Industry & Product News

Mark Levinson Nº519 Audio Player Receives Firmware Update that Adds Roon-Ready Capability, MQA Certification and other Enhancements
Harman's Mark Levinson announced a major firmware update for its 519 Audio Player. The update turns the Nº519 Roon Ready and with it introduces support for the Tidal music streaming service, including its Premium top tier that makes available the largest collection of MQA encoded files. Therefore, the update also makes the 519 certified with the MQA Full Decoder, which enables playback and authentication of MQA audio files and streams.   Read More

Audio Precision Introduces B Series APx Analyzers with Improved Specs and Capabilities
Audio Precision announced the introduction of the APx555 B Series two-channel audio analyzer. The B Series APx analyzers are the successor platform to Audio Precision's original, or Legacy, APx platform. The second-generation APx555 offers improved sine generator frequency stability, lower system residual distortion, single-ended, balanced analog output, and an optional ADC test mode that provides VBias, a common mode DC Bias. Designed for R&D engineers and production technicians who need the highest possible performance, the APx555 B Series is the new standard for audio analyzers.    Read More

WiSA Introduces "WiSA Endorsed" Designation for Amplifiers
WiSA, the (Wireless Speaker and Audio) Association, an industry group composed of more than 40 leading brands including founding member Summit Wireless Technologies, introduces "WiSA Endorsed" for audio amplifiers designed for use in today's powered home audio speakers. This new designation coincides with the launch of member brand Infineon Technologies MERUS MA12070 4-26V ultra-efficient audio amplifier, which is the first amplifier to receive the endorsement.    Read More

Listen Announces West Coast Training Extravaganza! February 4-8 2019
Audio test and measurement specialists Listen, Inc., announced its biggest ever training event on the West Coast the week of Feb 4-8 (Chinese New Year week) with 5 full days of training events. Two of the days are not SoundCheck specific, and the last one, focusing on smart speaker testing, is free! Listen also simplified pricing this year so that each day is the same cost and attendees can combine any number of days, with a discount for each additional day they attend. In addition, support contract holders and multiple attendees from the same company receive additional discounts.   Read More

Dirac Research to Debut New Multi-Subwoofer Dirac Live Bass Management Module at CES 2019 
Swedish sound pioneer Dirac Research announced its new Dirac Live Bass Management Module that improves bass performance and, according to the company, "Provides the most sophisticated, easy-to-use multi-subwoofer optimization solution for both consumers and professional technology integrators." The solution leverages a proprietary approach to subwoofer system optimization to produce "far smoother and tighter bass than existing solutions," the company adds. Dirac will debut the new module at CES 2019.   Read More

Stronger Bass with New Dayton Audio BSA-200 Bridgeable Stereo Amplifier
Dayton Audio continues to expand its ready-to-use and affordable range of audio electronics now introducing the BSA-200 bridgeable stereo amplifier. This new compact and powerful design is an ideal solution for bass shaker or subwoofer installs and makes for a versatile amplifier in home theater or gaming applications, featuring an adjustable 50 to 200 Hz low-pass crossover and built-in USB port for powering 5 V devices or use with wireless. The sleek design not only saves space but offers a robust 110 W RMS per channel with 2-ohm minimum impedance.   Read More

NTi Audio Announces Smart Measurements for Smart Devices Using the Flexus FX100 Audio Analyzer
Responding to the challenges that were brought to the audio industry by the sweeping popularity of connected speakers and smart home devices, Swiss test and measurement specialist NTi Audio just announced an open loop test solution for its FX100 Audio Analyzer system and produced a tutorial using an Amazon Echo Dot device to demonstrate how to test the device's loudspeaker and microphone array using an open loop configuration test sequence.   Read More

DiGiCo Announces Acquisition of 3D Personal Monitoring Specialists KLANG:technologies
DiGiCo confirmed the acquisition of German company KLANG:technologies as a key new addition to the Audiotonix family that already includes leading audio brands Allen & Heath, Calrec, DiGiGrid, Solid State Logic, and DiGiCo. The deal, which was concluded in early December 2018, brings a key new addition to the Audiotonix group of companies, comprising four of the leading brands in studio, live sound, and broadcast audio mixing consoles, adding a completely new category, with the addition of a pioneering company in the field of personal monitoring and immersive 3D audio solutions.   Read More

Editor's Desk
J. Martins

Audio Collaborative 2018
Music Market Outlook - Changes and Opportunities

For this edition of The Audio Voice I am wrapping up the summaries I have been writing following the Audio Collaborative 2018 conference. The event dedicated to the latest audio trends was successfully promoted in London, UK, for the fifth consecutive year by market research firm Futuresource Consulting.
Combining inspiring presentations, discussion panels, and great summaries of Futuresource's market data and forecasts in front of an audience predominantly consisting of industry professionals, I think this excellent content deserves to be shared. As in my previous write-ups that are now available here and here, I'll try to summarize some key content and add some context and perspective, this time focusing on the panels on trends and opportunities in the music market and the gaming sector.

"Music Market Outlook - Who Dares Wins" panel. Music streaming is one of the greatest stories for the industry in 2018 - and it's closely connected with voice...
And I start with the panel "Music Market Outlook - Who Dares Wins," where Futuresource's analyst David Sidebottom shared the stage with Pete Downton, Deputy CEO of digital music and radio services B2B platform and direct-to-consumer music download store 7digital; Christian Harris, Head of Digital Entertainment at Three, one of the most dynamic network operators in the UK; and Paul Firth, Head of Amazon Music streaming service. A timely topic, given that music streaming is one of the greatest stories for the industry in 2018 - and it's closely connected with voice...
For this panel, Sidebottom proposed looking at the music market transition to streaming and what will happen next. To provide some context, he mentioned how in the United Kingdom, already one in every five people pay for a music streaming service. "Even though that can be considered mass market level, the question is what will take this market to the next level?"
To provide the necessary background as to where the music industry currently stands globally, Downton, offered a short presentation combining Futuresource's own data with the perspective of a key provider of content such as 7digital. And he started by presenting a slide that provides an overview of the recorded music industry and its evolution over time.
The story of the recorded music industry... so far. Note the impressive growth of streaming music subscriptions just in the last three years.
This graphic is certainly impressive in the way it shows how big the music industry was in the good old days of CD and physical media, compared to what it became with digital downloads. It also serves to show how streaming is catching up impressively fast. "Downloads where never a thing," this shows. "They really are a tiny blip in the history of recorded music," as Downton puts it. "Still we are not even nowhere near to where the music industry has been in terms of business volume in the CD era," he added, noting that in the CD era the global market represented about 500 million consumers buying records.
"Since then, we now have another 3 billion people connected with mobile devices, most of them middle class active users. That shows how large the upside can still be for the industry." As Futuresource's data shows, in 2019 we will be reaching around 200 million paying music streaming subscribers worldwide, combining all the available services.
So, how will things evolve? As Downton described, 3G technology was the key enabler for the mobile transition, which paved the way for the transition to digital downloads, but volumes only happened after 2007, after Apple launched the iPhone. Spotify arrived after the iPhone was already in the market and took off with 4G networks and broadband connections in the homes. "Many companies in the digital music space arrived too early, and the technology pieces were just not there," Downton added.
He concluded the presentation by illustrating how technology was effectively the enabler for this transition to streaming services. Since in 2016 Amazon introduced Alexa, smart speakers have been a clear incentive for new users to subscribe to those music services and the numbers have quickly increased. But looking ahead, Downton pointed out the arrival of 5G networks, the promise of thousands of new types of connected devices, and the evolution of voice interfaces, as the enabler of "the perfect storm" for the music industry. "Because its music and audio that's driving the usage of these devices," he highlighted citing the fact that connectivity in 5G will make the whole experience better, with easier access to music.
Interestingly, the 7digital executive also mentioned how his service already provides a catalog of 65 million songs, while 7digital is ingesting another million to its platform, almost every month. "There's an abundance of music in the world and we have access to it in real time." But how do we make music more accessible in people's lives? That's where Downton believes the role of machine learning will be critical.
Providing a glimpse of what a company like 7digital is doing and where it sees the market progressing, Downton also stated that new companies will be expanding music streaming offerings and that many of those companies will be those that already have a strong connection with consumers. Like Amazon is doing with its commerce platform, Downton believes many other retailers can play a huge role in the growth of music in the next period. "Retail is a 22 trillion-dollar industry. 80% of which still happens in physical stores with cash. The disruption is only just begun in retail on a global basis," he stated.
To illustrate with some real examples, Downton explained how large companies like MediaMarktSaturn (the largest electronics retailer from Germany, which is both a client and shareholder of 7digital) are adding music services to its expanding online commerce platform. Its new JUKE music entertainment service is already considered one of the best in Germany, and combines radio stations with music streaming, appealing to a vast demographic. As Downton highlighted, MediaMarktSaturn's turnover is over 28 billion USD - "which is more than the whole music market in its peak years." And the group is now investing to expand its digital retail operations to more countries, and they are looking at music in their platform, to replicate what they used to have in their physical stores.

There's room for more competition and different price points in music streaming services. Pictured is JUKE, a music streaming service from German retail giant MediaMarkt/Saturn.

And finally, "5G will connect all our cars," Downton stated, mentioning 7digital's ongoing cooperation with Houndify the music discovery, natural language processing, and AI open platform that enables any OEM manufacturer to implement voice interfaces. Houndify, a former rival to Shazam, the British company that was recently acquired by Apple, has already announced deals with automotive brands such as Daimler (Mercedes), Peugeot, Honda, Hyundai, and is working with the Chinese company Lenovo. All companies that want to leverage connectivity to offer voice experiences to their customers. "The car industry is going to be the core of what happens in the next five years in music," says Downton. "Music and audio do really well in that context."
Before the other members of the panel added their perspectives, Downton also mentioned a potential disruption coming from musicians themselves, using other forms of transactions, based on blockchain technology, a technology he believes will "help the industry scale, much more than it has ever done historically."
From Harris' perspective, the rise of the algorithm and discoverability was the big thing for the music industry in 2018, "Offering incredible ways to discover new content, and profile the user." And from his perspective as a head of services for a big mobile network operator, Voice will have a massive impact in the music world, allowing even more users to discover content.
Firth, head of Amazon Music, also highlighted the importance of voice in what is changing the industry, bringing the music streaming experience to more users. In his opinion, the pure simplicity of accessing the service and discovering music simply using voice will enable further growth. "People that would never be in the market for music streaming will start engaging with one," he stated, explaining how getting a music streaming service is the next most natural thing to do after getting an Amazon Echo speaker. And of course, he also added how Amazon Prime is helping to get more people involved with the streaming experience. 
Firth described the first contact with a smart speaker to play music as a transition to a more natural way to discover music, and how Amazon is trying to make that easier and more rewarding. And he gave the example of a user asking Alexa to "Play Happy 80's Pop," instead of asking for a track or an artist. For the request, Alexa will connect a playlist based on those three keywords. The metadata needs to be accurate and know what songs were released actually in the 1980s. The algorithm needs to select those tracks among millions in the database and finally the playlist is personalized based on what the user has listened before. "A complicated process becomes really simple for the user. The best technology does that. Helping to make those services mainstream," he added. And later we would state also that, "Amazon wants to make Alexa a real assistant for the services. A best friend that recommends things before the user even asks."

Pete Downton, Deputy CEO of 7digital, points out how music streaming services can achieve further growth and reach a larger percentage of the population.
The next reference to the panel was rather interesting. Sidebottom mentioned the fact that, until 2017, music services were helping to sell wireless speakers, such as Sonos, while now smart speakers are actually driving music streaming subscriptions. According to Firth, it doesn't really matter because both will help each other. From buying entry-level speakers, users will eventually buy a better and much more expensive speaker because of the time they spend listening to music. The problem, from his perspective, is that while around 30% of Amazon's clients spend money on music every month, the others are not willing to spend $120 a year for a music streaming service.
The panel also commented on how the consumer's relationship with music services will evolve. Downton added that the sales of Amazon Echo speakers actually lead to a disproportionate number of Amazon Music subscriptions. Because people don't necessarily think about asking "Alexa play that song on Spotify." And he went on to mention how users also value curation. "The biggest challenge for users that are not music enthusiasts is not what to play first. Is what to play next. No one has time to think what they want to hear during the next 50 minutes."
Please follow this link to read more about this topic and another Audio Collaborative session dedicated to Music and Games, which completes this article online.

Standards Review
Getting the Most from
USB 3, USB Type-C, and Thunderbolt 3  Part 1 and
By J. Martins
In its Standards Review article series, audioXpress looked at one of the most important technology transitions, changing the interface specifications used by the IT and AV industries. The first part of the article explored the new SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen 2) interface, and the new USB Type-C connector specification, including the subsequently published USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification, which standardizes audio over USB Type-C. And because, one was so directly linked with the other, the article also covered the related Thunderbolt 3 technology, which also adopted the USB Type-C connector and introduced updated specs. In this first part, the article explains the updated specification fundamentals and explores how this will affect the audio industry and important considerations for audio product developers. Part 2 of this Standards Review article, examines how these technologies have evolved, how they work together, and looks with more detail at USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification. Announced in September 2016, the USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification standardizes audio over USB Type-C. The article shares a conversation with USB-IF executives Brad Saunders (Architect Strategist at Intel Corporation and USB-IF chairman) and Rahman Ismail (USB-IF CTO) also from Intel, leading the audio aspects of the USB Device Working Group, which audioXpressheld during at CES 2016.These two articles were originally published in audioXpress, December 2016 and January 2017.   Read the Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
The Peerless by Tymphany PMT-40N25AL01-04 Mini Full-Range Driver 
By Vance Dickason
The 1" diameter full-range drivers are among the most used transducers in consumer electronics. They are finding broad use in numerous Bluetooth speakers. The driver submitted by Tymphany for this Test Bench fits into that category. The Peerless by Tymphany PMT-40N25AL01-04 is a 25-mm (1") diameter full-range driver built on a proprietary injection-molded two-piece polycarbonate (one piece for the motor assembly structure and one piece for the protective grill). The cone assembly consists of one piece of inverted aluminum suspended with a foam surround that provides all the compliance (there is no spider mechanism). As with all the 1" long-throw inverted dome drivers on the market, it has a 26-mm diameter voice coil. This is wound with round copper wire on a polyimide (Kapton) former, terminated to opposite mounted solderable terminals. It also has magnetic fluid in the gap. Since it was not mentioned in the literature, I assume this is a low-viscosity fluid that does not impact the compliance. A neodymium motor using a neodymium slug and a milled return cup drives the cone assembly. For cooling, the return cup, the neodymium slug, and a metal top plate separated from the slug by an insulated layer have a 5-mm diameter hole that forms a pole vent. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, July 2014.   Check it out here!

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