Dennis Colin
The SEAS Froy Mk3, an improved version of the original Froy kit was launched at the end of 2002 by the famous Norwegian speaker company, utilizing drive unit technologies from its Excel product line. Designed by Murray Zeligman, who also designed the original FROY kit, the Froy Mk3 kit uses two W15CY001 woofers and a single T25CF002 "Millennium" tweeter mounted in a D'Appolito configuration. The cabinet is a bass reflex design with the vent placed in the rear. This directs any potential vent noises away from the listener, and allows for minimum baffle area in the front. The port tube is constructed of two MDF boards which also serve as additional bracing for the cabinet. The crossover network is conventional except for a parallel circuit which suppresses the response peak due to the magnesium cone. On March 2003, Edward T. Dell, Jr., audioXpress founder, published a complete build project for the kit. In the subsequent April 2003 edition, audioXpress published a complete review of the Froy Mk3, with measurements by Joseph D'Appolito, accompanied by a listening evaluation from Dennis Colin. The two articles were available online in a previous generation of, but unfortunately, they were not included in the content migration to the current generation of the website. We learned that many forums and magazines still refer to the original articles, and we decided to correct the situation. The PDF attachments are now back online and the original links are working again.   Read the Full Articles Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
The SB Acoustics Satori TW29BN Beryllium Dome Tweeter 
By Vance Dickason
For this Test Bench, SB Acoustics sent its new high-end Satori line neodymium 29 mm beryllium dome tweeter, the TW29BN. I reviewed the Satori ring dome version of this SB Acoustics neodymium tweeter, the Satori TW29RN in 2016, and the motor structure of the TW29BN is very similar. Features include a 29 mm wide surround beryllium diaphragm sourced from Materion, a non-reflective cast-aluminum rear cavity, a two-part aluminum faceplate with integrated mechanical decoupling, dual balanced compression chambers, a high-saturation neodymium ring type motor magnet with a T-shaped pole and dual copper cap shorting rings (Faraday shields), a shallow flow optimized magnet structure for optimum coupling to the rear chamber, a CCAW voice coil with silver lead wires, a foam mounting gasket, and gold-plated terminals. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, February 2017.   Read the Full Article Online

AX November 2017: Digital Login
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VC October 2017: Digital Login
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