Sennheiser Announces New X Massdrop HD 58X Jubilee Exclusive Headphones
Following the success of previous collaborations, Sennheiser and Massdrop, a community-driven commerce platform, announced the latest result of the companies' ongoing partnership: the Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee. The new exclusive headphone is a tribute to the Sennheiser HD 580 Jubilee, an open, dynamic headphone that helped pave the way for a successful range of audiophile headphones including the HD 600 and the HD 650Read More

Aaware and Infineon Form Partnership to Develop Next-Generation Voice Solutions
Infineon Technologies and Aaware, Inc., an emerging supplier of sound capture technology for far-field voice-enabled digital products, announced the formation of a partnership to launch a next-generation voice development platform to be released later this summer. Aaware's Acoustically Aware technology is highly synergistic with Infineon's digital MEMS microphone technology, combining to bring the best sound capture for extremely noisy environments in commercial and industrial applications.   Read More

CEntrance MixerFace R4 Mobile Audio Recording Interface Now In Production
The MixerFace R4 mobile recording interface (MSRP $349.99) that CEntrance debuted at NAMM 2018 is now in production and is set to ship in July 2018 to dealers and distributors worldwide. The battery-powered device turns a smartphone into a multitrack DAW with software such as Apple's GarageBand for 24-bit recording. The MixerFace R4 can also work with software running on selected Android devices, Apple iOS, macOS, and Windows, creating a versatile solution for multitrack field recording.    Read More

AumeoAudio Launches Heari Tailored Audio-Neckband Headphones on Kickstarter
Hong Kong-based firms MF Jebsen Electronics and AumeoAudio, the company that pioneered personalized audio on Kickstarter, have teamed up to launch Heari, "the world's first tailored audio-neckband headphones." The new concept was built on the success of Aumeo's Headphone Personalizer, which successfully crowdfunded over $300,000 (USD) in 2015. Heari is now campaigning on Kickstarter with two headphone models powered by AumeoAudio, featuring patented technology that measures each person's hearing sensitivities to offer tailored sound, not only for music but also for awareness enhancing.   Read More

Avantone Pro Brings "Back" Nearfield Studio Monitoring Mainstay 
While many in the audio industry work to establish the ideal target frequency response for audio reproduction on studio monitors, speakers, and headphones, others are providing "familiar" listening references that, with all their imperfections, are already familiar to working professionals. That's exactly what affordable high-quality audio products producer Avantone Pro announced with the introduction of the CLA-10 Nearfield Monitors - which many will instantly recognize.   Read More

DTS Play-Fi Launches Headphones App to Bring Personal Connectivity to Home Systems
DTS, a wholly owned subsidiary of Xperi Corp., announced the new DTS Play-Fi Headphones app, now available on iOS and coming to Android in early July, as a companion app to select DTS Play-Fi audio products. The new companion app allows DTS Play-Fi users to enjoy shared content via standard headphones while maintaining audio/video synchronization, expanding the possibilities of the wireless streaming technology originally intended for multi-room speakers.   Read More

RØDE Microphones Launches Videomic Me-L for Apple iOS Devices
At the Vidcon 2018 event, the online creators Expo, happening every year in Anaheim, CA, Australian pro audio manufacturer RØDE Microphones, announced the release of the new VideoMic Me-L microphone for iOS devices. The new VideoMic Me-L is the evolution of the VideoMic Me, which uses a standard 3.5 mm jack connector and proved to be extremely reliable and useful for anyone using a smartphone or DLSR camera to shoot video. Of course, since there's no more jack on current iPhones, RØDE designed the VideoMic Me-L with a Lightning connector.   Read More

Bose Launches Noise-Masking Sleepbuds Following Indiegogo Campaign
Apparently, a large percentage of the population is looking for a solution to be able to get more hours of quality sleep without hearing city noise, neighbors, or a snoring partner... So, you use earplugs, right? Well, not so fast. According to Bose, earplugs are not enough. You need an active system that fits in your ear comfortably when you are in bed and at least one of your ears is pressed against the pillow. That's why Bose designed the noise-masking Sleepbuds, launched its very first campaign on Indiegogo (amassing an impressive $450,320 USD), and has made it available worldwide.   Read More


Editor's Desk

Apple Steps Up in Audio, in Case You Didn't Notice 

During these past weeks, while I enjoyed a short break of writing these weekly reports and could focus on our (nearly done) August 2018 Acoustics Special and the upcoming Speaker Special edition (September 2018), I dived into the many topics from recent industry events that are important for our own audio field.
I'll start with one of my favorite seasonal topics, Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Compared to everything that was announced a year ago, when HomePod was being promoted and AirPlay 2 was announced, this year's edition seemed much less exciting.
But Apple did deliver on the promised AirPlay 2 update. As every audio developer knows, the original (2004) AirPlay technology had a tremendous impact on the industry and it frankly made consumers much more aware of the convenience of wireless streaming than any other industry attempt. To this day, I still think the impact of the technology was greater because of the video streaming and AirPlay Mirroring capabilities. I still remember the first time I instantly started to see a video from my iPhone relayed to my living room TV in impeccable HD quality (already more than 8 years ago...)! Or the convenience of setting up those Apple Airport Express devices in the house and being able to enjoy audio wherever we needed it. Anything else in that domain felt like "old news" compared to the simplicity and convenience that AirPlay brought (and Google Cast was still years away).

AirPlay 2 is here and soon will be everywhere...

The fact that AirPlay audio streaming technology immediately received the support from brands such as Bang & Olufsen, Bluesound, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Libratone, Marantz, Marshall, Naim, Pioneer, and Sonos is testimony of its importance. What was now revealed about AirPlay 2 can be found here. While AirPlay 2 delivers on its promises of enabling Multi-Room audio for compatible devices and enables the essential stereo pairing on HomePod, for now, it might seem its impact on the industry will not be as high, as the original AirPlay technology.

From a technical standpoint though, AirPlay 2 adds a lot in its framework - and that's why Apple took a full year since it unveiled the APIs, until it actually made it to market, in order to provide developers with the time to adapt all their apps and products.  AirPlay introduces very large buffer capacity on AirPlay 2 speakers (minutes instead of seconds), and streams faster-than-real-time. This makes the whole solution more robust, and content plays faster when the user hits play. Also, the whole framework allows for better synchronization between devices and streamed content. This allows users to differentiate the experience immediately from other wireless streaming solutions, and certainly over Bluetooth.

Essentially, this whole robust and improved experience, plus the added true wireless stereo and multi-room functionality, will render existing competing technologies, such as (DTS) Play-Fi or (Qualcomm) AllPlay obsolete. It is significant that Sonos will be one of the first companies in the market with AirPlay 2 devices... My sincere advice for those manufacturers looking to invest in licensing and expand into wireless audio over Wi-Fi is to differentiate with a high-quality experience - meaning high-resolution support, which Apple doesn't seem to care about. And for that they should look at the Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association alternative, apart from AirPlay 2.

Apple's Kevin Lynch announced the new Walkie-Talkie functionality for Apple Watch. This brings a completely new appeal to wearables.
Among the many audio-related technology announcements from WWDC 2018, I would also highlight the probable impact of Group FaceTime (will FaceTime finally be noticed in the corporate space?), the Walkie-Talkie communication function on the Apple Watch with watchOS 5 (this will just expand even more the consumer's differentiation for Apple Watch over any other smart watch or wearable), and most certainly, Apple's continuous push of Podcasting, a format, which I believe bears truly great potential, considering the most probable convergence of music streaming services with something closer to radio, while also adapting itself beautifully to Apple TV and iPads as a target platform. Don't forget, Apple Watch will support not only web content (WebKit support) but also music in the background, which means another platform where users can enjoy listening to podcasts.
Finally, the new MusicKit updates and "MusicKit on the Web" allow embedding an Apple Music player into any app or website, which means that the music streaming service itself moves to the background and can assume virtually any type of interface. This is something that competitors such as Spotify are very far away from allowing. For companies involved in software- or hardware-based "music players," I recommend they check the possibilities before committing to some long-term development idea, which thousands of apps might render obsolete.

When Apple flexed its muscles in support of Dolby Atmos, and Dolby Vision, things suddenly got interesting again in the home-theater front.

More importantly, WWDC 2018 confirmed Apple's enthusiastic support for Dolby Atmos and HDR 10/Dolby Vision technologies - and the impact that these announcements will have on home-theater will be far greater than anything else this year. When Apple does these type of announcements, we can never underestimate its market impact - and Dolby must be truly overwhelmed by seeing Apple flex its muscles this way.  I also strongly bet that we will eventually see an announcement from Apple in line with Sonos' recently released smart soundbar, Sonos Beam.
And discussing "future products," which is something that Apple never does, rumors abound that Apple is preparing to launch new updated AirPods with improved water resistance and support for wireless charging - namely its much-expected AirPower multiple product charger mat. The rumor comes from different sources, and it doesn't seem hard to believe, given the success of the original AirPods and the obvious fact that next-generation products will all support the QI Wireless standard , which Apple itself is now pushing forward. A more elaborate rumor says that Apple is considering a high-end wireless headphone product and is working with Tymphany on such development. While it seems likely that Apple will work on new headphones integrating biometric sensors and more "smart functions," the idea of standard over-ear or around-the-ear headphones with Apple's logo seem somehow dubious, given that Apple owns Beats, and that would be the logical brand for such products... Personally, I doubt the idea. Unless there would be some significant differentiation, I don't see Apple launching a me-too product.

Maybe the idea has something to do with voice... We cannot forget about voice interfaces, and Apple confirmed that its HomePod would now be available in Canada (with Canadian French language support adding to English), France and Germany, adding to the US, UK, and Australia, clearly indicating that Apple thinks its voice assistant, Siri, is ready to face the challenges of more (mature) language markets - which I have no doubt also contributed to Amazon's decision of rushing to introduce its Alexa VPA in France as well.  As I wrote previously, voice interfaces and digital assistants are in its infancy and languages are the greatest challenge to truly make it mainstream. Languages are also the largest opportunity, considering its translation applications and universal applicability.
But going back to AirPlay 2, it seems that Apple has also learned a few lessons about the need to speed up third-party integration, and while we still have to wait and see how Apple will push AirPlay 2 licensing, there was a very positive indication from the fact that Apple announced to finally support third-party navigation apps in its CarPlay solution for the automotive market - which is directly linked to the also announced iOS 12 update.

Apple is bringing Apple Music to a new level with MusicKit updates that allow its WebPlayer to be embedded not only in apps but websites (and with ISRC lookup). This basically detaches the service from a dedicated player.

Apple already defined a different strategy for its TV-centric platforms, which while based on a single hardware device that is Apple TV, it is opening up in ways it has never done on macOS and iOS. Now it seems it is ready to go even further with its car-centric platform, CarPlay. While CarPlay has not been in the spotlight the way other Apple initiatives have been, it certainly is significant that it is already supported by every single major car manufacturer in the world (with Toyota and Mazda being the last ones to recently confirm adoption) - something that no other Apple product ever achieved.
With mobile, personal devices, and CarPlay, it seems obvious that any attempts to build expensive brand-centric connected options for cars will be met by consumers with the same enthusiasm as those insultingly expensive proprietary navigation systems that you have to pay every year to update - or any other car infotainment option by that matter.  As Apple reinforced at the WWDC 2018 event, when Apple launches updates for all its operating systems - iOS 12, macOS 10.14 Mojave, tvOS 12, and watchOS 5, all coming in the Fall 2018 - this represents more than a billion devices that will be almost instantly converted in a short period of time - while Google doesn't reach even 10% of its existing compatible devices more than a year after updating Android.
This is probably too much to handle for relatively small audio manufacturers focused on their strategies for the home or personal audio. The good news on this front is that, while the automotive and wearables opportunities are still maturing, in the short run, no other segment will be more lucrative and award the largest opportunities than the home market - and the unavoidable "smart home."
In a recent study titled "Home Beats Phone: Smart Home Device Sales to Exceed Smartphones by 2023," market research firm Strategy Analytics confirms that "global demand for smart home devices will exceed sales of smartphones by 2023. Consumers worldwide bought 663 million smart home devices in 2017, and this will increase to 1.94 billion in 2023, when sales of smartphones will be 1.86 billion."

Yes, this means that the opportunity for "smart things" such as security cameras, light bulbs, door locks, and thermostats is there, but also for anything home audio related, including smart speakers, multimedia entertainment, and voice-oriented devices, which all market research firms confirm are the fastest growing category ever in consumer electronics' history.

Also relevant is a study in the US market by GFK that concluded that "more than half (52%) of consumers said they prefer to install their own Smart Home products - up from 43% in 2015. And 57% say they want to maintain these devices themselves, compared to 51% three years ago." That is, over half of US consumers prefer the DIY approach to smart home technology. But this only reinforces the importance of interoperability and a plug-and-play experience for the consumer - exactly what Apple products allow. It doesn't mean that consumers are willing to start soldering, setting up firewalls, or configuring routers!


From the Vault!
Shunt or Not - Looking for the Ultimate Audio Voltage Regulator
By Are Waagbø
In this great article, author Are Waagbø, himself a confessed "passionate 50-year-old hi-fi amateur, with many years of practice and experience" and an admirer of Erno Borbely's work and designs - a great part of which was originally published in audioXpress - shares his experience in the relentless search for "the ultimate audio voltage regulator." As Waagbø writes thanks to Erno Borbely "it became a reality! Testing more shunt models with selected components and numerous listening tests led to one current-source-fed super shunt, developed by Erno. I developed the PSU, which, together with the sophisticated shunt, sets a new standard for audio voltage regulators." This article was originally published in audioXpress, February 2008.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Peerless by Tymphany DFM-2544R00-08 Compression Driver 
By Vance Dickason
In this Test Bench, Vance Dickason examines the Peerless by Tymphany DFM-2544R00-08 compression driver, which is part of the brand's new three model compression driver series. The compression driver features a 1" throat exit diameter, but with a 1.75" titanium diaphragm and the same type of polyimide surround. The DFM-2544R00-08 is driven by a 44.4 mm diameter voice coil wound with aluminum wire on a TIL film non-conducting former. Other features include a ferrite ring magnet motor structure, nominal 60 W rated power handling (50 W continuous), an injection-molded black heatsink, and solderable terminals. Also, of note, the titanium diaphragm is coated with a light, thin layer of unique damping material giving the driver, according to the company, an unusually smooth sound at high SPLs. All of the materials resist environmental factors of heat, vibration, and aging and is purported to ensure many years of stable performance. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, March 2018.   Check it out here!

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