RME presents ADI-2 DAC 2-Channel DA Converter for Studio and Audio Enthusiasts
German manufacturer RME Audio announced its new ADI-2 DAC, a two-channel high-end digital-to-analog converter in a 9.5"/1HE housing, featuring two high-performance headphone outputs, including a dedicated in-ear connection, and a wide range of conversion options. The new ADI-2 DAC is a further development of the renowned ADI-2 Pro AD/DA reference converter, and it is targeted at both studio professionals and audiophiles.   Read More

Audio Precision Enables A2B Multichannel Audio Test
Audio Precision announced support for multichannel audio performance testing of A2B systems and components in collaboration with Mentor, a Siemens business. The new software release for APx500 audio analyzers, supports connectivity with Mentor's A2B Analyzer to deliver closed-loop, multichannel A2B audio testing. Following a technology demonstration at the Audio Engineering Society (AES) 2017 International Conference on Automotive Audio in San Francisco, CA, the solution is now available.   Read More

New Juniper Research Report Forecasts Smart Audio Hardware Revenues to Grow by Over 300% in the Next 5 Years
A new report by Juniper Research predicts that revenues from smart audio devices like the Amazon Echo and Sonos One will grow from an estimated $2.5 billion in 2017 to more than $10 billion by 2022, as more audio brands integrate voice assistants into their devices. With competition heating up in the smart speaker space, the new research, "Smart Audio Devices: Strategies & Forecasts 2017-2022," looks at Amazon's main challengers.    Read More

Audinate Releases Dante IP Core for Xilinx FPGAs
Audinate, the developer of Dante media networking technology, has announced the availability of Dante IP Core, a soft IP solution for audio manufacturers. It allows OEMs working with FPGA-based designs to add Dante audio connectivity to AV products at a lower cost and with greater flexibility than ever before. A single FPGA may now host both product software and Dante audio networking.   Read More

Axiim to Showcase Wireless Home-Theater Solution for Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs at CES 2018 
Axiim, a designer and manufacturer of wireless audio/video home theater products, announced that it will showcase the first wireless home-theater solution designed for Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs, the Axiim Link HD wireless speaker system. All Axiim products leverage the Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association technology that ensures interoperability between member brands.   Read More

Apple Buys Music Recognition and Augmented Reality Services Shazam
As officially confirmed to some online media outlets, following persistent rumors that have circulated since December 8, 2017, Apple is buying Shazam, the music recognition and audio fingerprinting service that is one of the most popular apps in mobile platforms. Together with rival SoundHound, Shazam has gradually evolved into a sort of "gluing" app, helping users discover, interact with, and share music and videos, as well as printed or augmented reality content.   Read More

AKM Announces an Upgrade to Its Best Selling 32-bit Stereo Premium High-End DAC
At CES 2018, companies will be looking for ways to improve existing designs on every front, and the critical stages of audio AD/DA conversion will continue to be a focus. Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corp. (AKM) has developed the AK4493EQ, a 32-bit stereo premium D/A converter, which will be available in January 2018. As AKM explains, this is an upgrade from its best-selling AK4490EQ, used in many high-end audio products since it was launched in 2014.   Read More

66 Audio Takes Alexa Voice Recognition Out of Home with PRO Voice Wireless Headphones
Alexa, let's go for a walk? 66 Audio, a company from California and focused on wireless consumer audio technology, unveiled its PRO Voice Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with built-in Amazon Alexa voice recognition. The PRO Voice is basically an implementation of the brand's BTS Pro Wireless Headphones, optimized for Alexa use outside the home, and deliver a fluid voice experience anywhere the user has Internet connection (and Alexa is available...).   Read More

Mike Klasco

Guest Editorial

Hearables - Challenges and Solutions for True Wireless Stereo Earphones

"Hearable" is a hybrid of the terms wearable and headphone, as hearables combine major assets of wearable technology with the basic principle of audio-based information services, conventional rendition of music and wireless communications.
Personics Labs (aka Hearium Labs) was a bold visionary project from 2005, combining augmented reality, music listening, biometrics, and voice communications. Click the image for the Hearium video.

Today, most of us still spend too much of our time staring at our smartphones but hearables may change that focus to listening to a voice in your head. Compelling multi-faceted applications include sport fitness earphones that monitor your bio-functions, coach your workout while playing music as well as passing calls to you. Still, other visions for hearables will be augmented hearing - from enhancing and protecting your hearing at loud concerts to blocking gun shots while hunting, in-ear recording of classroom lectures, binaural recording of music events, and even an all-knowing interactive computer consiglieri (advisor) that resides in your ears.
As with smartphones and smartwatches, the hearable will eventually become a computing platform running apps. Connected to the Internet through Siri, Cortana, or other intelligent virtual assistants, conferring private guidance to the wearer. It will support both local audio playback and recording making it a digital audio player and dictaphone in your ear. The concept of the autonomous multi-function hearable will challenge the smartphone just as the first iPhone extinguished the existence of both the iPod and the Blackberry personal digital assistant. The user interface for the most sophisticated hearables will migrate away from the user having to poke at the device's buttons on their ear and shift toward intuitive voice commands empowered with artificial intelligence to interpret what is being asked of it.
Today, the most viable hearable implementation is True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earphones. The concept: each ear has an earphone with absolutely no wires just as an in-ear hearing aid. The most commercially successful example today are the Apple AirPods. True Wireless Stereo functionality was first introduced by CSR (now part of Qualcomm) in one of its Bluetooth chips, about five years ago. Sending a stereo audio stream to two distinct earbuds is not possible using standard Bluetooth A2DP profile: it is a point-to-point solution.
The initial application to reach the market was for stereo Bluetooth speakers to eliminate the remaining wire between the left and right channels. Before TWS, the configuration would be for one master speaker containing the Bluetooth receiver, amplifier, and battery and the other speaker would be a passive slave.

Founded in 2013, Doppler Labs wanted "to put a computer, speaker, and mic in everyone's ear." In 2016, the company announced its Here One true wireless earbuds, dubbed "augmented reality earbuds." On November 1, 2017, the company announced it would cease operations.

It appears the concept of a smart earpiece was first envisioned in 2005 by Personics Labs (aka Hearium Labs). Hearium was a bold visionary project led by Steven Goldstein and John Usher in augmented reality, music listening, biometrics, and voice communications. Over the years, I met with Goldstein and watched Hearium's progress. It was extraordinarily ambitious and attempted to create the ubiquitous in-the-ear computer that Doppler and Bragi are pursuing. The Hearium initiative yielded many patents but never made it to production. The Hearium video overview is definitely worth watching .
Doppler Labs and Bragi were both founded in 2013 but sadly at the time of this writing, Doppler has closed. While Doppler, like Hearium, may have been "a bridge too far" for the moment, one has to wonder if, had this product been launched by Apple, the adoption by consumers would have had a vastly different outcome. Perhaps the belated Doppler HereOne was a preview of future implementations of the AirPods. We will touch upon the considerable but surmountable challenges of hearables - such as the dense mechanical fabrication, ambitious signal processing, stable RF reception, and battery life (or lack of it!).
TWS Bluetooth speakers eliminate the umbilical cord between the speakers and maintain a stable stereo imaging but at the added complexity of each speaker enclosure requiring its own antenna, Bluetooth receiver, and battery. TWS wireless speakers require the Bluetooth receivers in the left and right enclosures to talk to each other for synchronization of the levels and timing to avoid stereo image platform shift. Specifically, platform shift is noticeable when a singer or dialog is split between channels and is essentially mono center content. If the time alignment is jittering between left and right, this sounds to the listener as if the singer is blurry and wandering. To lock the channels together, TWS timestamps are embedded in the relayed audio data and a combination of delays and rate matching is used to ensure synchronous playback.
There are a number of successful implementations of TWS Bluetooth stereo speakers but this was just not a "killer app." From a design perspective TWS Bluetooth speakers have enough space for a big battery, low-density cost-effective circuit board construction, and the RF signal between the speakers is not likely to be obstructed. While the "server" is most likely your smartphone, the Bluetooth speakers typically would be along the same wall, and running the wire between them is not really much of a consideration.

Bragi, once the largest Kickstarter campaign in European history and the company behind The World's First Hearable, has now made The Dash series (The Dash, The Dash Pro) Alexa-compatible. One of the first truly mobile hardware integrations for Amazon's cloud-based voice service. As Bragi says, The Dash Pro is more than just a headphone, but an in-ear computer with more than 150 micro- components, a 32-bit processor, artificial intelligence powered by The Dash AI and 27 sensors.

Conversely, the promise of a tiny TWS earphone that was self-contained caught the imagination of adventurous entrepreneurs and engineering teams at Bragi, and multiple crowd- or venture-funded startups. (Explore more here) The idea was to eliminate the residual wires that somehow did not evaporate with Bluetooth earphones. Typically, in legacy Bluetooth earphones all functions are controlled by various buttons located on the mic/remote dongle, or neckband, and then all of this is tied together by wires.
While the TWS earphone concept is seductive, the established brands mostly held back at first due to the significant implementation challenges foreseen by the more sophisticated engineering teams. Years later, only a few of the crowdfunded TWS products have shipped, with high return rates from first-generation devices. Today, after extensive development both by persistent startups and established brand and factory engineering teams, stable high performance and longer battery life are attainable. Much of this gain is due to the innovation of Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI) - but that is the focus of a forthcoming article.


From the Vault
A Portable Tube Preamp
By Gregory L. Charvat
This amazing project by Gregory L. Charvat has been doing the rounds on DIY audio forums blogs since originally published in audioXpress, March 2010. We thought it was about time to republish it online where it can be referenced more conveniently. About this project, we think we should also quote some of the author's own words. "Yes, vacuum tubes do sound better than transistors. The difficulty is cost; tube gear is very expensive because it uses lots of copper, iron, often point-to-point wired by hand, and requires a heavy metal chassis to support all of these parts. But with this high cost comes good economic justification for building your own gear. In this design, two pre-amplifiers are used with a battery powered high voltage supply. The high voltage supply works by creating a square wave with a 555 timer. This square wave is above audible frequency, around 40 kHz. The square wave is fed into a small audio power op-amp. The output of this op-amp is back-fed into the secondary of an audio output transformer, generating high voltage AC 170V at 40 kHz. This signal is rectified, filtered, and regulated in a conventional sense. The entire system runs on 8 AA batteries and should operate for approximately 4 hours continuously. Everything you need to make your own is here."  This article was originally published in audioXpress, March 2010.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Spotlight
Loudspeaker Measurements: More Than a Magnet 
By Aaron Heuschmidt (Klippel GmbH)
Is the solid part of a loudspeaker motor just a magnet or is there more to it? Simulation tools have helped to create effective and powerful magnet constructions, which make it easy to build a prototype based on calculations and experience. The next obvious step is measuring and listening to the assembled speaker. However, more conclusions can be drawn by analyzing the individual parts further. To answer the initial question, in one sense it is just a magnet, but it is as important as every other part of the loudspeaker. Therefore, it should get its own measurement technique. With a clever combination of measurements at the final speaker assembly and as pre-assembled parts, acoustical behavior can be traced back to physical characteristics and properties. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, May 2017.   Read the Full Article Online

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