Industry & Product News
Dirac Live Bass Control Expands Performance of Latest AudioControl AV Receivers and Processors
Swedish digital audio pioneer Dirac, and the team of self-proclaimed obsessed audio experts at AudioControl, announced that the brand's latest line of receivers and processors will include Dirac Live Bass Control for a more immersive home theater experience in any space. The collaboration between the two companies has resulted in expanding the Dirac Live Bass Control software to the new Concert Series receivers and Maestro Series AV processors, part of AudioControl's high end home audio range.  Read More 
TDK Unveils New Ultra-High AOP Analog MEMS Microphone Ideal for Noisy Environments
TDK Corporation introduced the InvenSense ICS-40638 MEMS analog microphone, a new high-performance solution enabling clear audio capture in loud and noisy conditions, with an extended frequency response from 35 Hz to 20 kHz. The ICS-40638 microphone offers an ultra-high Acoustic Overload Point (AOP) of 138 dB Sound Pressure Level (SPL), exceptionally efficient 170 µA low power operation and high a signal-to-noise Ratio (SNR) of 63 dB in a small-bottom port surface-mount package.  Read More 
Powersoft Unveils MeMo Ultra Low Frequency Haptic Bundle For Gaming and Home Cinema Applications
Powersoft is expanding its efforts in moving magnet linear motors for subharmonic sound reproduction, explored originally in the powerful M-Force transducer and M-Drive amp module (M-System), followed by the surprising Mover, a compact, low-frequency direct-drive/inertial-drive transducer. Powersoft has now announced a new solution directly targeted at home applications. The MeMo bundle combines the Mover ultra-low frequency transducer with a fully optimized amplifier, specifically designed to enhance home cinema and gaming experiences.  Read More
Fraunhofer IIS Licenses MPEG-H Audio Patents to Samsung
Fraunhofer IIS announced the licensing of its MPEG-H Audio patents to Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., allowing Samsung to manufacture products that feature MPEG-H Audio, including TVs and set-top-boxes. As the major contributor to the MPEG-H 3D Audio standard, Fraunhofer IIS is also leading the licensing efforts to enable the broadcast, mobile, media and streaming services and consumer electronics industries to quickly bring MPEG-H Audio to market. Samsung joins leading CE manufacturers like LG Electronics, Amazon, Sennheiser, Sound United and TPV, who have been licensed to manufacture consumer products with MPEG-H Audio.  Read More 

Meridian Audio Unveils New DSW600 In-Wall Subwoofer
Expanding its range of home theater and architectural loudspeaker solutions, Meridian Audio is now introducing the new DSW600 Digital Active In-Wall Subwoofer. This vertical configuration speaker was engineered to deliver fast, powerful, dynamic, and accurate bass, serving as a discreet addition to any home cinema system, "Providing high accuracy and low distortion for the ultimate surround sound experience," as the British company explains.  Read More

NAD Electronics Announces the Masters M28 Seven Channel Power Amplifier Featuring HybridDigital Purifi Eigentakt Technology
NAD Electronics has unveiled another of its Masters Series products. The M28 is a seven-channel, high-performance amplifier that can serve as a powerful engine for a state-of-the-art multi-channel system for music or home theatre. And, like the recently launched M33, this reference multi-channel amplifier features Purifi's Eigentakt (self-clocking) amplifier technology. The M28 ($4999 US MSRP) is available now to order and will begin shipping in August 2020.  Read More 

RME Launches HDSPe AIO Pro 30-Channel 192 kHz PCI Express Audio Interface Card
RME Audio has introduced the HDSPe AIO Pro PCI Express interface digital audio card, the successor to its popular HDSPe AIO card. The Pro version provides professional users in recording studios and broadcast with the same high channel count and analog/digital input and output variety of the HDSPe AIO. In terms of technical features RME says that it has "completely reworked the HDSPe AIO Pro, defining the current state-of-the-art in PCI Express cards."  Read More

Dayton Audio Introduces HTA100BT Hybrid Stereo Tube Amplifier with Bluetooth and USB Inputs and Sub Out
Combining the best of modern amp technology and functionality, the new Dayton Audio HTA100BT provides all of the convenience expected from a Class D amp with the added benefit of classic vacuum tube sonic performance. A follow-up model to the Dayton Audio HTA20BT Hybrid Stereo Tube Amplifier, reviewed by audioXpress, the HTA100BT boasts a cool little amplifier design with all the added features one could wish for, at a very affordable list price of just $210 US.  Read More 

Guest Editorial
Mike Klasco

The Intelligent Microphone
Next Generation MEMS Microphone Technology
Last week's edition (288) of The Audio Voice ran a product release on Vesper's VM3011 intelligent digital micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) microphone. Its claim to fame is a power saving architecture that enables battery standby life that otherwise would be unattainable without the "smarts." There are another half-dozen developers working on integrating all sorts of capabilities within the MEMS mic package.

The Vesper VM3011 digital microphone integrates both the ASIC and the piezoelectric MEMS transducer in the same package. Adaptive ZeroPower Listening (ZPL) technology automatically "learns" the acoustic characteristics of the environment in real-time, allowing the system to ignore background noise and only wake in response to keywords or other desired acoustic triggers.

The component parts of the ubiquitous MEMS mic are the mic transducer element and an application-specific integrated circuit ("ASIC"), both stuffed into an SMT package. An application-specific integrated circuit is just that: the ASIC being just a simple mic preamp, or the semiconductor manufacturer can add a codec for digital output on the die. But why stop there? Advanced voice and audio processors, voice command, bio-monitors and authorized user ID are all areas rife for exploring.

Yet, as with any innovation, the greater the step forward, the greater the challenges to design wins. Let's take a look at why product designers have been reticent to embrace smart mics.

Today's product architectures have the signal processing further down the line - not at the mic. Smart mics are still just entering the market, with some coming from small start-ups without a second source - a high-risk design and purchasing decision.

The footprint of most MEMs mics follows the small industry-standard 3.76 mm x 2.95 mm x 1.3 mm package. Yet when packing more elements inside the interior of the SMT package, the air volume is reduced - and as this back volume shrinks, so does signal to noise. Vesper was in development of a superior doping process for their piezo MEMS mics to increase the signal to noise ratio - which was just in the nick of time to maintain performance of their latest VM3011.

The development of new products using smart MEMS is not an isolated process. Vesper has worked with industry partners to create a complete software and hardware support ecosystem for the Vesper VM3011.

The VM3011 builds on Vesper's VM1010 wake-on-sound mic. The VM1010 is a quiescent-sensing device with practically zero power drain and acoustic event-detection in microseconds, drawing just 3 µA of current while in listening mode. Quiescent-sensing is unique to piezo MEMS, as it uses the sound transduced to electrical energy by the piezo MEMS triggering itself to wake-up from full power-down - essentially energy harvesting from sound.

The Vesper VM3011 is targeted for some of the same applications as the Knowles IA61x family of "wake-on-voice" SmartMics. Knowles uses a 43 MHz Tensilica audio-optimized DSP in their SiSonic MEMS mic in a single, miniature, microphone package - the AISonic SmartMics family. The integrated programmable DSP was made available to third-party algorithms, enabling customization.

The VM3011 is intended for the low-power always-listening device market. Vesper's Adaptive ZeroPower Listening (ZPL) technology automatically "learns" the acoustic characteristics of the environment in real-time, ignoring background noise and only wakes in response to keywords or other desired acoustic triggers. By automatically adjusting the background threshold based on the acoustic level of the environment, this allows the system to hibernate over 90% of the time and extend battery life >10x. The VM3011 is a bottom port IP57 device, resistant to dust and moisture and can tolerate high acoustic levels without latch-up or mic element overload. When combined with the ultra-fast startup of piezo microphones, the VM3011 enables system power savings for voice-activated devices without compromising the acoustic performance.

The microphone is constantly listening to the environment with 10 μA of current consumption. In Wake on Sound (WoS) mode, a Digital Output pin (DOUT) outputs a single bit "Threshold Exceeded" flag when the acoustic input is greater than the set threshold. When the threshold is reached, an interrupt signal is sent to the external codec or voice processor - which "lights-up" anything and everything for a prescribed time frame. Adaptive Mode continuously measures the average sound level of the environment and adjusts the internal comparator until it converges to the threshold margin

Matt Crowley, CEO of Vesper mentioned in a briefing with audioXpress that this technology "will power a new class of products such as always-listening far-field TVs, always-listening smartwatches, home security cameras and doorbells and many other system." It is available in volume production by Q4 2020, in a small industry-standard 3.76 mm x 2.95 mm x 1.3 mm package, and it's reflow solder compatible.

The Knowles AISonic family of SmartMics deliver processing at the edge and wake-on-voice capabilities with lower power consumption, and privacy, combining audio-optimized DSP with high performance MEMS microphones.

What Else Is Coming?
Nanusens has announced that nano-sensors built inside CMOS devices can increase the operational life of true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds by up to 20%. Instead of the conventional 2 chip MEMS sensor package (one with the MEMS structure built on it and the second with the control electronics), Nanusens has everything on one chip and with this technology various sensors in an earbud can be replaced with a single multi-sensor chip that is up to ten times smaller, freeing up space for larger batteries. Nanusens creates its sensors within the control chip layers of its CMOS chip. The nanoscale of this technology delivers ultra-low power consumption. 

The first product from Nanusens is a 2D motion detector for TWS earbuds to implement tap and double tap for control, wake-on-movement and sleep-on-rest functions with an optional 3D accelerometer. Also coming is a bone conduction sensor for noise cancellation integrated into their single chip solution.

Syntiant's ultra-low-power Neural Decision Processors for Always-On Voice (AOV) control offers accurate wake word, command word and event detection in a tiny package with near-zero power consumption. Voice is quickly becoming the de facto standard user interface as hands-free functionality is replacing traditional tactile interfaces. Banging on your ear for mode toggling with TWS devices was awkward, but these days keeping your hands from touching your head (or anything) is a whole other consideration. Access to the cloud is not needed so the user can be in a dead zone, but also latency is minuscule. The ASIC is tiny and it is possible to integrate it into TWS or future SoC Bluetooth TWS solutions. 

A smart mic with integrated voice command has wide applications. For sure these building blocks will converge into smaller, smarter and longer battery life mobile audio products.

But What About Smart MEMS earphone drivers? There are a half dozen MEMS earphone transducers just hitting the market. Integrating Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) and who knows what else (well, I have to keep my mouth shut for a bit) are just down the road. But that is another article.

Syntiant announced that it has shipped more than 1 million units of its Syntiant NDP100 and Syntiant NDP101 microwatt-power Neural Decision Processors (NDPs) to clients worldwide.

For continuous updates on these topics, follow audioXpress online Select Pages:

From The Vault
Testing a Tripath Power Amplifier
By Ron Tipton
Our late and much esteemed author, Ron Tipton, shared a fascinating project on testing Class-T or Tripath power amplifiers on the pages of audioXpress. As he characterized, these "small, inexpensive, and power-efficient units," sounded good "but testing them is problematic." The article discusses the story of Tripath Technology, the company which was acquired by Cirrus Logic and its operations discontinued. The article also speculates on reasons why the Tripath ICs remained popular among the DIY audio community. This article was originally published in audioXpress, March 2014.  Read the Full Article Now Available Here
Book Review
A Look Inside The Last Seat in the House - The Story of Hanley Sound
Review by Richard Honeycutt
In this article, Richard Honeycutt reviews John Kane's book, The Last Seat in the House - The Story of Hanley Soundwhich examines how sound engineering pioneer Bill Hanley's contributions in outdoor live sound helped create the entire music production industry. Through an extensive nine-year interview and archival process, Kane uncovered how Hanley and his company, Hanley Sound, impacted a developing festival and concert marketplace. This article was originally published in audioXpress, July 2020.  Read the Full Article Now Available Here

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