RHA Introduces CL2 Planar Magnetic Bluetooth Headphones
RHA has released the world's first planar magnetic wireless headphones, the CL2 Planar, which also come with premium wired cable options in a precision engineered package with luxury materials, remarkable sound quality and a beautiful finish. The new RHA CL2 Planar Headphones are now available for pre-sale online for €799.95/$899.95/(ROW $995.95), with deliveries expected from September 12, 2018. Full charging of the Bluetooth neckband is done via USB-C in just 1.5 hours.   Read More

HEAD acoustics Releases ACQUA 4 Voice and Audio Quality Analysis Software
HEAD acoustics has launched a new version of ACQUA (Advanced Communication Quality Analysis), the powerful software for voice and audio quality testing. As promised, with version 4, ACQUA supports the new modular hardware platform labCORE and includes a multi-channel signal generator and a multi-channel analyzer for testing all equipment in the field of communications. The software features a restructured database menu and extended reporting functionalities, with easy-to-use hardware configuration and quick access to favorite projects.   Read More

Stetron Announces the Development of a New 57 mm (2.25") 520 Hz Low-Frequency Driver for Fire and Safety Applications
Stetron announced the development of a 520 Hz low-frequency new miniature loudspeaker designed especially for the Fire Alarm and Protection Industry. Featuring a slim design with a Mylar cone, which renders it water resistant, the Stetron D0057008NM127AR low-frequency driver was designed to be used in UL217-approved products and complies with UL 217 performance requirements. This low-profile driver is able to achieve high SPL, with a small footprint of only 2.25" (57 mm).    Read More

Bowers & Wilkins Announces New 600 Series Speakers with Continuum Drivers
More than four years after the latest 600 Series speakers were introduced, the sixth iteration of Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series has now been announced with improved components and even more affordable prices, directly targeting a new generation of potential users looking for a complete coherent system, from bookshelf speakers to a 5.1 surround home theater configuration. The new 600 Series is updated with Continuum drivers, borrowed from Bowers & Wilkins' 800 Series

EISA Awards 2018-19 Reveal Latest Consumer Electronics References in Performance and Innovation 
As tradition dictates, the Expert Imaging & Sound Association (EISA, www.eisa.eu) has revealed the winners of its 2018-2019 awards. A major change for this year is the fact that the association is now global and accepted new members from Canada, United States, Australia, Japan, India, and Hong Kong/China. That's why from its European origins, EISA has now become the Expert Imaging and Sound Association. Same logo, same acronym, but with a new global meaning!.   Read More

Global Home Audio Market Continues to Grow in Shipments and Revenue Propelled by Wireless Audio
The Consumer Electronics (CE) team at Futuresource Consulting just unveiled some of the major trends included in the company's latest Home Audio Market Report, confirming that the global home audio market already broke the $13 billion barrier in 2017. According to the report, the global home audio market continues to climb, with hardware shipments increasing by 23% in 2017, and new emerging product categories such as wireless speakers and soundbars continuing to propel the business.   Read More

Hands-On Experiences for DIY Audio Professionals and Enthusiasts at AES New York 2018 Convention
A new series of DIY events will offer insight and instruction on planning, design, and construction of audio hardware and DSP during the 145th Audio Engineering Society (AES) New York 2018 Convention. Hands-on demonstrations will offer attendees the chance to learn more about DIY audio device design and construction at the AES New York Convention, October 17-20 at the Jacob Javits Center.   Read More

Beta Version of New Dirac Live Now Available
Dirac Research announced the immediate availability of the beta version of its new Dirac Live room correction solution for owners of Arcam, Lexicon, Audio Control, and NAD units, with broader availability to follow shortly. Those interested can visit www.dirac.com/diraclivebeta to be added to a list to receive the Dirac Live beta installation package via email. The new software will be demonstrated at CEDIA 2018 in September at Dirac Research Booth 2530.   Read More


Guest Editorial

Neodymium - The Perfect Storm... 

Neodymium magnets (also known as NdFeB, NIB, or Neo magnets) are a stupendous alloy of neodymium (Nd), iron (Fe) and boron (B), delivering a huge increase in force over ferrite, samarium cobalt, and ALNICO (aluminum (Al), nickel (Ni) and cobalt (Co)). Neo magnetics have enabled lighter headphones, more compact compression drivers that can more tightly be arrayed, portable DJ speakers that do not cause hernias, and ribbon speakers with extended and smoother response.
Developed independently but simultaneously by Sumitomo and GM (Magnequench) in the early 1980s, and first appearing in an Electro-Voice compression driver soon after, early neodymium had its issues from corrosion to loss of characteristics when the speaker heated up to legal issues with non-licensed Chinese vendors. But in the 1990s, performance improved and it seems that as the process was refined, it was the impurities that were one of the main sources of corrosion so MGO (the magnetic strength measured in megagauss oersteds) went up along with the long-term stability of the magnets. Neodymium became even more enticing as pricing dropped as many Chinese vendors entered the supply chain.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Alnico was the most common magnet used in loudspeakers. However, a shortage in materials and increased costs for Alnico during that time precipitated a shift to the widespread use of the ceramic (Ferrite) magnets. In the 1990s, speaker manufacturers started seriously evaluating the potential benefits of using neodymium magnets in loudspeakers. Although neodymium magnets were expensive, they allowed loudspeaker motors to be as little as half the weight of comparable ceramic magnet motors.

Yet, today's transducer designers think long and hard before going with a neodymium design because back in 2011 price fixing resulted in skyrocketing magnet costs. The Chinese government decided to limit and control pricing on Neo magnet exports (while keeping Neo pricing down for domestic consumption). Specifically, export quantities had quotas. The fallout of this was many brands bringing back their ferrite designs. Neo pricing fell dramatically in 2012 and since then pricing has been reasonable, but it has slowly been creeping up.
China is not the only source of rare earth metals such as Neo, in fact the desert area along the border of California and Nevada is full of rare earth metals... Actually, rare earth metals are not so rare here at all with reserves of about 20 million tons in the vicinity of Mountain Pass, CA. You would think there would be a mine... and there is. I pass it every trip I take from the Bay area (Northern California) on my way to CES - you take highway 15 on the way to Las Vegas, NV, and get off on Bailey Road (just before the border to Nevada) and you are right at the mine.
The story is that the Mountain Pass deposit was discovered by a uranium prospector in 1949, who noticed the high radioactivity. Rare earth metals and uranium tend to be found together. The Molybdenum Corp. of America bought the mining claims, and small-scale production began in 1952. Production expanded greatly in the 1960s, to supply demand for europium used as a phosphor in color television picture tubes.
The deposit was mined in a larger scale between 1965 and 1995. During this time, the mine supplied most of the worldwide rare earth metals' consumption. The Molybdenum Corp. of America changed its name to Molycorp in 1974. The corporation was acquired by Union Oil in 1977, which in turn became part of Chevron Corp. in 2005. Along the way, Molycorp absorbed GM's Magnequench along with their patents for neodymium.
In 1998, the mine's separation plant ceased production of refined rare earth compounds. The mine closed in 2002, in response to both environmental restrictions and lower prices for rare earth metals.
Environmental issues? There is a dirty secret that where you find rare earth metals is where you find radioactive ores, and radioactive slurry is a by-product of the separation process of ores. In 1998, chemical processing at the mine was stopped after a series of wastewater leaks. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water carrying radioactive waste spilled into and around Ivanpah Dry Lake. The mine has been mostly inactive since 2002, though processing of previously mined ore continued.
In 2008, Chevron sold the mine to privately held Molycorp Minerals, LLC - a company formed to revive the Mountain Pass mine. In 2010, most of us in the speaker industry will remember China artificially raised the price of rare-earth elements by restricting exports of neodymium. With this huge opportunity facing them, Molycorp spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a state-of-the-art ore-processing system for rare-earth metals. The program was to turn Mountain Pass into the cleanest, most energy-efficient, most reliable source of rare earth metals on the planet.
Meanwhile, back in China, whether by plan or inadvertently, China's neodymium prices plummeted in 2012 onward, Molycorp couldn't compete and filed for bankruptcy in June 2015. At the time of the bankruptcy, Molycorp had outstanding bonds in the amount of $US 1.4 billion.
For now, we may be in the eye of the storm - calm for the moment, but with the likelihood of trade wars coming and neodymium being a pressure point for electric cars (not to mention loudspeakers!), China may manipulate huge price hikes on neodymium. The Mountain Pass mine could have been pivotal to break this strangle-hold. This resource would seem to be an obvious ace in the hole with both the unlimited reserves and the world's most advanced refining processes, scaled for massive production - just waiting to spring into action during a trade war or other Chinese monopolistic price fixing moves.

Mountain Pass in San Bernardino County, CA, now owned by MP Materials mine, formerly Molycorp Minerals.

Whoops! On July 10, 2017, MP Mine Operations, LLC, a Chinese-led and controlled consortium, purchased the Mountain Pass mine out of bankruptcy. It seems the Chinese bought the Mountain Pass mine including the advanced processing for peanuts ($20 million) and are currently working to recommence operations. I wonder why...
While the present administration at least gives lip service to "America First," when the mining industry representatives met with Trump's chief strategist (at the time), Steve Bannon, to persuade him that the US should nationalize the country's only mine of rare earth minerals, this fell upon deaf ears. Apparently, Mountain Pass was not a higher priority than adding a short stretch of border wall.
Well, we blew that one - but we have one more chance to prepare for China cutting off our supplies of neodymium. Next week, we will discuss another resource, with Neo recycling plants coming online Q1 2019.


Fresh From the Bench
Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio Edition, Loudspeaker and Headphone Correction System
By Stuart Yaniger
In this article, Stuart Yaniger takes a look at Sonarworks, a relatively new entry into this market and its main offering - the Reference 4 Studio Edition, which is clearly targeted to studio and mastering use but can certainly be used in home audio setups. Latvia-based Sonarworks is a recording studio software development start-up specializing in acoustic calibration and DAW plug-ins. For years, the company has been working with custom studio installations and developing software solutions, based on research by audio engineer Kaspars Sprogis. Stuart Yaniger reviews this pioneering speaker calibration software for studio monitors and headphones, and also addresses the recent TrueFi solution that Sonarworks released for the consumer market. This article was originally published in audioXpress, July 2018.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
The T34A-4 Tweeter from BlieSMA 
By Vance Dickason
BlieSMa, located in Blieskastel, Germany, was founded January 16, 2018, by Stas Malikov. Over the last 20 years, Malikov has worked at Ultrasound Technologies, at Morel as a QC manager and transducer engineer, and for the last eight years at Accuton as a production engineer. The first product being released by BlieSMa is a 34 mm tweeter, the T34A-4. Available from May 2018, the T34A-4 is a 30 mm metal aluminum/magnesium alloy dome tweeter. This device has a substantial feature set that includes a 34 mm aluminum-magnesium ally dome with variable thickness for a 27 kHz first breakup mode, extremely low moving mass (Mms = 0.28 grams) for better transient response and higher output, and a fully saturated neodymium motor with copper sleeve shorting ring for low non-linear and modulation distortion. The driver also features a 3 mm linear excursion and large pole vent for undistorted low-frequency operation, using a flush mounted narrow surround for less "soft dome" coloration, with the magnet system rear mounted for flat frequency response and wide off-axis response. As BlieSMa highlights, there's no ferrofluid for improved dynamics, and the design uses an underhung voice coil wound with CCAW wire on a titanium former, with flexible and lightweight tinsel leads from Denmark, cast-aluminum powder-coated faceplate and gold-plated terminals. Particularly impressive is the T34A-4's extremely wide frequency range, going from 1.3 kHz to 35 kHz. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, June 2018.   Check it out here!

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