Beyma Introduces New High-Performance Subwoofers, Woofers, and Small Compression Drivers
Joining the concept and design of the successful 18LEX1600Nd introduced last year at Prolight+Sound, this year Beyma introduced two new high-performance subwoofers, the new 21LEX1600Nd and the 15LEX1600Nd. And to reinforce its woofer choices even more for 2018, the Spanish company announced a new family of 4 neodymium woofers with patented Maltcross technology. Beyma also unveiled three new compression drivers of small sizeRead More

FaitalPRO Introduces Two New Midrange Drivers and One 18" Super Woofer at Prolight+Sound 2018
FaitalPRO, the renowned Italian manufacturer of professional loudspeakers, officially celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2018. Continuing the brand's tradition of quality and innovation, FaitalPRO introduced three new products at Prolight+Sound 2018, starting with two 6" drivers for midrange and low-mid frequencies, the 6RS140 and the 6PR160 respectively, together with the 18XL2000 18" Super Woofer, designed for the lowest frequencies.   Read More

Steinberg Unveils Two Premium Audio Interfaces with Rupert Neve Designs Transformers
Just before Musikmesse 2018 opened its doors in Frankfurt (April 11-14), Steinberg revealed the new UR-RT2 and the UR-RT4 audio recording interfaces, the result of a collaboration between Steinberg and Rupert Neve Designs. By factoring in the engineering expertise at Yamaha, these two new USB audio interfaces deliver very high-quality results on any type of production, combining a durable chassis with top quality components, including transformers by Rupert Neve Designs.    Read More

WiSA Expands Global Presence with Four New Members Planning 2018 Product Launches
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 GoldenEar, Electrocompaniet, Almando, and Primare as its newest members. The four new member companies will join the strong and growing list of WiSA members that already includes LG, Harman International, VOXX International, Klipsch, Xbox, Axiim, Enclave, and more.   Read More

Celestion Expands Ferrite Magnet CF Range with CF1230F and CF1540HD Cast Aluminum LF Drivers 
At Prolight+Sound 2018 (April 10-13), Celestion announced two new additions to its CF range of high-quality cast-aluminum, ferrite-magnet drivers for demanding tour sound and fixed install applications. At the Frankfurt show, Celestion introduced the 12" CF1230F and the 15" CF1540HD low-frequency woofers, offering further options for manufacturers designing two- or three-way systems and extended bass response sound reinforcement solutions.   Read More

NTi Audio Introduces New Omnidirectional Sound Source and Amplifier
Measuring the sound insulation and reverberation time in multi-roomed buildings can become pretty tiring. Carrying a heavy amplifier and loudspeaker from room to room is also cumbersome. To better support the work of audio professionals and acousticians in their daily work, NTi Audio has developed a new lightweight, yet robust, omnidirectional sound source, the DS3 Dodecahedron, together with the powerful PA3 Power Amplifier.   Read More

Benchmark Introduces new HPA4 Headphone and Line Amplifier Featuring THX AAA Technology
Benchmark Media Systems introduced its new HPA4 headphone and line amplifier at CanJam Global SoCal, (Los Angeles, CA, April 7-8, 2018) and will be showing it again at AXPONA (Chicago, IL, April 13-15.) where Benchmark will be conducting personal listening demonstrations. For this new development, Benchmark partnered with THX to incorporate the THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (AAA) technology, which Benchmark had already explored for its flagship AHB2 power amplifier.   Read More

Audinate Announces AES67 Support for Dante Ultimo Chipsets at NAB 2018
Audinate is determined to consolidate its Dante media networking technology as the broadcast industry transitions to full IP infrastructures. First the company announced that, with the availability of Dante firmware 4.1 for the Ultimo UXT family of audio networking chipsets, the full platform of implementation solutions for manufacturers now supports the AES67 interoperability standard. And Audinate also announced plans to support SMPTE ST-2110 in the Dante platform by the end of 2018.   Read More


Editor's Desk

The Use Case for Hearables

A recent market study (November 2017) from Juniper Research forecast the hearables market to grow by 500% over the next five years and predicts that "assistive audio" could potentially claim 68% of the sector's revenue. Juniper predicts there will be more than 285 million ear-based wearables or "hearables" used in 2022, a nearly sevenfold increase over the 43 million expected to be in use by the end of 2017.
In November 2016, Nick Hunn, from WiFore Consulting, in London, published "The Market for Hearable Devices 2016-2020" report, which is freely available to anyone to download here, and is still a relevant reading today. Both because of the fact that Nick is the self-claimed creator of the term "hearables," and because this report summarizes so many important things that we've been writing about for the past three years or more in audioXpress.

The TWS evolution according to Nuheara.
Since the term "hearables" was coined, multiple companies have launched products that have explored different features, trying to differentiate their concepts from pure true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds, which are basically sold on the convenience of the freedom from wires, while trying to excite consumers with its hearing enhancements, biometrics and, more recently, access to personal digital assistants, all the way to Bragi's The Dash concept of embedding a real computer with access to advanced AI-based services and even neural-networks. This, while Apple surprised everyone with massive sales of its comparatively modest but efficient AirPods - which are basically pure-TWS earbuds.
So, what exactly defines hearables? I will quote Nick Hunn in his 2016 report: "At this point I should clarify what I mean by a hearable device. Previously I defined a hearable as any device which included wireless connectivity, as the differentiating factor between wired and wireless headphones. That included wireless stereo headphones and mono Bluetooth earpieces, but excluded most hearing aids which had no wireless connection to a phone. In just two years, the picture has become far more complex. When I coined the word "hearables" at the beginning of 2014, the wireless headphone market was still niche, and no one had considered sound isolation, audio curation, or translation as real consumer opportunities. All of those are now in development or already shipping. So now I'm considering anything that fits in or on an ear that contains a wireless link, whether that's for audio, or remote control of audio augmentation (qv)."
The ReSound LiNX3D and corresponding smart apps for iPhone and Apple Watch are currently bridging the world of hearing aids and hearables. The montage shows the new Jabra Elite 65t earbuds for comparison, both products are from GN Sound.

Nick Hunn's report also discusses Apple's Airpods shortly after its announcement (September 2016) saying "Apple's unexpected entry into the hearables market heralds a period of major change. The result is likely to be a faster move to wireless headphones, an acceleration in the take-up of earbuds, and the prospect of an overall market revenue exceeding $40 billion in 2020."
That part he clearly got right, but for some reason his report overvalues the association between the smartphone market OS segmentation (Android and iOS) and the hearables market, predicting that Apple sales could be quickly outpaced by an overwhelmingly similar offering from Google or Samsung, which didn't materialize. In his defense, his report focuses on hearables and not just true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds, which is what the AirPods are in reality (working both with iPhones or any updated smartphone clone), even though by his own definition they should be since even the built-in sensors are used to enhance the basic features of music playback, communications, and voice interface.
It's true that there is clearly a market of Apple-faithfuls - people that will run to buy anything new from Apple, and which is much, much, larger than that of any other technology brand - but the success of the AirPods (conservative estimates point to an approximate share of 80% of the global TWS market) is not related only to the brand, and is in fact the result of user satisfaction and word spreading fast about it. They work well for what people need, and they don't complicate things. Could they benefit if they had active noise cancelling or voice enhancement, or more sensors? Well, now that Apple has grabbed the consumers' attention in the segment, they will be in a position to expand its market by adding those features in future models. So, the question is, which direction will they choose to go?
I think it is very important to revisit the main selling points for hearables, with all the ongoing discussion about augmented hearing, hearing aid companies entering the hearable market from top and bottom, activity sensors, AI, and all the potential applications of actually wearing a tiny computer in your body (read my interview with Bragi's Nikolaj Hviid if you haven't). In all those potential areas for innovation, there are technology challenges that the industry is busy trying to solve and there are different products shipping, representing serious attempts to break them.
During CES 2018, I visited several companies with the aim of finding out just that - who are the players that are providing real solutions for those hearable challenges? And for that I had to approach the technology companies, not the brands themselves, where the perspective about their products is severely affected by the company's own reality distortion-field. As the basic approach and market success from Apple illustrates, with so many use cases pitched to the market, and so many features bundled into the category of hearables, it's very difficult to predict the ones consumers will potentially embrace, and more importantly, which ones will be key to expanding the "hearables" market exponentially (differentiating from TWS sales, which are growing significantly). Again, Nick Hunn's report proposes an interesting chart to summarize the possible market segmentation for hearables.

Analyzing this chart in terms of the underlying technologies shows that independently of voice recognition, but also because of voice interfaces, we will need a series of audio enhancement features in those platforms. Features that in turn will enable new use cases, such as isolation and noise cancelling, hearing protection, and augmented hearing. Fundamentally, they are all dependent of a combination of microphone arrays and very sophisticated digital signal processing and algorithms to be effective. But to optimize the platforms in a way that actually works for consumers, either we need very powerful products, or manufacturers will need to elect and optimize their designs to serve some of those functions in the best way.
Many companies, such as Bragi, Jabra, Skybuds, Earin, and many others have tried a combination of those technologies with some degree of success - at least they are all shipping and selling the products. But some of the initial crowdfunding promises in this same segment have failed to deliver, or - like Doppler or Kanoa - have abandoned the market in the worst possible way. Others are still trying to use all the available marketing tools to make themselves noticed, while their engineering departments are hard at work to fulfill the company's vision. And I have no doubt that one of the most promising use cases will be one of enhanced hearing, where hearing aid companies have much to say.


You Can DIY!
Popular Preamp Tubes
By Richard Honeycutt
Where do tubes come from? In this article, Richard Honeycutt revisits the history of tube electronics, from its early invention to the widespread adoption in radios and television receivers. And because familiarity simplifies tube selection, the article explains where some of the most common tube types can be applied in today's designs on power amplifiers and pre-amplifiers and tube stages. This article was originally published in audioXpress, April 2013 as part of the Hollow-State Electronics monthly column by Richard Honeycutt.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Spotlight
Loudspeaker Measurement Tools from Physical Lab 
By Vance Dickason
Physical Lab, based in Senden, Germany, is a fascinating company in that it not only manufactures loudspeaker test solutions directly aimed at speaker development and research, but also provides several engineering services for the loudspeaker industry. Physical Lab was also the distributor of LinearX products in Germany and Europe prior to LinearX's closing its doors following the untimely death of its founder Chris Strahm. This article highlights the three loudspeaker measurement accessories that Physical Lab manufactures - the Physical Lab Mini Reference Amplifier, the Physical Lab Imp Box, and the Physical Lab ISO Box. The Mini Reference Amplifiers are available in both mono and stereo configurations, although for a measurement amp, the mono version is optimal. The IMP Box is basically a more versatile version of the LinearX VIBox. But now that LinearX is no longer in business, this is the replacement you will want for doing multiple voltage impedance curves. The ISO Box is a useful accessory for lab use. Whether you have ground loop problems or interconnection problems between your test equipment, the ISO Box solves your problems and drives every equipment input. You can also use the ISO Box for power-supply rejection ratio (PSSR) measurements. Using an external supply, it's possible to add a DC signal to your running measurement. You can also change the rest position of the voice coil when optimizing it for production.  This article was originally published in Voice Coil, December 2017.   Read the Full Article Online

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