Amazon Expands Alexa Voice Capabilities, Alexa Echo Devices and Wants to Ride Along in Our Cars
With Amazon now behaving like a powerful consumer electronics organization with the resources to disrupt the markets it wants to enter at any time, the company announced a completely new range of Alexa-enabled Echo devices designed to make it even easier to add Alexa to more places throughout the home, including hi-fi integration. And now, Amazon also wants us to bring Alexa on the road with Echo Auto, proposing a top-of-dash device. The new Echo designs and products also improve the sound quality significantly.   Read More

WiSA - the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association - Unveils New WiSA Ready Certification
WiSA - the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association unveiled the "WiSA Ready" certification, which marks an important milestone in delivering immersive wireless audio. This new certification coincides with the launch of the industry's first WiSA Ready USB transmitter from founding member Summit Wireless Technologies (formerly Summit Semiconductor -, which will be compatible with forthcoming WiSA Ready sources.   Read More

Silicon Labs' Wireless Xpress Modules Deliver Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi Connectivity with Zero Programming
Silicon Labs now offers a new Wireless Xpress solution to help developers get connected applications, including wireless audio, running in a day, with no software development necessary. Silicon Labs' Wireless Xpress provides a configuration-based development experience with everything developers need including certified Bluetooth 5 Low Energy (LE) and Wi-Fi modules, integrated protocol stacks and easy-to-use tools.    Read More

Dialog Semiconductor Demonstrates Bluetooth Low Energy True Wireless Stereo Solution at Bluetooth World 2018
Claiming an industry-first technology to address the challenges associated with power consumption in true wireless stereo systems, Dialog Semiconductor introduced an audio-over-Bluetooth low-energy proof of concept running on its widely adopted SmartBond SoCs, the first implementation to solely make use of Bluetooth low energy. This technology, which Dialog is unveiling at Bluetooth World 2018 (September 18-19) in Santa Clara, CA, allows for best-in-class audio synchronization between left and right channels, and addresses the challenges associated with power consumption.   Read More

The Vitec Group Enters Audio Capture Market with Acquisition of Rycote Microphone Holdings, Ltd. 
Rycote, the UK manufacturer of advanced microphone windshields and suspension systems, announced that is has been acquired by The Vitec Group plc ("Vitec"), better known for its vast range of tools and brands for content creation. The acquisition will provide Rycote with a platform for continued growth and further advanced product development, as well as providing Vitec with a great opportunity to offer complementary audio products.   Read More

Cypress Bluetooth Audio Solution Provides Robust Connections for Wireless Earbuds and Hearables
Cypress Semiconductor introduced a Bluetooth audio development solution that improves performance to wireless earbuds and hearables. Based on the new Wireless Audio Stereo Synchronization (WASS) application and the CYW20721 Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Audio microcontroller (MCU), the solution provides stereo synchronization and robust connections for differentiated performance in wireless earbuds.   Read More

DPA Introduces d:screet CORE 6000 Series Subminiature Microphones with First 3 mm Capsules
Launched at IBC 2018 in Amsterdam, the new DPA d:screet CORE 6060 and 6061 Subminiature Microphones and the d:fine CORE 6066 Subminiature Headset Microphone are just 3 mm in diameter - 2 mm smaller than DPA's existing 4000 series of miniature microphone products. All three devices incorporate the company's recently launched CORE by DPA microphone technology that reduces distortion and increases dynamic range, and DPA goes as far as calling the new microphones its best ever made.   Read More

SoundField by Røde NT-SF1 Ambisonic Microphone and Free Plug-in Support 360° Spatial Recording and Mixing
Røde Microphones is now shipping its SoundField by Røde NT-SF1 360° Surround Ambisonic Microphone - first announced at NAB 2018. Now available internationally, it is the first product manufactured in Australia by Røde since the acquisition of SoundField by the Freedman Electronics Group in November of 2016. The device is not only technically improved, but it is also much more affordable than any other professional Ambisonic capture solution available until now. The NT-SF1 ships in a full kit, including custom suspension shock mount, blimp-style windshield and furry wind cover.   Read More

João Martins

Editor's Desk

IBC 2018 Show Report 
Changes in the Media Landscape Powering New Technologies

These have been frantic weeks, with lots of industry events and announcements. While still trying to digest all the IFA and CEDIA announcements, we had to process all the recent announcements from the IBC show in Amsterdam, the Bluetooth World event in Santa Clara, CA, not forgetting the big announcements from Apple and Amazon, among others. It's great to see so many important technology and product announcements. In this edition of The Audio VoiceI will focus on some key perspectives from the IBC show, while recommending you not miss all the many stories we have published online for the past few weeks, which can be found at
The IBC show is always an important event to remind us of some key perspectives having to do with audio technology, content production, and distribution, which are at the core of our interests. Just like music is now predominantly available on streaming services, radio and television content are now being distributed over the Internet, while movies and lots of other content is available directly to all of us in multiple platforms and services. All this is reflected at a show such as IBC, providing a much more diverse perspective than what is currently possible at the other comparable event which is the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in Las Vegas, NV.

Radio is now "virtual" thanks to Internet streaming and Audio-over-IP (AoIP) workflows. Audio networking technology is a natural choice for transporting audio together with its associated metadata. Pictured is the Lawo exhibit at IBC 2018

The 2018 edition of this highly influential media, entertainment, and technology show was highly inspiring, growing in scope, reach, and diversity, as the promoters reported. It's always important to remember that this IBC show was originally the International Broadcasting Convention, and quickly evolved from its technical broadcast roots to encompass the breadth of media creation management and delivery, from online content to digital cinema. The 2018 edition attracted more than 55,000 attendees (55,884 to be precise) from 170 countries around the world, with more than 1,700 exhibitors. Run by the industry for the industry, IBC is supported by six leading international bodies, which are event's owners, representing both exhibitors and visitors: the IABM; Europe's largest professional body of engineers, the IET; IEEE Broadcast Technology Society; The Royal Television Society (RTS); The Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineers (SCTE); and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). 
For any audio professional, there are many reasons not to miss IBC every September, but getting the scope of the radio industry, and meeting many key technology vendors, including most manufacturers of broadcast equipment, from transmitters to microphones is always our focus.
As well as providing a host of new initiatives this year, the exhibition grew even more, and conference delegates were up by 14% year on year (conferences ran from September 12-17, while exhibits where open from September 13-17.) Among the many themed sessions and exhibit areas, I would highlight the Future Zone, which this year was one the best ever, with presentations from researchers and academic bodies developing the ideas that may become the hit products five years from now. From spatial and immersive audio to the future of television in 8K, 4K HDR, and High Frame Rates, and artificial intelligence powering voice transcription and content verification, it was a fascinating voyage.

The Future Zone at IBC 2018. Some of the best technology demos were present. Many of which actually use technologies currently available. Click the image for IBC 2018 highlights.

But even within the 15 halls that make the IBC show floor, it was possible to get valuable insights about key technology trends that are changing the industry. We are witnessing dramatic improvements on image quality, not so much because of the increase in resolution (up to 8K now), but also much brighter displays, reflecting the possibilities of high-dynamic-range (HDR) capture and high frame rates (HFR), and even 360-degree cameras. We can also learn about how content producers and distribution platforms are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to process massive quantities of metadata in the cloud, some of which generated with image analysis and audio recognition algorithms, to create new media asset management (MAM) tools that are used not only by the media organizations themselves but are even available to consumers on streaming services.
And with consumers being able to access content in multiple platforms over the Internet, the appetite for new-generation Ultra-High-Definition displays is growing and no longer dependent upon traditional television services. So even the broadcasters have to adapt, making sure they are able to independently upgrade their content production, if they actually broadcast in those formats. And IBC also provided a unique insight on the transition to fully IP (Internet Protocol) networked operations, with the SMPTE ST 2110 suite of standards (with all the compatible audio protocols embedded - AES67, Dante, Ravenna, etc.) quickly replacing the current video and audio serial digital interfaces. And all this, while media organizations and content producers are still learning how to cope with file-based systems and implementing new-generation distributed systems that support exciting possibilities such as remote production. Of course, immersive and object-based audio are right at the center of those workflows. And we could go on...
But overall, my focus for the show this year was to identify the trends on new media business models and the technology that will power those operations. A key example of how things are changing is that we are seeing companies such as Netflix publishing its own production guidelines. During IBC, Netflix announced the creation of a "Netflix Post Technology Alliance," which includes key technology vendors in areas such as cameras, creative editorial, color grading, and media packaging. And as they say, "this is just a start."

The drivers of change in the media landscape, according to Dalet ( one of the main key technology vendors in this space.

As I was working on this piece, I received an interesting presentation summary from FFalcon Technology and Statista Research and Analytics (the two companies had a joint presentation at IBC 2018), which clearly reflects the changing landscape of media. The two companies published a whitepaper titled "The Revenue and Business Opportunities for the Smart TV Ecosystem", which details how the TV market is changing and how smart TVs will be a key component for smart homes.
In this space, we often discuss smart speakers and smart home technologies and how those increasingly integrate the audio experiences in the home, with wireless streaming, multi-room installations and, of course, voice interfaces. Not surprisingly, the same companies that power those solutions could be found in Amsterdam, demonstrating how voice integrates with those new generation displays in the home, and how the confusing remote control will soon be replaced by voice interactions and tactile remote-control apps.
As Statista details, with global smart TV shipments set to reach a total sales value of $250 million by 2023, and the number of smart TV users estimated to be $762 million by 2020, the smart TV ecosystem has more than doubled in the past five years. But smart TVs will change as well. With viewers increasingly accessing content directly on the Internet and OTT services, the television interface will change, and the devices will evolve from a cumbersome navigation with a pointer or arrows on the remote to a more "smartphone-like" experience. And with devices connected wirelessly, signal sources will be able to expand from the traditional set-top box (or antenna) to a seamless integration within the home - and content being fed by mobile devices, streaming media players, and connected appliances. But the user will not need to switch AV inputs and manage volume, etc. It will all need to be seamless, and accessible by voice, for those who use VPAs.
As FFalcon Technology CEO, Tony Guo, highlighted in his presentation," due to saturation in the TV market, the connected home is the next revenue opportunity, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) offering new monetization potential via their integration on all smart TVs and other devices." Since people can consume content at any time, the "business value behind the smart TV market of the future will be the integration of more content providers," he noted as, "by 2020, OTT video services will generate $30.64 billion and the market size of mobile payment will reach $2,000 billion."
Even if North America is still lagging behind in Internet-connected TVs, compared to Asia and Europe, the usage of connected devices in North America (39%) exceeds those in China and Europe (both 29%), added Statista. The vast majority of people in the US using smart TVs, streaming media players, smart speakers, and the Internet tend to be between 30 and 49 years old - so there is still a big market to be accessed.

While virtual reality continues to be demonstrated as "the future," the reality is the industry is quickly adopting spatial audio production tools. Pictured is the AMBEO demo area at the Sennheiser booth during IBC 2018.

And while Statista's research reveals that viewing TV and other content on the smartphone is growing in the US and China, "overall, audiences spend more time watching linear TV than any other source, so linear TV is not dead yet and nor will it be for the foreseeable future." As it was clear at IBC 2018, the traditional television operators are increasingly betting on live content, from sports to entertainment, to reinforce their position, as do the news channels. The problem seems to be that everyone intends to go "direct-to-consumer" meaning that sports teams, artists, and even brands, want to be able to distribute their content to any platform, not just TV stations. How this will play in a fragmented multiplatform world is yet to be understood, since the Netflix business model and platform is not something that can be easily emulated. As the FFalcon Technology whitepaper highlights, success will depend upon "partnerships and development to offer a unified User Interface." Other keys to success include "supporting integration of digital consumer devices to improve users' experiences, and apps that enhance the true value of the TV."
This changing media landscape is also bringing huge opportunities to rethink many of the things that the industry is accustomed to see slowly changing (e.g., broadcast and production standards). If Amazon is increasingly a source for all media cloud services and determines many of the technology choices in distribution of media, and Netflix can rewrite its own "production guidebook," so will all the other players. And they all want improvements in many areas, from the choice of more efficient codecs, to loudness management and higher quality experiences (e.g., 4K/HDR and immersive audio) to lure the audiences. These will still rely in great part in the efforts of the industry standard bodies and research institutions, but adoption will be much faster, and we will see many more "de facto" standards in place.
The new business of Content Distribution Networks (CDN) and Network Service Providers (NSP) makes it possible to leverage innovations much quicker. What was previously dependent on satellite, cable, and telecom companies is now evolving to new players, which are the backbone of content distribution globally, and increasingly reaching the end consumer. Those new players will be key to supporting technologies (e.g., voice recognition and AI-powered personal assistants) and will determine the end-user experience in key areas.

Dolby is a major player in the media industry and it is clear that Dolby Atmos will be a format adopted in all platforms given its predominance in movies and fiction. The question is: Is the industry looking at MPEG-H as an alternative for production of everything else?

One of those key aspects of the viewer experience has to do with spatial audio technologies, an area where the dominant player which is Dolby is now confronted with new standards-based MPEG-H, far reaching in scope, from loudness management to content interaction and, of course, the support of immersive audio in any device. MPEG-H is being developed and implemented by the Fraunhofer IIS with the support of powerful players such as Qualcomm and all the main consumer electronics and semiconductor companies.
At IBC 2018, Fraunhofer IIS and Vewd, a global "smart TV OTT software provider," have showcased a Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) demo that included streaming on a set-top box with MPEG-H Audio support, as defined in the latest HbbTV 2.0.2 specification. Vewd is the first OTT software provider to enable support for MPEG-H Audio in its HbbTV browser SDK, which now allows broadcasters to explore the advanced features of MPEG-H Audio in their HbbTV applications. Together with Fraunhofer IIS, the Oslo-based company implemented the first HbbTV application enabling the interactivity and personalization features of MPEG-H Audio. At the Amsterdam show, we could see and hear a demonstration using the well-discussed immersive soundbar prototype with both music and sports content, highlighting the features of MPEG-H, allowing users to select different versions of the content such as "default mix" or "dialog enhancement," as well as choose between various available language commentary (e.g., English, German, French, Italian, Portuguese) and audio description in multiple languages.

At the Fraunhofer booth, the new Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar with MPEG-H support was displayed, with its immersive 5.1.4 sound and deep bass in a single all-in-one device that should be in the market early 2019. The AMBEO soundbar delivers an incredibly immersive home entertainment experience optimized for each individual room thanks to its room calibration feature. It is compatible with Dolby Atmos, MPEG-H and DTS-X.

MPEG-H Audio is now part of the ATSC 3.0 and DVB TV standards. In South Korea, terrestrial ATSC 3.0 broadcasting with MPEG-H Audio is already on air, making MPEG-H the world's first commercialized next-generation TV-audio technology. Professional broadcast equipment, including encoders and monitoring solutions, as well as decoders and consumer products such as TV sets and soundbars, have been announced and introduced with MPEG-H support. 
At IBC 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT and the German audio metering and monitoring specialist RTW, presented a new speech intelligibility technology in film and TV dialogues, which we learned could easily be implemented in MPEG-H. Exciting times!


A note to acknowledge and honor the memory of Siegried Linkwitz (1935 - 2018) and Ron Tipton (1936 - 2018) two great engineers, brilliant minds, friends, and long time contributors to audioXpress and all the magazine titles that preceded it, who have left this world in the past few days. They will be missed.

Audio Praxis
Mixing and Mastering for Today's Music Streaming Services
By Jon Schorah
On the cutting-edge of current audio industry trends, this article by Jon Schorah, Creative Director, Nugen Audio, discusses "Mixing and Mastering for Today's Music Streaming Services," and explains what you should know about delivering music to Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL, and other platforms. As the author explains, "streamed audio" means data compression. To reduce the vast amounts of data, music streaming services deliver more than 1 billion streams a day, and most of them employ data compression techniques (audio codecs). For example, instead of delivering a large, high-quality .wav file, an AAC or Ogg Vorbis file will be used instead. Unfortunately, these codecs are not very good at handling "hot" audio. What may sound great in the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) can be easily distorted when converted to a data-reduced audio stream. Jon Schorah explains how to deal with this reality, understanding the different audio codecs, the effects of masking, Spectral Band Replication (SBS), Parametric Stereo (PS) and others way these services deal with data rate reduction. There's a way to preview and control the unavoidable effects caused by these processes, including dealing with loudness normalization, which is now being applied by all the major music streaming services. This article was originally published in audioXpress, June 2018.   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Radian Audio Engineering 950PB and 760NEOPB Compression Drivers 
By Vance Dickason
This was the first time Test Bench featured a product from the highly respected Radian Audio Engineering. Radian Audio Engineering was founded in 1988 by its president, Dr. Richard Kontrimas. His mission was to manufacture affordable great sounding, high-quality loudspeakers. Radian's initial offerings were replacement compression driver diaphragms. However, the diaphragms were so popular that soon the company was making compression drivers. Several major loudspeaker manufacturers quickly identified Radian as an important source for their compression driver needs and became OEM customers. Then, Radian introduced coaxial loudspeakers, followed by woofers, and finally, complete loudspeaker systems. Today, Radian, based in Orange, CA, is well known in the OEM loudspeaker component business, the sound contractor/fixed installation market, and the portable/touring sound industry. With more than two decades of success under its belt, Radian is now in its third decade as a professional sound manufacturer. Radian sent the 950PB and the
760NEOPB, two of the company's flagship compression drivers, for this Test Bench review. I chose these two mostly because these Radian transducers have a reputation among recording and touring experts as having a high degree of musicality. The 950PB and the 760NEOPB share several features. They are both 2" exit compression drivers, with a useful response above 10 kHz. The 950PB and the 760NEOPB use neodymium motor structures and pure aluminum diaphragms with a proprietary Mylar suspension that greatly reduces second- and third-order harmonic distortion. The two transducers mainly differ with regard to their voice coil diameters. The 760NEOPB has a 3" voice coil diameter with a three-slit phase plug. The 950PB has a 4" diameter voice coil with a four-slit phase plug, which translates into higher power handling. The 950PB is rated at 125 W AES. The 760NEOPB is rated at 105 W AES. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, November 2014.  
Check it out here!

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