GRAS Sound & Vibration Announces High Resolution Ear Simulator for Reliable Measurements of Headphones and Earphones up to 20 kHz
GRAS Sound & Vibration, the world-renowned manufacturer of high quality measurement microphones and related acoustic equipment, announced the availability of a new, High Resolution Ear Simulator designed specifically to meet the need for reliable and repeatable measurements of personal audio devices at high frequencies. An ideal solution for development of in-ear as well as supra- and circumaural headphones.   Read More

Ultrasone Presents Edition 15 Open Reference Headphones with new GTC Drivers
The Edition 15 sees Ultrasone expanding its product range with a set of top-class open reference headphones. GTC driver technology is a completely new development from the Bavarian company, and these are also the first open headphones to feature S-LogicEX technology. With high-quality materials such as American cherry wood for the ear cups, Merino leather for the headband and ear cushions with microvelour, the Edition 15 headphones also have a premium look and feel to match their high-end sound.  Read More

miniDSP Announces "EARS" Earphone Audio Response System Calibrated Test Jig for Headphone Measurements
miniDSP continues to surprise us with a continuous flow of advanced and affordable audio products. Now miniDSP has turned its attention to the headphone market and introduced "EARS," an Earphone Audio Response System calibrated test jig for headphone measurements. Basically, a plug and play USB audio streaming device, featuring dual low noise calibrated mics with interchangeable silicon ears. Add the new miniDSP HA-DSP DSP headphone amplifier and users have an accurate way to tune headphones to perfection.   Read More

FlexTech and PARC Cooperate on Ultra-Thin, Flexible Audio Speaker Development
FlexTech, a SEMI Strategic Association Partner announced a new  project with PARC, a Xerox company, to develop a hybrid, highly bendable, paper-like smart tag, incorporating a thin audio speaker. The product, based on the most advanced printed electronics, uses active and passive components and is aimed at applications in packaging, wearables prosthetics, soft robotics, smart tags, and smart cities and homes.    Read More

Family Designed "Clever Speaker" Launches on Kickstarter
Yoto, a family designed "clever speaker" now being promoted on Kickstarter, was developed to enhance the way children listen and learn. The project is a good example of ways of leveraging current available technologies to create a different product for a very significant market. A clever speaker for kids, Yoto is designed entirely by a team of experienced British entrepreneurs and parents who started thinking about what kids need to maximize development skills without screen time.   Read More

Shifting Professional Loudspeaker Market to Grow $1 Billion by 2021 
The professional loudspeaker market, currently valued at $2.6 billion worldwide, is on track to reach $3.6 billion by 2021 despite a number of major market shifts, according to a new market report from Futuresource Consulting. Futuresource's new "Professional Loudspeaker Market Assessment" report defines the market, offering product and vertical segmentations across four major regions and nine key countries using inputs directly from the industry itself Read More

SoundChip Unveils World's Lowest Power, Highest Performance Hybrid Noise-Cancelling Platform for True Wireless Stereo Headsets
SoundChip, a Swiss-based provider of audio processing solutions, unveiled Aurora - an application-specific, low-power, hybrid noise-cancelling platform for next-generation True Wireless Stereo (TWS) headsets. According to the company, Aurora delivers up to 35 dB of class-leading digitally programmable feed-forward and feedback (hybrid) noise cancelling, as well as a swathe of software-controlled features, including multi-mode noise cancelling, digitally configurable occlusion control, and situational awareness.   Read More

Libre Wireless Technologies Launches "MAVID," Miniaturized Low-Power Integrated Wireless Voice/Audio/IoT Device
At a one-day industry summit focused on the Amazon Alexa Voice Service (AVS), Libre Wireless Technologies announced "MAVID," an entirely new embedded voice-enabled multiprotocol wireless connectivity and IoT platform. This ultra-low-power and incredibly small new device incorporates a complete hardware and software solution for embedded voice, IoT, audio, and wireless connectivity. The new Libre platform will enable OEMs and ODMs to build unique voice-enabled products.   Read More

Mike Klasco and Nora Wong
(Menlo Scientific Ltd.)

Guest Editorial

The Future of MEMs
from An Audio Perspective

MSEC17, the MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress, was held November 1-2. This prestigious event provided an insider's glimpse into the global Micro-ElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) and sensors supply chain, trends, and challenges. MSEC offered valuable insights to those involved in mobile electronics such as earphones, smartphones, wearables, and bio-sensing (sports fitness). Originally planned to be held at a Napa, CA, wine country resort,  devastating wildfires forced the conference to relocate to the Hayes Mansion in San Jose, CA, another boutique resort and an idyllic backdrop to the meetings.
Now in its 13th year, MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress is an annual event that brings together business leaders from a broad spectrum of industries.

MEMS are micro-machined silicon integrated circuits that can be implemented as sensors. Twenty years ago, both start-ups and large established organization research teams struggled to achieve the promise of inexpensive high-performance sensors fabricated in integrated circuit foundries. Early applications ranged from air bag impact sensors to microphones to gyroscopes and much more. Over the years, what was initially an industry joke , morphed to global dominance as a solution for sensors. The MSEC17 event promised (and delivered) wide and varied "imaginative new applications, from mattresses that monitor heart rate and pressure points for bed sore prevention to agricultural devices that measure sunlight, soil pH, and moisture content to products aimed at enhancing athletic performance."
For the 1.6 billion mobile phones produced last year, most with two, three, or even four mics in each, there was not one electret condenser microphone (ECM) mic used - all were MEMS mics along with even a couple of MEMS gyro sensors. Now, MEMS technology is reaching for the microspeaker industry (probably starting with the receiver earpiece). New materials and topologies for MEMS are being introduced from piezo and graphene to metals.
Most presentations at MSEC17 were from MEMS and sensor industry experts on the challenges and opportunities of the industry. Mostly automotive self-driving and safety sensors is driving (sorry again for the puns) the MEMS industry. I thought the most dramatic presentation was a keynote by Lars Reger, Chief Technology Officer of NXP's Automotive business unit, on sensor-enhanced cars and the implications for a huge drop in accidents. He believes that truly autonomous self-driving cars are not in the near future, but rather that all the new sensors embedded in cars will augment the driver's skills. Most accidents will become near-accidents and non-incidents.
I truly believe this, as I have a seven-year-old Nissan Murano SUV and just bought a new version of the same car - but with the "Driving Miss Daisy Safely Suite." This includes Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, Driver Attention Alert, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection. While these won't get me home while I sleep in the back seat, it has added a wide safety margin for not only dumb moves around me but also from the driver's seat (me). The chances of knocking over a motorcycle passing me in my lane is now zero. Yet on the drive home, there were five motorcycle guys on the freeway balancing on their rear wheels... and giving wide berth to these fools is something that artificial intelligence will not have the ability to take into account for a while.

Menlo Micro's MEMS-based switching element enables RF switching 1,000 times faster and lasts 1,000 times longer than traditional mechanical switches.

MSEC is not for the general public, especially not at more than $1,500 per person. Rather it is a venue where executives have the opportunity to sit with end-user customers to exchange ideas and information, engage with competitors, look for their next jobs, or raid talent from the enemy, as well as relax with colleagues. Yet another oblique purpose of MSEC is that the membership is rich with venture capital teams and executives looking for strategic acquisitions and they also some of the most vital information via the scuttlebutt and insider news.
The MEMS industry is booming, and yet it also a killing field for those companies unable to stay ahead of the curve or keep their production yields up and cost/pricing down. While none of the following was voiced from the stage, here is some of the buzz from the coffee breaks and lunch.
Akustica, founded in 2001, was one of the early developers of MEMS microphones. Acquired by Bosch in 2009, it announced in late October it was shutting down.
Invensense acquired the Analog Devices MEMS microphone product line 2013. A few months ago, Invensense was sold to TDK and will become part of the Sensor Systems Business Co. of TDK Corp., together with EPCOS and Tronics. But rather than providing a new home for their MEMS mics, it is Invensense's motion sensors (gyros) that are used in iPhones that will live on - as this was the real target of the acquisition, while the mic product line will just fade away.
While a few of the MEMS mic vendors make their own wafers/dies and dice them into the mic elements, the bulk of the industry sources their mic elements from four foundries. Now the largest Japanese MEMS foundry is rumored to be closing down its MEMS operation, although keeping the rest of its semiconductor business.
A UK-based MEMS mic group, part of a giant semiconductor company known for its high-performance mics, is pulling back its product line from the market for a year or two perhaps due to issues with their MEMS mic die vendor - no doubt the guys below...
Infineon's dual backplate MEMS technology uses a membrane embedded within two back plates, thus generating a truly differential signal. The SNR is improved by 6 dB to 70 dB, which is equivalent to doubling the distance from which a user can give a voice command that is captured by the microphone.

Infineon, based in Germany, is a key vendor for many of the MEMS mic elements used in the better MEMS products. Along with its introduction of a very high signal to noise mic, we learned that only its lower performance mics elements would be available for OEMs customers and their next-generation 70 dB signal-to-noise elements will only be available as branded Infineon packaged mics. This will leave most of the Chinese/Taiwanese MEMS mic packagers out of the very high-end of the market -  70 dB + SNR is considered critical for far field.
I will keep my focus on MEMS mics and speakers but would like to mention one MEMS presentation  for farmers that was for soil analysis to increase crops where yield is sub-par. Another surprising application was 1 KW MEMS switches (Menlo Micro) and still another was on a skateboard using a Hall effect sensor and a motor to provide snowboard drift dynamics on paved dry streets.
Matt Crowley, CEO of Vesper, gave a presentation on how piezo MEMS mics do not use bias and can wake up when there is a voice signal and then turn on the rest of the signal chain - enabling significant gains in the operational time before re-charging. Partners include DSP Group and Sensory for this development and one of Vesper's key investors is the Amazon Alexa fund (so you can figure out where this is likely to show up soon). In a discussion with Crowley after his presentation, he spoke of 70 dB+ SNR developments for balanced differential commercial audio mics for 2018.

Vesper - DSPG - Sensory wake on voice was one of the presentations. Consuming a mere 6 µA while in listening mode, Vesper's VM101 ultra-rugged piezoelectric MEMS microphone extends battery life to months or years by enabling the rest of the system to completely power down while waiting for a keyword. The platform combines DSP Group's DBMD4, an ultra-low-power, always-on voice and audio processor based on Sensory's Truly Handsfree voice control embedded algorithms and wake-up word technology.

The first MEMS speaker to reach commercialization is a piezo device from USound from Austria. Piezo microspeakers (but not packaged as MEMS) have been around for years but lack adequate low-end response - most struggle to reach down to 1.5 kHz. USound looks to be chasing armature earphone applications and this should be less of a reach. Other MEMS microspeaker initiatives include Audio Pixels ( and a couple of others (currently in stealth mode) but it is no secret that the microspeaker turf is not a place to launch immature technology.
The next event is the MEMS & Sensors Technical Congress 2018 held in Monterey, CA, from February 12-15, 2018.


Fresh From the Bench
Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers: A Solid Speaker Base
By Gary Galo
Gary Galo reviews Primacoustic's Recoil Stabilizers, which tackle the problem of loudspeaker stability and isolation. In 2000, Radial Engineering created Primacoustic to provide practical acoustical solutions to the problems encountered in recording studios, performance venues, churches, and home listening environments. In designing the Recoil Stabilizers, Primacoustic has chosen to prevent recoil, noting that "By reducing the backward 'recoil' as the speaker coil pushes energy forward, the initial transient no longer suffers lag and the sharpness of the resulting impulse is more defined." The Recoil Stabilizer incorporates four key components to achieve the desired combination of isolation and stability. Isolation is provided by a high-density, open-cell urethane foam base that prevents resonant frequencies from traveling from the loudspeaker to the supporting shelf. This open-cell foam is dense enough to support the weight of the speaker, and soft and thick enough to provide isolation from the surface below. This article was originally published in audioXpress, August 2017.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Accuton C30-6-358 High-End Ceramic Diaphragm 30 mm Tweeter 
By Vance Dickason
The samples for this Test Bench came from respected German home/car audio OEM transducer manufacturer Accuton. I received the Accuton C30-6-358, its new "Cell Concept" neodymium motor ceramic diaphragm 30 mm tweeter. Accuton is a well-known name in high-end home hi-fi with a rather interesting history - which includes an OEM version of its Diamond diaphragm tweeter being incorporated into the sound system of the $2.6 million Bugatti Chiron! The Accuton C30-6-358 is an interesting tweeter for several reasons. While the rest of this explication will focus on the performance, the mounting system, which is part of the "Cell Concept," is definitely unique. Rather than the usual screw-on type of faceplate, the basic tweeter assembly incorporates a proprietary clapping mechanism. This consist of a large rubber O-ring that fits around the parameter of the tweeter body. Once the rubber clapping ring is in place, the tweeter body incorporates a mechanism to compress the O-ring so that it provides a tight seal to any object surrounding the tweeter body. This can be the faceplate or just a hole in the front baffle, which would make for a clean-looking front baffle cosmetic. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, April 2017.   Read the Full Article Online

AX November 2017: Digital Login
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VC November 2017: Digital Login
Industry News & Developments | Products & Services | Test Bench | Acoustic Patents | Industry Watch | And More