Audioengine Unveils A5+ Premium Wireless Smart Speaker System
Audioengine's A5+ Wireless Music System follows similar design aesthetics from its other compact speakers. The Audioengine 5+ Wireless is an exciting evolution of the award-winning A5 speakers, focusing on wireless streaming, with upgraded features and the A5+ signature sound. As the company explains, "the A5+ Wireless isn't just a pair of powered stereo speakers but a smart music system that works with Alexa, Siri, and all other voice activated apps, speakers, and devices - as well as every music app on the planet."  Read More

Qualcomm Introduces Smart Audio Platform and Speaker Development Kits for Multiple Voice Ecosystems
Following earlier demonstrations at CES 2018, Qualcomm introduced a series of new platforms, SoCs, and development kits targeting new advanced audio applications and smart speakers, including the support of key wireless technologies, voice and cloud ecosystems. Solutions include its Smart Audio Platform optimized for smart speakers, a six-microphone far-field voice platform qualified for Amazon AVS, Dolby Audio implementations for wireless speakers, and more.   Read More

Sony Mobile Introduces Bold New Open-Ear Wired and True Wireless Earphones
At the Barcelona, 2018 Mobile World Congress (MWC), Sony Mobile announced its Xperia Ear Duo truly wireless concept, which should be reaching the market in Spring 2018. According to Sony, the Xperia Ear Duo was built to reimagine the wireless headset with a bold new Spatial Acoustic Conductor open-ear design, featuring notifications and environmental awareness, with Google Assistant or Siri support. A similar design is available on the Open-ear Stereo Headset STH40D wired model.    Read More

STMicroelectronics and USound Demonstrate MEMS Speaker Headphones at MWC 2018
Expanding on the first presentation of USound's technology at Mobile World Congress (MWC) a year ago, in 2018 STMicroelectronics hosted a working product demonstration of an in-earphone using only one single MEMS speaker driver per side, as well as a spatial audio demo using 14 drivers on over-ear headphones, proving the technology's full potential. MEMS speakers developed by USound and manufactured by STMicroelectronics combine minuscule size, low profile, and high efficiency, enabling multiple wearable form factors.   Read More

TDK Acquires Ultrasonic MEMS Sensing Solutions Developer Chirp Microsystems 
TDK Corp. announced that it has reached an agreement with Chirp Microsystems, a pioneer in high-performance ultrasonic sensing, headquartered in Berkeley, CA. With the acquisition, Chirp becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of TDK, enhancing its existing technology in fingerprint sensors, MEMS sensors, and piezoelectric transducer product lines. "TDK aims to be the leader in the ultrasonic MEMS sensors and solutions market," says Shigenao Ishiguro, TDK's President and CEO.   Read More

Social Music Platform BandLab Technologies Buys What's Left of Cakewalk
In the middle of all the turmoil around the rumors of the collapse of Gibson Brands, there's some good news for musicians and many home and project studios. Following the hard-to-understand news, back in November 2017, that Gibson was closing Cakewalk - the first clear sign that the group was facing serious financial troubles - there is now confirmation that not everything is lost for users of Cakewalk's products. Singapore-based BandLab Technologies confirmed the acquisition of Cakewalk, Inc.'s remaining assets.   Read More

Bragi Introduces Bragi Intelligent Edge Software Suite featuring Bragi nanoAI
After four years of development, Bragi has made a breakthrough in ultra-efficient artificial intelligence and says it is ready to deliver the first edge computing AI suite. During Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, Bragi, the company behind The Dash hearable - now the world's first intelligent Edge Headphone - announced a B2B offer of Bragi nanoAI as a software solution, which the company says helps overcome major challenges of the current IoT architecture.   Read More

XMOS Introduces Stereo-AEC Far-Field Linear Development Kit for AVS, Qualified by Amazon
XMOS announced its VocalFusion Stereo Dev Kit for Amazon AVS, the first linear mic array solution qualified by Amazon for far-field performance that supports stereo acoustic echo cancellation. This new voice processor development kit is designed for developers working in the growing Alexa-enabled smart TV, soundbar, set-top box, and digital media adapter market segments, all of which require true stereo-AEC support to deliver compelling "across the room" voice-interface solutions.   Read More


Editor's Desk

A Connected World Congress

A strange week we had, with most of the technology world focused on another edition of GSMA's Mobile World Congress (MWC), with the usual gush of new iPhone-clone announcements and most of the key semiconductor giants dividing their announcements with embedded world 2018, taking place at the same time in Nuremberg, Germany. The exhaustion from a full week, plus the  traveling back explains why we are only reaching out a few days later with The Audio Voice. But it was well worth it.

The mobile industry is very aware of the importance of high-quality audio experiences to complement their products, and all over MWC 2018 audio technologies were prominent.

Probably the most remarkable fact was that neither of the trade shows was much affected with this unusual clash, with both events displaying very strong attendance and exhibitor statistics. Not even the political instability that's been affecting the Catalonia region or the cold weather from Siberia that covered most of Europe with rain and snow, deterred the enthusiasm and excitement that was noticeable in the always vibrant city of Barcelona during MWC

Increasingly, the dynamics of MWC are turning attention away from the iPhone-clones that mobile brands continue to throw at the market, and more toward the world of connected devices that make smart cities, smart homes, wearables, and IoT possible. Yes, the MWC still relies on the massive amounts of business that occurs there every year among telecom infrastructure providers and network operators, but the norm is more and more consumer electronics, autonomous cars, cloud solutions, and software developers pitching their latest ideas on social-engineered apps - almost like we see happening at CES.
Of course, the greatest strength of the Barcelona show still resides in the vibrant underlying technology that powers the increasingly connected society, with everything that it entails, including audio technologies, voice interface solutions, and smart and connected home and personal devices that are currently powering the consumer electronics industry. That's why much of MWC's real action happens in closed meeting spaces and demonstration areas outside the general visitor's access, where new technologies and development platforms are shown and pitched, and engineering meetings define the products for the next two years.

Clearly visible on the show floor was the fact that smartphones were fewer, and technologies and services shaping the future of mobile prevailed. I also noticed fewer smart watches (copying and competing with Apple, as always, proves highly destructive...) and more home, automotive, and health solutions. On the telecom side, the discussion around 5G implementations seemed to be much more focused on key applications such as connected cars and the services that will clearly benefit from the expanded bandwidth and robust coverage (e.g., media distribution). With 4K OTT services growing globally, telecom companies want to make sure they continue to control the physical gateways, including the end devices, which can very well be 5G smartphones that can also connect wirelessly to any home display.

The MyLiFi Lamp by Oledcomm offers high bandwidth connectivity in the home and now it can be voice-controlled via Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

On the technology front, things that caught our attention included lots of new uses for voice recognition, including on things that make much more sense than fridges. One of those was the MyLiFi, "the lamp you can talk to!" from French company Oledcomm. First unveiled at CES 2018, MyLiFi, is an LED lamp that offers wireless Internet at the speed of light - that is, using LiFi, the revolutionary technology that allows mobile devices (and other connected objects) to connect to each other by using LED lights. LiFi offers ultra-fast, secure, and radio wave-free Internet connectivity. Now, Oledcomm was showing the MyLiFi lamp with voice recognition, in English and French, to allow users to control and personalize the connection via Google Assistant, including defining a waking schedule, the color temperature (from cool white to hot orange), and the light intensity of the lamp. Very cool (or warm!)
Theoretically, Li-Fi connectivity is able to reach 224 gigabits per second in direct view and could still achieve 70 megabits per second when reflected off a surface (source Wikipedia). Applications in smart home, and for wirelessly connecting audio devices in the same room are obvious candidates. Li-Fi signals cannot pass through walls, but many of the companies already working with the technology are combining systems with standard Wi-Fi, since Li-Fi uses standard IEEE 802.11 protocols.

Swedish company myFC promoted the JAQ Hybrid powerbank, a self-charging hydrogen fuel cell ready to power our mobile devices.

Another very cool product and technology that caught our attention comes from Swedish fuel cell company myFC. In general, anything that promises to improve our energy (in)dependence is worth examining. Usually those demonstrations show technologies and concepts that will take years to come to fruition. In this case, myFC was showing a working prototype at MWC 2018. The myFC JAQ Hybrid is the world's smallest fuel cell charger for smartphones and tablets and, as they say, "there is literally no other product like it in the world."
The myFC JAQ Hybrid is a powerbank that combines a hydrogen fuel cell with a 10.5 W (2.1 A at 5 V) charger, able to both produce and store energy. Promising infinite power in our pocket, the (1250 mAh) battery can be charged using myFC's patented, green fuel, based on salt and water, as well as through a regular power outlet. The myFC PowerCard provides a USB-compliant output, able to power any USB 5 V device and supports one complete smartphone charge in a very thin and light device, already CE, IEC, CCC, KCC, and FCC certified, and designed to comply with international air safety regulations.
We will mention a third example of cutting-edge demonstrations seen at MWC 2018, not exactly yet as a product, but in the shape of a very interesting technology coming from Israeli company Sonarax (former Prontoly). Basically, Sonarax has been perfecting the use of ultra-sound to create a new kind of signal-processing and communication solution that can be used to pair and authenticate devices and services, used in combination with other network and connectivity technologies, like Bluetooth.
Using only a microphone and speaker, Sonarax is able to generate an Ultrasonic Token for proximity-based authentication, pair and control devices, and provide a simple and straightforward method for data transfer between devices, with full control over transmission range and with a high detection rate. The company provides a full SDK for any operating system, allowing manufacturers to implement all kinds of applications, including connections to cloud, Point of Sale (POS), and media devices, or building indoor positioning systems, based on a simple and cost-effective sonic interaction. The technology works amazingly well with any device equipped with a speaker and microphone (e.g., a smartphone), and it could certainly be used to great advantage in home entertainment and all sorts of media applications. We think this could be an ideal solution to allow identification and pairing of multiple users with smart speakers.
Of course, during the many demonstrations and presentations we attended at MWC 2018, the topic of voice, smart speakers, truly wireless stereo, and several audio-related topics, such as digital signal processing for audio optimization in portable devices, acoustic compensation, and personalization, was recurrent. New trends to note are all sorts of "dockable" Bluetooth speakers - enhancing the sound of smartphones (basically a speaker that docks to a smartphone cover and can be detached at any moment). Another important trend that the industry is quickly moving forward with is QI wireless charging technology - the integration of charging surfaces in all sorts of devices. Yes, including speakers. Basically, anything that connects to a power outlet will benefit from also offering a charging surface for one of multiple mobile devices. And with the number of battery-dependent gadgets in our lives, that will be a good selling argument for some brands.

The Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa is a dockable device for smartphones and a new type of design with great potential.

Mobile World Congress 2019 will be held February 25-28, 2019, again in Barcelona. Mobile World Congress Americas takes place September 12-14, 2018, at the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC).

An extended version of this MWC 2018 First Impressions Report - with more photos - is  available online here .


Fresh From the Bench
The Simply Sound Company SS-1 Microphone Preamp
By Stuart Yaniger
Some of us love ribbon and dynamic microphones and what they do for the sounds they pick up. Unfortunately, some of our preamplifiers don't share our love for them-ribbons and dynamics tend to have pretty low output, and microphone preamplifiers (whether separate or built in to a mixer, PA, or digital interface) don't always have a noise floor, gain, and dynamic range that are suitable. Users often have to turn up the gain to the point where noise intrudes, or they run out of gain completely, with the gain knob all the way up but the mic volume still too low. Based out of the Rocky Mountains of Salt Lake City, UT, a band of musicians, engineers, and enthusiasts with a desire to make great products, designed a way to give new life to vintage and modern microphones. The Simply Sound Company, designed its SS-1 single channel preamp, meant to boost the signal of a low output microphone to levels compatible with normal mic inputs. It's housed in a rugged extruded aluminum case, with XLR connections on each end. Despite the high-quality parts and good construction, the SS-1 sells for significantly less than competitive products. This article was originally published in audioXpress, December 2017.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Volt Loudspeakers VM752
3" Midrange Dome Driver 
By Vance Dickason
The driver I tested is one of Volt Loudspeakers' signature products, the 3" VM752 midrange dome. Speaker manufacturers that do incorporate the VM752, or a version of it, into their products include Quested, Graham Audio, and Robson Acoustics. For a midrange dome, the VM752 is massive, with a ferrite magnet structure about the size of something found on a 12" pro sound woofer. And, the entire assembly weighs 17.6 lb. The VM752's features include a coated single-piece fabric dome/surround, a FEA-designed ferrite motor structure, and a 75 mm diameter Nomex/Kapton voice coil former wound with round copper wire. A short flare horn is built into the rear-mounted (0.75" depth) faceplate. The VM752 also offers 94 dB sensitivity, and 100 W (AES) rated power handling, has a 200 mm diameter ferrite magnet, with a 2 mm Xmax, and a 500-Hz-to-4-kHz operating range. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, September 2017.   Read the Full Article Online

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