Q&A: OrigAudio Founders Jason Lucash and Mike Szymczak

OrigAudio founders

Jason Lucash (left) and Mike Szymczak (right) constantly traveled early in their careers and wanted an easy way to listen to their music on the road. During their travels, they came up with the idea for OrigAudio.

SHANNON BECKER: Describe your background (e.g., where you grew up and your education).

JASON LUCASH: I’ve always been an “entrepreneur at heart.” I’ve always had a knack for being a self-starter. I started my own candy stand when I was in the second grade. My family would buy candy in bulk from stores such as Vons and Safeway, and then I would race home from school to put my candy stand out in the path of students as soon as school was over. My buddies and I would hang out, eat candy, and sell it, making about $30 dollars a day.

MIKE SZYMCZAK: I’ve always had a wondering mind. I liked to tinker and be different from the crowd. From a young age my father, Jimbo, would bring me to the science store to explore and learn how things worked scientifically and mechanically. He also encouraged me to try and experience as much in my life and career as possible. I took this advice to heart. I held more than 20 jobs, all before I turned  25, and I visited more than 20 countries and 48/50 states. Always one for a new adventure and a new challenge, I decided to start my own business. This entrepreneurial spirit, a passion for music, and zest for travel helped to forge OrigAudio.

Jason and Mike recognized a need for an eco-friendly, portable solution for listening to music while on the go. Inspired by a Chinese take-out box—foldable, easily compactable, and recyclable—the “origami of audio” was born.

Jason and Mike recognized a need for an eco-friendly, portable solution for listening to music while on the go. Inspired by a Chinese take-out box—foldable, easily compactable, and recyclable—the “origami of audio” was born.

SHANNON: What sparked your interest in audio?

JASON/MIKE: Both of us are marketing guys who recognized the need for a light, ultra-portable speaker.

SHANNON: How did the two of you meet? And what made you decide to go into business together?

JASON/MIKE: We met on the job, which required a lot of travel. This is how we came up with our “million dollar idea” for cool, portable speakers.

SHANNON: Tell us about OrigAudio (www.origaudio.com). Where did you get the idea for the company?

JASON: Our first product, the Fold and Play speakers, uses the principles of origami to come flat and fold up into a speaker. This inspired the name OrigAudio—the Origami of Audio.

MIKE: It was out of need from our travel heavy jobs. We just wanted to create a better way that saved space, didn’t require batteries, and was ECO Friendly.

Fold and Play 2

The Fold and Play speakers are the product that started it all. These speakers are made from 70% post-consumer recycled material, require no external power, and fold and unfold like origami.

SHANNON: Tell us more about the Fold and Play portable paper speaker. What was the inspiration behind it?

JASON: Tired of lugging bulky audio players around on business trips while working for JanSport, Mike and I started futzing with the idea of putting speakers into Chinese-food takeout boxes. The box starts flat, and whenever you want to use it, you pop it up. Our idea sounded good. The product? Not so much. We moved on to putting a very old idea—origami—to work. In 2009, with $10,000 in seed money from my mom, we launched OrigAudio (origami + audio) with one product: speakers, which are made entirely from recycled materials that start out flat and fold together. The Chinese takeout box concept inspired us, but origami is what powered us.

MIKE: We were still working our “day jobs” and selling 15 pairs of speakers a day through our website when the US Marines placed a whopping order for 50,000 (launching OrigAudio’s corporate gift division). Shortly after, Time magazine waved its magic “best” wand. [OrigAudio was named to Time magazine’s “50 Best Inventions of 2009” list and appeared on ABC’s hit start-up business show, Shark Tank.] With the holidays coming on fast, the company quickly sold out of its 25,000-unit stock. That’s when we gave our two-week notice to JanSport.

SHANNON: Can you share some of the challenges involved with the designs?

JASON: The first version of our Fold and Play speakers were kind of a huge flop. I couldn’t even get my mother to take them seriously. They were literally just a Chinese take-out box with a speaker attached and could barely even stand on their own. So we went back to the drawing board, ditched the take-out box, and adopted the principles of origami to create our first successful product.

Rock-It Cup

The Rock-It 3.0 portable vibration speaker system takes music from your device and turns it into vibration sequences. It sends those vibrations through the Rock-It pod which sticks to any object and turns that object into a speaker!

SHANNON: What other products have you developed?

JASON: OrigAudio’s top-selling product is the Rock-It, which makes a speaker out of pretty much any hollow object you stick it to. It’s another example of the old-made-new strategy. The really cool technology had been around for 60 years, but we always saw these big applications. So we thought, “This thing would be sweet if you could make it portable.”

MIKE: We also came out with the world’s first ever fully customizable speakers. These products give consumers the opportunity design and personalize their very own speakers. More images of the Doodle, Cubicool, Epishock, and Headphones are available on our website.

SHANNON: To what do you attribute your company’s continuing success?

JASON: I think people love being able to customize their gear. I personally don’t want headphones that only have a brand name on the side of them. I want headphones that reflect my personal taste. For instance, I love robots and have them all around my office. Therefore, I want headphones that have robots on them, too. I prefer to buy products that are an extension of my personal taste and preferences.

MIKE: We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we do take our business seriously. People like working with us and they love our unique products.

SHANNON: What’s next for your company?

JASON/MIKE: On demand customized products are not only the future of our company, but the future of business. Not only is customization great for our customers, it’s also incredibly effective for businesses. Twenty years from now, retailers won’t need to stock physical products in distribution centers (with the exception of food and canned goods). A customer will be able to order a watch from Amazon and have it made exactly how they want it to look and feel on demand. Even though customization has been around for a long time, more and more business owners are focusing their businesses on this fast-growing trend.

Epishock

New to the OrigAudio family is Epishock, a device that turns any flat surface into a bass pumping loud speaker. Place Epishock on a hard surface (e.g., a desk or table) and witness vibration technology at its best.

SHANNON: What do you see as some of the greatest audio innovations of your time?

JASON: Noise-cancelling technology. It completely changes your listening experience.

MIKE: The iPod/MP3 player. The ability to transport an entire library and hundreds of CDs/records/cassettes in the palm of your hand is unreal.

SHANNON: Do you have any advice for our audioXpress readers who may want to build their own sound systems?

JASON: You should always be a step ahead, especially in technology. In technology, you should probably be two steps ahead because the technology is always changing.

MIKE: Explore the unexplored…meaning basically create something entirely new do not reinvent the old.

Music Key and Energy Analysis Gets Better with Mixed In Key 6.0

MixedInKeyMore and more DJ’s – even the better paid ones… – are using Mixed In Key software to create new session playlists and music mixes. Just released, the brand new 6.0 version of this leading key detection software for DJs is now able to create automatic segmentation of tracks based on “energy” levels, combined with more accurate key detection, thanks to a new music analysis algorithm. According to Mixed In Key creators, the new algorithm is now able to separate melodic elements on the music and detect notes and octaves in different instruments on the recording. The new version also introduces a new “Grand Piano” interface, allowing to instantly checking the analysis results against an instrument.

Mixed In Key 6.0 costs only $58 for new users and should help many demos at the Venetian during the CES 2014. Ready to compare the energy level on those Norah Jones tracks?

http://www.mixedinkey.com/

Industry Watch: January 2014

2013 CEA Technology Winners

Charlie Hughes

Photo 1: Charlie Hughes earned the 2013 Consumer Electronics
Association’s (CEA) Technology & Standards Award for his work on CEA-2034.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recently announced the winners of the sixth annual Technology & Standards Awards. Nominees were judged on their commitment to excellence as evidenced by the extent and consistency of their overall ongoing contributions to the CEA’s Technology & Standards program.

“This year’s award recipients have demonstrated industry leadership through active participation in the CEA’s Technology & Standards program both over the long term and with recent projects,” according to Brian Markwalter, the CEA’s senior vice president for research and standards. “All of our honorees have dedicated countless hours to creating standards that launch new product categories and make existing products easier to use.”

Charlie Hughes received one of this year’s awards for standards pertaining to loudspeaker development (see Photo 1). Hughes is president of Excelsior Audio Design & Services (www.excelsior-audio.com) and the co-chairman of CEA’s Sound Measurement Working Group. He received this prestigious award for spearheading the publication of CEA-2034, Standard Method of Measurement for In-Home Loudspeakers. Hughes is also a contributing Voice Coil author. Congratulations Charlie!

 


2014 CES Best of Innovations Awardees

The CEA also announced its list of 2014 International Consumer Economic Show (CES) Best of Innovations Design and Engineering award honorees. The CES Innovations Awards honor outstanding design and engineering advancements across 28 consumer electronics product categories, including two new categories this year: 3-D Printing and Additive Manufacturing and Wearable Technologies.

The Best of Innovations designation is awarded to products with the highest judges’ scores and will be honored during the 2014 International CES, January 7–10, 2014, in Las Vegas, NV. The award winners will be featured in the Innovations Design and Engineering Awards Showcase in the Venetian Hotel. Award winners with products related to the loudspeaker industry include:

  • Headphones: Plantronics, the BackBeat Go 2 + Charging Case
  • High-Performance Home Audio: Bang & Olufsen, BeoLab 18
  • Home Theater Speakers: Philips Consumer Lifestyle, Philips Fidelio E5 Wireless Surround Cinema Speakers

 

 


HTSA 2013 Awards

The Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) presented its 2013 HTSA Vendor Awards to those who have demonstrated commitment to member growth through the development of cutting-edge products and technologies, exemplary business practices, and unyielding service and support for HTSA members. Each year the HTSA Vendor Awards go to industry professionals who have had an overwhelming impact on the success and business growth of HTSA members.

For 2013, HTSA announced the return of its Lifetime Achievement Award, one of its most coveted honors. Sandy Gross, founder and president of GoldenEar Technology, received the 2013 award. Gross’s previous company was Definitive Technology.

Other loudspeaker companies that received awards include:

  • Technology Innovation: Lenbrook Industries, the BlueSound line of wireless loudspeakers
  • Best Audio Product: Paradigm Electronics, Soundtrack home theater system

 

 


Harman Opens First US Store

HARMAN International opened its first US store on November 21, 2013, to demonstrate the company’s home, car, and pro audio products and to sell select home audio gear to consumers. The two-level, 8,500-ft2 store on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, NY, also serves as a key showroom and experience center for the company’s channel and technology partners. It will also serve as a space for its automotive OEM customers to receive a full-brand experience. Harman also plans to use the venue to host music performances and DJ sets and offer seminars to educate consumers. HARMAN will leverage its “brand ambassadors” and celebrity friends to help bring unique and memorable events to the store for Manhattan consumers.

This new HARMAN store is only the world’s second.  The first HARMAN store opened in Shanghai in 2010. A third showroom is set to open in Moscow in 2014. HARMAN has tentative plans for future stores in Los Angeles, CA, or Detroit, MI, to be close to its entertainment and auto partners.

The Manhattan store features home-theater and two-channel audio rooms, which the company’s luxury-audio dealers and channel partners can use to demonstrate equipment. The store also contains a professional DJ mixing board and interactive kiosk-style displays customers can use to learn about the company’s OEM car audio and infotainment technologies.

Multiple interactive experience areas include an interactive table display and headphone rack so shoppers can test Harman headphones by listening to provided music or by plugging in their own music players. A soundproof chamber enables customers to compare their existing headphones or select products from competing brands with HARMAN products.

The stage area features HARMAN’s professional concert and music studio equipment and will host musical performances and special events. Customers can experience large-venue premium sound in a store environment.

The store sells products for home audio enthusiasts and audiophiles. However, it does not sell products for professional sound engineers or musicians. Pro products (e.g., studio and stage microphones, headphones, and musician accessories) will occasionally be showcased, but the store won’t be a full-line showroom for pro gear.

The full line of Harman Kardon, JBL, AKG, and Infinity products is available for sale. High-performance products from the Revel and Mark Levinson brands are also displayed, but the store refers consumers to those brands’ retailers for sales. The store also offers shoppers exclusive products available only through the Madison Avenue location.

 


Bang & Olufsen Launches Industry’s First WiSA-Certified Wireless Speakers

Bang & Olufsen (B&O) has launched the loudspeaker industry’s first wireless speakers that were certified by the Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association. Additional companies are expected to launch their first WiSA-certified products at the 2014 International CES in January. WiSA technology certification includes the delivery of interference-free, wired-quality wireless audio in the 5.2–5.8 GHz U-NII band to stereo and home-theater speakers within a room up to 29.5’ × 29.5’.

B&O’s three active WiSA-certified speakers include the compact two-way aluminum BeoLab 17 ($3,990 per pair), the 12-sided BeoLab 19 subwoofer ($3,395 per pair), and the BeoLab 18 ($6,590 per pair). The BeoLab 18 speaker features a narrow, cylindrical extruded-aluminum enclosure with a spike-shaped pedestal that appears to balance the speaker on a flat, square base. This speaker can also be wall mounted. (The BeoLab 18 is actually an update of the BeoLab 8000 speaker’s iconic design, which features a tall narrow floor-standing speaker with a spike-type pedestal resting on a flat base. It was first introduced in 1992.)

In addition to the new style base, the BeoLab 18 also adds a top-mounted acoustic lens tweeter, which delivers 180° high-frequency sound to widen the stereo sweet spot. The speaker also has a front grille consisting of narrow horizontal slats arrayed in a way that maintains the speaker’s cylindrical shape. The composite-material slats are available in black or white, and an optional natural-color solid-oak grille is available ($1,350 per pair).

The BeoLab18 delivers up to 7.1 channels of 24-bit/96-kHz uncompressed audio. Using WiSA technology to eliminate cable clutter, it enables a more flexible speaker placement and overcomes sound-quality interference, latency, and cost challenges associated with other wireless technologies designed for multichannel home theaters. B&O’s implementation delivers 24-bit, 48-kHz audio over wireless and it is less prone to interference with the lower throughputs. The company maintains the sound quality is better than CD. Other B&O news includes its recent expansion of the “Play” sub brand into 32 Magnolia Design Centers inside Best Buy stores.

Bridging Audio Worlds

In the last three months, the audioXpress team attended several audio shows, including the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; the Expomusic show in São Paulo, Brazil; the CEDIA EXPO 2013 in Denver, CO; the PLASA London show in London, England; the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver, CO; and the 135th International Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention in New York, NY.

At the AES convention, we had the opportunity to publicly showcase our redesigned and expanded magazine and the feedback was extremely positive. We would like to thank all our authors, contributors, and members who offered very encouraging messages and positive suggestions.

In the midst of one of the most vibrant and well-attended AES conferences, we engaged in interesting discussions with manufacturers, students, and colleagues about the audio industry’s challenges and perspectives. Overall, we returned from New York with the sentiment that we are on the right track. More than ever, we feel there is a greater need for reliable, trustworthy, and relevant sources of technical information, which only an independent and highly focused publication can provide.

Based on the main product demonstrations and many of the excellent workshop sessions at AES, clearly there are exciting trends in all application fields. From the analog vs. digital signal debate, it seems we are transitioning to a clear acceptance of the fundamental values of good-quality analog in direct connection with digital systems and networking. That is, the audio industry is in a better position to leverage the benefits of the best analog audio electronics with the flexibility of the highest-quality digital hardware and software. And the implications are important.

The main implication is the typical “interconnect” and point-to-point signal transmission is “blurring” into the—as yet unknown to many—concept of network architectures. As witnessed at the 2013 AES convention, the pro audio industry is embracing Audinate’s Dante technology. And, the interoperability with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.1-AVB systems and the Ravenna technologies could benefit from the new Networked Audio-Over-IP (AoIP) Interoperability Standard: AES67-2013.

Still, independent of the network signals, we will certainly see more evolution in the next few years. As Michael Johas Teener, IEEE 802.1 Time Sensitive Networking Task Group Chairman, recently stated in a video testimony shared by the IEEE Standards Association, “Networks shouldn’t just be created for devices that are far apart; short ranges should be considered too. And once again, with its ability to replace many cables such as USB and HDMI, Ethernet could be the solution. Eliminating the RJ45 connector—or making it smaller and easier to use—is one good place to start.”

We think one of key factors in the adoption of technologies (e.g., HDBase-T) is the ability to transition from commercial installations into consumer electronics. Everyone concurs that hybrid A/D audio systems depend on too many connectivity issues. It is likely the audio network architectures will also have to evolve into simpler interfaces, the most popular of which—at least in the consumer space—will probably not even use cables. It will be wireless.

João Martins
Editor-in-Chief

Audinate Releases New 4×4 Channel Dante Ultimo Silicon Platform

Audinate's 4x4 Dante Ultimo

Audinate’s 4×4 Dante Ultimo

Audinate’s new 4×4 channels Dante Ultimo silicon platform will enable more audio networking systems for A/V, conferencing, public address, and broadcast applications. The new Audionate Dante Ultimo (ULT-01-004) solution supports 4 channels in and 4 channels out of uncompressed audio, double the capacity of the Ultimo chip (ULT-01-002) introduced at the beginning of 2013. This family of complete, ready-to-use, single-chip Dante solutions for networked audio products will accelerate the implementation for powered speakers, microphones, AV wall plates, paging stations, intercoms, and analog/digital break-in/break out interfaces, etc. With this announcement, Audinate also confirmed that the complete Ultimo product family will be enhanced to support an increased range of sample rates (44.1KHz, 48KHz, 88.2KHz, 96KHz); pull up / pull down support; remote signal presence indication; latency monitoring; improved clock statistics reporting; and GPIO pin activation. Audinate also confirms that several OEMs are already developing products based on the new Ultimo features and options, which will be generally available in Q1, 2014.

www.audinate.com

Bose Active Sound Management Software for Noise Cancellation in Cars Now Available on Chip from NXP Semiconductors

Through an engineering collaboration with NXP, vehicles without Bose speakers and amplifiers can now use Bose Active Sound Management technology to cancel unwanted engine and powertrain noise in a car’s cabin. The Bose software solution will operate in any vehicle using a head unit equipped with NXP’s SAF775x car radio integrated circuit, and any sound system that performs in the frequency range necessary for active noise cancellation. The Bose/NXP solution provides an easy, efficient approach for controlling engine and powertrain noise by using existing sound system designs and eliminating the weight and cost of traditional noise management.

Bose developed Active Sound Management technology as an alternate approach to conventional noise-management systems that rely on mechanical solutions, such as acoustic insulation, mass dampers and active exhaust valves. Bose Active Sound Management algorithms target a narrow band of low-frequency engine sounds and where only available in cars with Bose sound system hardware, including models from Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Infiniti. The Bose/NXP solution extends the technology capabilities to a wider range of car-makers and models.

www.bose.com

Industry Watch: December 2013

Primax Acquires 70% Share of Tymphany

Primax Electronics, based in Taiwan and founded in 1984, will acquire a 70% share in Tymphany. Hong Kong, China-based Tymphany is an ODM and OEM speaker supplier for home, car, and pro audio brands. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of the year following regulatory approvals. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Tymphany has a proven record of success with a healthy margin and balance sheet. The company has been growing at a pace of 40% a year for the past two years. Primax COO Brian Yang said he expects the acquisition to significantly contribute to Primax’s revenues and earnings next year.

Tymphany said it will continue to operate as an independent company but will benefit from the Primax’s technology offerings and manufacturing capabilities. Primax, which is said to be the world’s largest PC peripheral equipment manufacturer, sells products under its own brand name. It is also an ODM and OEM supplier.

Tymphany, with administrative offices in Sausalito, CA, will retain its existing 2,500-employee work force, partner relationships, and management, including Tom Jacoby, chairman and corporate development officer. Tymphany also owns Peerless, an OEM supplier of speaker transducers.

Primax said the acquisition will help expand its presence in the digital audio market, including Bluetooth speakers, digital music players, wireless audio systems, and so forth. “We believe the combined strength of the audio and acoustic technology of Tymphany and the wireless and electronics manufacturing expertise of Primax will put us in the leading position of serving the needs of the digital audio industry,” according to Primax chairman/CEO Raymond Liang.

With the acquisition, Primax also receives a majority stake in several factories and R&D centers in South China. Tymphany’s 2,500 employees are located throughout China, Europe, and the US.

 


AudioXperts Closes Due to Lack of Funding

Luxury-audio startup AudioXperts closed its operations October 11, 2013. However, some of its products may make their way into the consumer electronics (CE) market. Eli Harary, AudioXperts founder and industry veteran, explained that the company’s majority investor, a Taiwan-based company with factories in mainland China, stopped funding AudioXperts after reaching an agreed-upon investment level. The investor decided to discontinue funding even though most of AudioXperts’s delayed product line was coming to market almost a year later than planned.

Unfortunately, AudioXperts reached its investment cap due to design, engineering, and build delays. One product, a TV sound base, was recalled due to quality issues. Other products had to be reworked to meet quality levels. This is not uncommon. coNEXTion Systems, a former CEDIA HT and distributed audio startup, closed for similar reasons (although it did not experience quality control issues).

It seems some Chinese companies that invest in US CE startups don’t understand the way the US does business. This is unfortunate since the potential for success when combining US engineering and marketing with China’s manufacturing can be powerful.

Although Harary explained to the investor’s board that most products were just now coming to market, the board was not willing to continue funding the company. As for the brand’s future, Harary said it is possible, but unlikely, that he will find another investor to operate the company as it was. However, he noted that perhaps the product designs and tooling may be sold to another company that could bring the products to market. AudioXperts attended this year’s CEDIA Expo to promote its new products. Unfortunately, the majority of AudioXperts’ employees have been permanently laid off.

 


Leon Speakers Acquires Media Décor

Founded in 2003, Media Décor manufactures high-end concealment products, including art lifts, moving art, and flat screen TV mounts. Leon Speakers acquisition of Media Décor expands its portfolio of high-end, custom-tailored loudspeakers with TV enhancement solutions and provides new commercial and residential business opportunities.

 


Lenbrook Launches Bluesound Brand

Lenbrook Industries has launched a new brand called Bluesound. The Bluesound designs are the company’s first wireless multi-room audio products, specifically positioned to be a step up from the Sonos brand’s wireless-audio systems in performance and price. Lenbrook, which markets audio components and speakers under the NAD and PSB brands, is pursuing a more limited distribution strategy than Sonos, targeting about 100 A/V specialists. Lenbrook is also exploring an opportunity with Magnolia Home Theater and Magnolia Design Center stores.

Bluesound’s first five products have already been delivered to approximately 40 A/V specialists in the US, primarily current NAD or PSB dealers. After the International CES in January 2014, the company plans to expand distribution to about 100 specialists and possibly Best Buy’s Magnolia Home Theater, which sells NAD and PSB headphones but not NAD or PSB audio components.

An engineering team that included most of Lenbrook’s NAD and PSB engineers developed this new product line, and the company is promoting the new brand’s connection to the NAD and PSB brands’ hi-fi heritage. Bluesound is targeted to music enthusiasts who are unfamiliar with the types of audio components made by companies such as NAD/PSB but who are interested in high-performance audio.

Product development began a little more than three years ago with a mission to create an accurate and musical sounding brand that would attract a broad audience of music enthusiasts, not just audiophiles. The concept was to target music enthusiasts who like the convenience of wireless and are willing to pay more for serious hi-fi performance.

The Bluesound product line includes the $699 Power Node streamer/amplifier, the $449 Node streamer without an amplifier for connection to existing sound systems, the $699 Pulse active biamplified tabletop speaker/streamer, and the $999 Vault streamer/ripper, which also lacks an amplifier. The brand offers the $999 Duo 2.1 speaker system. It can be used with the Power Node, which features an EQ switch to optimize playback through the Duo.

The streaming products, which use Apple and Android mobile devices as system controllers, stream music over a home network via 802.11 b/g/n or via wired Ethernet from a networked PC, Mac, or NAS drive, none of which need to run Bluesound software or use Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) technology. The devices also stream music from the brand’s Vault, which combines a wired streamer with a CD ripper, and 1TB of storage for music files ripped in the MP3 and lossless FLAC formats.

All the products also incorporate the TuneIn app, which streams music from radio stations worldwide and from the radio music service. Additional music services will be added as the brand progresses. The Vault also streams from a networked computer, similar to the Sonos motif. When a USB-connected Bluetooth dongle is plugged into the Bluesound streamers, users will be able to stream music from a mobile device to the Bluetooth-connected component, which in turn will retransmit the music via Wi-Fi around the house to the other Bluesound streamers.

 


Triad Releases New Behind-Wall Speakers

Photo 1: Triad Speakers’s new DS700se is a behind-wall, two-way speaker designed for larger rooms or theaters requiring more output and highly dynamic sound quality.

Photo 1: Triad Speakers’s new DS700se is a behind-wall, two-way speaker designed for larger rooms or theaters requiring more output and highly dynamic sound quality.

Triad Speakers has released an upgrade to its behind-the-wall Invisible Designer Series Speakers. The new DS700se is Triad Speakers’s first two-way model behind-wall speaker (see Photo 1). It features wider frequency response from 50 Hz to 20 kHz, deeper bass, improved midrange and treble response, and 200-W peak per channel power handling.

The DS700se, which joins seven single-panel models, consists of two separately mounted flat vibrating honeycomb panels per channel, one panel for lows and one for highs.

The other Designer speakers use one full-range panel per channel. As with previous designs, the rigid aluminum-honeycomb panels are cut into the wall, and their paper skins are covered with plaster, drywall compound, or mud skims to completely hide the speakers by blending them into the wall. The DS700se panels fit between the wall studs in typical home construction and require a mounting depth of only 2”.
The flat-panel technology enhances off-axis response when compared with traditional speakers. This is true, in part, because the radiating panels are larger in size than a typical driver, according to Triad engineer David Nelson. Separate placement of low- and high-frequency panels also makes placement more flexible to deliver the best imaging, Nelson added. The high-frequency panel measures 17.7 ” × 13.6” × 1.6” and the low-frequency panel measures 17.7 × 7.9 × 1.6.”

The panel costs $2,250 per channel, which includes a HPF-2 limiter/filter protection unit. For more information, visit www.triadspeakers.com.

 


NTI America Celebrates 10th Anniversary

NTI Americas is marking its 10th anniversary serving North, Central, and South America with NTi Audio products and services. The formation of NTI Americas was announced 10 years ago at the 2003 New York AES convention.

The company provides factory support, sales, parts, service, and ISO calibration for all NTi Audio test equipment in the entire western hemisphere of North, Central, and South America as well as the Caribbean and other island locations.

Located in Tigard, a suburb of Portland, OR, NTI Americas represents NTi Audio at trade shows and technical conferences each year in the US and Canada. Its Oregon facility includes state-of-the-art calibration, electronic measurement equipment, and parts providing everything from a quick check up on an NTi Audio instrument to a complete overhaul and re-calibration.

During the past decade, NTI Americas has developed clients all over the hemisphere. In addition to the major pro audio, recording, and broadcast companies, other customers include major mobile device and telecommunication manufacturers and software companies, universities, colleges, research labs, production facilities, performance venues, aerospace, scientific, and military clients (e.g., NASA, NOAA, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Embraer, and the armed services).

In recent years, there has been major growth in the environmental, community noise, and life safety/security areas, leading to clients ranging from environmental agencies to the major transit systems. According to Thomas E. Mintner, president and owner of NTI Americas, “We’re grateful that over the last 10 years, NTi Audio has provided us with a continuous and growing portfolio of new high technology audio and acoustical measurement products to serve a wider and wider range of noise, audio and acoustics-oriented users.” For more information, visit www.ntiam.com.

 


CEA Study Shows 38% of Consumers Use Multiple Channels for Purchases

About 38% of brick-and-mortar shoppers end up making their consumer electronics (CE) purchases at retailers’ websites, according to a new CE study. The report, from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), also indicates that just under half (45%) of brick-and-mortar customers use their mobile devices to help them shop while in stores, and 4% will use them to make a purchase.

Still, brick-and-mortar stores retain the bulk of visitor business with 69% of purchases. What’s more, 86% of CE storefront shoppers said they use physical showrooms for product examination and returns, and 84% said they make purchases there.

The study also indicated that 89% of CE buyers use retailers’ websites to compare prices and read product reviews, while 84% compare product features online. Among those using mobile devices while shopping in stores, 54% access them to search for product information, 46% compare in-store prices with e-tailers, 42% compare the retailer’s in-store and online prices, and 42% price shop other physical retailers.

The study concluded that 38% of CE shoppers use a physical retailer’s online channels when looking to buy a CE product.

According to Rhonda Daniel, CEA’s senior manager for market research, it is imperative that physical CE retailers have a well-defined multi-channel strategy. Creating seamless and fluid relationships across channels (websites and showrooms) will enable physical retailers to play an integral and uninterrupted role along the entire path to purchase. The complete study, “Multi-Channel Alignment for CE Retailers with Physical Stores,” is available free to CEA member companies at Members.CE.org. Non-members may purchase the study for $999 at the CEA store.

 


Holiday Sales Predicted to Rise

Holiday sales are expected to increase 3.4% from last year, according to a new retail report by the trade group International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). The ICSC report maintained that its November to December forecast is up slightly from the 2012 holiday season, even though retailers are anticipating more modest sales. Despite the mixed outlook, and the economy’s “mini-cycle slowdown” over the last three quarters, this year’s holiday sales environment is looking up, according the ICSC.

Along with reduced price discounting, ICSC is also projecting a 13% increase in online and other direct sales this holiday season. Additionally, holiday hiring, which directly correlates to holiday spending and can often help forecast a stronger sales performance, is set to grow 0.5% over last year’s holiday hiring.

The ICSC’s 3.4% forecast comes in right between two previous sales projections. Earlier this month, ShopperTrak, a global retail sales consultancy, projected a 2% increase in holiday sales for November and December, while Deloitte, a financial consulting company, forecasted a gain of as much as 4.5% for the November to January period.

 


NEAR Returns to Consumer Products

Photo 2: NEAR’s residential bracket-mounted speakers are designed for outdoor use. (Photo courtesy of NEAR)

Photo 2: NEAR’s residential bracket-mounted speakers are designed for outdoor use. (Photo courtesy of NEAR)

New England Audio Resource (NEAR) returned to the CEDIA Expo (September 25—28, 2013 in Denver, CO) for the first time in 14 years to launch a line of all-environment speakers and a companion amplifier for residential applications. Based in Gardiner, ME, NEAR has been focusing on the commercial speaker products following its acquisition by Bogen Communications in 1999. Based in Ramsey, N.J., Bogen Communications is a commercial audio products supplier. Since its acquisition, NEAR’s lineup had been aimed primarily at commercial applications, though NEAR products did sometimes cross over into residential channels when Bogen distributors sold to residential contractors.

Now, NEAR is reentering the residential market, according to NEAR founder and chief product engineer Bill Kieltyka. With consumers growing interest in outdoor audio, NEAR thought it was time to launch an entirely new line designed specifically for the residential contractor.

Although NEAR has essentially been out of the residential channel for more than a decade, the company has been continually advancing its knowledge of what it takes to produce audiophile-grade speakers that can withstand the most brutal conditions in all environments. Developing outdoor speakers for commercial applications enabled the company to take its spider-less, magnetic-suspension metal-cone drivers to new levels of reliability under the most brutal conditions.

The new NEAR residential products include four full-range bracket-mounted speakers—the LB 4, the LB 5, the LB 6, and the LB 8 (see Photo 2). The lineup also includes three full-range speakers designed to be partially buried in the ground—the IG 5, the IG 6, and the IG 8—and the 12” IGS 12 subwoofer.

The new speakers use NEAR-developed spiderless magnetic-fluid suspension woofers. The full-range models are two-way coaxial models with aluminum-dome drivers. The line also includes a 2 × 600-W 6XL amplifier designed for use with the NEAR speaker systems. It features onboard selectable high- and low-pass filters for use in outdoor systems that include a subwoofer. The 6XL drives both 70-V and 8-Ω speakers, thanks to a transformer-less output topography. The LB models are available in black or white. The IG and IGS models are available in a terra-cotta color.

Cosmetically, NEAR’s new speakers feature designs from Allen Boothroyd’s design studio. The LB models, for example, use an unusual lever-locking system and pre-terminated connection leads to make installation and positioning easier and safer.

The IG and IGS models feature a “bee-hive” shape that provides security when partially buried. However, the design also lends itself to freestanding applications.

 


KEF Releases THX Architectural Speakers

Photo 3: KEF now offers architectural speakers, including the Ci5160RL-THX. (Photo courtesy of KEF)

Photo 3: KEF now offers architectural speakers, including the Ci5160RL-THX. (Photo courtesy of KEF)

KEF officially added its name to the short list of loudspeaker manufacturers that are offering THX-certified architectural speakers (only two other companies—Klipsch and Atlantic Technology—offer THX architectural speakers). KEF’s new products consists of two THX Ultra2 in-wall left, center, or right (LCR) speakers due in January, an Ultra2 round in-ceiling speaker due in December, and an in-wall subwoofer due in January. Two subwoofers used together will qualify for Select2 certification, and four subwoofers will deliver Ultra2 THX performance.

The two three-way LCRs are somewhat unique and use an aluminum front baffle with a perforated-metal bezelless grille. Optional black and white fabric grilles leave a quarter-inch of aluminum exposed around the baffles’ perimeter as an aesthetic option. One of the LCRs, the Ci5160RL-THX, retails for $3,000 each, and the smaller Ci3160RL-THX retails for $1,700 each.

The Ci5160RL-THX contains four 6.5” woofers and a 6.5” midrange with a concentrically mounted tweeter based on KEF’s UniQ design (see Photo 3). The Ci3160RL-THX has two 6.5” woofers and a 6.5” midrange with a concentrically mounted tweeter. The required cutout is 8.2” × 26”. The round in-ceiling speaker is the two-way $800—each Ci1200RR-THX with 8” woofer and concentrically mounted 1.5” dome tweeter. The speaker features a narrow-bezel grille.

The in-wall subwoofer is the Ci3160RLb-THX with three vertically arrayed 6.5” woofers on an aluminum baffle. The $1,000-each subwoofer is matched to a $1,000-each 2 × 250-W KASA500 amplifier that can drive two subwoofers simultaneously. The rack-mountable Class-D amplifier incorporates DSP for active equalization. The amplifier and the subwoofer will be available in January.

 


Artison’s New In-Wall Subwoofers

Photo 4: The RCC 320 PC uses two pairs of 4” × 6” drivers to fit in a standard wall and to provide a reactance-canceling configuration. (Photo courtesy of Artison)

Photo 4: The RCC 320 PC uses two pairs of 4” × 6” drivers to fit in a standard wall and to provide a reactance-canceling configuration. (Photo courtesy of Artison)

Artison recently unveiled four new in-wall active subwoofers, all with dual drivers in a reactance-canceling configuration to prevent cabinet and wall vibrations. Non-mass concealing in-wall subwoofers produce cabinet and wall vibrations that reduce audio output and clarity, not to mention disturb people in adjoining rooms. The subwoofers fit flush in standard 2 × 4 walls.

The four models include the $900 RCC 320 PC (see Photo 4) and $1,500 RCC 640 PC, both for preconstruction installations, and the $900 RCC 320 R and $1,500 RCC 640 R for retrofit applications. Their companion subwoofer amplifier is the $800 RCC 620 SA. The amplifier and the 320 models ship in October, and the 640 models ship in November.

They all feature all-aluminum enclosures, IP 65 waterproof rating for high-moisture environments, high-efficiency drivers with extended throw to produce accurate extended bass, and low-profile decorator grilles. The amplifier can drive multiple subwoofers at a time. However, the enclosures are small to increase application options without sacrificing performance, according to the company, which is owned by Cary Christie, one of Infinity’s original founders.

To reduce the size to fit in a standard wall and to provide a reactance-canceling configuration, the RCC 320 PC and RCC 320 R use two pairs of 4” × 6” drivers, while the other two subwoofers use four pairs of 4” × 6” drivers. Each pair of drivers faces each other inside the cabinet, and sound is vented through a horizontal slot in the baffle.

In the preconstruction models, only a narrow grille that covers the vent is visible to homeowners. The retrofit models use larger grilles. The paired drivers are driven in phase so that cone motion is in unison, but physically out-of-phase, thus canceling each driver’s reactive forces, according to Christie. The configuration also enables the use of smaller, lighter, more accurate drivers that are collectively more efficient and have more power handling capacity than a single larger driver. An all-aluminum enclosure was chosen because of its stiffness and thinness, which maximizes interior volume.

The outboard rack-mount Class-D amplifier delivers 400 WRMS into one subwoofer and 600 WRMS into two subwoofers. It features DSP-based preamplifier, music, and movie modes selectable via amplifier IR codes, 0°-to-180° digital phase-shift adjustment, signal-sensing on/off, 12-V triggers, IR jack, balanced XLR input, and adjustable low-pass crossover from 40 to 160 with 12 and 24-dB/octave cutoff slopes.
Separately, Artison is showing a new custom-installed speaker designated for rear- or side-surround applications.

Photo 5: Artison’s new Mezzanine 8 speaker is designed for in-wall or in-ceiling placement. (Photo courtesy of Artison)

Photo 5: Artison’s new Mezzanine 8 speaker is designed for in-wall or in-ceiling placement. (Photo courtesy of Artison)

The Mezzanine 8 speaker is designed for in-wall or in-ceiling placement (see Photo 5). It is shipping at $600 per pair. It joins a LRSIW in-wall speaker designated for left, right, and surround applications.
The Mezzanine’s four drivers consist of two mid-woofers and two silk-dome tweeters in a sealed enclosure. The tweeters are mounted at a 60° angle to one another and are wired out of phase to create a nondirectional acoustic pattern above 3 kHz, enveloping listeners “in three-dimensional space,” the company said.

The dual mid-woofers are wired in-phase to generate a point source to provide precise locations for action and reality scenes. The enclosure is molded in ABS plastic with glass fiber for strength and durability. Mounting depth is only 3.5”. It ships with a round, paintable grille for in-ceiling use and an optional square grille for wall placement.

The January 2014 Edition of audioXpress is Now Available Online!

Our first issue for the New Year highlights the main technologies and product launches at the 135th Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention, one of the best audio engineering-related events in the US. While there, AES celebrated its 65th anniversary. And, of course, the convention was also a special event for us, marking the official presentation of the redesigned and reenergized audioXpress magazine!

In our What’s News section, we discuss HARMAN’s acquisition of Duran Audio, which was announced during the 135th AES Convention, and we detail the Dutch company’s valuable technologies and its history.

Our review for the month reveals a great stereo compressor in a 500-series format from the Polish company IGS Audio. Miguel Marques enjoyed his examination of the S-Type 500 VCA compressor and details the features and circuitry of this remake of a classic.

AX_012014Jan_360pxIn the final article of our three-part series “Tips to Resurrect a Classic Speaker or Design a New System,” Thomas Perazella confirms that a new woofer and a few DSP corrections can significantly improve the original Heil air motion transformer’s sound quality.

And for those who enjoy DIY audio, we have The Twin-T Oscillator, an audio oscillator and stereo VU meter design by Larry Cicchinelli. The easy-to-use unit combines a calibrated audio source with a level display.

In our Standards Review column, we discuss the new AES67-2013 Networked Audio-Over-IP (AoIP) Interoperability Standard and all the implications for the audio industry.

The issue also includes the third article in the series “The Lowdown on Woofers, Subwoofers, and Bass Shakers,” in which Mike Klasco and Steve Tatarunis look inside a few drivers and compare subwoofers and woofers.

For those audiophiles who follow Richard Honeycutt’s column, Sound Control, you will be glad to know that he addresses the difficult question of “Sound Isolation” and discusses the options when acousticians are asked the cost to “soundproof” a certain room.

Richard Honeycutt also begins a new series of articles dedicated to “The Development of Tube Guitar Amplifiers” in his respected Hollow-State Electronics column.

Finally, our own Shannon Becker interviews entrepreneurs Jason Lucash and Mike Szymczak, founders of OrigAudio, a really interesting company with great concepts for “foldable” speakers and other unique ideas.

Check it out at: www.gotomyxpress.com or visit audioxpress.com for information on how you can receive a monthly copy wherever you go.

RME Converts its Windows/Mac Software TotalMix FX to iOS

RME TotalMix-FX on iOS

RME TotalMix-FX on iOS

Now available on the iTunes App Store, the new TotalMix FX for iPad gives control over the mixer and effects of the supported RME audio interfaces Fireface UCX and Fireface UFX, when these devices are in Class Compliant mode. TotalMix for iPad does not work wirelessly, and is not a replacement for typical remote software (like Lemur / TouchOSC). According to the German company, TotalMix FX for iPad runs on any iPad and all iOS versions from 5.0 up, using only low resources. As under Windows and Mac OS X it does not process audio, but acts as remote control for the calculations performed in the hardware. The app is fully compatible even when storing/loading Workspaces. Except for MIDI/OSC remote control, it includes all features of the desktop version allowing a full overview and lightning fast configuration. Even DURec (Direct USB Recording) is fully usable and controllable from the iPad.

www.rme-audio.de

Member Profile: Doug Pomeroy

Doug Pomeroy

Doug Pomeroy

Member Name: Doug Pomeroy

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Education: Doug has a BA in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Occupation: Doug is an audio engineer. Among his career highlights, he was a Columbia Records staff recording engineer from 1969-1976.

Member Status: Doug said he has been reading audioXpress magazine since its first issue.

Affiliations: He is very active in the professional audio industry. Doug is a member of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), the Boston Audio Society, and the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC).

Audio Interests: Doug said he enjoys audio restoration and audiophile recording.

Most Recent Purchase: His most recent purchase is WaveLab7, which is used for mastering, audio editing, and restoration. Doug said he tried it and does not like it.

Current Audio Projects: Doug is working on a project that involves the transfer and restoration of Count Basie “acetates.“ William James “Count” Basie (August 21, 1904–April 26, 1984) was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer.

Dream System: In response to this question, Doug said “I have no more dreams, but I might like some good ribbon mics.”