Industry & Product News
Como Audio Announces New SpeakEasy Real Smart Speaker with Two Channel Stereo System and Bluetooth Turntable
There's a new generation of users who want to combine a great music experience with the convenience of the latest streaming and voice-controlled technology. Tom DeVesto, the founder and CEO of Como Audio, understands this and designs solutions for that user profile who basically wants simplicity. For those users, Como Audio has introduced the new SpeakEasy Stereo System, which provides an authentic stereo listening experience, and can be connected with its new Streaming Turntable, for those who want to play records wirelessly all over the house!    Read More


XMOS Introduces New Voice Processor and Far-Field Voice Development Kit for Amazon AVS
UK-based XMOS launched its next-generation voice processor - the XVF3510. The two-mic voice processor boasts all the performance of a four-mic solution, and will be available at a market-leading cost of $0.99 per unit, paving the way for mass market implementation. The new processor is now available as part of a new development kit, optimized for far-field applications in TVs and set-top boxes, which allows manufacturers to embed Alexa or other voice engines into their products.    Read More


Industry Celebrates 35th Annual TEC Awards Nominees
The NAMM TEC Awards are the pro-audio and musical instrument industries' most prestigious awards, celebrating the spirit of innovation and honoring best-in-class products in the pro-audio community. A panel comprised of leaders in the audio and production industries carefully evaluated each candidate product before selecting the entries. Nominees were announced at last week's Summer NAMM, and winners will be announced during the annual TEC Awards ceremony during the 2020 NAMM Show on January 18, 2020 .    Read More


RHA TrueConnect True Wireless Earbuds Now Available in White and Blue
Not every company can afford to just keep one single SKU of a tremendously best-selling product and make it available every single color as long as it's... white. Or black, in the case of the well-designed TrueConnect true wireless earbuds from Scottish personal audio specialist RHA. For those looking to make a statement, RHA has announced that the TrueConnect TWS are now available in Navy Blue, Cloud White, and the original Carbon Black .    Read More



Audinate Announces Dante Reference Design for Popular NXP i.MX 8M Mini ARM-based Applications Processor
Audinate and NXP Semiconductors have collaborated to introduce a new reference design kit for the popular NXP i.MX 8M Mini QuadLite SoC - providing Dante audio-over-IP to OEMs as on-chip software. Following the announced shift from purpose-built hardware to software-based solutions running on standardized hardware, and a similar agreement to supply software running on Linux for x86 and ARM processors, Audinate now extends the support to NXP's i.MX 8M processors .    Read More


CEVA Acquires Hillcrest Labs Intelligent Sensor Technologies Business from InterDigital
CEVA announced the acquisition of the Hillcrest Laboratories, Inc. (Hillcrest Labs) business from InterDigital. Hillcrest Labs is a leading global supplier of software and components for sensor processing in consumer and IoT devices, and the acquisition extends CEVA's connected technology portfolio with highly complementary sensor processing technologies that have powered more than 100 million devices .    Read More


Avid Expands Audio Control Surface Portfolio with New S4 and S1 Models
During its own Avid Connect Live event in Nashville, TN, anticipating another edition of Summer NAMM 2019, Avid unveiled two new audio control surfaces - the Avid S4 and Avid S1 - designed for professionals at smaller facilities and project studios. These incredibly sophisticated, powerful, and versatile modular products provide audio engineers, producers and musicians with the most integrated and yet affordable control solutions, both scheduled to be available later in 2019 .    Read More


DSP Concepts and CEVA Partner to Streamline Audio/Voice DSP Software Development for High-End Sound Applications
CEVA, a leading licensor of signal processing platforms and artificial intelligence processors for smarter, connected devices, and DSP Concepts, a global developer of audio processing tools, announced that DSP Concepts' industry-leading Audio Weaver tools and TalkTo voice front-end now support the CEVA-X2 and CEVA-BX family of DSPs. Audio Weaver is already being used by a number of companies that are leveraging the design tool to develop advanced audio and voice applications for their CEVA DSP-based designs .    Read More

Neville's Musings
Neville 
Roberts



Audio Cycles
Hi-Fi versus Low-Fi


In the days before Hertz, we quoted audio frequency responses in cycles per second. But when it comes to hi-fi, it's not just frequency that runs in cycles.

So many things in life seem to go in cycles. Things come into fashion and then go out of fashion, only to come back again, perhaps under another name, some decades later. I always like to consider myself a smart dresser and was considered by many people to be one of the best dressed men of 1969. The problem is - that was in 2008.

The Leak Trough-Line II FM tuner from the 1960s. Once considered extinct, now is often sought after as one of the finest sounding tuners ever made, especially upgraded like this one and fitted with the latest stereo decoder.

Anyway, back to audio. The turn of the 19th century saw the introduction of recorded music in the form of phonograph cylinders and later 78 RPM shellac records. Technology moved on and shellac was replaced by vinyl and this resulted in a huge improvement in audio quality. The rotational speed was reduced to 33 RPM and that, together with intelligent spacing of the groove, meant a significant increase in the length of recorded audio. By the 1960s, people could choose the quality of sound they wanted, from a mono auto-changer, to hi-fi stereo separates. Records were produced in stereo but were equally playable on mono systems.

Similarly, with home recorders, wire recorders were replaced by tape machines as technology advanced and audio recording could be undertaken in average quality mono at 3.75 IPS tape speed or hi-fi stereo at 7.5 IPS, but using the same audio tape. Reel-to-reel machines sat alongside cassette recorders that have a very slow tape speed and were originally only suitable for use as dictaphones. However, improvements in both the design of cassette recorders and the quality of cassette tape meant that they too could form part of a hi-fi setup. Later on, special audio tapes were made for the audio enthusiast and the tape machines had adjustable settings to cater for this new range of media. 

In parallel with all this, radio progressed from AM to FM and FM stereo. Once again, the same FM transmissions could be received on cheap portable mono FM radios as well as hi-fi stereo tuners - the consumer could choose.

For more than four decades, when it came to playing music of your own choice, purchasing a record was generally the only option for most people.

Then came digital! Based on the techniques that had been developed for video recording, Digital Audio Tape (DAT) allowed home digital recording and "indestructible" CD media was sold for commercial recordings. These digital formats offered the benefit of having no background noise on recordings and this bode well for a new era of "studio quality" audio becoming available to all. However, the discerning listener soon realized that some compromises in audio quality had been made in order to make CDs easily produced and portable. It also became apparent that CDs were not as indestructible as was originally thought.

Moving on two decades, downloads of digital music could now be purchased. Sadly, the MP3 format was (is?) the most widely available, although higher quality FLAC formats can be obtained at an additional cost to cater to the audio enthusiast. 

Originally, recordings were made available to the masses in progressively higher quality as technology advanced and the quality you heard depended on what equipment you chose to play it on. Now, quality is being traded for quantity and convenience. Hi-fi audio is considered to be a minority interest, with audio enthusiasts being charged a premium for higher quality media.

Are consumers no longer interested in high quality? I don't think so. We seem to have come full circle. Vinyl LPs are still very much alive and kicking. Professional analog tapes seem to be having a revival of their own. Additionally, higher resolution digital formats are creeping in. For example, MQA is a new method of storing recorded music in high quality in a file that's both small and convenient to download or stream. It looks to me as though we're back on track with quality becoming increasingly important. But, with the enormous range of audio formats available nowadays, what quality do people actually want?

When I pop out and walk down the road to post a letter, most of the people I pass - children on their way to school, cyclists on their way to work, and joggers on their way to becoming more healthy - are listening to music on earphones. It seems to me that more than ever, we do not want to be separated from our music whatever we are doing.

The original 1979 Sony Walkman was apparently created because Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka wanted to be able to listen to music on long flights.

With the coming of digital audio, there has been an explosion of different types of available formats and a broadening of audio qualities. The choices have never been greater for the consumer. Alongside the analog formats that are refusing to die, we now have digital radio, which appeared in the UK at the end of the 1990s, Internet radio and streaming services in various digital qualities, as well as digital downloads for purchase, again in different qualities, including high-resolution lossless formats for the audiophile.

I believe that even the low bit-rate streamed files and digital radio are superior in quality to the low-fi music of yesteryear and are perfect for background music listening. Nowadays, we would not tolerate tape hiss, AM interference, or listening to music on a voice quality bandwidth audio device (excluding the music-on-hold we are treated to on the telephone). At the other end of the spectrum, we are now able to enjoy true "professional quality" hi-fi reproduction, thanks to high-quality vinyl and high-resolution digital audio, coupled with improvements in the reproduction technology.

However, there is still a place for different audio qualities as they are appropriate in different situations. Just like the people listening to "Music While You Work," the low quality afforded by AM radio was perfectly acceptable to the listeners at the time as non-intrusive background music.

Back in the 1940s in the UK during World War II, the BBC General Forces Programme broadcast "Music While You Work" twice daily in the UK. The belief was that the productivity of workers could be raised by playing a non-stop medley of popular music during the working day. The program turned out to be so popular that it transitioned to the BBC Light Programme after the war, and it continued to be broadcast until September 1967 when light music moved to BBC Radio 2. 

Of course, with regard to audio quality, most people had a choice of one - the relatively low quality offered by AM radio with all of its interference issues and receivers that had a limited frequency bandwidth. Although higher quality FM radio began transmission in the UK in May 1955, it wasn't until the early 1960s that it really became a higher quality alternative to AM. FM slowly grew in popularity throughout the rest of the decade and especially when commercial broadcasting commenced in 1973.

When it came to playing music of your own choice, purchasing a record was generally the only choice for most people, with pre-recorded reel-to-reel tapes being an option for the enthusiast. When the stereo 8-track cartridge was introduced in 1963, it could be considered one of the first portable personal music players. It was often fitted to cars to enable people to choose, for the first time, the music they wanted to listen to while on the move. With its tape speed of 3.75 IPS, it was not as good quality as an open-reel machine running at 7.5 IPS but it was certainly good enough for background music in a car.

It wasn't until the 1970s that high-quality pre-recorded Dolby cassette tapes offered a choice of media for the masses. This resulted in the first truly portable personal music player with the Sony Walkman being released in Japan in 1979. This heralded a change in music listening habits, allowing people to carry their music of choice with them and listen to it through lightweight headphones. This, of course, was followed by the release of the compact disc (CD) in the 1980s, starting the digital revolution.

Original Apple iPod advertising. The first iPod was released in 2001 and allowed users to have "1,000 songs in your pocket."

Nowadays, people who are walking, cycling, or indeed driving to work are not usually listening intently and analytically to music, but are enjoying the music to complement their environment. For example, when I have people round for a meal and a chat, I want any music playing to be firmly in the background so I can concentrate on the discussions. So, I don't have my hi-fi running full tilt in this situation.

Therefore, your choice of music resolution is now more to do with convenience rather than quality .
                   
Fresh From the Bench
Dayton Audio HTA20BT Hybrid Stereo Tube Amplifier
By  David Logvin
 
David Logvin had the privilege to use, measure, and put to the test the Dayton Audio HTA20BT Hybrid Stereo Tube Amplifier. As he could confirm, there's something special in this amplifier that combines a tube preamp and Class-D power stage, which can also be used as a headphone amplifier, and features a digital media player and built-in Bluetooth streaming capabilities. All at a very affordable price and with the build quality of a Dayton Audio product. This article was originally published in audioXpress, July 2019 .   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Focus
Loudspeaker Enclosure Materials (Part 1)
A Review and Look Ahead
By Mike Klasco  (Menlo Scientific, Ltd.)
 
Mike Klasco (Menlo Scientific, Ltd.) reviews and looks ahead at all the materials and design approaches for loudspeaker enclosures. As he writes, "No matter how much effort is spent on the loudspeaker driver design, the enclosure characteristics are still a significant factor in achieving smooth response, controlled bass, and defined stereo image. At the most basic acoustic level, the speaker enclosure's purpose is to isolate the woofer's back wave from the front. This is needed to avoid the front and back radiation from the cone from canceling each other. Enclosures also need to provide a rigid structure to support the drivers with minimum panel resonances." This article discusses enclosures using wood, MDF, plastic, plastic composites, moldable materials, and coatings and pairings for those materials, while also looking at new cutting-edge bio-plastics materials. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, March 2019 .   Check it out here!

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