Industry & Product News
miniDSP Teams with Dirac to Deliver First Consumer-Driven, Ambisonic USB Microphone for Content Creators
miniDSP, the Hong Kong-based developer of innovative digital signal processing (DSP) platforms, announced its category-redefining ambiMIK-1 Ambisonic USB microphone is now shipping, featuring 3D audio software from Swedish sound pioneer Dirac. The affordable new ambiMIK-1 with 3D audio processing from Dirac lets AR/VR developers, musicians, podcasters, videographers, and vloggers record immersive, spatial audio that can be played back over any stereo headphones.  Read More 
NAD Launches Modular T 758 V3i Surround Sound Receiver with BluOS, AirPlay2 and Dirac Live
NAD Electronics announced the launch of the T 758 V3i. The update to this affordable surround sound receiver now comes ready with Dolby Atmos, DTS Master Audio, BluOS high-res multi-room audio, Dirac Live, 4K UHD Video and Apple AirPlay 2 all built in. The T 758 V3i ($1,499 US MSRP) begins shipping already in August 2020. As with all NAD components, the company's latest offering expands on the "Simple is Better" design philosophy, which contributes to ease of use and maximizes performance where it counts.  Read More 

Global Smart Speaker Sales Reach 30 Million Units in Q2 2020
Defying the impact of the pandemic, global sales of smart speakers in Q2 2020 rose to 30.0 million units, an increase of 6% compared to Q1, according to preliminary results from Strategy Analytics latest market analysis. On a year-on-year basis, worldwide shipments of smart speakers and smart displays fell by just 0.4% in Q2 2020, still a very robust indicator. Amazon retained first place with a share of 21.6%, followed by Google (17.1%) and Baidu (16.7%).  Read More
McIntosh Group and Alps Alpine Join Forces in Automotive Luxury Audio Strategy
McIntosh Group Inc. and Alps Alpine have teamed up to deliver "transcendent, luxury audio systems" to the automotive industry, as the companies describe. This announcement also signals that the McIntosh Group is returning to the automotive industry - bringing solutions from McIntosh Labs and Sonus Faber to vehicles. The partnership means that those automotive solutions are delivered by Alps Alpine in select vehicles.  Read More 

Earbuds Consumer Survey Identifies Key Takeaways for Manufacturers
Austrian company ams, a leading worldwide supplier of high-performance sensor solutions, shared the results of its "Comfortable, Smart, High-Performing Earbuds Survey" conducted in Spring 2020 with 2000-plus consumers around the world about their audio earbud uses, habits, and preferences. Earbud comfort seems to be a key focus for existing users, with the survey identifying the benefits of active noise cancellation and volume-limiting technology as top earbud innovations. Preference between loose fit and tight-fitting, in-ear earbuds, depends upon the type of activity.  Read More

Symphonic Acoustics Debuts 2X8V Ultra High-End Studio Monitors
Studio monitor company Symphonic Acoustics has unveiled its new Dual 8V ultra high-end monitors. The new 2X8V is the result of a longtime design and manufacturing collaboration between Symphonic Acoustics and several industry legends, including George Augspurger, John Storyk and others. Ideally suited for mixing and monitoring across a range of genres, each pair of monitors ships with a curated selection of power and DSP options.  Read More 

Arylic Introduces New Up2stream Amp 2.1 Wireless Amplifier Board
Arylic, an audio electronics company specializing in the needs of both the OEM/ODM market as well as the requirements of DIY music enthusiasts, announced the availability of its Up2stream Amp 2.1 Wireless Amplifier Board. The latest model in the company Up2Stream series, this Class D stereo amplifier board with a powerful subwoofer output is able to generate 50 W+50 W+100 W and deliver good results from low impedance speakers. And it adds the most advanced wireless technology, with WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, Airplay, Spotify Connect, also with DLNA and UPnP protocols for wireless control.  Read More

Sony Launches New WH-1000XM4 Headphones with Next Generation Adaptive Noise Canceling
Sony Electronics announced the WH-1000XM4 - the fourth-generation noise-canceling headphones from Sony's 1000X family. The popular wireless over-ear model shows a similar design to the previous WH-1000XM3, with subtle but effective changes in materials providing longer comfort and lighter weight. But the main improvement relies on Sony's latest processing, sensors and a new Bluetooth 5 SoC, providing the WH-1000XM4 with additional smart features that personalize music, improve noise cancellation and adjust ambient sound automatically.  Read More 

Guest Editorial
Mike Klasco

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Product Development Challenges in Pandemic Times
Who would have thought a 1965 song by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones would be the anthem for sourcing managers 55 years later! About 15 years ago, just after the SARS epidemic, there was a common refrain about businesses that did not survive. When in Hong Kong and Dongguan I had my favorite restaurants, but when I returned after SARS many of them were gone and when I asked if we could catch lunch here or there my local friends would put on a solemn face and gloomily say: "Your pizza joint died of SARS."

Somewhere in the world there is always going to be a hurricane, flood, earthquake, or war brewing, but these days the usual catastrophes have become the straws that are breaking the camel's back. Every time I whine about "cabin-fever" I think about how miserable it would be crammed into a hurricane shelter or up to my neck in a flood, let alone in a hospital waiting for surgery while the area is being bombed.
Just trying to put our lives into perspective for the rest of this story....

There are ways to interact with the global audio Supply Chain network, and some are even free, like the Loudspeaker Industry Sourcebook online directory.

For many new projects, product development is slow. Accommodating new customers for new products is a luxury that most cannot afford. For sure, Chinese parts vendors are only focused on their existing customers running stuff off of tooling for production already scheduled. For much of China, factories are getting back closer to normal capacity, but there are still many restrictions in place. While there are quite a few parts vendors in Wuhan that are now free of issues with the coronavirus, suddenly they are under about 30 feet of flood water and most of the population has been evacuated.

As I am still being pressed by all clients, we watch the news that the US and China are escalating accusations too quickly and closing down consulates on both sides. This is surely not just rhetoric, and seems to signal that more intense and draconian trade sanctions are coming.

Running away to Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and other countries won't help much either as the key parts vendors for Southeast Asia (and beyond) are still in China. In effect, the rest of the world's manufacturing resources are essentially satellite assembly factories for Chinese key part vendors. Yes, Po Yun from Taiwan also has a voice coil factory in Vietnam, CX is also making backplates, and there are some good cone factories in Malaysia, while companies like Dai-ichi in Manila are quite vertical. But customers will need to get in line if they expect to be able to move their sourcing anytime soon. And for startups with new designs, the bar for passing the opportunity-cost sniff test has just been raised extremely high.

Back in the Americas, for speaker OEM/ODMs we have MISCO, as well as Radian Audio Engineering and Eminence for speakers and assembly, and (if you are a big fish) there is the Flex factory in Mexico (previously Bose), while Guoguang Electric Co., Ltd. (GGEC) also has something in the works for Mexico. Precision Econowind for voice coils, Hawley Products, and Rapid Die and Molding (RDM) for assemblies (diaphragm), paperboard gaskets, dustcaps and spiders, as well as Loudspeaker Components, LLC for cones and spiders are still available to take your projects.

The ALTI association has been promoting a series of all-day online events, offering cutting-edge tech and business content for free. It is ALTI's contribution to the industry in difficult times.

Brazil also has a rich history of speaker manufacturing, including parts and assembly. Much of this was for pro sound and auto sound OEM (South America's automotive industry is in Brazil). The country's economic crisis has slowly began to crawl back since 2017 and the situation was still not looking up when the pandemic hit. Now cone factories, voice coil winders, and the entire Brazilian speaker industry is on ventilators.

For sure there are other options, but it is going to take a lot of work getting through these times. Just do not expect that samples will come from new vendors as quickly as you are used to back in the good old days.

Of course, many clients ask me what I suggest - and I recommend Tums antacids, but Scotch in higher dosages also seems to work! Other methods include attending the webinars from the Audio & Loudspeaker Technologies International (ALTI) association (former ALMA) as a way to engage with peers and eventually learn how they are coping and finding solutions - who knows, maybe even find a new supplier?

The Audio Product Education Institute (APEI) was launched in January 2020, as an initiative of the Audio Engineering Society (AES). APEI will take part in the AES Show Fall 2020 online conference!

Another remedy might be getting directly involved with the recently established Audio Products Education Institute, an initiative of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), which is focused on promoting practices and technologies involved in developing and bringing audio products to market. The group, where both my company (Menlo Scientific) and audioXpress (Official Media) are involved, is developing specific sessions on working through supply chain challenges, which will be confirmed and taking place over the coming weeks - there's even a LinkedIn page and a group where you can interact with other audio industry professionals. But bear in mind, there is no magic wand and a multi-prong approach might be the start of a solution for the crippled supply chain.

Fresh From the Bench
Sennheiser AMBEO Immersive Soundbar in Review
By Oliver A. Masciarotte
After years of anticipation, audioXpress was very excited to review the Sennheiser AMBEO Immersive Soundbar. Oliver A. Masciarotte was fortunate to receive one of the first coveted units to be available in the United States, just when the pandemic struck and everyone was stuck at home! The Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar is a sophisticated multi-speaker integrated home cinema sound system, created in collaboration with Fraunhofer IIS to be one of the world's best soundbars (and until now, it certainly is). It is a single all-in-one device that is able to generate a convincing immersive soundfield from home entertainment sources that are able to render object-based audio formats such as Dolby Atmos or MPEG-H, from movies, games, music, or TV content. And this is because the large size soundbar offers 13 high-end drivers, a frequency response down to 30 Hz, and even ships with a measurement microphone for room calibration. Masciarotte was lucky enough to have it in his living room and feel its power. This article was originally published in audioXpress, June 2020.  Read the Full Article Now Available Here
Book Review
A Review of Hi-Fi: The History of High-End Audio Design
Review by Mark Driedger
For audio enthusiasts looking for a good read, showcasing some wonderful examples of hi-fi product design and craftsmanship, Mark Driedger suggests taking a look at Gideon Schwartz's new large-format book. Hi-Fi - The History of High End Audio Design is an 8.5" × 11" hardcover "coffee table book," featuring 272 heavy glossy pages of text and nicely produced photographs. This article was originally published in audioXpress, June 2020.  Read the Full Article Now Available Here

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