Industry & Product News
audioXpress Opens Up During Lockdown! Free Access to Digital Editions
As everyone adjusts to the pandemic challenges and a stay-at-home routine, here at KCK Media we've been looking at how we can contribute by helping everyone learn, stay connected, and be entertained. We've already offered free digital access to all our print subscribers, and we are offering 12 free issues with any 1-year digital subscription purchase, but we thought we should take it one step further. So, we've decided to offer our publications - Circuit Cellar and audioXpress - to everyone for free for the next 3 issues, and we are making the May, June, and July issues available in a dedicated digital subscription viewing platform. Read. Learn. Build. And perhaps discover a new passion. Get access here .   Read More
Listen Presents Working from Home with SoundCheck Video Series
Recognizing that working from home, away from the audio lab, is restrictive for many audio engineers, the support team at Listen, Inc. has produced a series of videos outlining some of the things that users can do using SoundCheck without all their usual test hardware, enabling developers and audio engineers to be productive when working from home. The videos span from cleaning up test sequences, to exploring offline analysis, using the recall step, learning the new SoundCheck 18 features, and more .    Read More  

Dirac Live Bass Control Now Available Through Leading Home Theater Manufacturers
Swedish sound processing pioneer Dirac announced that Dirac Live Bass Control, the latest feature of Dirac Live room correction, is now officially available on multiple home theater systems and in a range of products from a series of leading AVR manufacturers. Dirac Live Bass Control measures and phase corrects both the speakers and subwoofers across all frequencies to produce enhanced bass clarity and improved bass tone evenness throughout the room .    Read More

Waves MaxxAudio Mobile Powers Stereo Speaker Sound on New Premium Phones from Motorola
Waves Audio has teamed up with Motorola Mobility (a Lenovo company) to bring mobile sound to the next level in the new Motorola edge premium smartphones. Recognizing that more people want a better speaker sound experience from their phones, Motorola has paired its latest bezel-less display with the largest stereo speakers available in a smartphone powered by Waves. The Waves MaxxAudio Mobile audio technology suite is already implemented in the Motorola best-in-class stereo speaker system of the latest Motorola edge+ phone .    Read More  

Sonos Announces New Sonos Radio Streaming Service
Sonos has launched Sonos Radio, a free, ad-supported streaming radio service, exclusively available in more than 10 million homes globally that use Sonos hardware. Complementing the 100+ streaming options available on Sonos, the new service introduces a cohesive way to explore radio, with a broad selection of radio available around the world today, bringing together more than 60,000 stations from multiple streaming partners alongside original programming from Sonos .    Read More  

Klippel Announces Klippel Live Conference Series Focused on New IEC 60268-21 Measurement Standard
How can you apply the new IEC 60268-21 standard in practice? Or how can you investigate speaker-room interaction? And what is the best way to measure and interpret signal distortion? These and other topics will be discussed in the new free webinar series Klippel Live promoted by the leading electro-acoustical test equipment manufacturer. The online conference series aims to educate and support loudspeaker designers and manufacturers around the globe while restrictions for traveling, in-person events, and trade shows are still in place .    Read More  

DB Enterprises Now Offering Headphone Drivers Using Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR) Surrounds in Standard Configurations
DB Enterprises announced availability of four new off-the-shelf headphone drivers from VM Sound using liquid silicone rubber (LSR) surround technology. Available in 7 mm, 9.2 mm, 13.4 mm, and 40 mm sizes, these drivers are available with different diaphragm materials, including Nomex, aluminum, and magnesium alloy. VM Sound's Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR) surrounds can be used with paper, metal or composite drivers, enabling a very high precision, high performance, and high yield method of constructing headphone drivers and microspeakers .    Read More

Audiomatica Releases CLIO 12.5 and CLIO Pocket 2.1 Analyzer Software
As many of its users already found out, audio test and measurement company Audiomatica has released a software update to its CLIO family of products with multiple new functions. CLIO 12.5 is dubbed by Audiomatica as "the next step forward" in the software, supporting and driving its existing FW-02 audio interface and ready to accommodate future developments. Operating system support has been extended to the latest Windows 10 (now supporting Secure Boot) and already offering 64-bit support .    Read More  

Editor's Desk
J. Martins

Communications and Working Remotely
Audio Quality in Communications
In my previous editorial for The Audio Voice, two weeks ago, I intended to discuss the topic of Audio Quality in Communications. Instead, I got carried away with the current work-from-home scenario and focused essentially on the lack of a universal "call" protocol for communications: Phone numbers, an apparently simple concept, are incredibly effective and we need something like that for the Internet in general. (And I better not say any more, so we don ' t get back to it :)

In the middle of the controversy around "calling" and sending "meeting invites," which is plaguing everyone during this unexpected stay-at-home situation, I briefly mentioned the obvious communication problem of bad quality audio - mainly the result of inadequate use of resources, lack of adoption of (existing) standards and technologies, and deficient systems integration. And of course everyone's problems dealing with technology in general. It shouldn't have to be that way.

Whatever the software used, manufacturers like Poly have certified communications headsets such as this Blackwire 3300 model for Skype and Microsoft Teams integration, as well as many new headset and USB speaker phone products to be launched in 2020. But all those were designed to be used in slightly different scenarios than what we have now.

Before I touch upon communication standards, codecs, and our global system of interconnected Internet Protocol (IP) networks, I am going to focus on the basic quality problems of web conferencing and other forms of IP communications from home, or anywhere outside of a proper conference/meeting room, starting from the input - before the audio signal reaches the "lines," and obviously the reception side.

This newsletter is targeted at professionals in the audio industry, so in no way do I think it would be appropriate to write about basic audio tips for capturing audio, whatever the application. We know our readers are the developers of so many of the products used in this context, that it would be like teaching mass to the pope.

But what I also know, from talking exactly to those very same professionals over the years - and now during these particular circumstances - is how frustrated they all are with the state of things. Of course everyone is surprised with what happened in this pandemic emergency, and how things are working out. People are isolated, locked at home, working remotely, and they use what they have, with whatever is at hand. Over the years, so many technology and standardization efforts were put in place that they should have improved communications and audio quality in those applications, but the truth is, we are far away from what could have been possible. And the results can be seen, and heard...

Audio Considerations
To have some audio quality at home should be quite simple really. Assuming there are no dogs barking or babies crying close by, all we need to do is to choose a small area of the home to make speaker calls - having the acoustics of a full, highly reverberant room, or calling from the garden facing the wind doesn't help at all. Using a corner, or any cozy environment really (pillows are great), avoiding large reverberant surfaces, like glass windows is the best solution. That, and getting close to the microphone.

Introduced in 2018 as "the future of team communication," this beyerdynamic Phonum fully integrated speakerphone was designed as a mobile, cable-free communications system for conferences and meetings, and the best possible voice and sound quality. Unfortunately, there are not enough of these used for working-from-home individuals yet...

So, the next topic for voice communications is: What microphone? And sometimes, where is it? Non-technical users should not worry about the type of microphone, but they should know where the microphones are positioned and should be warned not touch the device during a conference call. But that unfortunately doesn't happen - and an obvious recommendation needs to be to check the information about the computer or mobile device used, to be sure.

If we use a device with built-in microphones, like an iPad or a laptop, the device will optimize the audio signal processing (and maybe the beamforming and sensitivity) to the application in use, such as Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom. So again, fully integrated systems are the best solution for everyone.

Next topic is: Aren't external microphones better quality than small microphones built into tablets or laptops? 
Yes, but that depends on how they are used - and that's where things get tricky. If you are an audio engineer and you understand microphone polarities, gains, acoustics, and so forth, fine, use the best you have. But for inexperienced users, connecting a really nice studio microphone via an analog connection to a computer to use with Skype, is calling for trouble. And using a "Skype certified," or similar microphone, like a boundary layer doesn't mean much if the user is going to be typing on the keyboard with the microphone sitting in the same table surface. And on, and on...

Marshall Electronics has seen a spike in demand for MXL AC Series boundary layer microphones, such as the AC-404 and AC-360-Z. "Now that a lot more businesses and universities have adopted work-from-home and telecommuting policies."

Of course, those lucky enough to have a UC&C certified microphone array optimized for conference calls with voice tracking and all the fancy DSP optimizations (and assuming they know how to connect it to a computer at home...) then it's all fine. Options like those nice microphone/USB/hubs from Yamaha, beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, and others are really a great option to take anywhere. Unfortunately, very few of those reached the market before COVID-19 happened.

The speakers. 
If a system used for communications is dumb and doesn't recognize the speakers in the room, because they are simply connected to an analog input, that's a problem. So users are best using headphones. If the speakers are integrated - like in a laptop - nothing to worry, they will work fine without causing feedback. Still, we need to remind users to disconnect their microphone if they are in a group call and it's not their turn to speak. That way, they can even increase the speaker volume.

If there's a lot of noise around, communications work better using headphones, and preferably a model with active noise cancelling. In fact, as we are seeing in the latest UC&C products announced by Bose, Jabra, Poly and others, Bluetooth headphones with ANC already combine sophisticated microphone arrays used for feeding the hybrid noise cancellation and for communications, and can generate excellent results for the vast majority of people. Compared to those cheap Skype analog headsets connected to a PC with a cheap sound card, used not long ago, even the latest TWS earbuds with ANC connecting to a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, will be 100 times better for communications. And that's why we see so many people on Zoom using Apple AirPods.

And that's also why grandma is better off using a tablet for Skyping with family (or even one of those smart speakers with screens) than getting that old Windows 7 PC that the kids no longer use. DSP technology to optimize voice capture and recognition in this latest generation of personal audio devices evolved exponentially. All the progress made in consumer electronics in areas such as voice recognition and hearables is extremely effective when used for communication purposes. No one thinks about using headphones to call Alexa on their Amazon Echo at home. And we can call Alexa from meters away. So, the same should be true when we Skype, Zoom, or whatever at home from those new-generation devices.

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs with a Shure SM7B microphone - and the excellent KSM313 - during "One World: Together At Home" presented by Global Citizen on April 18, 2020. Photo by Getty Images

Higher Quality Audio
These are all simple, generic considerations for voice communications. Of course, things change when people are at home and they need to do podcasting, stream online classes, or share live performances. Like with voice communications, where everyone was focused on the office environment, we didn't prepare for the challenges of this lockdown emergency. And even some experienced entertainment professionals, using the most expensive tools, are not ready to tackle working from home.

All over our TV channels we now have great examples of good and bad practices when people use web conferencing tools for entertainment and information purposes. Some broadcasters were caught so off guard that they sent everyone home and started recording Skype/Facetime calls even for major shows - NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, when they were forced to do the show outside the studio, is a very sad example of that.

Recently, we had a streaming marathon with the Global Citizen Together At Home concert, streamed live April, 18, 2020. The global broadcast and digital special was held to support frontline healthcare workers and the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization, powered by the UN Foundation. The best moments were those with musicians that - even when forced to work from home - simply recorded their performances, edited the results, and streamed the finished, polished clip during the live event. The video quality is much better, and they had the ability to adjust the sound, optimize levels, and more. Avoiding very high dynamic variations in the audio program, and making sure the signal never clips or distorts, works better for streaming, of course.

But in the end, streaming live or recording in those more-or-less improvised situations shouldn't be much different in terms of audio quality at the source. Any fluctuations in quality that might result from the live transmission stream, will affect the signal in much the same way with either option.

Maren Morris, Hozier - The Bones. Another Global Citizen Together At Home moment using the Shure SM7B cardioid microphone. Photo by Getty Images

It does make a difference when a radio or TV host shows how they talk to a proper studio microphone, and the same is true with musicians and singers who seem to understand how important the microphone can be. Some singers can be really surprising in the way they play acoustic instruments and sing with a single microphone, always controlling their distance to the microphone.

While I was watching the different performances in the Global Citizen Together At Home event, I noticed a few musicians using a familiar microphone that I was not expecting to see so much these days. The Shure SM7B, a cardioid dynamic microphone, seems to be one of the unexpected winners of the COVID-19 lockdown. Selling currently for just $399.00, the SM7B was already a great alternative for podcasting, voiceovers, or recording voice from home or untreated rooms. Because it's not a very sensitive microphone, it allows very close proximity and still responds well without too much booming effect (like the SM58, it is a very tolerant microphone). Another reason why the SM7B works so well from home (in inexperienced hands) is because of its improved rejection of electromagnetic hum, optimized shielding from computer monitors and home appliances, the internal suspension that is effective at eliminating mechanical noise transmission (many musicians are using it as a handheld...), and a highly effective pop filter protecting from explosive breath sounds even very close. It's truly the new SM58 for musicians working from home!

Lady Gaga presents and performs from home during the One World: Together At Home event on April 18, 2020. Photo by Getty Images

Of course, a microphone like the SMB7 needs to be connected to a proper professional microphone preamp and requires some experience to set levels right - which most musicians apparently are able to master. In contrast, Lady Gaga, apparently the proud owner of a vintage Neumann U47 performed "Smile" during the One World: Together At Home concert using its expensive large diaphragm condenser microphone switched in its cardioid position and pointing backward (the Neumann logo and polarity selector was pointing to the camera). She sang and played piano, and the sound in the video shows a lot of room ambience and a thin, unpleasant voice. There was probably also another microphone in that room (a camera mic?). Some people say it was deliberate, to get a balance between voice, piano, and the reverberant room. If that was the idea, it didn't work. Not even when she spoke.

This also serves to show that nothing would have prepared us for this... And one way or another, those Skype calls on TV and these Internet live streaming events will now remain part of history and will be remembered. Hopefully our audio engineering community will have the chance to work on adequate solutions for such challenges in the near future.

Fresh From the Bench
Dayton Audio Test System (DATS) V3 - Rise of the Ultra-Portable Woofer Tester
By  David Logvin
After a decade of widespread use, the Dayton Audio Test System (DATS) has acquired an impressive reputation for fast and accurate testing. Now, Dayton Audio has taken the easy-to-use audio test system and improved it in almost every way when creating the DATS V3 Computer-Based Audio Component Test System.  This is an ultraportable audio test system that provides a reliable method for collection of Thiele-Small parameters and component measurements. In this article, David Logvin offers a detailed review of this must-have tool for the speaker builder and a very valuable tool for anyone who regularly works with audio equipment. Logvin has been a user of the solution, and can compare all generations with the latest V3 iteration. This article was originally published in audioXpress, March 2020 .    Read the Full Article Now Available Here
Voice Coil  Test Bench
LaVoce WAN103-01 High-Power 10" Midbass Driver
By  Vance Dickason
For this Test Bench, Vance Dickason characterizes the new WAN103.01 10" woofer from Italian OEM transducer manufacturer, LaVoce. All LaVoce products are designed at its headquarters in Potenza Picena, Italy, but with the logistic and price advantage of being manufactured at its purpose-built ISO 9001-certified production facility in China, in Jiashan (near Shanghai). The WAN103.01 is a high-sensitivity and high-power 10" driver which has been designed with line array and mid-bass applications in mind, using an elegant heavy-duty die-cast basket and FEM optimized motor structure and suspensions. With a substantial feature set, the WAN103.01 combines a proprietary six-spoke cast-aluminum frame with enhanced voice coil cooling, combined with curvilinear waterproof coated paper cone and dust cap, and a motor design that utilizes a FEA-designed neodymium ring magnet structure and a 75 mm (3") diameter voice coil wound with round copper-clad aluminum wire (CCAW) on a non-conducting Kapton former. The cast return cup includes a 0.9" diameter vent loading into a 1.5" diameter exhaust "tunnel." Dickason clearly noted the excellent build quality, this being the first LaVoce piston range driver that he had the chance to characterize. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, February 2020 Read the Article Now Available Online Here
AX May 2020: Digital Login
Audio Product Design | DIY Audio Projects | Audio Electronics | Audio Show Reports | Interviews | And More 

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