Sonos Announces All-New, Twice as Powerful Sonos Amp with AirPlay 2
Sonos announced the all-new Sonos Amp, a powerful and versatile home audio hub that powers traditional wired speakers with sound from nearly any source, and fully integrates these speakers into Sonos' easy-to-use wireless home sound system. With the new Amp, Sonos also announced a new partnership with Sonance architectural speakers to connect with the new Sonos Amp and confirmed it will open its developer platform to potential partners for control and integration of Sonos solutions.   Read More

Infineon's Digital MEMS Technology Enables Zylia ZM-1 Microphone Array
Marketed as the world's first portable recording studio able to capture a live performance directly into multiple separate tracks, the Zylia ZM-1 Microphone Array has actually found multiple possible applications including for spatial recording in virtual and augmented reality productions, showing great potential for R&D activities also in noise measurement and even voice capture in meeting rooms. Now the Poland-based developer has revealed that its powerful microphone array is powered by MEMS technology from Infineon Technologies.   Read More

Lessons Learned: Bose Introduces New Smart Speaker and Soundbars
Bose announced what it claims to be "the next chapter" in the company's "legendary home audio history" with the introduction of a new wireless smart speaker and two new smart soundbars - the Bose Home Speaker 500 for music, and the Bose Soundbar 700 and Soundbar 500 for music and home theater. Each model combines size-defying performance with superior voice pickup and the power of Amazon Alexa, with other voice assistants and AirPlay 2 for simple streaming from Apple devices added in early 2019.    Read More

Want to Hear That Smart Speakers Are Not A Big Deal? Head to CEDIA Expo
International research firm Parks Associates announced that Research Analyst Dina Abdelrazik will speak at CEDIA Expo, September 6-7, 2018, in San Diego, CA. Abdelrazik will address the impact that voice will have on user interfaces and specifically new partnerships within the smart home and will detail Parks Associates latest research indicating that Smart Speakers rate poorly against Smart Home Devices measured in terms of Net Promoter Score, a metric of customer satisfaction and loyalty.   Read More

New Loudspeaker Market Report from Futuresource Shows Segment Rising in Value 
The Consumer Electronics (CE) team at Futuresource Consulting has shared some top line trends from their latest Loudspeaker Market Report showing that value is beating volumes as the traditional loudspeaker product segment makes the $3 Billion USD barrier. The report forecasts an average retail price increase through to 2022 in virtually every major category, allowing for value to significantly outperform volume, as the overall market is shrinking, when ignoring the massive growth generated by smart speakers.   Read More

PRV Audio Introduces new Mid Bass and Mid-Range Drivers for 2018
PRV Audio announced two new mid-frequency drivers optimized for very powerful pro audio applications. The 10MB800FT is a rugged 10" mid bass woofer that combines a remarkable SPL output with low distortion and extended bass response, optimized for compact enclosures and larger two- or three-way systems. The 8MR600X focuses on high output mid-range performance, with a sensitivity of 98 dB, using a 2" voice coil to ensure high heat dissipation and the necessary motor strength to deliver high sensitivity even on high power with the minimum distortion.   Read More

Tymphany and XMOS to Showcase New Soundbar with Alexa Built-In at IFA 2018
Tymphany and advanced embedded voice solutions specialist XMOS announced the latest project in building a new Amazon Alexa Built-In soundbar that will be demonstrated at Amazon's exhibit at IFA in Berlin, August 31 to September 5, 2018. The global audio ODM company will demonstrate how the new soundbar combines its acoustic expertise to create an immersive audio experience, featuring XMOS' Vocal Fusion far-field voice processor.   Read More

Frontier Introduces Multi-Ecosystem Voice Control to Smart Speakers
Frontier Smart Technologies, a pioneer in development platforms for wireless audio, digital radio, and voice recognition solutions, announced a significant enhancement to its Minuet Smart Audio platform, which will be the first in the world to enable smart speakers, soundbars, and AVRs to be simultaneously controlled by voice-enabled devices from Google, Amazon, and Apple, helping manufacturers to differentiate, and not have to compete head on with first party devices.   Read More


Guest Editorial

Neodymium Part 2 - Recycling Loudspeaker Neodymium Magnets 

The future is always a guess and where the consequences of the escalating skirmishes over trade duties will take us is hazy. Given this, price manipulation of neodymium magnets by China as a strategic tool is a given and the lessons from our 2011 problems should not be forgotten. The Chinese government does not have to directly touch pricing, only limit neo export quotas. Supply and demand will take care of the rest.

Harvested hard drives and magnets and shredded neodymium material ready for recycling. Neodymium is the key for the manufacturing of dynamic microphones, loudspeakers, headphones, guitar and bass guitar pick-ups, computer hard disks, lasers, special glass, and light bulbs. But by far the largest volume of neodymium magnets is now used in wind turbines and electric motors, both in hybrid and purely electrical vehicles. Even though Toyota is trying the cut down on the amount of neodymium per hybrid vehicle, like the popular Toyota Prius, the new all-electric Tesla Model 3 is said to be equipped with a neodymium-intensive permanent magnet motor - Tesla didn't use permanent magnets in its Model X and Model S, which have induction motors instead.

Geographically, for the US, the only significant alternative would seem to be the ore deposits, the mine, and the state-of-the-art refining complex at Mountain Pass, CA - which is now operated by a Chinese government-controlled group. However, US policy makers continue to treat the scarcity of the neodymium, boron and iron (NdFeB) supply in a piecemeal fashion that ignores China's wider ambitions to supplant the West, using control of all rare-earth resources as leverage to seize key industries.
Yet there is another almost unlimited source of neodymium - "mined" from recycling those electric motors (the Prius first entered the market 20 years ago!), wind turbines, alternators, hard drives, cellphones... and loudspeakers.
Five years ago, a couple of entrepreneurs and a Slovenian magnetics scientist banded together under the company name of Urban Mining Co. (UMC) and (briefly) attended the ALMA International Symposium & Expo 2018 (AISE), which is the Association of Loudspeaker Manufacturing and Acoustics (ALMA) International annual event. The plan was to recycle neodymium for speaker magnets. This was premature as there were many challenges, but this tenacious team eventually was granted patents. In 2016, they raised $25 million to put together a neodymium magnet recycling facility near Austin, TX, which is now on schedule for completion around the start of 2019. Initially capable of producing 250 tons of magnets annually and within the next two years, a future expansion is planned for 1,000 tons per year.
Harvested wind turbine and electric vehicle magnets recycled by the Urban Mining Co. in its temporary facilities.

Urban Mining is not alone. Many private, government, and academic research facilities have invested significant effort in developing somewhat different recycling processes. The operational and financial feasibility of optimizing any bench-top scale extraction process to large manufacturing scale has yet to be proven. Currently, no neodymium magnet suppliers have the ability to economically collect used magnets and re-process them. For post-consumer magnets harvested from equipment at the end of their life cycle, the material composition is unknown and may be different from unit to unit, which creates significant problems in achieving good quality from the recycled product.
I can envision specific products such as car alternators, where duds could be sent back for recycling with the reprocessed recycled magnets used for the identical application as they started, not to mention loudspeakers, such as in the 1.6 billion smartphones sold per year.
I read through a few studies and the recovering procedure starts with collecting unwanted neodymium magnets from used electronics or equipment, demagnetize them, and recover the raw material. Obstacles to the process are many. Due to its iron content, exposed neodymium magnets can be easily degraded, oxidized, and corroded, especially the stuff that was produced a while back - which is exactly what is likely to be recycled. Purification or refining needs to be put in place to remove the excess oxides and recreating or refurbishing the material back to its original magnetic properties can be difficult. Due to its vulnerability to corrosion, plating is applied as a protective layer. The surface finishing comes in various materials, from nickel to plastic, and thus makes the recycling process more complicated. Since there are many choices of grades for various applications, separation methods must be determined and depend on the chemical and process selections and whether the procedure produces any byproduct would be an additional issue.
While the idea of recycling neodymium is politically correct along with the strategic implications of having a domestic back-up supply, if not done efficiently, it can be an energy-intensive process that causes more problems than it solves. Conversely, mining rare earth minerals is really nasty, as the mining process may expose workers to radioactive fumes and particulates both in extraction and separation of ores. Recycling only involves re-processing magnets that contain only NdFeB with the scary stuff separated out the first time around. Compared to the mining process, recycled magnets have less environmental impact consuming an order of magnitude of energy with fewer pollutants.

Domestic source of neodymium for recycling: Potential of the "Urban Mine."
Recycling rare earth minerals may have the wind behind its back if neodymium is in the cross-hairs of trade conflicts, along with the success of UMC's Texas operation in 2019. UMC will be able to supply to both the sintered and bonded magnet markets in the US by offering two product lines, consisting of sintered and machined NdFeB magnets and feedstock material for bonded magnet production in the US. 
While there is no sintered magnet manufacturer in the US (although sintered magnets have the best magnetic properties as they are 100% metal), there does exist a bonded magnet industry. The US bonded magnet industry currently procures its feedstock material internationally, typically from Asia and uses the material as a feedstock for injection-molding machines within the US. UMC has invested in equipment and technology to be able to supply bonded magnet feedstock material to US bonded magnet manufacturers. 

Traditionally, there hasn't been a supply option for US bonded magnet manufacturers as the manufacturing process to produce bonded magnet feedstock requires access to rare earth material; however, access to rare earth feedstock material is something that UMC has solved with its sintered magnet production. Therefore, by using the end of life harvested feedstock materials extracted from US goods, UMC can supply magnets to two markets: the high-performance sintered magnets and the existing bonded magnet manufacturers within the US.

Recycled neodymium magnets. There's enough recycling potential to supply the entire loudspeaker industry. Click the image to read Part 1 of this Neodymium article.

Based on its own research, UMC finds that there is an exponential growth in the end-of-line (EOL) equipment that contains enough NdFeB material, which through the proper collection channels, could domestically support required neodymium production. This could make UMC a strategic solution for the Department of Defense and potentially multiple commercial industries.


From the Vault
Differences in Amp Sound: How Do We Find the Truth?
By Richard Honeycutt
audioXpress readers are familiar with Richard Honeycutt's Hollow-State Electronics column. In many of his articles, Honeycutt explored distortion in a quest to find the origin of "tube sound." In this article, he takes a more general view of possible amplifier differences, solid- or hollow-state, focusing on features such as the presence or absence of different amplifiers' differences in sounds. The article discusses the fact that listeners' sound equipment opinions do not always correlate with measured performance ratings, and the need for a correct subjective evaluation process of components and systems. This article was originally published in audioXpress, October 2012.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Tang Band Speaker 25-2234SD High-Resolution 1" Aluminum and Magnesium Dome Tweeter 
By Vance Dickason
In this edition of Test Bench, I characterized a transducer from Tang Band (TB) Speaker, the 25-2234SD, a new 1" high-resolution dome tweeter with response to 40 kHz. Over the past 20-plus years, TB Speaker has expanded its product portfolio of speaker parts, drivers, and ODM/OEM finished products into many applications areas, from hi-fi and home-theater, also to outdoor speakers and smart home products. TB Speaker has more than 100 patented products/technologies. Recently, the company developed a series of small speaker drivers incorporated into integrated enclosures called "Sound Modules." The 25-2234SD is a compact tweeter that features a 1" aluminum/magnesium inverted dome, a neodymium motor structure, an injection-molded faceplate, a protective grill, and a rear cavity with magnetic fluid in the motor gap for cooling. The unit has an integrated circuit board with bare tinsel lead wires for connection (rather than the usual terminals), as it is assembled using a semi-automated production line, which results in excellent repeatable consistency. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, June 2018.   Check it out here!

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