Industry & Product News

Application Note: All You Need to Know About Loudspeaker Electroacoustic Measurements
This 33-page application note provides an overview of the key electroacoustic measurements used to characterize the performance of loudspeaker drive units and loudspeaker systems, focusing on the most important objective measurements and referring to industry standards for guidance. Download the Audio Precision application note now!   More Information Here

LG Raises the Bar for Home Theater Audio at CES 2019 with New AI-Enabled Soundbars
For CES 2019, LG Electronics (LG) is focusing on the home theater category with a new range of products that leverages the best-selling speaker category in the segment - soundbars - and combines it with the latest "smart" technologies that are becoming essential for home integration. LG's latest range of soundbars expands on the collaboration with Meridian Audio for the electroacoustic design and adds Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities that the Korean brand has been developing for all its consumer electronic products.    Read More

Sennheiser Promotes Augmented Audio Experiences at CES 2019
At CES 2019, Sennheiser will be providing visitors with the unique opportunity to explore the world of Augmented Audio and craft their very own AMBEO AR experience. The company will promote listening sessions of the much anticipated AMBEO Soundbar, finally revealing the latest in immersive 3D sound to the home. The forthcoming AMBEO Soundbar offers a remarkably spatial sonic experience with immersive 5.1.4 sound and deep bass in a single all-in-one device. Visitors to CES can also get hands on with the new MOMENTUM True Wireless earphones.    Read More

Dayton Audio Offers Easy Wireless Audio with New DTA-2.1BT 100W Class D 2.1 Amplifier with Bluetooth
Dayton Audio introduced the updated DTA-2.1BT amplifier, a compact and lightweight Class D design that is perfect for bringing new life to existing passive speakers. The DTA-2.1BT is able to adequately power most speakers, and also a passive subwoofer, enabling users to create an inexpensive and high-performance 2.1 setup for any office, bedroom, or small home theater. For just $99.00, it offers Bluetooth, RCA, and 3.5 mm inputs, and now features a crossover adjustment on the front panel.   Read More

Parasound Launches Zphono XRM for Improved Vinyl Experiences 
For those in the market for a decent phono preamplifier, Parasound just announced a new model that's a big step up from its entry-level Zphono. The new Parasound Zphono XRM phono preamplifier offers higher performance, dual-input MM and MC, with XLR balanced outputs, adjustable MC loading, rumble filter, and mono/stereo switch. Price wise, Parasound's new $599 Zphono XRM phono preamplifier bridges the gap between its entry-level $200 Zphono and the internationally acclaimed $1,495 Halo JC 3 Jr.   Read More

Appeal of Headphones Could Help World's Hard of Hearing, New Futuresource Hearables Research States
The Consumer Electronics (CE) Team at Futuresource Consulting announced the forthcoming availability of the new "Worldwide Hearables Report." According to the company's research, the growing appeal of aftermarket headphones is opening up the new "hearables" sub-segment, catering for those with hearing loss and alleviating much of the expense and stigma attached to hearing aids. Amid these market developments, Futuresource will carry out in-depth original research to explore the enabling technologies, the underlying consumer attitudes, motivations and the size of the hearables opportunity.   Read More

Biamp Announces Acquisition of Sound Masking Specialist Cambridge Sound Management
Biamp, the professional audio and video networking solutions manufacturer from Beaverton, OR, announced the acquisition of Cambridge Sound Management (CSM). Headquartered in Waltham, MA, CSM is a pioneer and a leading brand in the fast-growing sound masking market, with an extensive range of solutions and integration know-how that perfectly complements Biamps activities. CSM will join Biamp as a product family within the company's portfolio, with business functions gradually being blended to form a single Biamp business.   Read More

Editor's Desk
J. Martins

Have You Seen Anything Interesting?

Since this will be the last newsletter of the year, and the week has been extremely quiet due to the holidays, I thought I should use the time to look back and answer the question I get the most when I attend trade shows.
While everyone is preparing for another busy trade show season starting next week with CES in Las Vegas, NV; quickly followed by the NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA; Integrated Systems Europe in Amsterdam; and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, we already know from the torrent of embargoed press releases and announcements that we will see many interesting things this year and that the audio industry is certainly going through exciting times. Well, let's say technology in general.
Of course, things have been quite hectic for some time now, and 2018 was a very interesting year to be in audio. We certainly have seen many fascinating things and there's no better time to look back and highlight some of the things that clearly stand out. And because the next show will be CES, I will start this week with consumer electronics.
There's a lot of interesting things happening with MEMS, but we had not until recently heard about MEMS speakers. Introduced in 2018, USound, an innovative and fast-growing audio company from Austria, delivered the first silicon microspeakers resulting from a technology collaboration with STMicroelectronics, announced in early 2017. USound's microspeakers feature industry-unique, high-precision piezo-electric actuators, which simultaneously enable small size, low power consumption, low heat dissipation, and very high sound quality, rivaling or surpassing conventional electro-dynamic balanced-armature speakers. USound has confirmed that it is ready to enter volume production, announced a new evaluation platform, and has exciting projects in place to show at CES 2019. The USound story was one of the most interesting ones in 2018, because these extremely small speakers will soon enable new more compact and comfortable wearable and headphone designs.
And when we discuss promising technologies for automotive and personal audio, we need to highlight the work of Swedish company Dirac Research, which had plenty of exciting announcements in 2018, including a significant expansion of its digital processing technologies and to its room correction solution Dirac Live. But one of the most impressive demonstrations from Dirac resulted directly from a technology collaboration with AAC Technologies, introducing a series of AAC-Dirac product prototypes, including a smart speaker, smartphones, an augmented reality headset, and an ultra-thin automotive speaker - all of which are custom-configured with sophisticated AAC-Dirac audio subsystems. Very impressive!
Of course, there were many outstanding products in the hearables and true wireless stereo category. But probably one of the most significant announcements in 2018 came from Qualcomm and the introduction of its Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo technology and development platform. Qualcomm is now offering a new integrated single-chip solution and software development kit, which is designed to help reduce power consumption and offers manufacturers a highly efficient way of controlling and managing the truly wireless connection to the earbuds in an ultra-small form factor. In 2019, we can expect to see many new-generation, highly compact, feature-rich wireless earbuds and hearables based on Qualcomm's platform.
And speaking of Qualcomm, the San Diego, CA, giant also demonstrated an interesting new implementation in collaboration with THX for the new THX Spatial Audio Platform, which enables encoding, decoding, transport and rendering of content using the new MPEG-H audio standard. The two companies have shown this platform at several trade shows and are paving the way for streaming media companies to finally deliver immersive audio entertainment to any type of rendering device, including binaural for mobile devices.
And because we mentioned MPEG-H audio, there's no question that this is the most promising audio technology for content production, broadcasting and home entertainment that we've have seen (it is part of all the new television standards) and heard multiple times at trade shows. We will not forget the demo that resulted from the collaboration between the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and Fraunhofer IIS in its first trial for live production of immersive and interactive sound using the MPEG-H TV Audio System at the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in Lisbon, Portugal. 

If I have to highlight the best true wireless earbuds introduced in 2018, given that Apple's AirPods have not been updated but continue to lead the market in reliability (and massive market share), I would choose the Jabra Elite 65t and Elite Active 65t models. These are the third-generation true wireless products from the company and offer the best on-the-go true wireless calls and music experience, including support for Alexa, Siri and Google voice assistants. The consumer brand of the GN Group was, not surprisingly, the winner of a CES Innovation Award 2018, and the Elite 65's benefit from a consistently stable wireless connection based on NFMI (NXP MiGLO platform) and provide up to 15 hours of battery life (with cradle) and 5 hours of listening time from one charge. They can still be improved in many areas, but they are better than all the others we tried in terms of general experience. 
There were of course hundreds of new products in the true wireless category and I would highlight also the new RHA TrueConnect true wireless earbuds, the first from the Scottish headphone brand. They seem to have everything right. Design, engineering, and features, leveraging the combination of the latest Bluetooth 5 technology, a dynamic driver, and USB-C charging. My problem is... I still have to hear them to judge how good they actually are.
I would not highlight any other more sophisticated earbuds with hearable and hearing enhancement features for now, even if many, like the Nuheara iQ Buds are highly praised. I think they still need to improve in many areas and work is required on the right combination of features so that we don't need to have a manual with us every time we want to use them. Certainly, hearables will be an area to watch in 2019. Until something better comes up, Bragi's The Dash Pro are kings in that game. They are not a 2018 product, but they received a great upgrade with the integration of Mimi Defined, the latest generation of sound optimization technology from Mimi Hearing Technologies, enabling intelligent hearing enhancement and tinnitus relief.
And discussing best headphones for 2018, I would have to highlight the Audeze Mobius with Waves Nx 3D audio technology. This is truly a versatile, premium, high-end, wireless and fully immersive 3D platform with head tracking built-in, powered by Audeze's planar magnetic drivers. The combination is outstanding, cutting-edge, and a great value.

2018 was also a great year for Active Noise Cancellation headphones, a category that is finally seeing significant improvements. While Sony has been successfully competing with Bose in the ANC headphone game, in 2018 they really impressed with the new WH-1000XM3 model, improving noise cancellation even further thanks to a new HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1, adding quick charging capability, and introducing an improved design. 
Next in line is the very promising beyerdynamic LAGOON ANC headphones, closely followed by the very impressive Microsoft Surface Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones, which we've heard while still in prototype, already sounded very good, and were extremely comfortable and practical.  
And speaking of interesting components, in 2018 we have seen ESS Technology announce new versions of its popular SABRE audio DACs featuring integrated MQA rendering. This will enable easy implementation of MQA across a wide variety of applications, including more mobile devices. As MQA technology is becoming widely accepted as a standard for distributing high resolution files and streams across a variety of platforms, the new ESS chips will enable manufacturers to easily implement MQA support. If MQA was an important piece of the high-resolution puzzle in 2016 and 2017, it looks like we are going to see a lot more support for it in 2019.
Mentioning great sounding products, if in previous years we have shared the great impressions we had from Dynaudio's Contour speaker series and the flagship M5P Evidence mastering speakers, this year we would have to highlight the new redesigned Confidence speaker series. At different price levels for consumer and professional applications, the Danish manufacturer continues to deliver really impressive speakers. But the award for best sounding speaker we've heard at high-end shows this year goes to the outstanding Curante full-range, omnidirectional speaker from Bayz Audio unveiled at High End Munich 2018. The Curante represents a complete re-thinking of traditional speakers by utilizing the patented Bay Radial Speaker (BRS), a unique "radial tweeter" design by Zoltán Bay, in collaboration with Frank Nielsen of Danesian Audio, and András Voloscsuk of Composite Project Kft. And the amplifiers, also designed by Zoltán Bay have an important contribution as well...
And because speakers need amplifiers, and there's a lot of homes with high-quality passive speakers that would do great if integrated with modern wireless multiroom setups, we have to mention another great audio product in 2018. 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 and any wireless audio source.

Next week we will look at some outstanding products and technologies in professional audio segments.

From The Vault
A Loudspeaker That Can Play Square Waves?
By Bohdan Raczynski
This article describes a DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technique developed to correct loudspeakers' frequency domain and time domain distortions. The humble square wave is one of the most useful test signals in electronics. The "ideal" square wave is a superposition of an infinite number of sine waves, each contributing its required amplitude and phase. It is due to this very feature that, when passed through an audio system, the square wave can reveal time domain performance issues of the system. This is because all of its sine wave components must be passed by the system without time distortion, or different delays, in order to recombine as a square wave at the output of the system under test. Performance improvements, observed using square wave excitation, are documented here in time domain and frequency domain.This article was originally published in audioXpress, June 2010.   Read the Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
B&C Speakers' 12FCX76 12" High-Performance Pro Sound Coaxial 
By Vance Dickason
This Test Bench characterizes the 12FCX76, a 12" high-performance pro sound coaxial driver from B&C Speakers. This coaxial driver is similar to the 12FHX76, where the "H" designates that it uses a horn-loaded compression driver, while the "C" in the 12FCX76 stands for conical-loaded compression driver (the "F" is for ferrite). The 12FCX76 uses ferrite motors for both the woofer and the compression driver. In terms of features, the 12FCX76 woofer is built on a 12-spoke (six twin-leg spokes) cast aluminum frame with eight mounting holes. The woofer ferrite motor structure - with the compression driver attached to the woofer back plate - is attached to the frame and fires into what would normally be a pole vent. The woofer motor utilizes a 21-mm × 190-mm ceramic magnet sandwiched between a polished and shaped front plate and polished and shaped back plate. A short 70-mm diameter conical aluminum horn attached to the top of the pole piece completes the compression driver. This is covered and concealed by a 4.5" diameter breathable dust cap. As with most B&C Speakers compression drivers, the diaphragm is field-replaceable. The 12FCX76 woofer cone assembly includes a curvilinear front-coated paper cone suspended by a coated-cloth M-shaped surround. A 76-mm (3") diameter voice coil wound with copper wire on a nonconducting former terminated to a solderable terminal block couples the cone to the driver motor. For the high-frequency compression driver, B&C Speakers incorporates a titanium diaphragm coupled to a 75-mm (3") voice coil wound with aluminum wire. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, July 2014.   Check it out here!

AX January 2019: Digital Login
Audio Product Design | DIY Audio Projects | Audio Electronics | Audio Show Reports | Interviews | And More 

Don't Have a Subscription?
VC December 2018: Digital Login
Industry News & Developments | Products & Services | Test Bench | Acoustic Patents | Industry Watch | And More