Industry & Product News

Amphion FlexBase25 Stereo Base Extension Launched at Musikmesse and Prolight+Sound 2019
Following the unveiling at NAMM 2019 in January, Finnish studio monitor manufacturer Amphion Loudspeakers will launch FlexBase25, for the first time in Europe, during the Musikmesse and Prolight+Sound exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany, April 2-5, 2019 (Hall 8.0 booth J50). FlexBase25 is a tunable bass extension system for Amphion's range of nearfield studio monitors, allowing an exact definition of the complete frequency response as required for recording, mixing, and mastering tasks .    Read More

L-Acoustics Debuts L-ISA Training Program
Noting growing demand for immersive sound productions, L-Acoustics is now offering a worldwide dedicated training program for L-ISA, its object-based mixing technology. At the Prolight+Sound 2019 trade show in Frankfurt, L-Acoustics will be promoting availability of training programs for systems and mixing engineers seeking to implement L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound technology on live events and installations .    Read More

Morel Hi-Fi Introduces Högtalare Wireless Home Speaker Modular Concept
Högtalare is the Swedish word for speaker and that was a deliberate choice since Sweden is the home-base for IKEA, the multinational company that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture. Yes, this new speaker concept comes from Tel-Aviv-based Morel Hi-Fi and, like IKEA's furniture is intended to offer the benefits of high-quality wireless sound for everyone in a modular, affordable and creative way. The Högtalare is designed and manufactured by Morel and is now being promoted on Indiegogo .    Read More

WiSA Association Nearly Doubles Its Members in One Year
WiSA, LLC, the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association comprised of leading consumer electronics brands founded by Summit Wireless Technologies, announced unprecedented first quarter and year-over-year membership growth. Association membership now includes more than 60 of the industry's leading consumer electronics, audio, and original design manufacturer (ODM) brands, encouraged by the interoperability possibilities of the technology .    Read More

Genelec to Redefine Headphone Monitoring with Aural ID Software Technology  
Genelec, a global reference in active monitors for studio applications, announced what the Finnish company describes as "a significant first step in improving the trustworthiness of headphone listening," through the introduction of its new Aural ID software. The technology is the result of a development effort initiated in 2017, in a joint venture between Finnish HRTF modeling specialists IDA Audio and Hefio Oy to develop personal optimization for headphones .    Read More

Murata Announces Lowest Power Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5 Combo Module for Portable Audio Applications
Murata has collaborated with Cypress Semiconductor to develop the Type 1LV (CYW43012) solution that the company states is the lowest power, small form factor Wi-Fi and Bluetooth module currently available. This product improves battery life in wearables, smart home products, and portable audio applications. When comparing Type 1LV (CYW43012) to the previous Type 1DX (CYW4343W) solution, power usage is approximately 54% lower in DTIM 1, 60% in DTIM 3, up to 50% for 2.4 GHz RX, and 28% for 2.4 GHz TX .    Read More

Lavoce Shows New Large Solutions for Lower Frequencies at Prolight+Sound 2019
Lavoce Italiana is getting ready for one of its most important catalog expansions in the company's more than 30 years designing and manufacturing loudspeakers. Not only will Lavoce will be distributing its latest 2019 Product Catalog, but it also has several exciting new drivers to show during Prolight+Sound 2019 in Frankfurt. Probably the most visible at the booth will be the new range of large voice coil, high power handling 18" and 21" subwoofers .    Read More

Made in Vienna. Again! Austrian Audio to Debut at Prolight+Sound 2019
Promising eight new products at a single event is reason enough not to miss what will be also the worldwide public debut of a completely new brand with a very respectable pedigree. Reborn from the ashes of the closing of AKG in Austria, Austrian Audio is the new company that promises to excite the market with high-quality microphones and headphones, "Made in Vienna. Again!" Already teased for the Frankfurt event are new microphones, headphones, and audio test and measurement and QC solutions .   Read More

Guest Editorial

Mike Klasco 
and Nora Wong
(Menlo Scientific, LLC)

JEC World 2019  - Global Composites Show
The Secret for Better Speakers and Enclosures

Writing this on a long flight home from the JEC Global Composites show held March 12-14 in Paris, France. While targeted at high-tech materials for the aerospace industry, the audio industry has always been interested in the new technologies that "trickle down." For our readers who wonder where we find many new materials for speakers and enclosures, you now know our secret source.

The life of an audio consultant demands attending all sorts of specialized shows. JEC World provides great insights into the world of composite materials.

JEC World has grown over the years and moved from the city convention center to the newer Paris Nord Villepinte venue near the Charles De Gaulle airport. Not a boutique show, rather an epic extravaganza of advanced materials with more than 43,000 trade attendees and 1300 exhibitors spread over a half dozen halls, along with pavilions from 27 countries.

This year the automotive industry expressed interest with quite a few first and second tier industry giants, and a wide and diverse selection of sub-components (seat assemblies, modules, etc.) from downstream automotive supply chain guys as Valeo, Faurecia, Meggitt, and others. Carbon fiber bodied BMWs, Aston Martins, along with all sorts of esoteric sports and race cars adorned a number of booths.

As innovation and value-engineered composites strive to win the lottery with the automotive industry, these solutions also fall in the BOM budget range where strong impact resistance, lighter weight, waterproof and UV resistance counts, not to mention the high-tech aesthetics of carbon fiber. But to get a sense of what has changed, let's step back a bit. Traditional composites were composed of fabric and thermoset binders. The materials were typically laid up over the tooling and cooked in a large oven (autoclave). The materials and entire process is both labor intensive and time consuming, limited to short runs or one-offs from fiberglass boat hulls, sports cars (from the Corvette to many funky British sport cars) and aircraft.

Then things shifted from thermosets to thermoplastic binders for applications such as automotive interiors - and of more interest to most of us - speaker enclosures and speaker cones. It is not just the cost of materials but the high speed of fabrication that is bringing carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics (CFRTP) into audio budgets. If weight is not a big consideration, then woven glass can bring cost down another notch.

New alternative materials with vast possibilities for many products, including audio systems and loudspeakers.

There were about 1300 exhibit booths and I won't drag you through them, but here is a quick look at a half dozen that should be of interest and I am following up on more in future updates.

Teijin Group was founded in Japan, but has development and even production at global locations. Teijin's applications range from aerospace, automotive, marine, civil engineering, energy, oil and gas, sporting goods, heat and flame protection, and ballistics, not to mention materials for loudspeakers. Teijin may be familiar to many readers as TeijinConex is used in high-performance spiders and Teijin's Technora aramid is found in lead-out flex wire and in speaker cones. Teijin's Endumax Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) provides superior strength, dimensional stability, lightweight and durability as demanded in ballistic protection - and speaker cones.

Covestro's huge booth featured Maezio, a new material where carbon fiber's high strength for a given weight is needed but without the excessive cycle time and costs associated with thermoset carbon fiber fabrication. Covestro, is a spin-off of Bayer Material Science, a world-leading supplier of high-tech polymer materials. Maezio is a continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite (CFRTP). Made from carbon or glass fibers, impregnated with polycarbonate (PC), thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), or other thermoplastic resins, Maezio products are made as unidirectional reinforced tapes and sheets for formed sections that would, for example, result in lightweight, aesthetic headphone headbands. 

For deeper draw parts, such as ear cups chopped Maezio can be injection molded (from manufacturing waste from sheets). Covestro has addressed the main issues surrounding the production and use of composites - cost-effective, scalable manufacture of a high performance, sustainable material as well recyclable. Maezio works with existing thermoforming tools at high yield rates and low cycle times - a feature that can be vital when manufacturing scales are in the range of millions of parts per year. Other production technologies appropriate for Maezio include hybrid injection molding, automated uni-directional tape laying, and automated fiber placement. Covestro is providing Maezio materials to the audio industry for application-specific evaluation and confirmation trials.

INEOS thermoformable Stylight is another example of a new generation of composite materials for speaker enclosures.

INEOS Styrolution has introduced Stylight aesthetic and structural thermoplastic composites for forming into car interior parts. Applications that come to mind are for compact full-range drivers for smart speakers and soundbars, but also for the enclosures. Stylight is a thermoformable sheet (positive and negative mold) composed of two key components; a woven carbon fiber or woven glass fabric and a binder. Resins used as the binder are styrenic copolymers for enclosures and most recently, polypropylene for speaker cones. Obviously, the Stylight sheet thickness optimum for enclosures versus speakers will be different with a range of 0.25 mm up to 2 mm. While the fiber fabric plays a key role in the mechanical performances of the material, the polymer matrix has a great influence on the part surface aesthetics. Stylight offers the low "surface waviness," allowing high gloss surfaces direct from the mold that are also easy to paint or decorate with foils. The translucency of natural StyLight enables backlighted surfaces or "carbon fiber look". Stylight is a new combination of aesthetic and structural stiffness, low weight and cost-efficient production.

Oxeon of Sweden had a large display featuring its TeXtreme thin ply carbon diaphragms - a new category of speaker diaphragms featured in the cover story of the February 2019 issue of Voice Coil. The Swedish carbon fiber fabrication specialist has developed a computer controlled weaving process, enabling stronger and lighter membranes. TeXtreme is created by arranging layers of carbon fiber in an optimized manner and has exceptional results in trials for a wide range of speaker applications.

Advanced carbon reinforcements, like Oxeon's TeXtreme thin ply carbon diaphragms are the foundation for all kinds of new lighter, stiffer, and great looking products.

Victrex  is a company known in the audio industry as the inventor of Aptiv PEEK, a superior polymer film used in microspeakers, headphone diaphragms, ribbon planar diaphragms, and SMT chip capacitors. A recent development is injection-molded carbon fiber PEEK thermoplastic composites in a joint venture collaboration with Tri-Mack for aerospac e applications.

For those with good memories, more than a decade ago  Propex introduced CURV  and the material created a lot of interest for speaker cones. CURV self-reinforcing (no binders) polypropylene is a relatively low cost thermoplastic, combining the versatility of a 100% thermoplastic with the high performance of a fiber reinforced composite. High stiffness, high tensile strength and outstanding impact resistance at low density - half the weight of glass-reinforced materials with higher resistance to temperature extremes.

Propex CURV improved self-reinforcing polypropylene is a low-cost alternative for speaker cones.

CURV has great success in the luggage industry. When formed properly into a cone or dome it reaches performance comparable to woven composites, yet pricing is just above extruded PP sheet cones. Sophisticated European boutique brands as SEAS and Wilson Benesch mastered the technique of forming without degrading CURV's molecular grain orientation, but back at its initial introduction the Asian process of vacuum thermoforming cooked the "nutrients" out of CURV. Frankly quite a shame, as CURV would be an ideal diaphragm for a full-range soundbar. It is time for another look.

As these and other new materials reach production in speaker products, we will keep our readers posted .

Practical Test & Measurement
Attenuators for Measurement
By  Jonathan Novick
In this article for audioXpress' Test and Measurement Focus edition, Jonathan Novick explains why the use of external attenuators are an effective and cost-effective way to measure signals above the maximum input voltage of an audio analyzer. Novick explains why there needs to be some consideration of the topologies and different attributes offered by such components for audio noise measurements. He compares the impact different attenuators' thermal noise will have on measurements of distortion. "At low test voltages, the added thermal noise of the attenuator is of primary concern. At high test voltages, the heat dissipation in the external attenuator is of primary concern. For this reason, it can be handy to have multiple attenuators of similar attenuation but with different impedances on hand," he writes in the introduction. This article was originally published in audioXpress, March 2019 .   Read the Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
Radian Audio Engineering 745PB 1.4" Compression  Driver
By Vance Dickason
In this Test Bench, I characterized the 745PB 1.4" compression driver from Radian Audio Engineering. Based in Orange, CA, Radian is a serious player in the OEM loudspeaker component business, the sound contractor/fixed installation market, and the portable/tour sound industry. If you are familiar with Radian compression drivers, or have read some of the past explications of Radian neodymium compression driver Test Bench reports, the 745PB has the expected rich feature set of other Radian compression drivers. This includes a 1.4" throat diameter, a 165 mm × 19 mm ferrite magnet motor, high-temperature 76.2 mm (3") diameter polyimide voice coil former wound with a copper-clad aluminum edge-wound ribbon wire voice coil, 75 W continuous power handing (150 W program power handing), a self-aligning field-replaceable diaphragm assembly, and the most important feature - a proprietary processed and hardened aerospace-grade aluminum alloy diaphragm over a three-slit phase plug. Although Radian does not produce horns for its compression drivers, it does measure its compression drivers with Eminence horns, and provided an Eminence H14EA 60° × 40° 1.4" exit cast-aluminum exponential horn. Subjectively, this speaker is incredibly musical, detailed, and extremely easy to listen to - certainly a goal for all monitors . This article was originally published in Voice Coil, December 2018 .   Check it out here!

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