Industry & Product News
Earthworks Microphones Celebrates 25th Anniversary and Launches New Vocal Capsules at NAMM 2020
Earthworks Audio opened for business 25 years ago when the company started building measurement microphones in order to measure the speakers that David Blackmer, the company's founder was designing. When musicians tried Blackmer's measurement microphones for capturing their instruments live, they started coming back for more. Twenty-five years later, Earthworks is announcing new vocal capsules for live sound wireless options, built on the success of its latest SR314 microphone .   Read More
Austrian Audio Launches HI-X Professional Headphones at NAMM 2020
As promised when the company made its first public appearance in 2019, Austrian Audio is now launching the HI-X (High Excursion) professional headphones. Known until now for the OC818 and OC18 microphones for studio and live use, Austrian Audio introduced its new headphone range, designed and constructed in Vienna and made in Austria. At NAMM 2020, Austrian Audio debuted the on-ear HI-X50 and the over-ear HI-X55 headphones .    Read More  

Drop + THX Announce Panda Wireless Premium Planar Ribbon Headphones
Drop, the company formerly known as Massdrop, now also a product design company targeting enthusiasts, announced its first premium wireless headphones, engineered in collaboration with THX. Combining the acclaimed THX AAA linear amplifier with a planar ribbon driver already tested and proven by Drop, the Drop + THX Panda headphones are able to offer 30+ hours of battery life, and were demonstrated at CES 2020, before being made available in the community-driven commerce platform .    Read More  
Nureva Introduces New HDL200 System for Advanced Audio Conferencing in Small Spaces
Nureva announced the HDL200 audio conferencing system, the newest addition to the company's line of advanced audio solutions. The intelligent microphone and speaker bar was specifically designed for the needs of meeting spaces up to 18' x 18' (5.5 m x 5.5 m) and delivers the same consistent and reliable pickup that Nureva's award-winning HDL300 systems deliver for larger spaces. Nureva is also announcing the new Nureva Console cloud-based platform, to support broadscale deployments of Nureva audio systems .    Read More  

Tempow Launches Partnership Program for Chipset Manufacturers to Accelerate Adoption of Bluetooth LE Audio
Tempow, the company that specializes in software-only solutions to enhance the core Bluetooth protocol, announced the release of a new Bluetooth Software Stack for hearables and speakers, with an early prototype of the freshly revealed LE Audio, the next generation of Bluetooth audio. The company also announced a partnership program for chipset manufacturers to use Tempow's implementation. Telink Semiconductor was the first to join the program .    Read More  

Waves Unveils Nx Speakers 3D Audio Technology
The Waves Maxx suite of audio and voice modules with Waves Nx 3D audio already enhances the sound experience on millions of laptops, tablets, smartphones, smart speakers, headphones, and is available on SoCs from the world's foremost chip makers. Now, with the new Waves Nx Speakers audio technology, any music, movie, or game expands into 3D, delivering a 3D audio experience on laptops, tablets, 2-in-1s, and more without subwoofers or special formats .    Read More  
Sonarworks Enables Personalized Audio, Perfected for Any Device, with SoundID
Sonarworks unveiled SoundID at CES 2020, and is also promoting public demonstrations at NAMM, from January 16-19. Combining all the know-how from Sonarworks' professional and consumer technologies, correcting the frequency response of headphones, the Latvian company has now created a new simplified approach, combining software and machine learning to deliver personalized audio, regardless of device. And Sonarworks confirmed that it will be delivering the SoundID experience to  1MORE headphone users in 2020 .    Read More

Panasonic Shows Strong True Wireless Ambitions at CES 2020
CES 2020 will be remembered as the strongest show for true wireless stereo product announcements so far, and also a pivotal moment for technology evolution in the segment. Among the first companies to make a strong statement at CES 2020 was Panasonic - and its affiliated brand Technics - with three different products, two of which already feature one of the most advanced Hybrid Noise-Cancelling Technology platforms currently available .    Read More  

Editor's Desk
J. Martins

Post-CES Impressions
Never Stop Disrupting. Good Enough Is Never Enough!
CES is over but we're just getting started! That's the optimistic vision propagated by many companies that just attended the gigantic Las Vegas, NV, event and left without really knowing if it was a success or not. This is no longer the days when audio companies would leave CES with their order books filled (or not). Currently, all you have are "contacts" and "great meetings" and little else to back up the promises of future business. And that's the most important game at a show such as CES, together with the media amplification effect that new product presentations might have caused.

In contrast, having just started another edition of the NAMM show in Anaheim, CA, which this year occurs shortly after CES (with little more than a weekend in between), there's a real excitement that's palpable on the show floor, with booths literally invaded by enthusiastic users/endorsers/clients and the roar of technology being used - as it's meant. And I'm writing this after just a few hours of quickly walking (running) the show, following press conferences one after another.

That's something that I guess is missing from the giant consumer technology market that is CES, where the actual show floor is mostly void of actual excitement and enthusiasm and business is conducted in meeting rooms and suites behind closed doors. "Well, CES is a trade show, there are no actual users walking the floor," I hear you say. Well, just imagine if there were. Would you see anything similar to the NAMM show?

Brands, brands, brands! The consumer electronics market is merciless in the way it creates, but can also easily destroy brand value.

When I discuss brand value in this or any other industry, I usually mention the T-shirt test. If there is legit excitement about a brand, a company can actual sell a T-shirt with just its logo for $25 and people actually line up to buy one. That actually happens at NAMM, where brands are valued and even the most famous musicians don't mind being seen as endorsers of the brands they use/like, even though they are sponsored by others. At CES, very few brands could sell T-shirts with just their logo. In reality, companies give them away all the time, and do not necessarily generate much excitement from the receivers. "Yes but the visitors at CES are traders, not fans," you might remark again. That's true, but then why do people - even members of the media - rush to grab any type of swag being offered by some companies, completely ignoring giveaways from others?

I think this is something with huge implications when manufacturers struggle in a market where differentiation is an issue. If consumers are already emotionally involved with a brand, it's half the way to gaining the business. Among the main audio product trends that I noted at CES 2020, was a big struggle for product differentiation in the most desirable segments such as wireless headphones and, in particular, true wireless stereo. The technology platforms that are available now from the chipset vendors, are already leveling the field, and in one more year, they will make products even harder to differentiate.

And that's precisely what - in my opinion - is already happening in the wireless loudspeaker segment . At CES 2020, this was extremely clear. There were hardly any new portable speakers, smart speakers, and - surprisingly - very few soundbars (even though we saw many ambitious prototypes in closed rooms). And in many of the meetings with consumer brands, this year companies were giving away Bluetooth speakers, instead of pens or T-shirts. That's a clear sign that the market is totally saturated with me-too products that consumers have trouble differentiating. And after a few years filled with enthusiasm, when even smartphone companies have launched portable wireless speakers, the shelves are now crammed with cheap products that "play sound" and the consumer's perceived value has eroded.

The NAMM Show creates a completely different environment, where users actively engage with the products and the brands. And yet, some companies don't seem to understand those values.

When technology is available to all, and the consumer's perception becomes blurred, it is time to refine the brand's positioning. After all, this is something that the audio industry knows extremely well from high-end audio and the home studio segment, to just name two highly competitive market segment examples where brand value is a valuable advantage.

The 8K Seeming Paradox
At shows such as CES, there are always new trends and new product categories. This year, as all the mainstream media reported, it was all about 8K displays. But mostly everyone who learns about 8K TVs asks: Why do we need 8K? Why would we need an absurd level of image resolution (and gamma detail) when people seem to be perfectly happy with their HDTVs, and they have barely started to appreciate how good 4K displays can be.

Well, there's the answer. We needed High Definition (HD) to have decent quality TV, which the original NTSC/PAL, etc., composite/interlaced formats never delivered. But in that transition, instead of 1080P 60 (P for progressive scanning, which actually means 60 full frames per second, not 30 half resolution frames), broadcasters gave us 720p 30/25 frames per second, or worse, 1080i 30/25 interlaced, essentially used as a way for cable/satellite/IPTV operators to reduce bandwidth and save costs. It wasn't until those same companies started to announce 4K to remain competitive, that we finally started to really receive a decent HD signal (1080P 60, if we are lucky).

Did you ask for a Sony 98-inch 8K TV?

But now, there's actually content being produced in 4K. Movies these days are shot with real 4K digital cameras, sometimes using sensors with more resolution (like 6K or 8K) so they can adopt different aspect ratios without compromising resolution. And in fact, any iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone already delivers 4K video resolution, and so do most of the cheap iPhone knock-offs made by everyone else.

So, the reason why we need 8K displays is to push the content and distribution market forward, so that we are all finally able to enjoy real 4K resolution (which is in fact the same as saying 2,160P - it doesn't sound so sexy, does it?). Eventually, working toward 8K will mean we will be able to get something like 4K at 120P (progressive frames per second), which is the minimum decent frame rate for live action to become something closer to human perception and not movies.

And yes, much in the same way as our smartphones already shoot video at 4K/30, and we can get 4K HDR straight from the Internet, also future TV displays will offer higher effective resolutions than movies, because they use different languages and aesthetics. So, the next time someone says: "we don't need extra resolution," or "no one ever notices," or the like, what they are really saying is, "we are not able to give you the excellent quality that content producers generate and that you deserve."

And in fact, it's a very similar situation with audio quality, when streaming music services  tell you that "no one can hear the difference" between an uncompressed 24-bit/96 kHz master recording and a compressed AAC at 16-bit/44.1 kHz, even though they actually store the master files in their servers. It purely means - we do not have any reason to improve our service, because we make more money this way - and we'll keep on doing it while we can.

Well-designed products at extremely attractive prices. What's missing?

Going back to our discussion about companies struggling to differentiate their offerings, consumer perception getting blurred about products and technologies, and brands being unable to convey value to the consumer, that is precisely what happens when an industry stops pushing forward and embraces a "good enough" philosophy: stagnation.

Should we be shocked with companies pushing the envelope at shows like CES to find the "next big thing"? No, we should be shocked by companies that stop trying, embrace "good enough," and are quickly squashed by disruptors - with or without merit.

Speaker Builder
Back EMF Phase Relationships in Moving-Coil Loudspeakers - Part 3
By  Andy Lewis
In this third article of the four-part series, Andy Lewis continues his fascinating exploration of Back EMF Phase Relationships in Moving-Coil Loudspeakers. The author discusses what causes Back EMF to simulate inductor, capacitor, or resistor (LCR) components, and explores the concept of slip, in order to explain how and why it causes the impedance to be inductive, resistive, or capacitive, depending on frequency. This article was originally published in audioXpress, July 2018 .    Read the Full Article Now Available Here

Voice Coil  Test Bench
The Punktkilde AUGDL0003-JN03 1" Magnesium-Lithium Alloy Dome Tweeter from Eastech
By  Vance Dickason
For this edition of Test Bench we characterized the Punktkilde AUGDL0003-JN03. This transducer, from Eastech's relatively new Punktkilde line of home hi-fi drivers built in China and designed in Denmark by Scan-Speak engineers, is a 1" dome tweeter from its magnesium-lithium alloy product line, which includes this AUGDL0003-JN03 tweeter plus 4" thru 8" magnesium-lithium alloy cone woofers. Features for this transducer include a 1" magnesium-lithium foil dome diaphragm and coated cloth surround, a 79 mm × 15 mm ferrite magnet motor, a 110 mm diameter four-screw cast-aluminum faceplate anodized semi-flat black, a two-layer 25 mm diameter CCAW voice coil wound on an aluminum former, a felt damped hollow pole piece, and copper cap shorting ring (Faraday shield). The tweeter has 89 dB sensitivity and a nominal 4 ohm impedance. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, November 2019 .    Read the Full Article Now Available Here

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