Industry & Product News
HEAD acoustics Now Offers MS Teams ACQUA Test Suite for Microsoft Teams Conference Devices Certification
To ensure optimal communication quality in conversations held on Microsoft Teams systems, VoIP conferencing devices can be tested according to the "Microsoft Teams Audio Test Specification V 4.0". For this purpose, HEAD acoustics now offers its automated MS Teams acoustics measurements test suite - part of the communication analysis software ACQUA - for compliance with the official Microsoft audio test specification .    Read More
DSP Group Strengthens Its Position in Rapidly Growing Headset Market with Acquisition of SoundChip SA
DSP Group, Inc., has announced the acquisition of privately owned SoundChip SA, a leading supplier of active noise cancellation (ANC) technology, engineering services, design tools, and production-line test systems for headphones and headsets. The acquisition combines SoundChip's proven capabilities in hybrid ANC with DSP Group's SmartVoice advanced low-power voice processing platform, algorithms, and mixed-signal expertise to streamline the delivery of cutting-edge wireless and true wireless stereo (TWS) solutions, from concept through to manufacturing. DSP Group's technologies have recently been adopted by Google, Panasonic, and Technics in their latest TWS headphone models.   Read More  

Audio & Loudspeaker Technologies International (ALTI) Expo Is Now a Virtual ALTI-EXPO 2020 Online Event
In light of the cancellation of its physical event in Las Vegas, NV, ALTI is promoting Virtual ALTI-EXPO 2020, a massive one-day, online event, on June 15, 2020, from 9 AM EST U.S. And it's FREE. It's a full day of cutting-edge tech and business content. It is ALTI's contribution to the industry during difficult times. The schedule of sessions is already available on the ALTI website and there are very impressive topics from leading industry experts in all fields .    Read More

Gesture-Controlled and Edge-AI In-Ear Headphones Joint Development Effort Funded in Sweden
Swedish companies Acconeer, Imagimob, and Flexworks decided to join forces in a project to develop gesture-controlled in-ear headphones. Using the profound expertise of the three companies, the project will be a unique combination of research in advanced radar technology, expertise in AI (deep learning) and expertise in designing and manufacturing consumer electronics products. A first working prototype is expected within the first year of the project .    Read More  

Audiomatica Releases 64-bit CLIO Pocket 2.12 Software With Support for macOS 10.15 Catalina
Audiomatica made an important announcement for users of the CLIO pocket portable measurement system. The company announced the end of its alpha development phase and the release of the CLIO pocket 2.12 x64 software - the much requested and highly anticipated 64-bit enabled update of CLIO pocket. The update runs under the latest macOS 10.15 Catalina - which dropped support for 32-bit applications and strengthened the security requirements for applications distributed outside the App Store. The software will be distributed to CLIO pocket users through a Beta program, for now .    Read More  

IsoAcoustics Launches New Online Recommendation Wizard to Help Find the Right Decoupling and Isolation Solution
IsoAcoustics, the Canadian manufacturer of acoustic isolation products for home and professional speakers, has released a new Online Calculator tool to help users find the right IsoAcoustics isolation products. The new IsoAcoustics Calculator tool includes more than 3,000 different models of speakers, studio monitors, amplifiers, turntables, and more. If a model is not listed in the Calculator, the wizard will ask a few questions depending on the application and then make a product recommendation .    Read More  

Brüel & Kjær Announces Type 4966 Measurement Microphone Family
Designed for high-precision, free-field measurements and ideal when a microphone with high sensitivity is required, the new Brüel & Kjær Type 4966 family of measurement microphones is the latest expansion of the Danish company's toolset at the disposal of engineers and acousticians. With four different products adequate for accurate measurements and everyday tasks, the Type 4966 family offers a robust, and reliable range of free-field microphones for high-precision acoustic measurements .    Read More

Technics SL-1210GAE 55th Anniversary Limited Edition Direct Drive Turntable
Technics has delivered a wide variety of epoch-making audio products, such as speaker systems, amps, and audio players to worldwide markets since 1965. This year, Technics released the SL-1210GAE Limited Edition direct drive turntable to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the brand. This special model is based on the internationally acclaimed Grand Class SL-1200G hi-fi turntable and features a full black color scheme, which has already proven popular with other recent Technics products. Only 1,000 units of the SL-1210GAE will be sold in the world .    Read More  

Guest Editorial
David Lindberg
CEO, DB Enterprises HK, Ltd.

Voice Commands on The Edge
How Syntiant Is Solving the Power Problem

Alexa! OK Google! Hey Siri! Did we get your attention?
If we were to have read that aloud most of us would have our favorite robot voice asking us what we want. Whether it is Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or another assistant, voice commands are the logical next step in user interfaces (UI). The uptake in the market has been extremely good for these devices. However, deployment has exposed some major issues with this technology. First, there are technical issues and second, there are privacy and security issues. The technical issues relate to accuracy, power consumption, and processing time while the privacy issues are a mix of technical ability vs. ethics. But since the desire to talk to our devices is not going away, in this article I'm going to discuss the Syntiant NDP 10x processor and how it solves the aforementioned challenges.

The UI development timeline from keyboard to mouse to touch and now to voice has been a compelling progression, which has driven a lot of exciting innovation in consumer electronics. For most of us, there are many use cases such as dirty hands in the kitchen, sweaty hands in the gym, or wet hands while relaxing in a hot tub - where voice control is an extremely useful application. The product is typically a Bluetooth (BT) speaker or headphone or some other mobile device such as a wearable or mobile phone that in these situations requires controls without contact. This is a cool feature, but there are some large technical constraints to execute this feature on edge devices. Minimizing battery power consumption while maintaining accuracy of the key word spotting (KWS) or wake word detection with low latency processing is the largest challenge.

Syntiant's neural network technology allows for BT speakers, BT headphones, or almost any edge device to feature voice assistant interactions on the most power-constrained devices. The Neural Decision Processor or NDP 10x is a purpose-built processor based on a semiconductor architecture that runs deep learning algorithms with always-on capability to send interrupts to the application processor when Alexa, OK Google, or other wake words are recognized. We will explain more about this later, but custom command words such as "volume up," "answer call," or "mute" are also possible. The key element is that the functions are triggered locally on the edge all while consuming less than 140 µW of power. To put into context, the Syntiant NDP100 is 200x more efficient than existing competitive solutions while offering higher frames per second (FPS) and considerably more parameters (or inputs).  Further, the inference time on the NDP processor had the lowest latency.

We can explain this with the analogy of the compute path in the NDP being similar to a gate logic function, best described as a classifier. The function of the processor arrives at either a yes or no decision that a keyword has been recognized and if yes, it sends an interrupt. In comparison, an MCU is burdened with the power cost of moving data in and out of memory to decide a keyword has been detected, while the Syntiant NDP exploits massive advantages in parallel processing. The next advantage for the Syntiant chip is the ability to be exponentially more accurate at 8 bit or lower processing, while the equivalent in an MCU might need 128 or 256 bit to achieve the same accuracy. This lightens the power consumption severely. The metaphor of a 20-year veteran bartender vs. a new bartender is a good comparison. Both serve more or less the same drinks but the veteran delivers faster with higher accuracy and expends less energy. The veteran is purpose built for the task, while the new bartender is probably capable of many tasks and bartending is just one of them. This, in a nutshell, is the NDP vs. the MCU/DSP.

For earbuds and mobile phones, which we can call "close-talk" devices, the precision of the wake word(s) is extremely critical to a successful product. While Syntiant can develop libraries or models of wake words for customers, they have also aligned a partnership with several key algorithm partner companies including Sensory to provide the voice recognition with extreme accuracy in at least 15 different languages. These algorithms are growing in precision with interpolative and extrapolative functions based on the growing datasets. The roadmap to natural language processing (NLP) is critical to the adoption of the overall voice command technology. We can imagine our BT speakers learning "turn it up" or "crank it up" or similar local commands on their own. This would be extremely useful and it would further push the adoption due to the ease of use. Looking forward, the improvement of the algorithms is complementary to the Syntiant hardware on which it runs. The advancements by both processor and algorithms will make this category a must-have feature.

Turning our attention to the privacy and security issues, according to a recent article in Forbes, voice assistants are exposed to several pitfalls in this area. The possible exposure of corporate or personal data via the ability to be always listening or possibly recording is a big concern. Syntiant provides a technical firewall to prevent Alexa, Google, or others from listening. Syntiant's Always on Voice (AoV) technology listens for wake or keywords. Only when they are authenticated does the system send an interrupt to the application processor to access the cloud or perform a function. To be simple, systems using Syntiant will not permit always recording or gathering to be a function of the system.  

This segues nicely into the close-talk devices with the highest utility for this technology, which are small and portable, "edge computing" devices. The congruent feature of these devices is that they come with small buttons and typically, severe cost constraints. It's a sloppy interface for the users to be pressing tiny buttons to answer calls, turn up the volume, or mute. It is too easy to have a bad experience. Some of the UI's in true wireless earbuds are quite cantankerous with a double tap the left ear to mute or a triple tap the right ear to track forward. Not to mention, the tapping often dislodges the earbud. Therefore, it is a somewhat obvious point that voice control UI with the NDP 10x relieves this problem. 

In sum, the Syntiant NDP 10x solves many of the hardware problems in voice command solutions for edge devices with power, and latency. In combination with a well-trained neural network, the accuracy is very high so it will increase the adoption rate of the technology. We all would be happy using voice commands if they reacted perfectly without draining the batteries on our devices, so Syntiant is looking very promising as it rolls out its purpose-built chips for voice commands. 

For further information contact Dave Lindberg .

Practical Test & Measurement
Objective Listening Effort Evaluation
By  Hans W. Gierlich and Jan Reimes (HEAD acoustics)
This article by Hans W. Gierlich and Jan Reimes - two top experts in communication technologies from HEAD acoustics GmbH - details the expanded effort for understanding speech under noisy conditions and evaluating the listening effort. It also addresses a new approach recently introduced by HEAD acoustics, resulting in a new model that can be used to test active noise cancellation (ANC) performance in complex scenarios where the system needs to distinguish between speech signals as part of the background noise and speech signals directed toward the users of these devices. This article was originally published in audioXpress, April 2020 .    Read the Full Article Now Available Here
Voice Coil Lab Notes
Improved Zobel Network
By  Christopher J. Struck (CJS Labs)
Passive crossover filter networks for multi-way loudspeakers generally require a resistive termination for optimum performance. The driver itself generally presents a reactive load. Inductive rise with frequency above resonance of the loudspeaker electrical impedance is semi-inductive due to eddy current losses. The L2/R2 impedance model represents the electrical impedance as seen by the amplifier output. An improved compensation network can be realized by using the analogous circuit "dual" of the L2/R2 model. This represents a dramatic improvement to the basic two-component Zobel network and compensates for the non-ideal semi-inductive behavior of the loudspeaker driver across the entire frequency band. This article appeared in Voice Coil, March 2020 .    Read the Full Article Now Available Here

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