Industry & Product News
McIntosh Announces Matching MC830 Solid-State Amplifier and C8 Vacuum Tube Preamplifier
Following the immensely popular and retro-styled MA252 and MA352 Integrated Amplifiers, which took design cues from the timeless MC275 Vacuum Tube Amplifier, McIntosh introduced two more matching separates with similar styling: the MC830 Solid-State Amplifier and the C8 Vacuum Tube Preamplifier. "Featuring styling reminiscent of their 1950s and 1960s designs, the MC830 and C8 are full of modern day technology to produce an amazing home audio experience. When a pair of MC830s are combined with the C8, they can form the foundation of system that can deliver a lifelike home audio experience," McIntosh says.  Read More 
Bose Enters Headphone Gaming Market with QuietComfort 35 II
Bose introduced its first gaming headphones, cleverly repackaging the brand's extremely popular Bose QuietComfort 35 II ANC model as a gaming headset. For that, Bose combined the already proven features of the QuietComfort 35 II design with a detachable gaming module and attachable microphone boom, turning it into a 2-in-1 gaming and lifestyle headset. The QC35 II Gaming Headset will respond perfectly to the demands of hours of competitive gaming and music listening, with a comfortable fit, with just a few added controls on the earcups.  Read More 
Sound Semiconductor Unveils Next-Generation SSI2130 Voltage Controlled Oscillator IC
Following the recent expansion of Sound Semiconductor's range of IC products with new single and dual VCA chips, the Sonora, CA, -based company founded by Dan Parks, has now announced a new audio-band Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO) integrated circuit. The first new electronic music VCO IC in decades, the FatKeys SSI2130 has been a long time in the making, and credit is due to the company's great chip designers, who seem determined to quickly build up Sound Semiconductor's portfolio.  Read More 
Eminence Speakers Launches Impulse Response Library
Eminence Speakers launched the digital version of its legendary guitar speakers - Eminence Impulse Response (IR) library - developed in conjunction with the highly respected amplifier profiler and guitarist, Michael Britt. This announcement follows the trend from guitar speaker manufacturers to release official IR files of its own best-selling models to support the growing movement of amplifier profilers and emulators, as well as studio production.  Read More 

CEVA Partners With Fluent.ai to Offer Multilingual Speech Support on Edge Devices
CEVA and Fluent.ai, a leading provider of on-device, multilingual speech understanding solutions, announced a partnership to offer ultra-low-power speech-to-intent solutions for intelligent edge devices. Fluent.ai's suite of speech-to-intent technologies has been ported and optimized for CEVA's low-power audio and sensor hub DSPs, providing a high performance, robust solution for OEMs and ODMs looking to integrate intelligent voice activation and control into their wearables, consumer devices, and IoT products.  Read More
 
Mytek Announces New "Cost Is No Object" Empire DAC Streamer and Preamplifier
New York-based Mytek Digital revealed the details on its new Empire DAC/Streamer/Preamplifier, which is supposed to be the flagship of a new Empire series of very high-end audio products. As the company describes, this is an "all out" assault on the state-of-the-art, establishing Mytek as a top echelon player in the high-performance audio arena. The Streamer will be "Powered by Roon OS" and features an internal Roon Core that can drive both the ultra-high-performance Empire DAC and external Roon endpoints.  Read More 


SEAS Takes Over Soundcare SuperSpikes Business and Brand
Soundcare AS was established in June 1996, in Norway. It developed from an idea of making the best spikes for audio equipment that wouldn't cause damage to the surfaces. The construction is based on a high-quality spike fitted with a custom-designed base plate, all integrated in a plastic housing. Now, loudspeaker driver manufacturer SEAS Fabrikker, which has been manufacturing Soundcare products in-house since 2017, is taking over the Soundcare SuperSpikes business and brand.  Read More

Apollo4 SoC Family from Ambiq Redefines Ultra-Low Power in Wearables, Connected Devices, and Always-On Voice Processing
Ambiq unveiled its latest Apollo4 SoC family, enabling next-generation endpoint devices with record-setting energy efficiency - running as low as 3 µA/MHz - and new levels of performance. The new Apollo4 systems enable manufacturers to create leading-edge endpoint devices leveraging the unique SPOT platform with Ambiq's easy-to-use, rich peripheral set. The Apollo4 is available now with CSP and BGA package offerings, as well as an Apollo4 Blue SoC with Bluetooth Low Energy.  Read More 

    
Bruel & Kjaer Launches a New Pressure-Field Measurement Microphone and Cartridge
To help engineers and acousticians achieve accurate measurements in everyday tasks, Bruel & Kjaer has created a robust and reliable 1/2-inch CCLD pressure-field microphone - Type 4971-H-041. This new microphone was designed for measuring close to hard reflective surfaces, close to sound ports of audio devices or in flush mountings. The new Bruel & Kjaer microphone is also suitable for random-incidence measurements and free-field measurements with 90° incidence.  Read More

Editor's Desk
 
J. Martins
Editor-In-Chief



Actively Smart True Wireless Earbuds
How to Augment Your Hearing
Much in the same way as some people work crazy hours from home (guilty!) and others are forced to accept flexible working schedules during this global pandemic, our calendars are also starting to shift and be questioned. As consumers, we are all faced with the fact that we are increasingly shopping online, only visiting a physical store if there's no alternative and if not too many people are inside (and are all wearing masks). Next up, Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays, Sales Seasons, or any idea of restricting discounted sales for a limited time sound ridiculous, and a bad strategy. 

We can still count on some seasonality resulting from working vacations, holiday breaks, religious traditions, etc. Otherwise, there's no reason to not explore the growing opportunities of a flexible calendar, correct?

In-person, virtual, hybrid? Consumers are changing behaviors anyway. Challenging times indeed.

Increasingly, manufacturers are starting to realize this new reality and adjusting their strategic plans accordingly. As the industry trade show calendar was badly affected by the pandemic restrictions for travel and in-person gatherings, suddenly there's another reason to feel less constricted to manage product-launch schedules and even product life-cycles in the customary way. After all, avoiding scheduling production for certain months can be highly advantageous from a cost perspective, and shipping products can be managed in a much more flexible way, while adjusting logistics and promotions to meet continuous consumer demand without so many time constraints is tempting and could be economically rewarding.

As bad as the whole coronavirus situation is, it seems that we are in for more everlasting changes than predicted and there's no reason to explore the positives. As a direct consequence, everyone wants to reshuffle the calendar as they see fit.

In a previous editorial, I mentioned the fact that manufacturers were rethinking their product launch calendar, now leveraging the flexibility of not having an "industry calendar," which traditionally was determined by trade shows and specific public holidays. But if manufacturers and their marketing teams do have the privilege of being able to shift their announcements a few weeks, the same is not entirely true for the industry itself and in particular for event and show promoters.

First, because things are also shifting with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic: Changes will be felt differently in the last quarter of 2020, and trends will continue to evolve in 2021 and possibly 2022. Second, a few factors that determined calendar strategies are still in place, such as weather, regional trends, holidays, and consumer priorities (e.g. back to school).

Image from ISE 2020. In this highly dynamic calendar context, the trade show promoters are trying to keep their businesses afloat and maintain the perceived value of their show brands.

I felt I had to revisit this topic of the industry event calendar, which Mike Klasco also addressed here last week, because I am noticing a significant worrying trend. 

As I think it's rather obvious, we are starting to realize our own limits to withstand online commitments. The sheer number of conferences, online meetings, and webinars is becoming overwhelming and we are all getting tired of the Zoom formula (#zoomzombies is now a thing). The perceived value for online interaction is diminishing instead of increasing. And even on-demand access to some valuable promotional and educational resources suddenly becomes constricted by our own time management, directly competing with our time to read and respond to growing email messages (which now includes every little thing, from taxes to shopping tracking and receipts), as well as leisure, exercise, walking the dog, do-nothing, or sleep hours.

In this highly dynamic schedule/calendar context, the trade show promoters are trying to keep their businesses afloat and maintain the perceived value of their show brands for enabling trade, networking, and mapping out the industry - as I described in another editorial. And unable to promote in-person events, those promoters are evolving to purely digital and online initiatives.

Prolight+Sound Guangzhou 2020 show floor. Only possible in China because of the size of its own internal market.

The latest trend is to expand what would be a three- to five-day show to the entire week, 10 days, or even the whole month. Some organizations are even considering dropping the "event" focus and adopting a "place" model, pivoting to something akin to an online portal (Note: unless you are an important trade association, it's extremely difficult to pull off).

As I recently discussed, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) announced CES 2021 would be converted to an all-digital experience. Meaning, there will be no CES 2021. With no local in-person event, the powerful association started to work on "the best possible 'digital' alternative" and to keep exhibitors connected with the "virtual" world of online attendees, which are - as they point out, "new global audiences" and not at all the same audiences of an actual trade show.

Whatever the CTA is planning to do, shortly after it announced the cancellation, the dates for CES 2021 changed, moving to the following week, from Monday January 11 to Thursday, January 14. That, is they condensed the event into four weekdays. I think this was a good thing, but that is also probably because they don't yet have any idea about what they are going to do "virtually".

In stark contrast, the Audio Engineering Society (AES) 149th International Convention was converted into an expanded timeline of online events during the whole month of October. And given the educational focus of the organization, we cannot say that is a bad idea. After all, I was always the first one to complain about the fact that it was impossible to follow all the interesting concurrent sessions and "do the show" during three short days at the AES international events. So, spreading the intricate schedule among different weeks and according to the different audiences makes sense, and also helps to better manage the complex online resources required for those online presentations with presenters from all over the world.

The problem is, virtually every week, many companies - some of which are actively engaged with the Audio Engineering Society - are already promoting online events themselves. Some had already scheduled those prior to these changes, others have their own brand initiatives to combat the lack of interaction, and others are complete repeats of the very same things that they will present during the convention, just trying to appeal to a different or internal-channel crowd. This means, the month of October, like probably every single month after that, will overflow with "industry opportunities," leaving us with very little time for our own online shopping (not!).

A few other examples allow us an overview of the very complex environment building up for 2021. As revealed this week, Integrated Systems Events has already announced that ISE 2021, scheduled to take place February 2-5 in Barcelona, Spain, for the first time, has been postponed and will now take place June 1-4 instead - if possible in-person, or (most probably) as a virtual offering. And if ISE goes virtual, it will have an expanded and regular program "of content and networking events, which will run throughout the year."

For the audio industry, this is a big announcement and a large change in the calendar. And curiously, it will bring ISE to the same month as InfoComm 2021. A calendar clash that doesn't cause too much worry for the promoters since both ISE and AVIXA are already assuming that the two shows in 2021 will have "a limited regional scope" because of the traveling restrictions of the pandemic. That is, even if some in-person components of both shows will be possible in 2021, they will assume those will be restricted to the local market, with no international perspective.

An almost scary image of one of the few exhibits at IFA 2020 in Berlin this month. Was it worth the risk? The event is now available to be experienced online.

And many more examples are already aligned. NAMM has already cancelled its NAMM Show in January 2021, and instead will be promoting a week of online events, titled "Believe in Music Week." The National Association of Broadcasters, which promotes its massively important NAB Show in April, in Las Vegas, NV, and which this year promoted a successful virtual resource during one month, also converted its show for 2021, with a slight twist. Stating: "The pandemic remains a significant threat and the evidence suggests it will be well into next year before it could be under control in the US. We also have our own concerns around being able to deliver the type of event in April that will not only drive results, but one that can be produced safely for all involved and without significant limitations on the experience." Consequently, they have decided to move the 2021 NAB Show, previously scheduled for April 11-14, to October 9-13, 2021. Which means NAB is also considering moving its own NAB Show New York, held annually in October. "With a new date set for the 2021 NAB Show, we are looking at the entirety of the calendar next year with fresh eyes."

The problem, is, no one will be able to manage this constantly shifting calendar "with fresh eyes." Plus, this will also evolve dynamically in different countries and continents, depending on how well-controlled the pandemic will be.

In Germany, where recent shows like IFA in Berlin have attempted for the first time to actually invite a few thousand people to enter a building and meet in-person, things are evolving quickly again. As already confirmed, electronica 2020, which was to be held in Munich in November, will be held digitally because of COVID-19. Messe München already confirmed that it will organize the world's leading trade fair and conference for electronics as a virtual alternative "probably expanding in duration."

Audio needs to be experienced in situ, we all agree. This is another image of Prolight+Sound Guangzhou 2020, China. The Audio Engineering Society understood quickly that promoting in-person events would not be viable, and created completely different models, like the AES Show Fall 2020, which will expand to four weeks of online sessions.

Meanwhile in Asia, things also look different. Completely different, especially in China, which is behaving like there never was a virus in the first place. Maybe because of the improved contact tracing and pandemic control tools in China, the Prolight+Sound Guangzhou 2020 show - organized by Messe Frankfurt and the Guangdong International Science and Technology Exhibition Company (STE) - actually took place this August. This was largely an internal, domestic trade show, but it still managed to attract a total of 41,556 visitors and 677 exhibitors for its 18th edition. But apart from the exhibition, new product presentations, training, and seminars were also streamed live to an expanded audience, creating a new hybrid "offline + online" format. Next year, the 19th edition of Prolight+Sound Guangzhou will be held May 16-19, 2021.

As we move along, there will be a bit of these contrasting realities everywhere, and understanding the changing dynamics will be a formidable challenge for anyone who likes to do some planning ahead of time. Adding more "online appointments" on top of this shifting calendar will prove even more challenging, if not downright impossible.

Audio Electronics-Tubes
The Internal Life of Vacuum Tubes
By Jan Didden
 
In between reading submitted contributions for the magazine and his own projects, audioXpress' Technical Editor, Jan Didden, sometimes feels the urge to explore audio topics in-depth. A few years ago, Didden designed a high-voltage delay unit and shared its details in a 2019 audioXpress article. The unit will delay the high-voltage for a tube amp until the heaters are at operating temperature. As so often happens in audio, arguments pro and con raged, without a clear resolution. So Didden found several sources, which he thought were credible, and this article, "The Internal Life of Vacuum Tubes," is the result of his investigations. This article was originally published in audioXpress, August 2020.  Read the Full Article Now Available Here
                    
Voice Coil Spotlight
Unravelling the Technical Solutions in Waterproofing of Audio Devices
By David Lindberg (DB Enterprise HK)
 
In this article, industry consultant David Lindberg (DB Enterprise) offers an interesting perspective on the challenges and solutions that the electronics industry in general and the audio industry specifically needs to consider when requirements for waterproof, moisture-proof, splash-proof, weather-resistant, and sweat-proof are increasingly demanded by consumers. "With everyone owning several electronic devices, most of us have experienced sweat damage on our earbuds, drinks spilled on our notebooks, or worse a phone in the toilet; or in the case of loudspeakers, crossover circuit boards in outdoor vented products. While the marketing points on the box might claim IPx7, IP68, or sweat proof, from a manufacturing perspective, there are gaps in the different processes to achieve these standards." Lindberg discussed this topic in The Audio Voice, and expanded it for Voice Coil, explaining mechanical design and coating approaches, with a loudspeaker-focused perspective. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, July 2020.  Read the Full Article Now Available Here
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