CTA Announces Best of Innovation Award Honorees for CES 2018
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) announced the Best of Innovation Honorees for CES 2018. Best of Innovation products for CES 2018 include some surprising choices, with Bang & Olufsen wining with the BeoSound Shape modular wireless speakers, and Kickstarter sensation nura with the innovative Nuraphones that allow personal hearing measurements and personalization. Other winners include Astell&Kern, the Mars ORFEO SoundWorks true wireless earbuds, and Wi-Charge long-range wireless power solution.   Read More

AudioControl Adds Dolby Vision HDR Support to Its Complete Lineup of Premium Home Theater Receivers and Preamp/Processors
Responding to the market uptake in 4K UDH displays and content with High Dynamic Range, Seattle-based AudioControl, makers of innovative high-performance audio solutions for the residential, commercial, and automotive markets has added support for Dolby Vision HDR to its entire line of home theater A/V receivers and preamp/processors including the new Maestro M5 introduced at the 2017 CEDIA Expo.   Read More

Amazon Introduces Alexa, Alexa Skills Kit, and Alexa Voice Service to Canada
Amazon announced that Alexa, the voice recognition engine that powers the Amazon Echo range of smart speakers, is now available for Canada, along with three Alexa-enabled devices: Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Dot. The expansion also means that the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), enabling developers to build voice experiences for Alexa users will now be available for English speakers in Canada.    Read More

David Scheirman Takes Office as President of the Audio Engineering Society
David Scheirman has taken office as the new President of the Audio Engineering Society (AES). In continuing its role of promoting audio science and education, the AES welcomes Scheirman and his 40-plus years of experience and expertise in professional audio - and as a long-time active member of the AES, where he's served three terms on the Board of Governors, along with numerous roles and chairman positions at AES conventions and within the AES committee system.   Read More

VOXX International Expands Membership with the Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association 
VOXX International Corp. has significantly expanded its membership with the Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association to support interoperability across its portfolio of brands. As a WiSA member, VOXX International's family of brands have access to the WiSA specification, technical support, and testing protocols necessary to bring interoperable, wireless home theater products to market.   Read More

Frontier Silicon Extends Smart Audio Collaboration with Harman for JBL Wireless Speakers
British digital audio technologies specialist Frontier Silicon, announced that Harman, one of the world's largest manufacturers of audio systems and speakers, has chosen Frontier's Minuet Smart Audio platform as the technology to power its new JBL Control Xstream wireless speakers. This is the latest in a series of collaborations between the two companies, which date back to 2013.   Read More

Advanced Wireless-Charging Chip from STMicroelectronics Enables Faster Charging of Smartphones and Tablets
STMicroelectronics new STWBC-EP device supports the Qi Extended Power (15 W) profile, enabling smartphones and tablets to be charged up to three times more quickly. The device combines best-in-class energy efficiency, consuming just 16 mW in standby and is able to wirelessly transfer more than 80% of the total input power, with unique features created by ST to enhance the user experience.   Read More

McIntosh Launches Its Most Powerful Single-Chassis Monoblock Amplifier
1,200 W, 71 kg, and $12,500 USD. The new MC1.25KW Quad Balanced Power Amplifier is one of McIntosh's most advanced amplifiers to date, and the brand's most powerful single-chassis monoblock amplifier, redesigned from top to bottom. It directly replaces its predecessor, the MC1.2KW and offers 1,200 W of pure power into a single channel with nearly imperceptible distortion (0.005%).   Read More


Editor's Desk

Change and Opportunities in the Audio Landscape

Last week (November 9, 2017), I attended the Futuresource Audio Collaborative 2017 conference, at the Ham Yard Hotel in London. With the topic "A Change is Gonna Come," the conference was a valuable and insightful event. The audio recording of the full extent of these presentations has been uploaded to YouTube.

Full audio recordings for Futuresource's Audio Collaborative 2017 conference are now available online.
Just click on the image.

To entice our readers to actually spend the hours listening to those interventions (and for those who don't have the time to do it), I will share some of the key highlights, adding some of my personal takes on the topics addressed. A more extensive version of this report is also available here.
Panels included some of the leading executives and experts in diverse fields of the audio and music industry, addressing the multiple verticals, such as Audio's Role in the Smart Home; Immersive Audio Experiences; The Expanding Influence of Social Media Platforms; and The World of Luxury Audio. The complete list of speakers and panels is available here.
The event opened with a keynote by Adriaan Thierry, Managing Director, EMEA & AMPAC, Sonos, who provided an insightful vision of how this leading company foresees its space in the industry and is committed to its vision to offer the best possible solutions for whole home audio. In a way, it was refreshing to hear how the pioneers of multiroom have not lost focus, are so committed to evolving in this segment, and see a huge potential on the category, even if facing the challenges of voice integration and the smart speaker's disruption, by building those additional features on their own connected platform and technology and still lead on the home audio space. In fact, as Thierry stated, Sonos sees a huge opportunity to lead in the "golden age of content, open and immersive," by leveraging its 15 years of leadership in home audio "to architect the ultimate sound experience for the home."

Global demand for home audio products grew by 17% to 103.6 million units, while trade value grew by 20% to $11.7 billion by the end of 2016. Source: Futuresource Consulting Worldwide Home Audio Market Report

The event in itself was a key networking opportunity for many of the leading experts in some of the most important companies and brands in the market today to freely engage in inspiring conversations and exploring partnerships - which as it was demonstrated multiple times during the presentations, are key to the industry's momentum. This included an interesting presentation by Andrew Tiil, VP Technology and Marketing, Harman, on "The Rate of Change of In-Car Entertainment," and a closing keynote by Riad Hawa, VP Global Hardware and Partnerships, Deezer on "What's Next for Music Streaming."
During one of the panels "The World of Luxury Audio," Bob Stuart, creator and MQA and Meridian's founder, stated: "Whenever the music industry did well, the hardware industry did well," referring to the fact that, over the last decades, the music industry has flourished with recording and distribution formats - from vinyl to CDs and digital streaming, while suffering severe downturns with the audio cassette, MP3, and digital piracy. As Stuart maintains, there is a direct relationship between the quality of the formats that are available to the consumer and the way consumers respond by investing in better sound reproduction to enjoy that music.
My key takeaway from that statement is that the audio industry in general is now thriving and faces very exciting perspectives. As Stuart, and most of the other speakers and panelist in this event confirmed, the market is growing - even if companies and consumers are confronted with disruption, changes, confusion, and uncertainty, as Sonos' Thierry remarked. I think that sums up this event well.
In his presentation "What's Next for Music Streaming?" Riad Hawa, VP Global Hardware Partnerships, Deezer, addressed how service providers are embracing those key technologies and market developments that are simultaneously challenging but exciting the industry. One of those key developments being precisely digital distribution and streaming. As confirmed also by other music streaming service executives speaking at the event, we are just at the beginning of that important transition for the music industry. As Hawa stated, only 10% of global the population has so far used music streaming services. As confirmed also by the latest IFPI Global Music Report 2017, there is "An explosion in global music consumption supported by multiple platforms," with revenues in the "Music Streaming" segment expected to grow at a 10% rate for the next five years.
Another important aspect revealed by these latest statistics is that the diversity of music, artists, and genres, available on the streaming platforms has never been greater (the cumulative effect of labels re-releasing practically all recorded music, plus new talent), while at the same time the number of people actually paying to listen to music has never been greater. The revenues may seem smaller when compared to the golden-age of CD, but in fact the global volume of business has never been larger.
With Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer, and many other services leading the industry, there is a consensus that the next stage of global expansion will be a challenge, since it needs to reach out to the occasional and less-enthusiastic user groups. As of July 2017, Spotify - the leading music streaming service with over 140 million users - had 60 million paying subscribers worldwide, up from 30 million paying subscribers in March 2016. Apple Music also already surpassed 30 million paid subscribers. Now, the music industry needs to conquer a new profile of more generic users, which are not so emotionally engaged with technology, and much less with the traditional concept of hi-fidelity or living room stereo. That's precisely where mobile devices - smartphones but also wearables and increasingly "hearables" like true wireless earbuds - but also the increasing role of social media as distribution platforms - will be decisive.

Prior to the panel "Audio's Role in the Smart Home," Futuresource revealed additional market indicators on the number of voice assistant devices now available from 33 brands, and 9 different platforms.

As most of the speakers in this conference have addressed, there's one new important trend that comes into play: voice. Voice was the dominant topic in Thierry's keynote address, and also for the first panel "Audio's Role in the Smart Home." As all the participants on this panel confirmed, voice assistants are positioned to be the next-generation interface. As the earlier success of products such as the Amazon Echo have proved for the home, voice assistants are fueling growth in what was an already buoyant audio market. The main use for the first generation of smart speakers is precisely to interact with music streaming services - and this is crucial for further expansion.
So far, services like Spotify and Tidal have been designed for a user profile that either already owns a music library or knows what he wants to hear and how to explore a rich music catalogue - making the extension and depth of metadata, from artists to album names, as well as cover art crucial. But the same services in mobile platforms - in particular, the recently refreshed Apple Music interface - is mainly targeted at those users who prefer to rely on simple playlists, based on the users' basic preferences and/or curated directly for them. In a way, approaching the radio experience. For that kind of usage, voice interfaces are perfect and much easier, and can be directly related to simple moods and emotions, expressed in requests such as, "Alexa, play happy music."

In his keynote, "What's Next for Music Streaming?" Riad Hawa, VP Global Hardware Partnerships, Deezer, discussed how one of the world's leading music streaming services embraces the key technology and market developments, the impact of voice in music engagement, and the role of higher quality audio experiences.

On that note, during his presentation, "What's Next for Music Streaming?," Hawa, highlighted the advantage for "pure players in music services" to expand their reach by being in all platforms, reacting faster to new technology and market developments, while companies such as Apple, or Google, or even Amazon just see music distribution as a way to reinforce their complex ecosystems, of hardware, software and services. This is something that Deezer sees as strategic, in the way it is able to establish new partnerships with the audio industry, particularly with hardware manufacturers, while at the same time driving consumers to higher quality audio experiences. The strategy, Hawa contended, lies in differentiation, quality of metadata, and creating new usage profiles, such as exploring AI, and including integration with social media platforms.


From the Vault
A Modular Hybrid Amp System
By Marco Ferretti
Tubes or transistors? Whatever your prejudices, this article may make you change your mind about how you view hybrid designs. audioXpress featured this modular hybrid amplifier project in February 2001, which was referenced multiple times by other authors in many subsequent projects. As Marco Ferretti wrote then, "Your equipment should be designed to offer the best musical performance possible depending on costs and on the technology, you are willing to use. It is often said that tubes sound better than transistors. I think this is not completely true, since the quality of sound does not depend only on the devices you are using, but more on how they are used. The approach when designing audio equipment is first of all to obtain the best electrical performance from the components you choose, and then to optimize the circuit for the best sound." To prove his point, the author detailed a complete project of an audio amplifier featuring a shunted regulated push-pull (SRPP) stage design, "because of its low distortion, considerable gain, low output resistance, striking dynamics, and good slew rate," using the ECC82/12AU7 tube combination. This is followed by a power stage, using two to eight complementary power MOSFETs in parallel. But this is just the starting point for what can be an excellent platform for inspiration and further ideas. This article was originally published in audioXpress, February 2001.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
ETON 29HD2 Magnesium /Ceramic 28mm Dome Tweeter 
By Vance Dickason
These Test Bench samples came from a respected home audio OEM transducer manufacturer from Germany. From Eton I received the 29HD2, its 28-mm magnesium ceramic diaphragm neodymium motor tweeter. ETON is a well-known name in high-end home/car hi-fi. ETON Electro Acoustic GmbH was founded in 1983 with the goal of developing loudspeakers and loudspeaker systems to provide the highest degree of customer sound enjoyment, which is pretty much the goal of all OEM transducer manufacturers that aspire to the rarefied atmosphere of high-end audio. The ETON Hexacone sandwich cone, patented by ETON became known worldwide for its high degree of stiffness and its light weight. This results in a unique sonic timbre that is proprietary to ETON loudspeakers. ETON's 29HD2 neodymium motor tweeter has, as you would expect, a fairly rich feature set that includes an aluminum faceplate, a 28-mm diameter magnesium diaphragm with a ceramic coating on both sides protected by a cosmetically attractive grill/phase plug, and driven by an aluminum former wound with round copper-clad aluminum wire (CCAW). Other features include an injection-molded surround, an underhung neodymium magnet motor design with a cast-aluminum cavity/heatsink, a 0.6 mm Xmax, and gold-plated terminals.  This article was originally published in Voice Coil, April 2017.   Read the Full Article Online

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