Industry & Product News
Dirac Live Bass Management Makes Residential AV Market Debut at CEDIA 2019
Swedish sound processing pioneer Dirac announced the residential AV market debut of Dirac Live Bass Management, a unique room acoustics solution that optimizes a system's subwoofers and speakers to deliver consistent, accurate bass throughout an entire room. The introduction will be made at CEDIA 2019, at Colorado Convention Center in Denver, where Arcam, JBL Synthesis, NAD Electronics, and StormAudio will be the first manufacturers to feature Dirac Live Bass Management in their AV products .    Read More

New 2028 Vocal Mic Designed for Live Performance from DPA Microphones
After a considerable period of beta testing and real-world trial, DPA Microphones introduced the 2028 Vocal Microphone, designed to excel in live performance environments and survive the road. The 2028 will compete in a crowded and traditionally conservative market segment by combining a competitive price and DPA's renowned natural sound, which allows all types of vocals to shine. Apart from appealing directly to touring singers, the 2028 mic will also find applications in broadcast and pro AV applications .    Read More

Emotiva Audio Debuts XMC-2 16-Channel A/V Processor Supporting Dolby Atmos and DTS:X Object-Oriented Sound Formats
Emotiva Audio Corp. just introduced its highly anticipated XMC-2 16 channel home theater AV Processor, featuring the outstanding sonics and innovative modular design of the company's flagship RMC-1 processor at a more affordable price point. At a suggested retail price of $2,999, and designed from the ground up as the nerve center of a modern surround A/V system, the XMC-2 processor proves once again that high-end audio doesn't have to be high-priced .    Read More

Audeze Announces LCD-i3 Planar Magnetic In-Ear Headphone with Bluetooth, Lightning, and 3.5 mm Connectivity
Audeze announced the new LCD-i3, successor to the extremely popular iSINE 20 and "little brother" to the LCD-i4. The LCD-i3 features sonic improvements over the iSINE 20, with Bluetooth, Lightning, and standard 3.5 mm connectivity included. By using the magnesium housing and grill design of the LCD-i4, the LCD-i3 reduces unwanted resonance and offers improved resolution over the iSINE 20. The new model uses a 30 mm iteration of Audeze's planar magnetic driver with a neodymium N50 diaphragm, Fluxor magnet array and Fazor phase management .    Read More

Strategy Analytics: Global Smart Speaker Sales Soared 96% to 30.3 Million in Q2 2019
Global sales of smart speakers continued to soar in the second quarter of 2019, reaching 30.3 million units, nearly double the same period in 2018, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics. With a 21.9% share, Amazon remained the leading brand, although its share has fallen from 29.1% in Q2 2018. Google retained second place, followed by Baidu, Alibaba, and Xiaomi. Apple's smart speaker sales increased 81% compared to a year earlier, but its share fell slightly and it remained in sixth place .    Read More

SEAS Announces New Excel Graphene C16NX001/F Coaxial Speaker
SEAS announced its fourth speaker model in the company's new Excel Graphene line, designed for modern high-resolution audio reproduction. The new C16NX001/F is also the first coaxial driver using the magnesium cone treated with the new graphene nano-coating formula. It is the successor to the famous C16N001/F (E0051-04/06) driver from SEAS, implementing all the improvements the company introduced into the W16NX003 woofer, the first in the Excel Graphene series.    Read More

McIntosh Announces Most Versatile Tube Preamp Ever with New DA2 Digital Module
McIntosh announced the C2700 Vacuum Tube Preamplifier, a highly versatile 16-input preamp, which combines 70 years of tube expertise with the latest high-resolution digital audio technology, courtesy of the company's new, upgradeable DA2 Digital Audio Module (DAC) with and native DSD512/DXD 384kHz playback over USB. A reference in home entertainment and high-quality audio, McIntosh designed a highly versatile, featured-packed tube preamp, with support for Dolby and DTS multichannel formats .    Read More

Chirp Announces Data-Over-Sound on Arduino Boards
Chirp, the pioneer of data-over-sound technology and Arduino, the open-source electronics platform, announced the first official integration of data-over-sound on Arduino's range of boards. The partnership with Arduino makes it easier to rapid prototype acoustic networking, and fully support developers with a seamless software-defined solution when building projects using data-over-sound The integration allows to send and receive data wirelessly through soundwaves alone, using just microphones and loudspeakers.    Read More

Editor's Desk
J. Martins

Apple Digital Masters
Why Is Everyone Talking About It?

Two weeks ago in this space I wrote about the importance of the Press Release and its highly relevant role for the media industry, for the audio industry specifically, and for smaller businesses in particular. But even large companies depend upon press release services, including Apple...

It all started with an article from Billboard that stated: "On Wednesday (August 7) Apple Music announced the launch of Apple Digital Masters, a new initiative by the streaming giant that combines all of its "Mastered for iTunes" offerings into one global catalog. This is the company's first public acknowledgement of the initiative, which it has been quietly unveiling for some time."

And suddenly the story was all over the place. But there was one small detail. Apple didn't actually announce anything. Or at least, there was no official press release from Apple to be found confirming the story. All the media simply quoted the Billboard article and Apple's quotes in the story. Very unusual.

The Apple Digital Masters webpage reflects the changes made to the Mastered for iTunes original page.

But actually, there was a press release in our editorial inbox with that story from the same day (August 7). Not from Apple, but from a music artist press agency (BBGun Press) stating: "Apple Music Brings Studio Quality Sound to Streaming with Apple Digital Masters." The release actually says "Apple Music revealed..." and quoted some of their own artists like world-renowned concert pianist Lang, music director Gustavo Dudamel, and record producer Don Was, saying "The audio quality is incredible" - and it was not clear at all what they were talking about. Apart from that, the "press release" was strange because it was distributed talking about "Apple Music" and it was hastily edited, using dubious copy-and-pasted text from different sources (from Apple and even MQA's marketing documents), in an effort to describe what the new Apple Digital Masters "thing" actually was. This was clearly not something from Apple.

The reason why I even mention it (I assume that a lot of the rumors on the Internet were amplified or even generated by this "release") was a sort of "Apple statement" at the end saying: "Apple Digital Masters provide premium quality audio without any additional cost on Apple Music and the iTunes Store. All former "Mastered for iTunes" songs will continue to be available under the Apple Digital Masters program."

And an "additional background" note stated that "Most of today's top releases are from Apple Digital Masters. About 75% of the Top 100 songs in the US and 71% of Top 100 globally are created from Apple Digital Masters."

We couldn't find the source document for those statements.
So, what was this all about?

In reality, "the announcement" (if there ever was one apart from the BBGun document) has to do with the fact that Apple decided to create a new designation - "Apple Digital Masters" - to identify its vast catalog of music, which was delivered according to its "Mastered for iTunes" (MFiT) specifications, a set of procedures for mastering engineers to follow. And the main reason for the change, which happened a few weeks ago, has to do with Apple's publicly stated intention of retiring the existing iTunes app and all "iTunes" references from its products.

This is the BBGun press release that triggered all the rumors...

Since its release in 2012, mastering studios and record labels submitting music for Apple's catalog (files for iTunes downloads and Apple Music streaming) have been applying the MFiT specifications. In Apple's updated note, available here, it clearly says: "Apple Digital Masters" replaces "Mastered for iTunes" as the name of the program to better reflect the fact that these audio advantages are available to our entire music catalog across the Apple ecosystem, whether streamed or downloaded. All "Mastered for iTunes" releases are now badged as "Apple Digital Masters." All of the "Mastered for iTunes" software tools are still usable for "Apple Digital Masters" creation.

Apple announced it is replacing the iTunes app when the new batch of operating system updates (iOS 12, macOS Catalina, the new iPad OS, etc.) will be released later this year (Fall 2019). During its WWDC 2019 keynote event, Apple announced it will be finally retiring the complicated and cumbersome iTunes application with new cross-platform software called simply Apple Music - with some of its current features also migrating to the Apple TV app, the new dedicated Podcast app, and even the OS itself (synchronizing devices).

Apple Music started as a music streaming service and is now the application that replaces iTunes. That's all there is for now.

Nothing else changes in terms of functionality, with users still being able to use Apple Music to manage their own downloaded library, apart from streaming music. Apple Digital Masters is just a name change for all music files that comply with those Best Practices (an industry standard), now labelled to help users to clearly identify those files that offer the best possible quality available in the service.

According to the specifications, files submitted to Apple should be only 24-bit PCM (uncompressed) sources, with no upsampling applied (this is easily detected). If a file only exists in 16-bit @44.1 kHz (which means only the CD master exists and the analog master was probably lost or isn't available), that's it - the file is not "labelled" Apple Digital Masters. 44.1 kHz is also the minimum sampling frequency that should be applied to a submitted 24-bit digital master. If an analog master is available, Apple (and the industry) recommends creating a new 24-bit digital master. The large majority of recorded material submitted today for these services are AIFF or WAV files at 24-bit/48kHz or 96 kHz - including those remastered from analog originals.

Of course, Apple distributes the more than 50 million music titles in its catalog exclusively in AAC (m4a) format, currently at 256 kbps. And the quality is excellent, because for the encoding process Apple also supplies a set of software converter and encoder tools so that mastering studios can control the process and preview the final result, which includes its own set of loudness normalization tools. But the reality is, Apple is actually storing the "originals," including the high-resolution audio material at 24-bit, and those are what are now labeled to the consumer as Apple Digital Masters.

For more about Apple Digital Masters read the PDF document available online.

By creating an earlier set of specifications and Best Practices for delivering masters, Apple is now able to identify the best possible quality they hold in the catalog. Now, the question is, will Apple ever deliver that Digital Masters music catalog with lossless compression (FLAC or ALAC ...or even MQA)? And that's what everyone assumed was being announced with the rumor generated by the Billboard/BBGun story. 

Apple apparently is ready to do it, and paved the way for its users to be aware of the options. Maybe it will come with the new OS updates this Fall. We just need to hear it straight from the horse's mouth .

R&D Stories
Good Vibrations (Part 1) - The Basic Principles of Unwanted Vibrations
By  Norman Varney
In this article, Norman Varney discusses the basic principles of unwanted vibrations in audio playback environments. "When we play back audio, we only want to hear sound waves created from the electromechanical vibrations produced by the loudspeaker. They are the result and intention of the artists. They are the original signals. These are good vibrations. However, for this article, we will focus on the basic principles of unwanted vibrations of audio playback environments," states Varney in the article introduction. A great R&D Story about essential acoustics knowledge. This article was originally published in audioXpress, August 2019 .   Read the Full Article Now Available Here
Voice  Coil Test Bench
Russo 44CD-K Compression Driver from SB Audience, a New Brand from SB Acoustics
By Vance Dickason
This Test Bench characterizes the Russo 44CD-K from SB Audience, a new brand from SB Acoustics. Recently, Sinar Baja has announced a new product category organization for its various brands. SB Audience is now its pro sound product line. For this Test Bench, the company sent the SB Audience 44CD-K, a new FEA-optimized ferrite compression driver from the Russo model line (Russo being the "high performance at an attractive price" line), along with its ABS-250 90° × 90° exponential horn. SB Audience also has two other product lines that include Nero, the "highest performance" line, and Bianco, the "good performance at the lowest cost" product line. The SB Audience 44CD-K has a 1" throat exit, designed for use with 1" horns, and includes a 44 mm (1.75") diameter voice coil wound with round copper wire on a high-temperature Kapton non-conducting former, driving a single piece polyimide diaphragm and surround. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, May 2019 .   Check it out here!

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