Industry & Product News
Bang & Olufsen Launches Beoplay H95 Adaptive ANC Headphones
Celebrating 95 years of heritage in sound, design, and craft excellence, the high-end luxury Danish consumer electronics brand has introduced Beoplay H95, a new upscale take on the most sought-after technology in headphones: Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). But Bang & Olufsen went one step further and crafted the ultimate listening experience with two customized titanium drivers, a proprietary DSP engine, long-lasting comfort, and effective Adaptive ANC.  Read More 
SPL of Germany Releases New Phonitor se Headphone Amp with Optional AKM DAC
Sound Performance Lab (SPL), the mysterious audio designer and manufacturer from Germany, has announced a new Phonitor se headphone amplifier, now shipping in two models, with and without an AKM DAC768xs D/A converter. The new model is an entry into the SPL Professional Fidelity Phonitor range and has the same audio signal amplification as its bigger brothers Phonitor x and Phonitor xe. The SPL line of products is distributed by Focal-Naim America in the US and Canada.  Read More 
WiSA Member Skyworth Launches Metz Sculpture 1 TV and Speakers Featuring Integrated Wireless Audio Connectivity
The Wireless Speaker and Audio Association (WiSA), founded by Summit Wireless Technologies, announced that Association member Skyworth Group, one of the largest TV manufacturers in China, has launched the Metz Sculpture 1 TV and speakers complete with wireless connectivity technology. As part of the Black Label Sculpture Series, this launch serves as Metz's world premier product from the century-old luxury TV manufacturer now owned by Skyworth.  Read More 
ReadSpeaker Launches Deep Neural Network TTS Engine to Accelerate Custom Voice Development
Boston, MA-based ReadSpeaker, an independent voice developer, unveiled its Neural TTS Engine, a Deep Neural Network (DNN) engine powering the company's voice enablement platform. With the Neural TTS Engine, ReadSpeaker can generate superior-quality speech using DNN-trained models, and produce voice solutions at a fraction of the time required by legacy offerings. The enhanced platform comes amid explosive interest among businesses to use voice technology to best engage audiences in an increasingly contactless world.  Read More 

Celestion's Innovative Axi2050 Axiperiodic Driver Now Available at Parts Express
Celestion announced that its highly anticipated Axi2050 Axiperiodic driver is now available for purchase at Parts Express. Performing the role of two speakers in one, the Axi2050 is a high-power, high-output driver that reproduces a frequency range of 300 Hz to 20,000 Hz without the need for a midband crossover. This Celestion innovation with a 2-inch exit throat and standard mounting delivers superior intelligibility and perceived audio performance.  Read More
McIntosh Group Sells Audio Research to Former Employees
For the past six years, Audio Research has been owned by the McIntosh Group. Now, TWS Enterprises, LLC, a privately held company owned wholly by Trent Suggs, has agreed to purchase Audio Research from the McIntosh Group, Inc. subject to completion of due diligence, which is expected to be finalized by the end of August 2020. As Audio Research celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, the Minneapolis, MN, company will embark on the next chapter of its journey in high-performance music reproduction.  Read More 

Meridian Audio Partners with Human Horizons for a Premium In-Car Listening Experience
Meridian Audio is collaborating with Human Horizons, a premium smart all-electric vehicle brand from China, to deliver an immersive in-car audio experience for its HiPhi vehicle range. The strategic partnership sees Meridian supporting the HiPhi vehicle system design with a suite of proprietary technologies, which combine to deliver a state-of-the-art listening experience. Loudspeakers are strategically positioned and seamlessly integrated into the automotive interior, allowing each passenger to enjoy a quality audio experience, no matter where they are in the vehicle.  Read More

Philips Fidelio X3 Headphones Are Now Shipping
Unveiled officially at the CES 2020 show, the all-new Philips Fidelio X3 headphones will finally be shipping, with most online retailers announcing availability at the end of August 2020. The Fidelio X3 headphones are a high-end, Hi-Res Audio certified design that is intended to please the most demanding music enthusiasts, while still keeping within an affordable price range. The Philips Fidelio X3 headphones will certainly impress with a combination of comfortable materials and build quality.  Read More 

ZVOX Audio Launches AccuVoice AV157 Voice-Clarifying TV Speaker With 12 Levels of Dialogue Boost
ZVOX Audio introduced a new compact speaker/soundbar that features the company's new SuperVoice dialogue clarifying technology. The AV157 uses ZVOX's patented hearing aid algorithms to make dialogue more clear - and adds SuperVoice, a new type of processing designed to reduce the level of background sound in TV programs. The Alexa-ready AV157 is the latest addition to ZVOX's growing range of "hearing" products designed to help consumers who have difficulty understanding speech, setting a new standard for dialogue intelligibility.  Read More

Editor's Desk
J. Martins

The Weight of Statistics
Tech Giants Dominate Global Home Audio Market
The CE Team at Futuresource Consulting recently shared some key topics and trends from its latest "Global Home Audio Report," revealing how home audio products have returned to strength in Q2 2020. Global home audio products posted an unexpected strong performance in Q2 2020, delivering 20% shipment growth and 10% value growth quarter-on-quarter, according to preliminary results from the market research company's latest quarterly tracker. As expected, APAC leads the way, with North America and Western Europe still in recovery.

This outcome contradicts industry interviews carried out by Futuresource in March and April, which unanimously suggested Q2 would be significantly worse than Q1. As well as the market growing quarter-on-quarter, volume has also outperformed Q2 2019.

But volume outperformed value, as consumers focused most of their attention on entry-level models, securing bargains and getting a good deal. This was particularly true for soundbars, which received a boost from the video entertainment boom during lockdown, yet most of the major soundbar vendors have reported stronger sales for lower-end products. According to the latest Futuresource Quarterly Report, more consumers than ever are augmenting their TV sound, with shipments of soundbars increasing 5% last year to reach 18.8 million units.

A Sonos Beam compact soundbar with Alexa voice assistant.

Smart speakers continued to dominate the landscape, appealing to consumers on a number of levels and achieving double digit year-on-year growth. Not only are smart speakers generally low cost and designed for in-home use, which makes them suited to the current climate, but they are also predominantly bought online and have been able to side-step the fallout from physical retail closures. Of course, the growth was completely concentrated around tech giants such as Amazon, Google, Baidu, Alibaba and Xiaomi, with Harman's JBL the only audio brand in the top five.

Futuresource's Wireless Speaker Quarterly Report indicates that demand for wireless speakers grew a further 27% in 2019 to hit a record high of 157 million units. This growth was driven by speakers with built-in voice technology, which saw strong growth at 60%. Conversely those devices without voice grew just 1%.

You can read the full audioXpress commentary about this report here.

And because Futuresource has published another very interesting audio-focused report, in the company's traditional ramp up to the IFA 2020 event, focusing on consumer electronics, I decided to leave some space for Alexandre Jornod, Market Analyst at Futuresource Consulting in this week's second editorial.
Guest Editorial
Alexandre Jornod
Market Analyst

Futuresource Audio Lifestyles Report
Consumers Demand Better Sound Quality from Tech
Music and audio technology continue to play central roles in the lives of consumers with smart and wireless speakers, headphones, and soundbars all vying for attention. And while consumers are buying into audio tech, they are also looking to the future and craving products with superior audio quality. That is according to a new Audio Tech Lifestyles consumer survey from Futuresource Consulting, carried out during June 2020, which explores the behaviors, purchase motivators, and future intentions of more than 10,000 consumers across the US, UK, Germany, Japan, and China. This includes how lockdown may have influenced consumer behavior and existing technology requirements.

Harman Kardon Citation Multibeam 700, the winner of the EISA Smart Soundbar Award 2020-2021. An example of a new WiSA-enabled compact soundbar design that can be paired with other wireless speakers for a full home theater experience. And Harman added built-in support for Google Assistant and multi-room audio features with Chromecast and Apple AirPlay.

Sound quality is a rising concern for smart speaker users. When it comes to smart speakers, music continues to dominate smart speaker usage in a similar way as in 2019. However, the research found that older demographics also engage a lot with their smart speakers to get news and weather updates. Above all, what really stood out from the findings was the expectations respondents had around their chosen smart speaker, especially in relation to sound quality.

More than half of the smart speaker owners that we interviewed said they want better sound quality. A similar number also told us they would be willing to pay more for it. That's an interesting consumer maneuver in a market that has been dominated by affordable smart speakers from market leaders Amazon and Google.

Privacy concerns, however, continue to hold back smart speaker uptake, with a sizable share of respondents not willing to consider a smart speaker for this reason, especially among older demographics. Their main concerns are related to how tech companies collect and use the data from smart speakers but also the apprehension of being listened to by these companies.

Streaming is No Stranger to the Rise in Audio Quality Expectation
The quest for high-quality audio has also filtered through into streaming services, with more than 40% of streaming service users saying that they want better audio quality, and more than half of them willing to pay up to an additional $3 per month to get it. These new findings are very much in tune with the current developments happening within the streaming market, especially following the launch of Amazon HD.

Another interesting finding from the research related to streaming is on podcasts and their impact on music consumption. Contrary to what we would have thought, podcasts don't seem to be cannibalizing music consumption, with more than 80% of podcast listeners saying that they consume the same amount or more music as a result of listening to podcasts.

Headphone Users Seek Out Premium Features
Headphones and especially true wireless devices are now more than just music listening devices - a trend that reflects what consumers expect from their headphones. Despite high sound quality being by far the most expected by respondents, premium features such as noise cancellation and microphone call quality also ranked high in importance.

The impact of lockdown is likely to have influenced these findings, especially for microphone quality, which has become an important part of how consumers interact with these devices, notably when calling friends and family or during work meetings.

With the domination of tech brands within the true wireless segment, especially in the case of Apple, how much room is left for traditional audio brands? Among respondents considering to buy true-wireless headphones, over half confirmed that they are likely to purchase the same brand as their smartphone, with this share even stronger among iOS users and younger demographics as they trust that it will work better with their devices and offer additional features. Despite Apple being the most considered brand for true wireless headphones in most markets, audio brands such as Bose, Beats, and Sony also ranked near the top.

Soundbars Used for More Than Just Watching TV
Concerning soundbar usage, the research found that an important number of soundbar owners, in addition to using their devices to watch TV and movies, also use them to listen to audio content even when their TV is turned off. With their prime spot placement under the TV and their decent sound quality, soundbars are becoming more than just devices to watch TV or movies; they are increasingly used as standard wireless speakers, especially among millennials.

Headphones are now more than just music listening devices.

A Changing Audio Retail Landscape
As world governments begin to slowly relax social isolation and lockdown measures associated with COVID-19, people's approaches to retail are changing. Around a third of those surveyed are planning to return to physical stores to buy their audio products, while another third has become accustomed to buying online during lockdown and will continue to buy this way once lockdown has lifted. The remaining quarter of respondents were already purchasing their audio products online before lockdown and have no intention of changing their behavior.

For more information on the latest Audio Tech Lifestyles consumer research, send an email to Futuresource.

Fresh From the Bench
NAD M10 Masters Series Streaming Amplifier
Review and Measurements by Stuart Yaniger
Photography by Cynthia Wenslow
In this article, Stuart Yaniger reviews the M10 Masters Series Streaming Amplifier from NAD Electronics, a compact but powerful Class-D home audio amplifier and network streamer that surprises positively for multiple reasons. One of those reasons is the integration of the latest Dirac Live room correction technology with Bass Control, which is also covered in detail in this review. The other is the number of versatile features that make it the only item needed for a modern music system, other than speakers. The M10 also differentiates from competitive products because of its attainable price. This article was originally published in audioXpress, August 2020.  Read the Full Article Now Available Here
Test Bench
Radian Audio Engineering's LT6 Horn-Loaded Ribbon Planar Device
By Vance Dickason
In this article, Vance Dickason measures the latest Radian Audio Engineering's LT6 Horn-Loaded Ribbon Device, part of an expanding series designed by 35-year loudspeaker engineering veteran Igor Levitsky for the Californian manufacturer. Since the change of Radian's ownership in 2017, the company has worked consistently in the consolidation of its renowned compression driver range and diaphragms, followed by an ambitious expansion of its coaxial line, and more recently the introduction of the LT Ribbon high-frequency series, already with four models, all complemented with matching waveguides.
The LT6 is a pro sound driver but was designed to be a more hi-fidelity substitute for 1" compression drivers, and that is a direct result of Levitsky extensive experience in designing high-end residential, and cinema sound systems, having worked since 1995 with companies such as Hi-Vi Research, where he developed a complete production process for manufacturing ribbon diaphragms, and over the subsequent 20 years developing planar ribbon drivers and complete speaker systems for the famous BG Radia brand (acquired by Christie Digital in 2014) and for SLS Audio (acquired by Dolby in 2014). Before joining Radian, Levitsky also worked with OPPO Digital and Dai-Ichi on the development of the award-winning OPPO PM1 and PM3 planar magnetic headphones. He also holds a total of six patents on planar ribbon driver and speaker design. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, June 2020.  Read the Full Article Now Available Here
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