Industry & Product News
New Application Note on Smart Speaker Acoustic Measurements Now Available
Smart speakers are a relatively new class of consumer audio device with unique characteristics that make testing their audio performance difficult. In this new application note, Audio Precision provides an overview of smart speaker acoustic measurements with a focus on frequency response - the most important objective measurement of a device's audio quality. The full document (17 pages) is now available in PDF immediately after filling a request form .    Download the Application Note

McIntosh Labs Launches MA352 Integrated Hybrid Amplifier
McIntosh announced its new MA352 Integrated Amplifier, a hybrid design that combines the finest of vacuum tube and solid-state audio topology principles. Following the wildly successful and lauded MA252 hybrid integrated amp, McIntosh introduces another eye-catching amplifier that is able to reproduce music at the highest quality level with even more power. The MA352 Integrated Amplifier will be displayed at the 2019 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and 2019 CEDIA Expo shows in Denver, CO .    Read More

Schiit Audio Reimagines the DAC and Headphone Amp with Latest Asgard 3 and Bifrost 2
Schiit Audio just released the Asgard 3 amp and modular DAC, and the Bifrost2, the company's latest DAC that features a leap forward in USB technology. As Jason Stoddard, the founder and lead designer of Schiit Audio, explains "what do you do when it's time to replace both of the products that started it all? I mean literally - Asgard was our first product period, Bifrost was our first digital product, and both started out being built in a garage. Well, here's what we do: rethink everything."    Read More

New Bose Portable Home Speaker Ticks All the Design Boxes
Bose announced its new Bose Portable Home Speaker, an ultra-versatile, compact design that combines the convenience of battery power, wireless Bluetooth and Wi-Fi with support for AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect with the ease of voice control in a modern new design. The new Portable speaker also delivers improved 360-degree sound, deeper bass than any other portable smart speaker its size, and weighs a mere 2.3 lbs to effortlessly take music from room to room, around the home, and basically anywhere .    Read More

Klipsch Refreshes Iconic Cornwall Speaker at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019
Klipsch, a VOXX International company, announced that its Cornwall IV speakers from its legendary Heritage series have received modern acoustic and cosmetic updates that further enhance the replication of the live music performance. Visitors to the RMAF 2019 show will have the chance to hear the improved three-way design, now featuring an updated compression driver and substantial electro-acoustic improvements to the mid and high frequency dispersion. The Klipsch Cornwall IV speakers continue to be designed and handcrafted in the USA .    Read More

miniDSP Launches IL-DSP Tiny Headphone Amplifier Based on XMOS xCORE-200
Those tireless folks from miniDSP have done it again! The Hong Kong company just announced IL-DSP (In Line DSP), a tiny USB headphone amplifier with integrated DSP that is the perfect device to insert between any mobile music source and one's favorite headphones. This is a USB Audio Class 2 device interface for PC-Mac-Linux-Android OS with a 3.5 mm stereo jack output that is PCM and DSD capable, and features 10 PEQ filters (IIR correction) to equalize headphones, three button controls and an embedded microphone .    Read More

Prism Sound Test & Measurement Changes its Trading Name to Spectral Measurement
Prism Sound's Test & Measurement division has re-launched itself specializing exclusively in audio test & measurement solutions and trading under the new name of Spectral Measurement. Prism Media Products Ltd., the company behind the innovative dScope Series III Audio Analyzer, will now focus exclusively on developing new audio test & measurement solutions. The move follows the recent announcement that Prism Sound's Music and Post Production division, which incorporates SADiE, has joined forces with the US-based Tracktion Software Corp. and is now operating under the umbrella of Audio Squadron .    Read More

KEF Introduces Q250c Compact LCR Speaker to Award-Winning Q Series Home Theater Range
KEF announced the arrival of the Q250c, a smaller, more compact adaptation of the original Q650c, promising increased versatility and enhancing the user experience even further by offering new placement options. The new Q250c speaker is an elegantly designed LCR speaker with even more set-up options to allow effortless integration into any home theater system. Available in three different finishes (black, white, and walnut), the Q250c retails for $599.99 .    Read More

Pro Audio Technology Expands SR Series Home Cinema Loudspeakers
Pro Audio Technology (PRO), the supplier of high-output loudspeakers and DSP loudspeaker controllers for installed residential systems, announced three new model additions to its SR series of loudspeakers, as well as an innovative new pivot bracket that provides installation flexibility. The new SR-25im, SR-6im, and SR-26im are discreet but superior sounding speakers, ideal for home theater and multi-room audio environments. And, like the rest of the SR Series, all models feature enhanced cosmetics and more discreet enclosures   Read More

Guest Editorial
Nora Wong
(Menlo Scientific)

AES 2019 International Conference on Headphone Technology
It Should Happen Every Year!

The Audio Engineering Society (AES) Headphone Technology Conference in San Francisco, CA will just have concluded by the time you read this. Like the previous conference that was held in 2016 in Aalborg, Denmark, this was a very successful and insightful event for all the participants. The Presidio park venue was also idyllic with the usual crisp waterfront weather.

Perhaps too successful, as the event was sold out before it opened. Targeted for about 200 participants, and as this limit was exceeded by more than 40 people, the brakes had to be applied. The global participation was impressive, from Apple, to Sennheiser, Bose, Shure, Fraunhofer, Harman, Dolby, along with most of the test instrumentation companies such as Listen Inc., GRAS Sound & Vibration, Brüel & Kjær, and HEAD acoustics, as well as many specialized component, materials, and technology suppliers.

Full house for all sessions at the AES 2019 International Conference on Headphone Technology in San Francisco.

While the AES is free of politics, it seems nothing is immune these days. Huawei's booth was empty, choosing not to exhibit and keep a low profile in the US, even though some of the company's technical team attended the sessions.

After all, content for this international conference was simply of the highest level, with some of the most prestigious researchers and experts in binaural hearing and personal audio technology offering keynotes, papers, lectures, and workshops. And while the previous conference in Aalborg offered excellent content in terms of the latest technology trends and cutting-edge approaches to headphone design, this time the content seemed to be not only more diverse in the application field, but there were also many more practical sessions for anyone working in development and specifically on headphone-related areas, from binaural content production, to voice control and microphones.

Between sessions, the exhibitors and posters area of the conference becomes extremely busy.

Practical demonstrations, accessible Tuesday and Wednesday, included a presentation of new MEMS speaker technology from Fraunhofer, a presentation of the Hooke Verse wireless earphones with binaural recording (soon to be reviewed in audioXpress), new surround, 3D audio, HRTF, personalization, and head-tracking solutions for headphones from MediainVision, Sennheiser, Magic Leap, and several universities. Fraunhofer alone, was all over MEMS speaker development with four presentations including electrostatic and piezo technologies.

And talking about MEMS, Vesper was demonstrating its new VM3000 digital MEMS piezo mic. More robust than conventional capacitive MEMS mics, the VM3000 offers high signal-to-noise ratio, water and dust resistance, and an extremely dynamic range, along with the stable characteristics needed for mic arrays. Also featured was Vesper's new VM1010 wake-on-sound MEMS mic - essentially using energy harvesting of the sound to turn on the mic and associated circuitry, enabling applications such as battery operation of smart speakers and voice assistants.

Virtually every consumer electronics company is designing new transducers and headphones using simulation software and COMSOL was one of the AES Headphone Conference sponsors.

And of course, there were lots of headphone test and measurement demonstrations. Listen's founder and president, Steve Temme, presented a poster session on "The Challenges of Testing Smart Headphones" in which he discussed various test methodologies for measuring smart headphones and hearables, covering such topics as active noise cancellation, assisted listening, communications, augmented reality, background noise measurements and more. Demonstrations included measuring AirPods and comparing the response to Harman target curves (including predicted preference), and measurement of smartphone-controlled hearables including adjustable ANC, equalization and hearing assistance.

On display at the Listen booth was a complete setup for testing smart headphones and hearables, featuring Listen's flagship SoundCheck software, along with an AudioConnect audio interface, SoundConnect 2 microphone power supply, and a Kemar head-and-torso simulator.

Bruel & Kjaer released a new "table top" high-frequency Head Simulator type 5128-B. This compact head simulator can be used for testing headphones and earbuds with Bruel's famous high-frequency artificial ears.

Walter Cano from Harman told us that the show was a great experience for experiential, localization and customization in the audio area. At the conference, the company - now owned by Samsung - showcased some products that have sound zone designs such as the JBL Soundgear (the favorite among attendees,) as well as showcasing Harman's flagship AKG N700 headphone, which targets the Harman frequency response curve and allows customization. The AKG headphone is Harman's benchmark headset in regard to audio quality, technology and form factor, featuring advance features such as ambient aware and talk thru. Tru-note helps customize the experience with an auto calibrating headset, which matches the user's auricular anatomy. Harman also showcased the JBL Live 650BTNC headphones, which follow the Harman curve closely with a JBL profile, and showcased JBL's true wireless earbuds, featuring the same ambient aware and talk thru technology. 

Oxeon presented the possibilities of its thin-ply carbon diaphragm (TPCD) technology in headphones. The picture shows a thin-ply carbon headphone diaphragm made from a TPCD dome connected to a thermoplastic surround.

Introducing Flat Baffled 3D Mic Arrays at the headphone conference, German company Harpex was somewhat of an outsider in that its latest offerings relate to the recording of 3D audio. Svein Berge commented that in a (headphone) conference intensely focused on the last inch problem of audio content delivery, and Harpex being best known for its ambisonic signal processing software, the conference was valuable to introduce the company as hardware designers. Harpex showed off prototype microphone arrays of a novel design - shaped like pancakes and dotted with dozens of MEMS microphones on each side - able to provide a panoramic and three dimensional view of their acoustic surroundings. This can be delivered to the next link in the signal chain in the form of a third-order ambisonic signal, or encoded directly into binaural in fifth-order resolution with a noise floor of 29 dB CCIR-468. The large number of visitors to the Harpex stand affirmed that this is a product that will find use in a wide range of applications, as soon as partnerships are in place to develop the project from the prototype stage into commercial products.

Against a picturesque backdrop of the Golden Gate in a shroud of fog, Harpex introduced its Flat Baffled 3D Mic Arrays.

Also extremely busy, Magic Leap and Sennheiser demonstrated a powerful VR package of glasses and Sennheiser's AMBEO AR One in-earphones, the first spatial listening accessory to receive official certification by Magic Leap for augmented reality (AR) applications. The two companies also demonstrated the accompanying AMBEO Augmented Audio Lab app, which enables full control over environmental sound and is targeted for developers and creators working on spatial audio content. Both the video imaging and audio combined reality with superimposed and interactive content. Definitely worth a future article in audioXpress!

This year's off-site activities included the Dolby Labs' San Francisco, CA, headquarter tour on the first day, and the nearby Disney Museum, within the Presidio Park, at the end of the second day. Both were the icing on the cake for a very successful conference.

Kudos to the event team for their huge (volunteer) efforts. It is obvious that the headphone conference needs to become an annual event. Chris Struck of CJS Labs, and the event co-chair, looked shell-shocked when I suggested this.. .


Audio Praxis
Why Doesn't My Stereo Sound Like a Live Concert?
By  Ethan Winer
In this article for audioXpress, "Why Doesn't My Stereo Sound Like a Live Concert?", Ethan Winer explains why acoustics matter and why the fidelity of your audio devices and speakers is not the reason your hi-fi doesn't make your living room sound like you're hearing a concert in a concert hall. As Winer writes, "The real issue is the vast difference in acoustics. Forget for a moment trying to make your hi-fi sound like you're listening to music in a venue, and just consider how musical instruments generate sound. One reason a loudspeaker playing a recording of a violin in your living room doesn't sound like a live violinist playing in your living room has nothing to do with the accuracy of your equipment." This article was originally published in audioXpress, August 2019 .   Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice  Coil Test Bench
The New Faital Pro 6" 6PR160 Midwoofer/Midrange
By Vance Dickason
In this article, I had the opportunity to characterize Faital Pro's new 6" 6PR160 pro sound midwoofer /midrange. This is a driver from the Italian pro sound OEM's extensive line of high power handling mid-bass woofers. Applications for the 6" 6PR160 include use as midbass or midrange in three-way stage or studio monitors, as well as midrange arrays in large PA systems. Features for the Faital Pro 6PR160 are fairly extensive, starting with a proprietary four-spoke cast-aluminum frame, and as with many small diameter drivers, does not have venting below the spider mounting area. Cooling for this driver is provided by a 12 mm diameter pole vent with a 22 mm flared exit. The motor design on the Faital Pro 6PR160 utilizes an FEA-designed neodymium ring magnet fitted with an aluminum shorting ring, using a 37 mm (1.46") diameter voice coil wound with round aluminum wire on a non-conducting glass fiber former. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, July 2019 .   Check it out here!

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