Industry & Product News
Axign Completes Investment Round to Enter Production and Boost Audio Amplifier Technology
Semiconductor company Axign B.V., has received an equity investment from KBC Focus Fund as the lead investor, together with Innovation Industries and Oost NL. This investment round enables the Dutch company to mass produce and launch its unique range of audio devices worldwide. Additionally, the new funding will support the development and introduction of next-generation devices for cost-sensitive applications, such as active speakers and streaming audio systems .   Read More
The Simply Divine new Glensound Dante/AES67 Monitor Speaker
British company Glensound is way ahead in the modern network audio world. At ISE 2020, we found Glensound once again with a booth that looks like a dream supermarket for those already working with Dante and AES67 audio networks. And from the same company that already offers the Athens 2 twin RIAA phono preamplifier with Dante/AES67 outputs (!), now comes the Divine, a new monitor speaker that connects to these networks and has a lot to offer .    Read More  

NXP Announces Far-Field Offline Voice Control Solution in Collaboration with Sonos
NXP Semiconductors has announced availability of its voice solution, SLN-LOCAL-IOT, a fully integrated development platform for offline voice control. The solution consists of a full hardware module design and associated software required to implement far-field voice control with a customizable wake word and local commands. NXP also announced market availability of the i.MX RT600 crossover microcontroller (MCU) family, ideal for ultra-low power audio and voice applications .    Read More

Linear Systems Reintroduces LSK389 Ultra-Low Noise N-Channel JFET
Linear Systems reintroduced its most popular part, the LSK389, which the Silicon Valley, CA company calls the industry's first 100% noise tested, ultra-low noise, monolithic dual n-channel JFET. New test capability screens to a billionth of a volt of noise now ensures that all LSK389 devices produce no burst (RTN or popcorn) noise and meet or exceed 1/f and broadband noise specifications. The LSK389 enables developers to create the lowest noise signal chains possible for sensors, professional audio equipment and other application .    Read More  

Sony Announces New Flagship Xperia 1 II Smartphone with 360 Reality Audio Decoding
The Mobile World Congress 2020 in Barcelona was cancelled, but that doesn't keep companies from making their scheduled announcements for the mobile industry. Sony released information about all the new products that it intended to show in Barcelona and there is an intriguing announcement of a flagship smartphone with interesting audio specifications, apart from the usual great quality screen and cameras. The new Sony Xperia 1 II Smartphone even has a 3.5 mm audio jack!    Read More  

Goodix Licenses and Deploys CEVA Bluetooth Low Energy IP in SoCs Targeting Connected Devices
CEVA announced that Goodix Technology has licensed and deployed CEVA's RivieraWaves Bluetooth Low Energy IP in its GR551x series of Bluetooth Low Energy System-on-Chips (SoCs). The GR551x series is designed to help users develop low-power Bluetooth-based products including smart mobile devices, wearables, and connected applications. Goodix just acquired NXP's Voice and Audio Solutions (VAS) business .    Read More  
Zylia Launches ZYLIA Studio v2.0 Software with Significant Improvements on All Fronts
Zylia continues to expand its efforts in the field of 3D audio recording and production, showing a remarkable pace of product development and innovation. The Polish startup has now released the new version of ZYLIA Studio, the company's software dedicated to work with the ZM-1 spherical microphone, which provides an easy workflow of multi-track recording and mixing. The desktop application for macOS, Linux and Windows gained many new features and is now more user friendly .    Read More

Chord Electronics Introduces New 2go and 2yu Hi-Res Music Streaming Devices
Chord Electronics introduced five new products at The Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2020, including the new ULTIMA PRE 2 preamp, the ULTIMA 5, and the ULTIMA 6 stereo power amps, plus the new 2go streamer/server and 2yu digital interface. Making its European debut, the new 2go streamer/server adds both Ethernet and wireless streaming, plus 4 TB of microSD card storage to Chord's Hugo 2 DAC/pre/headphone amp. The 2yu digital interface turns the 2go device into a standalone streamer .    Read More  

Neville's Musings
Neville Roberts

Professional or High-End?
How Does Professional Audio Equipment Stack Up?
I've often wondered how well a piece of professional audio equipment would compare sonically with equipment intended for the domestic market. So, it would stand to reason that the equipment used during the recording and mastering processes should be at least as good as the quality of the equipment we use to play back the resulting media.

The NAGRA VI Digital Audio Recorder Anniversary Edition. A professional recorder that received the TEC Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement in 2009. It is also available in a choice of colors including Slate grey, Midnight blue, and Burgundy red.

Commercial recordings are usually made on professional stationary equipment in recording studios or on portable units taken on location, such as the (now venerable) Nagra VI. This six-channel digital recorder can record up to six channels of 24-bit, 192 kHz PCM onto its internal 120 Gb hard disk and will set you back well over $10,000. It has all the features you'd expect from a professional digital recorder for capturing professional-grade audio in various applications such as concerts, outdoor movie sets, and live shows. However, it's not going to win any awards for its looks, but that's not what you're paying for. 

Having heard first-hand what this recorder can sound like, I can certainly vouch for the high quality of the recordings made by this unit when the signal from studio microphones is fed into the Nagra's internal mic preamps and audio mixer. The playback quality from these recordings through the Nagra is equally excellent. Domestic digital players will certainly look good in a domestic setting, but they are certainly not as rugged as professional equipment. As far as recording is concerned, domestic units tend to focus on ripping CDs to an internal hard disk, which they can do very well. So, I wondered how well the replay sections of the Nagra compare with those of the domestic unit? How much of the extra cost of the professional units is due to their rugged construction?

The current RNHP Precision Headphone Amplifier, based on the headphone output circuit in the Neve 5060 Centerpiece Desktop Mixer, is a dedicated 24 V reference-quality headphone amplifier with specifically calibrated +4 dBu balanced line, unbalanced RCA and 3.5 mm (1.8") inputs. This little unit can drive any pair of headphones without compromise, and hi-fi critics agree this is one of the best headphone amps ever, certainly for the price ($499).

Take, for example, the superb Rupert Neve headphone amplifier. This device was originally designed for use within the company's professional audio mixers. Recognizing that it would work equally well in a domestic setting, the company re-boxed the headphone elements into a box to enable it to connect to a home audio system. Admittedly, the end result still looks a bit like a piece of broadcast equipment, but it really does perform admirably well as a domestic headphone amplifier. In the Rupert Neve case, it also manages this without an extortionate price tag, making it very competitive.

One of the problems with some domestic equipment is that the design seems to focus on issues other than sound quality. It would appear that some manufacturers' high price tags are a reflection of costly bling or gimmicky facilities, rather than high-quality electronics - and the result is a somewhat disappointing sound quality. Alas, I have heard equipment of this type demonstrated at audio shows, where flashing lights seem to take precedence over sonic performance.

Of course, most professional equipment has to withstand the rigors of a recording studio environment or life in the back of a vehicle en route to innumerable recording venues. This degree of ruggedness will cost money, but in my experience, it does not seem to be at the expense of audio quality. Professional audio engineers know what they are doing, and they know what to expect from the audio equipment that's being used. After all, they are accustomed to hearing the live performances that are being recorded or mixed, so if a piece of equipment doesn't cut the mustard sonically, it will not be given space in their recording studio. As well as resulting in a low-quality output from the studio, poor equipment could compromise an engineer's professional reputation.

In case someone needs a reminder, Nagra is also a brand that designs and manufactures extremely high-end products.

There is much debate as to whether the use of balanced cables with XLR connectors will result in a higher quality sound than unbalanced ones, which usually employ RCA phono connectors. One thing is certain, for a variety of technical reasons (read one of the many articles by Gary Galo for more on the topic), balanced cables are far less prone to interference issues over long cable runs, such as those in a recording studio. Of course, the fact that XLR connectors have a built-in locking arrangement also helps to prevent them from being inadvertently pulled out, should someone trip over the cable. I would suspect that this feature is an essential requirement in a studio setting. 

However, it is the opinion of some audio enthusiasts that a good quality screened unbalanced coax cable will deliver higher quality audio over shorter distances, so perhaps this is one of the reasons that they are used in a domestic environment. When it comes to mains cables, the priority for professional power cabling will doubtless be a rugged construction that offers reliable and safe connections in a studio environment or out in the field.

Rupert Neve himself, observing one of the new RNHP Precision Headphone Amplifier units from Rupert Neve Designs.

So, my view is that professional equipment will deliver a top-quality sound, regardless of how they look on the outside. Furthermore, they are likely to outlive a piece of equipment that is destined for the domestic market. However, that doesn't mean that every piece of high-end domestic audio is sonically inferior, it just means that we have to be a bit more selective and spend more time looking after our investment by taking good care of our hi-fi equipment.

Book Review
A Look Inside Sensory Evaluation of Sound
By  Richard Honeycutt
Sensory evaluation is a field of study that bridges physical measurement and human perception, helping us to improve product design and aural environments. Richard Honeycutt reviews this extended work, which was edited by Nick Zacharov, exploring the latest sensory evaluation techniques, specifically applied to the evaluation of sound and audio. This article was originally published in audioXpress, February 2020 .    Read the Full Review Now Available Here
Voice Coil  Test Bench
The BMS 1" 5530ND High-Efficiency Compression Driver
By  Vance Dickason
This Test Bench characterizes a new BMS compression driver, the 1" 5530ND, introduced at Prolight+Sound 2019, as a new generation offering a compact physical package that is only 72 mm in diameter, ultra-low intermodulation distortion ring diaphragm, and very high efficiency. Designed for use with 1" throat horns, the 5530ND has a 25.4 mm (1") throat diameter driven by a 44 mm (1.75") diameter two-layer sandwich voice coil wound on both the inside and outside of the Kapton former with copper clad aluminum wire (CCAW) driving a single-piece polyester diaphragm and surround. Other features include a FEA-optimized neodymium magnet motor structure, a continuous AES-rated power handling of 80 W with a peak power handling of 450 W, a 1 kHz recommended crossover frequency, and 1 W/1 m 117 dB sensitivity measured in a plane wave tube, and 113 dB measured with a 90° × 75° horn. Designated high output applications for the patented design include use in a point source, line arrays, and beam steering arrays. In an array with the 5530ND drivers spaced 72 mm apart, the crossover frequency can be dropped to 850 Hz, which is quite low for a 1" compression driver . This article was originally published in Voice Coil, December 2019 .    Read the Full Article Now Available Here
AX March 2020: Digital Login
Audio Product Design | DIY Audio Projects | Audio Electronics | Audio Show Reports | Interviews | And More 

Don't Have a Subscription?
VC March 2020: Digital Login
Industry News & Developments | Products & Services | Test Bench | Acoustic Patents | Industry Watch | And More