What's New to CEDIA Expo?
The  Smart Stage will be introduced to host a number of new attendee engagement opportunities.  TechBites will launch in 2018 and will give exhibitors the chance to apply for a 5-minute slot to present a new product and/or service in a short elevator pitch. Designed to encourage product innovation,  TechBites will be a valuable opportunity for both press and attendees to receive concise access to new products hitting the market.  TechTalks will also utilize the  Smart Stage and give attendees a platform to listen to short, powerful talks from industry leaders about current trends, market changes, and other general industry topics.

CEDIA Expo brings more than 20,000 home tech pros and 500+ exhibitors to the leading event in smart and home technology. Receive concentrated access to new products, breakthrough innovations, and targeted training in home tech integration. CEDIA Expo is your opportunity to stay informed, equipped and connected with a passionate network of home technology professionals.  Don't miss CEDIA Expo taking place September 4-8, 2018 at the San Diego Convention Center.    Register early & save!

Skyworks to Acquire Wireless Audio, Voice, and Speech Processing Specialist Avnera Corp.
Skyworks Solutions announced it signed a definitive agreement to purchase Avnera Corp., the developer of Analog System on Chips (ASoCs) and one of the main technology providers for audio development in the areas of analog/mixed signal audio, voice and speech processing engines. Avnera solutions are used by many reputed consumer electronics brands for all wireless audio applications as well as Bluetooth, Lightning, and USB-C product development

Qualcomm Audio Consumer Insights Report Shows Rising Popularity of Wireless Headphones and Wireless Speakers
Qualcomm has released its annual "The State of Play 2018" report, with valuable insights on the fast-moving world of personal and home audio technology - including expectations and product purchase drivers for American, British, and Chinese consumers. The new report shows, for the second year in a row, that sound quality is by far the highest ranked buying consideration when choosing wireless headphones or speakers. More than half of participants surveyed (53%) said they are planning to purchase completely wire-free earbuds.   Read More

Genelec Unveils New Range of High-SPL SAM Monitors
Signaling its intention to offer audio solutions for all room sizes and applications, Genelec is announcing the global launch of two new high-SPL Smart Active Monitoring (SAM) monitors - the two-way S360, and the 7382 subwoofer. Both models are ideal for any professional application that demands high acoustic power or listening at a distance; from large immersive setups in post-production studios or film mixing stages to play-live monitoring in music production or EDM playback.    Read More

Redco Audio Offers Online Service for Custom Mic Boxes
Redco Audio, based in Stratford, CT, is an established resource for audio and AV professionals looking for cables and connectors (bulk and assemblies), adapters, racks and rack mount accessories, wiring kits, snake boxes, wall plates, and all sorts of wiring and studio equipment. Expanding its options for custom configured connectivity solutions, the company now added the "Build Your Own MB Box" page at, allowing anyone to create Mic Boxes just the way they want

RØDE Microphones Introduces All-New Røde SC6-L Mobile Interview Kit 
Australian pro audio giant RØDE Microphones launched the new SC6-L Mobile Interview Kit, the latest Lightning connected recording solution for Apple iOS Devices. While many brands, including RØDE, have offered external microphones to record in higher quality with the iPhone, and even launched lavalier microphones with clip-on accessories for interviews, the use of two simultaneous microphones still poses many challenges. The Røde SC6-L Mobile Interview Kit intends to solve that problem.   Read More

AmpMe Announces New Synchronized Music Streaming Partnership with Deezer
AmpMe, the app that allows users to play music in perfect sync across multiple devices to create one powerful sound system, announced users can now also sync their music with the music streaming service Deezer. AmpMe already supports Spotify, YouTube, and SoundCloud with more services to come. Launched in 2015, the app that can sync multiple devices to play music louder continues to expand globally.   Read More

iHeartRadio Artificial Intelligence Integration Powers Seamless Song Transitions and Gapless Music Playback
iHeartMedia teamed with artificial intelligence (AI) platform Super Hi-Fi to deliver an optimized digital music listening experience. The new AI capabilities will allow iHeartRadio to revolutionize its digital music service by creating a listening experience that mimics the polished production of live radio. The integration brings the best of live broadcast radio to digital streaming music by delivering flawless song transitions, including precise crossfades, volume leveling, and truly gapless playback.   Read More

Rycote Lyre Inventor Chris Woolf Joins Røde Microphones to Work on the Development of New Shock Mounts and Windshields
Australian pro audio giant The Freedman Group - home to RØDE Microphones - announced the appointment of legendary audio innovator Chris Woolf as a Senior Innovation Engineer, exclusive to RØDE. Formerly a Senior Engineer for the windshield and microphone accessories company Rycote, Chris Woolf is the inventor of, among many other patented noise-reduction solutions, the Rycote Lyre shock mount and the Rycote Cyclone Windshield system.   Read More


Editor's Desk

The Streaming Age of Music Players 

Because of today's predominance of streaming services as the mainstream music distribution platform, it is worth revisiting software music players. Because most of these not only enable us to keep and manage our existing precious music libraries from the CD-ripping and download age - including all those obscure records that still today are not available elsewhere - but they also support most of the music streaming services to which we might subscribe. They also provide further playback options, and - even if that's debatable - a better user interface.

The Spotify desktop player as I use it daily. It combines the best artwork display, best music discovery intelligence and easy to manage social engagement tools. Overall, the cleanest and best interface I've tried.

Of course, all streaming services also offer their own players, either in downloadable desktop versions or web-based (meaning the ones we access using an Internet browser). With all their might and resources, companies such as Apple, Spotify, Tidal, and all the others frequently update their own software, helping to keep things up to date and exciting - even if for some, that could be a big turn-off, when suddenly you notice that things that it took a while to master suddenly are no longer there or have moved - Apple is particularly keen on doing just that... while interface changes in Spotify are usually much more subtle and hardly noticeable.
Whatever the user's choice, getting familiar with a music player interface generally enhances our overall experience and helps to make the most out of the existing tools. This is particularly important if you are often going back to your existing music library with files stored in local devices and if you have important hardware investments tied up to your software, like whole-home streaming networks. Also, if you are the type of user that prefers to carefully curate your own music collection and playlists, over the continuous pleasures of discovering new music, keeping that consistent experience with a preferred software music player - including respective remote-control mobile apps - is a major factor to take into consideration. I believe that very soon, the best music players will offer a consistent experience in combining local files with those streamed from commercial services (and personal cloud libraries), making the whole process transparent. Of course, if you have a DSD file of a particular recording stored locally, you want to make sure that you are not listening to an Ogg Vorbis compressed stream, even if the previous and the next item on that playlist is only available on Spotify. That's when things get interesting, because in reality you never can tell, and you need to use your ears to judge (or check the display). That why using Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) is helpful, because we get that simple LED warning light for authentication...
Roon Labs built not only the best interface with rich metadata, but is also building a whole multimedia center ecosystem with improved hardware integration.
Of course, I should clarify that I am discussing mainly the desktop versions of such players (for macOS, Windows or Linux) used in full-screen or large windows mode, when associated with premium (paid) services. Most of the corresponding mobile apps are mainly for playback and remote control, but they don't feature the management and other features that I am discussing here, even if many are getting close on the iPad when connected with cloud-based or streaming services.
Personally, although I try as many different players and services as I can, I've been using Spotify daily, and I have to say that its desktop player does a very good job. Spotify updates its software almost weekly, constantly introduces new management options, has a decent artwork visualization of what's playing (you need to expand the left column), and features the most "intelligent" algorithms to constantly feed you with better playlists and music discovery. Next up, there's probably Tidal, Deezer, Apple Music, and all the others. I confess I have never tried Amazon Music or Google whatever.
Of course, Spotify's own player is not the best when you want to mix streaming music with music we own and have on local libraries - and there's where the mentioned "major league" software music players come into play.

Recently, Audirvana updated its excellent software music player with the introduction of Audirvana Plus 3 for Windows 10 and that's what led me to revisit the world of software music players. The three major players mentioned, Audirvana, together with Sonic Studio's Amarra and Roon, all do a decent job of serving as our main interface for music enjoyment, even if they are still limited in the way they handle streaming subscriptions, but they are certainly the top interoperability choices to handle whatever networked hardware and wireless audio we might use.
Sonic Studio's Amarra 4 Luxe with MQA support - Mac and Windows also - is probably the most "professional" of those options, with extended file support and the most robust implementation. They are working closely with MQA and they have - in my opinion - the best approach to audio processing, which is to offer a separate (optional) software we can buy to take care of that. Sonic Studio's Amarra sQ+ offers advanced processing and control of Mac audio sources with the best approach to equalization, filters, and an optimizer "Audio Conditioner" tool to remove noise from any audio source and optimize low-quality sources, such as YouTube (or even Skype).
Roon Labs is also making strides in creating a sophisticated player, which is becoming much more than just a pretty interface with rich metadata, offering a completely different architecture - and its own subscription service. Roon was designed to support the music services and to closely tie-up all hardware, network, local storage (libraries), and control. That's why it needs to be more expensive than the rest, and that's the reason why Roon Labs is increasingly working in cooperation with hardware manufacturers that can "embed" the Roon Player directly in their devices (not only hardware music servers, but sophisticated media centers and DACs, such as Merging's NADAC). 
Audirvana is no longer an "iTunes replacement," evolving to be the best dedicated music player software with support for streaming services and new hi-res formats and services.
Roon has also ventured into building a dedicated hardware server, the Nucleus, which it claims, "achieves a perfect balance between ease of use, raw performance, and audiophile design" and is based on feedback from audio dealers and custom integrators. Roon published a white paper to discuss the idea, which deserves a reading (go here). I only wonder sometimes if the ambitions of this company will be always matched with the resources it needs to actually fulfill its market commitments - I just hope it does. So far, Roon does a good job.
Then there's Audirvana, which with its Plus player is trying to move faster to get the critical market share there is to grab - really a great market opportunity. Audirvana 3 features an improved interface but is still catching up in hardware integration where Roon leads. Still, it's moving faster to leverage the industry momentum and implement integration with streaming music services - particularly the existing and upcoming hi-res streaming services such as Tidal and Qobuz. Unfortunately, it still lacks on supporting popular services, such as Spotify, an integration that will prove decisive in the future.
Where I found reason to look deeper at Audirvana is its claim of "delivering high-quality music" - not related with the mentioned hi-res streaming services. Basically, it is saying that when you stream a song from Tidal in its CD lossless format, but you play it through Audirvana instead of another software player, it will sound "better." Well, since Audirvana uses embedded processing in the player, it is certain that it will sound different from other players. But that's where I don't particularly like the approach, because I would like my players to be transparent and sound "neutral."

Audirvana applies its own audio filters in order to optimize music reproduction with the software player.
I've heard many things from manufacturers regarding "computer audio," how you can really tweak the way the D/A conversion is handled and how you can optimize the audio path to avoid some fundamental design problems in devices that weren't meant to be used for music reproduction, noisy power rails, etc. I even wasted my time reading endless online discussions about which Mac model has a "better sound" - learning for instance that older iMacs and some MacBook Pro are better than anything else more recently released by Apple... even with better converters. I can understand people have discussions like that if they use the computer's mini-jack as an audio output (I have compared different Macs I own, and they are all substantially different on the analog out), but I truly don't think it is worth discussing audible differences on a computer's USB or Thunderbolt interfaces, as much as discussing audible differences in power cables. If I really want to move up a level on that front, I would say that using an external DAC is the way to go.
Audirvana does hit my nerve a bit when it claims to "improve audio" by "minimizing the audio signal path" and "performing advanced optimizations when streaming to the audio device," with "all processing done before playback," the use of SysOptimizer to configure the computer for optimal audio playback," and finally the use of the "most advanced algorithms," including from iZotope. I found all those obscure descriptions meaningless, since we cannot generalize the benefits of audio processing without mentioning the specific type of file format, decoding and, most importantly, intended application. And since Audirvana now runs on Windows and the endless world of PCs, I would be even more careful with those statements.
I know we can do great things in software and clever algorithms, but apart from some background loudness management I still prefer those "audio processing" options to be separate from a software player, offered on dedicated tools - like Sonic Studio does. Some software houses in the early days of professional recording tools and DAWs tried that same debate, and many years later the jury is still out on that one (the same DAWs that some users claim "sound better" are described as completely neutral by their own programmers...). We could perform actual measurements on Audirvana's claims, but I'm afraid that the variables will be simply too many to handle.

As Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO of Spotify already detailed, with 180 million Monthly Active Users and 83 million Premium Subscribers, growing 30% and 40% respectively year on year, the company is justifiably ambitious. Conquering the automotive market is going to be the next battleground for all these music streaming companies, and this might involve hardware.
Anyway, I am also certain that the trend toward hardware and software integration will continue on this front, and that this will be a way to serve both the more mainstream "dedicated player" market, and the upscale home-oriented music servers. That's the sweet spot for incumbents Audirvana, Amarra, and Roon, with opportunity for several more. For the big players, in my opinion, the biggest reward will come from automotive applications. Of course, at that level, it will be hard for software houses to compete with Apple or Spotify, both aggressively expanding their tools for developers. But whoever gains the user experience is certain to also grab a share of that market.
And talking about hardware and software integration, thanks to our friends at miniDSP, which are doing really clever stuff on the home-streaming front I learned recently about the latest update on the Volumio open-source music player, now supporting Spotify and soon supporting hi-res streaming with Tidal and Qobuz. As I said, things are still ripe for changes in the music player software space. We will certainly keep a close watch on Volumio.


Show Report
AXPONA 2018: 
The Renaissance of High-Quality Sounds
By Oliver A. Masciarotte
Originally published in audioXpress July 2018, we are now making the complete Audio Expo North America (AXPONA) 2018 Show Report available online, with all the details about the best sounding rooms and ultimate high-end gear from the Chicago, IL, show. AXPONA is one of the largest high-end audio shows in North America - and with the full potential to become the largest, thanks to excellent facilities provided by the new Schaumburg Convention Center and Renaissance hotel. The three-day experience (April 13-15, 2018) featured multiple hotel floors packed with listening rooms, The Exhibit Hall featuring Ear Gear Expo and The Record Fair, seminars, and live musical performances.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
B&C Speakers DE360-8 1" Exit Pro Sound Compression Driver 
By Vance Dickason
In this edition of Test Bench, Vance Dickason characterizes another compression driver from Italian OEM manufacturer B&C Speakers. The DE360-8 is the latest addition to the company's extensive 18-model ferrite and neodymium motor 1" exit compression driver range. This particular compression driver is one of several lightweight and compact neodymium motor compression drivers, designed for use with 1" throat horns, and featuring a nominal 35 W rated power handling (70 W continuous), a 1.8 kHz recommended crossover frequency, and 2.83 V/1 m 110 dB sensitivity. B&C Speakers supplied the ME20 horn for use with the DE360-8, which has a 90° × 60° coverage pattern. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, May 2018.   Check it out here!

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