Industry & Product News
Eighteen Sound Expands Tetracoil Dual Voice Coil Subwoofer Series
Prolight+Sound 2019 was a reassuring show for all companies working with Eighteen Sound drivers. The company is now, together with Ciare, part of the B&C Speakers SpA Group of companies. At the Frankfurt show, Eighteen Sound and Ciare had their own separate booths (side by side with B&C), showing lots of new products in all areas of the portfolio. Of course, Eighteen Sound is renowned for its low-frequency drivers, and during Prolight+Sound the company impressed with the new 18NTLW500 next-generation high-performance subwoofer using Tetracoil technology .    Read More

Leema Acoustics Announces Stream IV Streaming CD Player
Leema Acoustics has launched a future-proof CD player for the streaming age, promising an "extraordinarily good value machine" that offers the myriad benefits of music streaming services, seamlessly combined with high-performance CD playback. The next-generation Stream IV (its fourth version) effectively offers two high-performance hi-fi devices in one space-saving player, which, like all Leema products, is painstakingly hand-made to order in Wales .    Read More

BMS Speakers Introduces New Coaxial Drivers and Next Generation 1" Compression Drivers
BMS Speakers introduced several new drivers at the Prolight+Sound 2019 show in Frankfurt, some still in the prototype stage, others ready to enter production. Among those now confirmed to be released are two new patented coaxial designs, including BMS' first 10" coaxial driver, the 10C262, and a new 12" coaxial transducer, the 12C382. Also new are the company's next-generation 1" compression drivers, the BMS 5530 and the 5531, taking BMS' ultra-low intermodulation distortion ring diaphragm to a new standard in size to output ratio, and providing the lowest crossover available at that size .    Read More

Need a Silent PC? Arista Corporation Announces the Stealth Silent Audio Workstation
Arista, a recognized manufacturer of professional AV solutions, announced its Stealth Silent Audio Workstation, featuring 8th Gen Intel i7 processors, combined with fanless silent operation and SSD storage. The solution is ideal for application environments that require an absolutely quiet computer to perform audio recording, editing, and related music/audio creation tasks. With a rich feature set and stellar performance, the Stealth Silent Audio Workstation is ideal for a wide range of projects, including any audio test bench and R&D activities .    Read More

Professional Headphones Market on Track to Exceed $540 Million  
Futuresource Consulting shared some top line trends from its Professional Headphone Market Report and confirms that the pro headphones market achieved global revenues of more than $540 million US in 2018, and is on track to reach nearly $800 million US by 2023. The strategic market segment is expanding in home studio and DJ applications, which in turn vastly influences the wider consumer market. The comprehensive new market report from Futuresource Consulting is now available .    Read More

Simulation On-The-Go with COMSOL Client for Android
COMSOL Client for Android app is now available in the Google Play store. COMSOL Client for Android enables engineers, scientists, and students to run COMSOL Multiphysics simulation applications from an Android device, on the road, and without being limited by device hardware. It is also an ideal solution for anyone who works in the field and needs to have quick access to ongoing R&D work. Another important way to make multiphysics simulation more accessible every day .    Read More

Audirvana Launches Version 3.5 of Its Software Audio Player for MacOS
Audirvana, maker of the renowned audio playback and management software for Mac, has unveiled the redesigned new version 3.5, introducing new Sound Quality enhancements and a completely new User Interface. According to the French software company, Audirvana version 3.5 for Mac was completely rewritten, with benefits on the playback quality compared to previous versions, as well as introducing new features such as the Mini Player .    Read More

Creative Technology Establishes New Benchmarks in True Wireless In-Ears with New Creative Outlier Air
Creative Technology has been investing considerably in new classes of personal audio products and now they announced the launch of its first true wireless in-ear headphones, the Creative Outlier Air. These combine long-lasting battery life, boasting a playtime of up to 30 hours with the charging case, a 5.6 mm graphene driver diaphragm, and a Bluetooth 5.0 implementation with aptX and AAC audio support. The Outlier Air is also certified IPX5 water-resistant with a comfortable fit for all-day wear. All at an irresistible price of $119 .    Read More

Guest Editorial
Mike Klasco 
and  Nora Wong

Tokyo Headphone Festival Spring 2019

Headphones are a hot category and for the higher-end of the audio market, the last remaining mainstream audiophile product category. Head-Fi, the headphone enthusiast website, promotes CanJam global shows throughout the year from the Rocky Mountain Denver, CO show to California, New York City, Singapore, London, and Shanghai. Yet the premier headphone show for launching new products to consumers is in Japan, the most vibrant market for headphone and personal audio products in the world, where the Tokyo Headphone Festival is held at the end of April (Spring edition) and end of October (Fall edition). Now in its 11th year, the Spring 2019 show was the usual hectic event.

Twice a year, Japanese audio retailer Fujiya Avic promotes the largely successful Tokyo Headphone Festival at the Tokyo Nagano Sunplaza, Japan.

The show was held April 27-28, at the Tokyo Nagano Sunplaza meeting complex and was spread over five floors representing more than 200 brands. More than 10,000 headphone and earphone enthusiasts, headphone engineers, marketing people, and agents for the Japanese domestic markets converged over the two-day weekend, which this year also was concurrent with Japan's biggest holiday, signaling the transition of the Emperor.

The show is free to attend and the booth cost is surprisingly low. The business model is that the event is facilitated by Fujiya Avic, a Japanese audio retailer. Many of the exhibitors use the show as an opportunity for retail sales and offer Fujiya Avic excess inventory or other promotional models on consignment. Essentially this is a show for attendees to pick out the earphone or headphone they want and hopefully get a good deal on it before heading home. Exhibitors also get a great deal and everyone is happy.

The Tokyo Headphone Festival is free to attend, and a great opportunity to find not only the latest in headphone technology but also find the best deals.

As to trends, the balance seems to be shifting more toward in-ear-monitors (IEMs) from headphones. With this hardcore audiophile constituency, the impact of consumer wireless Bluetooth, active noise canceling, and 3D signal processing is just a shadow.

The bulk of what was being demonstrated was IEMs using balanced armature (BA) drivers, many packed in along with a dynamic (8 mm to 10 mm) "woofer." Knowles and Sonion are the supreme leaders of what once was considered a hearing aid transducer but now is the defacto premium earphone driver solution. The trend of cramming in as many as nine drivers into an earshell seems nuts to me, and getting all the plumbing into time alignment is quite a chore.

Both Knowles and Sonion have moved their assembly sites a number of times, leaving refugees behind who are now busy with competing BA driver models. Sony has its in-house BAs and another Japanese vendor (supplying Ortofon) has also developed their own BAs.

The Japanese hardcore headphone constituency bends toward esoteric and highly-customized in-ear monitors and the most exquisite and esoteric large over-ear headphone options.

Nora and I were also discussing the custom cable market for IEMs, another product segment with multiple dedicated companies. Let me say that cables for speakers are a bit existential, although there is more than meets the eye (ear?) between the output stage of the amp and its interaction with passive crossover networks. On the other hand, earphone cables are another subject. For earphones, you don't want the cable to pull your in-ears out of your ear, so lightweight, drapeable, thin but low resistance, with high pull (break) strength, non-tangling, and the right construction to minimize microphonics (low body noise transmission to your ears) becomes desirable. Not so easy to pull off!

Meanwhile, the dominant failure mode for IEMS remains in cables and connectors (2-pin, 4-pin, T2, with the MMCX co-ax topology causing plating flaking and shorting out, with the estron T2 type gaining acceptance and the Jack Savior entering the fray. And that is upstream, because the downstream connection - hard-core Japanese IEM enthusiasts carry multiple HRA digital players and DACs, etc. - involves as many options, from unbalanced to balanced, TRRS mini jacks to TRRRS, Pentaconn balanced to multiple-pinned XLR, RSA/ALO, iBasso, and many more, including proprietary wiring for electrostatics. Now, getting it all right is worth a few hundred bucks for a cable. That is tough to swallow (so don't always believe the hype).

There were also the fancy cable vendors, including Roboden, the stretch cable guys from Asahi Kasei (you may know their famed AKM Semiconductor group). Aside from its elasticity, Roboden has very low microphonics and the IEM crowd was positively surprised with the possibilities.

The Roboden display of stretchable cables attracted lots of attention from earphone enthusiasts and headphone engineers.

At the top end of the high-end headphone segment, American companies such as Audeze and Mr Speakers seem to fair quite well in Japan, side by side with their more sophisticated home-brewed brands. Stax was showing its range of fine electrostatics, and Japanese big brands such as Sony, Panasonic, JVC/Kenwood, and others were there in force. But there seems to also be an acquired taste for European brands recently. Top Wing Cybersound was showcasing the Italian headphone Spirit Torino which adopted the isobaric dual driver (autosound) woofer technique into its headphone - two drivers connected in series and moving in sync across the entire audio range. And there was no shortage of huge headphone amplifiers as well as portable earphone amplifiers.

And since we are discussing headphone trends, according to the latest Headphones Market Report from Futuresource Consulting, the headphones market continues its trend of solid growth in volumes and substantial growth in revenue. Unit shipments grew by 5.2% in 2018 to 380.7 million units, creating a retail value of $22.9 billion (+36% year-on-year). As the market research firm predicts, 2019 is projected to be another year of growth, with 5% year-on-year in volume and 14% in value.

True wireless was the main engine of growth in the total value of the headphones market accompanied by the rising ASPs, as consumers demand for new premium features remains strong. You can see it in the streets of Tokyo and everywhere in Japan.

The Fall Tokyo Headphone Festival will be held November 2-3 2019.

Sound Control
Predictive Acoustics and Acoustical Modeling Software:
Duran Audio DDA Software
By  Richard Honeycutt
From March to August 2014, in his Sound Control column dedicated to acoustics, Richard Honeycutt reviewed and wrote a series of articles on the evolution of predictive acoustics and acoustical modeling software, including a review of some of the available tools. This sixth and final article in the series discusses Duran Audio's Digital Directivity Analysis (DDA) software and explores how DDA and Digital Directivity Synthesis (DDS) technologies are able to help sound system consultants and designers simulate and optimize the directional behavior of Duran Audio's Intellivox and Target advanced beam-shaping products. After reading this, you'll better understand why Duran Audio was acquired in 2013 by Harman/JBL Professional. This acoustic prediction software is still available, now as part of JBL Professional solutions. This article was originally published in audioXpress, August 2014 .   Read the Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Focus
Hill Acoustics Mini Anechoic Chambers 
By Vance Dickason
The Hill Acoustics Tetrahedral Test Chamber (TTC) produces consistently accurate results when measuring loudspeakers. Voice Coil received a unit for testing and details the main features and benefits of this solution intended to remove environment and measurement geometry inconsistencies. The new test chambers support loudspeaker measurements to the new international standard IEC60268-21. Using a TTC it is not necessary to work in an anechoic chamber and furthermore the TTC allows measurements below the lower limit of most practical anechoic chambers. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, November 2014 .   Check it out here!

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