Industry & Product News
Audio Product Education Institute Promotes Supply Chain and Sourcing Introductory Webinar
The Audio Product Education Institute (APEI), an initiative of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) that is committed to furthering the knowledge and skills of professionals involved in the development of audio products, will present "Changes and Opportunities in Supply Chain and Sourcing - The Changing Global Dynamics, Managing Suppliers, Planning Your Options," a free webinar on August 26, 9:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time (12:00 PM Eastern) Presented by Mike Klasco (Menlo Scientific), with Dave Lindberg (CEO, DB Enterprises) and Dan Digre (MISCO Speakers, Warkwyn Labs).  Read More 
Klippel and Nuvoton Unveil Smart Amplifier Solution with Integrated KCS Speaker Control Algorithm
Klippel announced an exciting cooperation with Nuvoton Technology, a leading provider of consumer-electronics and computer ICs from Taiwan, to release a new type of smart amplifier with integrated Klippel Controlled Sound (KCS) technology that compensates for nonlinear speaker responses. As a result of the project, Nuvoton developed the highly efficient mono Class D audio amplifier devices, NAU83G10 and NAU83G20. Both devices using Klippel's KCS adaptive nonlinear control system are now available.  Read More 
DropLabs Introduces EP 01 Audio-Enabled Footwear for Gaming, Music, and Movies
DropLabs, a company from Los Angeles, CA, has announced its latest sonic-sensory footwear designed to transform the way people experience digital entertainment. DropLabs' sound-activated footwear uses low-frequency information to extend entertainment experiences. The Triple Black Edition looks like standard sneakers or training shoes, but inside they are equipped with sound-generating technology and Bluetooth, now adding enhanced audio controls and multicolor LEDs plus a few surprises.  Read More 
Oberton Refines ND45 1" Exit Throat Neodymium Compression Driver
Oberton has announced the company's latest 1-inch exit high neodymium frequency compression driver. The ND45 is an improved version of the company's ND2545 model, now incorporating a new phase plug, a new dome with vented suspension and copper inductance ring, all aiming to improve its sound characteristics and ensure very low distortion at high sound levels. As Oberton highlights, the smooth impedance response of the ND45 in the crossover region will ensure perfect results with passive crossovers.  Read More 

Audio Research Celebrates 50th Anniversary with Audio Research: Making the Music Glow Book
Audio Research from Maple Grove, MN, partnered with author Ken Kessler in releasing a book timed to coincide with the company's 50th anniversary, describing the past, present, and future of the audio company's legacy. Entitled, Audio Research: Making the Music Glow, the book describes the people behind the company, designing, manufacturing, fine-tuning, and marketing the audio amplification and source components that have been regarded perpetually as among the best in the industry.  Read More
Merging Technologies Announces Merging+Anubis SPS and Merging Audio Device Interface Updates
In 2019, Merging Technologies announced a new ambitious concept, promising to significantly expand the entire audio-over-IP ecosystem in multiple applications. Merging+Anubis caused a ripple of excitement across the industry. Now, Merging has announced the availability of Anubis SPS, featuring a second RJ45 connection on the rear panel in order to offer full ST2022-7 redundancy compliance, and adding NMOS features for easier integration into a complete IP infrastructure. In addition, Merging has launched its Merging Audio Device multi-ASIO driver.  Read More 

Expert Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) Awards 2020-2021 in Audio Categories
As the tradition mandates, even in times of a global pandemic, the Expert Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) has announced its product awards for 2020-2021. Involving the editorial staff of 61 expert magazines from 29 countries across the globe, and still growing, EISA represents the largest editorial collaboration in the world of consumer electronics. EISA has now been celebrating the very best products for more than 35 years. Since 2018, the initiative also involves publications from North America.  Read More

Rotel Introduces Michi X3 and X5 Integrated Amplifiers
Rotel introduced the new Michi X3 Integrated Amplifier and Michi X5 Integrated Amplifier as an extension of its current portfolio of reference Michi products. Continuing to deliver on the promise of uncompromised performance and design elegance with exceptional value, the Rotel X3 and X5 proudly expand the company's legacy of best-in-class audio engineering methods coupled with the perfect balance of innovation and critical evaluation of every circuit, signal path, and component.  Read More 

Pro-Ject Announces New Debut Carbon Evolution Turntable
Pro-Ject Audio Systems unveiled the new Debut Carbon Evolution turntable, an updated and refined version of the brand's most beloved turntable design, and further expanding its critically acclaimed Debut Collection. The new Debut Carbon Evolution features the brand's famous one-piece carbon fiber tonearm technology, electronic speed selection, suspension elements from the EISA award-winning X1 turntable, and a factory mounted Sumiko Rainier phono cartridge.  Read More

Global Headphones Market Posts Better-Than-Expected Q2 Results
According to the latest market research by Futuresource Consulting, the global headphones market held up better than anticipated in the period April to June 2020, as units and prices fared relatively well, particularly from mid-May. That's according to the latest preliminary quarterly tracker results from Futuresource, which reveals a 13% year-on-year increase in value for Q2. The firm also reports that units posted an 8% year-on-year contraction for the quarter, which was better than expected.  Read More 

Editor's Desk
J. Martins

New Digital Behaviors
A New Calendar for the Audio Industry
According to DataReportal's Digital 2020 July Global Statshot: "The global digital landscape is still evolving rapidly as we enter the second half of 2020, with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic continuing to influence and reshape various aspects of people's daily lives. Lockdowns may have been lifted across many countries, but many of the new digital behaviors that people adopted during confinement have endured, resulting in meaningful increases in various kinds of digital activity."

Among other key findings in this very interesting report, more than half of the world is now using social media, the digital habits formed during the first months of lockdown have endured with new digital platforms surging, and search behaviors also evolving, introducing new important implications for brands.

DataReportal's Digital 2020 July Global Statshot says that people are using the Internet almost 7 hours per day, on average!

This shows the shelter-at-home isolation effect is really starting to kick in! Not only on the personal level, but influencing entire industries. We still don't know if these behavior trends are going to last six months, another year, or more. Personally, I believe things will continue to change. And many industries will evolve to new business models, leveraging those same changes. For example, many product segments in the audio industry - and the consumer electronics sector overall - will embrace a new product launch calendar, which seems to be the way to go ...for now.

Why? Because "Consumer habits are shifting, and these changes are dramatically impacting daily habits and purchase plans," says Elizabeth Parks, President, Parks Associates. "The impact of COVID-19 is everywhere for consumers - everything from exercise to learning to communication and entertainment services - and this will affect the adoption of new devices and services in the home," she adds.

In the same way as many retailers' business and entire distribution models have been disrupted, these behavior changes are also affecting the manufacturers' calendars in general, no longer depending on massive industry events that have determined important product launch and promotion cycles. Also, product development efforts are being intensified now that companies have managed to adapt to managing remote teams ...and that engineers are finding they have more time left alone to focus on their work :) Probably also because production schedules continue to be highly unpredictable due the pandemic effects - exacerbated by political tensions and trade disputes - and managers are busy managing their supply chains.

For the next two quarters, manufacturers will refocus their efforts on identifying and following consumer trends, and bringing forward new products in categories that are in high demand, pitching new solutions that people can use at home or anywhere. Marketing and product management departments are also free to plan a continuous flow of announcements at a steady pace, keeping consumers' attention and improving brand loyalty - sometimes even generating new consumer trends.

Reportedly, 59% of the population now has access to the Internet, and 51% uses social media platforms. And 45% of the users with Internet access are using voice search and voice commands.

This is also inspiring new - more agile - integrated marketing strategies. Instead of manufacturing tens of thousands of products, sending containers to warehouses, and then generating demand (wich probably end up being heavily discounted during Cyber Week), companies are exploring the "product drop" concept. This is a strategy that focuses on fostering emotional attachment and brand loyalty, but also generating a new type of demand. A brand announces a new innovative and unique product, promotes it on its website, media channels and social media, and schedules a strict deadline for orders. This can be a limited-edition product, but more frequently, by creating this sense of "uniqueness" and urgency the brand is effectively restricting orders to a limited timeframe - after which it ships just the quantities ordered. In a few weeks, months, or a year, the cycle is repeated - unexpectedly and again with limited availability. 

Even established brands can create unique products for exclusive collections, with items that are "dropped" in a way that excites consumers. This was already being used to attract crowds to specific retailers before the pandemic. Now, with consumers more receptive to buying online and receiving products at home, this could be even more effective if duly planned - even for relatively new brands and completely new product categories. The drop culture, combined with agile direct-to-consumer strategies, could be something for audio companies to explore. It is an effective way to differentiate products in very competitive categories.

In its latest consumer technology report, Futuresource Consulting signals surprising demand and growth in categories like headphones and wireless speakers - demand growing 13% and 27% year-on-year, respectively - while products with built-in voice technology - i.e., smart speakers, smart displays, and smart controllers - are seeing strong 60% growth. China, of course, continues to be the star performer and is expected to overtake the US to become the largest smart speaker market in 2020. 

"Wireless speakers are set to be one of the better performing consumer electronics categories despite the impact of COVID-19, with volumes set to grow albeit less than previously expected. Most of this growth is driven by smart speakers, which remain attractive due to the indoor use case and low prices on offer from the tech brands. Shipments of non-smart speakers dramatically slumped in Q1 and April, and although there was a fairly strong recovery in May and certainly June. the expectation is that demand will fall compared to 2019," states Futuresource.

Sony Electronics announced its latest noise-canceling headphones - the WH-1000XM4 - almost a month before the IFA show in Berlin. Because Sony knows consumers at home will order it and can use it, even when they will not be traveling anytime soon...

These are important trends to take note, but like the growth in the recent sales of laptops (families are investing in updated machines for remote schooling because their children will be studying from home), or sales of communication hardware and software (increasingly adopted for home conferencing use), these are all fairly predictable. What I would like to highlight is the potential for new product launch strategies to engage consumers in this context, even in stagnating segments. In very specific or completely new product categories, there's been an accelerating pace of product announcements and introductions - very unusual for the months of July and August, as reflected by our audioXpress website news sections. This is a good sign, but this continuous pace of new product introductions will also require new promotional strategies, and even more engagement with consumers online, at home, on the devices they are using.

In fact, even the trade show promoters have already realized these consumer behavior changes are shifting the product cycles and the way companies are updating their strategies. In response, instead of just promoting "virtual" alternatives to the scheduled shows at certain dates, they are now promoting an entire month or even new all-year promotional and networking resources for the industries served - mostly available on-demand.

The Audio Engineering Society (AES) is evolving for that model. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) recently announced that its annual NAB Show is now promoting, a new "year-round digital platform supporting networking, discovery, education, and commerce" initiative, launching in November 2020. Other industry associations and trade show promoters, like the CTA, AVIXA, CEDIA, NAMM, and IFA are all looking at this new "platform" model.

As the 2021 NAMM Show was cancelled because of COVID-19 worries, the association revealed it is reimagining how to "connect all facets of the industry" with the launch of Believe in Music, a platform that will also feature a "robust marketplace to launch new products and share your brand story."

These are unique and unusual circumstances, where trade shows and other industry activities all over the world were frozen since February. Many companies are - ingeniously, in my opinion - trying to use every opportunity to keep their distribution channels and consumers excited with a continuous flow of new announcements. Because, under these circumstances, it doesn't really matter what month we're in. I'm just looking forward to seeing what companies have been saving for the Holiday season!

Recording Review
Taking a Listen to Sound Liaison's DXD Music Sampler
By Gary Galo
Gary Galo offers a detailed review of Sound Liaison, a small audiophile label based in The Netherlands, with a unique catalog of high-resolution recordings, building "a bridge (liaison) between the studio (engineer and musicians) and the people who love to listen to beautiful music using high-quality audio equipment." A very detailed and enjoyable review that will get you reaching for the label's music. Sound Liaison's high-resolution recordings are made during studio recording sessions as well as special live events with an audience, held in a very special studio environment. This article was originally published in audioXpress, August 2020.  Read the Full Article Now Available Here
Test Bench
Eminence New NSW6021-6 21" Neodymium Low-Frequency Woofer
By Vance Dickason
The work of Vance Dickason in Test Bench is increasingly recognized as a much needed benchmark for driver characterization. In the June 2020 edition of Voice Coil, Dickason measured the massive Eminence NSW6021-6 21" neodymium low-frequency woofer, part of the company's recently announced Tour Grade series. The Eminence Tour Grade family of pro audio woofers consists of two 18" options, including the Ferrite Magnet FSW4018-8, and the Neodymium Magnet NSW4018-8 that appeared in the March 2020 Test Bench. The NSW6021-6 is a very high power handling 21" woofer, designed over the past two years to support the requirements of touring sound professionals who want to move more air, more efficiently, and without failures in a wide range of applications and venues. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, June 2020.  Read the Full Article Now Available Here
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