The April 2014 Issue of audioXpress is Now Online

AX-2014-04This month’s audioXpress reviews the different approaches in microphone placement techniques for capturing and recording unamplified acoustic music, particularly classical music. A recent study and AES presentation has reignited this issue and our author Gary Galo decided an historical perspective was needed in his article “Stereophonic Recording: What Do Listeners Prefer?”

In our usual review section, we give a listen to the new Focal Spirit Professional Headphones, the first effort of this kind from the prestigious French manufacturer. Miguel Marques tested the Focal Spirit Pros in a quest to discover what this new model brings to an already crowded and very competitive headphone market.

Interested in high-resolution audio? Then you might want to check our Standards Review column, where we examine the recently announced HDMI 2.0 specification. HDMI 2.0 introduces bandwidth support for Ultra HD/4K televisions, adds up to 32 audio channels and 1,536-kHz audio sample frequency with simultaneous delivery of video and audio streams to multiple users.

In this edition, we interview Craig Bernabeu, founder and chief designer of SBS Designs. He created the company with a former colleague to explore “different approaches to record or play back music that would suit my needs” and realize his vision of “US-made high-end designs with a left-field approach available to users,” as he describes it.

Get ready to shake. Mike Klasco’s and Steve Tatarunis’s article discusses structure-borne vibrational energy with “Bass Shakers: Enhancing the Deep Bass Experience with Tactile Energy.”
This month’s Hollow-State Electronics column is dedicated to the “Effects Of Guitar-Amplifier Design On Distortion Sound.” Richard Honeycutt looks closely at one particular amplifier’s design to determine at what stages most of the distortion occurs.

For those interested in DIY projects, you will enjoy a great concept from Michael Rothacher with his LuminAria: A SIT Preamplifier. The author intended this preamplifier to be “compact enough to fit in a suitcase” and a “good-sounding, unusual preamplifier with a spiffy set of performance specifications.” He completed the project in two months, and it was one of the highlights at the Burning Amp Festival in San Francisco.

In our Audio Electronics column, we have Bill Reeve’s take on “An Alternative to Linear Regulators.” In the article, he searches for equivalent power-line ripple rejection with less power dissipation, because no one wants to listen to an audio amplifier that hums.

We also included a book review and this month we share what we can learn from a master by reading The Bruce Swedien Recording Method.

Your new issue of audioXpress is now available at www.gotomyxpress.com

New Soundcraft Vi3000 Console with Onboard Dante

Soundcraft Vi3000 Console

Soundcraft Vi3000 Console

At Prolight+Sound 2014, Harman’s Soundcraft introduced its brand new Vi3000 ‘all-in-one’ digital live sound console, offering a host of state-of-the-art features including the groundbreaking internal DSP Soundcraft SpiderCore, a new industrial design, 96 channels to mix, onboard Dante network compatibility and much more in a very compact footprint. The Vi3000 uses the new internal DSP SpiderCore with Soundcraft’s Vi Version 4.8 operating software, offering the new 3D Vistonics user interface while adding a fourth 24-channel fader layer to improve access to the console’s 96 input channels. The surface operation and layout is similar to other Vi Series consoles, providing a familiar feel while offering expanded functionality. The Vi3000 also features upgraded microphone preamps and 40-bit Floating Point DSP processing for superlative sound quality.

Using a more efficiently designed control surface, with 36 faders, 24 mono/stereo busses and four Vistonics II touch screen interfaces with updated 3D graphics, it can be used by two engineers at the same time.

In addition to a full complement of analogue and digital inputs and outputs, the console provides Dante/MADI record feed outputs and is the first Soundcraft console to incorporate a built-in Dante interface as standard, for seamless digital audio networking with Dante-enabled devices.

http://www.soundcraft.com

New NTi Audio XL2 Data Explorer PC Reporting Software

NTi Audio confirmed the release of Data Explorer, a new PC reporting software for precision-grade noise measurements. With a design inspired by users of the XL2 Acoustic Analyzer, the Data Explorer is an ideal sound level meter companion offering clear visualization, fast data analysis and professional reporting of environmental noise measurements.

NTIThe Data Explorer software visualizes the entire data set including spectrogram and provides very fast zoom and pan response, even for data sets with millions of data points, creating professional reports with a mouse click and customized reports with titles, comments and own logos. Audio files are time-aligned to the graph for instantaneous playback including proper levelling. The XL2 Data Explorer PC software also automatically adds relevant header data such as the measurement date, calibration information, instrument setup etc., to produce a tailored and professional-looking report. The installation of XL2 Data Explorer software on multiple PCs provides consultants with the freedom to distribute their measurement projects among team members and clients. The data import into the software is enabled by an option installed in the XL2 Sound Level Meter. The installation of the XL2 option requires firmware V2.72 or higher. Legacy data import recorded prior the option installation is supported.

http://www.nti-audio.com/en/products/xl2-sound-level-meter/analysis-software.aspx

Q&A: Engineer Takes a Chance on Start-Up Audio Venture

SHANNON BECKER: Tell us about your company Tortuga Audio. Can you also share the story behind your sea turtle mascot?

Morten Sissener used his engineering knowledge to open his own audio design boutique, which he named Tortuga Audio.

Morten Sissener used his engineering knowledge to open his own audio design boutique, which he named Tortuga Audio.

MORTEN SISSENER: Tortuga Audio is a boutique audio design, manufacturing, and marketing company located in South Florida. At present we only sell through the Internet via our website although we expect to add channel partners in the future probably starting in Europe.  We’re a little over a year old in terms of coming out with our first products—a line of passive preamplifiers built around light-dependent resistors (LDRs). We actually manufacture here in the US. While it may not hold much sway with customers, there’s something satisfying in being able to say “Made in the USA.” That’s the short and mostly dry of it.

Our mascot is the sea turtle wearing a set of headphones. People who know me wouldn’t describe me as being particularly religious or spiritual, but I’ve come to accept the sea turtle as my totem. A totem is an object or symbol representing an animal or plant that serves as an emblem of an individual, family, or tribe. You don’t pick your totem. Your totem picks you.

I’ve always had a fascination with a place called The Dry Tortugas. It’s a small cluster of islands about 70 miles west of Key West, FL. I first heard of this place in an adventure book I read when I was a young boy. I fell in love with reading, warm blue water, and The Dry Tortugas.

Years later, I bought a boat in South Florida. The first time I took that boat offshore I went out 20 miles, stopped, and turned off the engines. I was out of sight of land. The water was glassy calm. Thirty feet off the starboard beam a sea turtle surfaced and stared at me. I stared back. This lasted for over a minute. Then the turtle dove away. The name I’d already put across the transom of my boat was The “Tortuga Dreamer.” So when it came time to name my audio company you could say it named itself—Tortuga Audio.

SHANNON: What prompted you to start a company that designs and manufactures audio equipment, particularly in 2010 when the economy was so uncertain?

MORTEN: Starting an audio company that caters to a shrinking niche of audio fanatics as the masses continued shifting to low-resolution MP3 audio and inexpensive ear buds was arguably a questionable business decision. However, it was definitely a passionate business decision. Approaching 60, I figured it was time to pursue my passion rather than my resume. And I’ve always been passionate about technology, audio, and music. You could say the rational engineer decided to follow his heart.

SHANNON: What kind of audio products do you build? Can you share some of your design challenges?

As with all Tortuga Audio’s LDR passive preamplifier (LDRx) products, the LDR6 has unity gain passive (no active amplification) volume controllers that employ digitally controlled audio grade light-dependent analog resistors to provide neutral and transparent attenuation.

As with all Tortuga Audio’s LDR passive preamplifier (LDRx) products, the LDR6 has unity gain passive (no active amplification) volume controllers that employ digitally controlled audio grade light-dependent analog resistors to provide neutral and transparent attenuation.

MORTEN: While the business rationale behind the founding of Tortuga Audio may not win first prize in any business plan contest, the decision to pursue our flagship product was, and remains, highly rational and compelling.

Back in 2009, I was building a tube preamplifier mostly as an exercise to see if tubes could really offer more than solid state. I was less than impressed with the results even though I’d used a well recognized kit/design and top-of-the-line components.

At the time I was using a motorized Alps Blue Velvet potentiometer for volume control. Thinking that perhaps I could improve the sound by going to a stepped attenuator, I stumbled across LDRs. I cobbled together a very basic LDR volume control based on bits and snippets of information on the Internet, pulled out the Alps potentiometer and installed the LDR. The result was nothing less than a revelation!

The fact that this tube preamplifier went from disappointing to awesome simply by changing the attenuator made quite an impression on me and frankly I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s what engineers do. Especially this engineer. I can’t stop thinking of ways to do things differently or better. I’ve always hated that old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Can you imagine Steve Jobs saying that?

This led me to ask a simple question. Why do I need a preamplifier? Why preamplify and then amplify? Do I really need the additional gain? In most instances, the answer is no.

I looked at all the complexity of that tube preamplifier and decided to pull out the LDR attenuator, set the preamplifier aside, and use the LDR as a purely passive volume controller. The result? It sounded even better without the tube preamplifier. And not just a little bit better, a lot better! I was so impressed with this LDR attenuator that I couldn’t leave it alone. From that point forward, I dove into the deep end of LDR volume control.

SHANNON: What makes your audio equipment unique?

MORTEN: LDRs are challenging to work with because  they are both nonlinear and variable. Nonlinear means their relationship between control signal applied to an LDR and the resulting resistance level is not a simple fixed ratio. Variable means that this nonlinear relationship can vary from one LDR to the next even with LDRs of the same model, from the same manufacturer, and from the same production run. That’s a lot of variable nonlinear stuff and that makes it very hard to get consistent predictable behavior when using LDRs for volume control. No designer likes to work with audio components that behave like LDRs.

Part of our solution to taming the wild LDR was to design a programmable digital control unit that enables us to control the analog LDR with proprietary software algorithms. We combine digital control with a two-step testing protocol such that each LDR preamplifier we build has a custom set of software-based correction curves that ensures  predictable performance. This is neither simple nor easy, but we’ve put an enormous amount of time and effort into developing the software and hardware tools to do this cost effectively.

The result is a unique and game-changing LDR-based passive preamplifier (volume control) design that we believe rivals not only all other passive preamplifiers out there but also meets or beats even the best high-end active preamplifiers. While I happen to believe this personally, feedback from our customers and reviewers continues to reinforce this view.

SHANNON: Are you currently planning or working on any new product designs?

The Tortuga LDR3x is a preamplifier controller board designed around LDRs that enables DIYers to build a passive or active preamplifier including remote control.

The Tortuga LDR3x is a preamplifier controller board designed around LDRs that enables DIYers to build a passive or active preamplifier including remote control.

MORTEN: Our core focus continues to be advancing the development of our LDR-based volume controller products. In the third quarter of 2012, we came out with our LDR1 and  LDR6 passive preamplifiers, which are finished preamplifier products. In the third quarter of 2013, we introduced the LDR3x passive preamplifier controller board (the LDR3x), which we marketed to the DIY audio community. We plan on continuing to serve the high-end audiophile consumers with finished products and provide DIY products to audio enthusiasts who’d rather build it themselves.

In November of 2013, we introduced the HiZ upgrade to our LDR-based preamplifiers. The HiZ algorithm enabled us to raise the input impedance of our LDRx products resulting in a remarkable improvement to an already fantastic-sounding preamplifier/volume controller. As far as we know, nobody else has done anything like this.

In terms of what’s next, we are working hard on coming out with our new line of LDRx passive preamplifiers including our new LDR3B, which I believe may be the first-ever LDR-based preamplifier for balanced audio. We hope to release the LDR3B before the end of March. Since we are a relatively low-volume business and want to offer distinctive products that are not priced out of reach to most audiophiles, we’ve decided to manufacture our own enclosures in-house going forward. This will keep our costs down while enabling us to offer high-quality products and still retain the flexibility of small-batch production, quick design changes, and the ability to offer custom solutions.

Beyond our next generation line of LDR preamplifiers, we plan to introduce a buffer companion product to our passive preamplifiers that will expand the application of our preamplifier/volume controller to include sources and amplifiers where a pure passive may not be the best fit. We are also considering the introduction of an integrated amplifier product that will allow us to target a broader market. These will be second half of 2014 products.

Longer term, we are quite excited about the prospects for an OEM version of our LDR preamplifier controller product. Every active preamplifier or integrated amplifier sold and marketed to the audiophile community that currently uses a potentiometer for volume control would sound better with a Tortuga Audio LDR volume controller. And along with being the best-sounding attenuator available, it also includes input switching, IR remote control, and a built-in encoder control.

SHANNON: How did you become interested in audio electronics?

This 3-D CAD rendering shows the front (a) and the back (b) view of a prototype enclosure design for Tortuga’s new LDR3B balanced passive preamplifier, a new product line that will be coming out in March.

This 3-D CAD rendering shows the front (a) and the back (b) view of a prototype enclosure design for Tortuga’s new LDR3B balanced passive preamplifier, a new product line that will be coming out in March.

MORTEN: As a newly minted mechanical engineer, I started my professional career in the aerospace sector working with complex electromechanical systems. This segued into energy when the company I was with in California became interested in alternative methods of power production. This eventually led me into industrial construction, large capital project development, project finance, software, sales and marketing, wind, solar and biofuels, as well as several start-ups along the way. An interesting ride but all along I was remained very interested in technology, software development, audio, and music. I decided it was time for my true interests to rule the day rather than the inertia of my resume. Plus I’m just an unapologetic techno-geek with a big creative itch that needed scratching. I also like to run my own show.

SHANNON: Where do you see the audio industry in 10 years?

MORTEN: I believe the high-end audiophile market with many components costing $10,00 or more is going to continue to decline into obscurity. Many have argued that the high-end market may already be in a terminal death spiral of rising prices and shrinking volume. I tend to agree. If true, that’s not a sustainable scenario for high-end audio.

The audio listening paradigm of a big-rig stereo in the living room that the aging baby boomer audiophiles were introduced to in the 1970s is not the central paradigm of contemporary audio. Where only a few years ago you could go into a big box store and see racks of receivers, rows of speakers and even a “high end” listening room, today, most of that is simply gone.

Ironically, we are collectively listening to more music from more sources more of the time than ever before. Access to music is wide if not deep. The Internet has become the new radio. Online streaming is becoming the norm for most consumers while buying and owning music is slowly retreating, This is especially true for physical media such as CDs.

Despite this bounty of access, we’ve also experienced the concurrent dumbing down of audio quality (e.g., low-resolution MP3 files) and listening through lo-fi hardware, most of which has gone mobile. So it’s an interesting mixed bag of good and bad news for us audio nutters.

While the road ahead may be unclear, I believe that a significant percentage of all those 20-to-30-something Millenials and Xers are eventually going to raise the bar on their audio game as they grow older and their incomes rise. But you can forget living rooms filled with big, heavy, and expensive gear as the norm. “Personal audio” will continue to grow and evolve and that means computer centric audio.

For most, that will mean DAC->preamplifier (volume controller)->amplifier->speaker configuration in which the DAC/preamplifier/amplifier separates will trend toward being a single integrated component. Speakers will be smaller, but higher quality near-field units usually located on desks or bookshelves near where people sit and work with their computers. And yes, no doubt a subset of these folks will eventually go with some bigger gear as well. But I believe we’re talking a few thousand dollars of audio gear and not tens of thousands of dollars.

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

MORTEN: I tend to be a minimalist and a skeptic and try to not get distracted by bright shiny objects.  What I recommend is forget cables, power conditioners, cryogenics, and ceramic outlet face plates. Focus first on what matters the most.

Nothing will affect your audio enjoyment as much as speakers. Poor-quality speakers can make a great rig sound awful. Great speakers can make a low-quality rig sound remarkably good but not great. My personal favorite these days are full-range speakers with alnico magnets. Full-range speakers are point sources with no crossovers or phase-shifting. They offer amazing clarity, articulation, and bass.

Second (self-serving statement alert!) get the best preamplifier/volume control you can. Every note gets squeezed through the bottleneck of your volume control and this is where the most irreparable harm happens to your audio signal, even if everything else you have is really good.

Third, choose the best DAC you can. DACs are evolving rapidly, which is fantastic news.

The last thing I would worry about in terms of main components is your amplifier. Not that amplifiers don’t matter, they just don’t matter that much compared to everything else. And the good news is there’s a huge selection of great amplifiers out there.

To summarize, if you’re deciding on how to prioritize your money, make it speaker->preamplifier (volume control)->DAC->amplifier. Of course, if you’re into vinyl then a good turntable and cartridge is critical, but don’t forget the phono preamplifier. This can get expensive fast. I’d expect to spend a few thousand dollars to get into the land of great vinyl audio. It will cost more for fantastic.

Once you’ve got a decent system you really enjoy listening to, you can begin the madness of tweaking this and that, trying various cables, power conditioners, and so forth. But remember that the purveyors of audio equipment will tell and sell you practically anything you can imagine to get that extra ounce of goodness out of your rig.

Despite all the changes happening in technology and the audio industry, music remains a wonderful art form and audio is still a great hobby. Enjoy!

Audiofly Adds Quad Balanced Armature AF180 In-Ear Monitor to its Performance Series

Audiofly AF180

Audiofly AF180

Australian company Audiofly has launched its AF180 inear monitors (IEMs) with four expertly tuned balanced armature drivers and new crossover circuitry.

As Dave Thompson, CEO of Audiofly, explains: “We pride ourselves on the detailed reproduction of music and with the new AF180 we have pushed the boundary of in-ear audio technology. The AF180 features four balanced armature drivers geared to deliver ultimate separation in sound at an affordable price to all musicians within the pro audio market. Audiofly listened to user feedback and included the most requested in-ear monitor features: noise isolation; long-term comfort; on-the- road durability; and, most importantly, incredible sound reproduction. We have given musicians an essential tool to help master their craft, and music aficionados the chance to experience music like never before.”

Featuring a quartet of balanced armature drivers in each ear, the AF180 is equipped with a comfortable, noise-isolating fit and a choice of ear tips for long-term listening comfort. The Audioflex SL cable is geared for stage use, with a super-light twisted cable near the performer’s head and durable Cordura fabric reinforcing the remainder of its length. The cable is detachable via Audiofly’s Soundpatch connection, with a streamlined finish and practical, lightweight design. Suggested MSRP is $549.95.

What is a balanced armature? Compared to a dynamic driver that moves air to create sound, a balanced armature increases the efficiency of the in-ear monitor by producing more sound from less power than any other type of driver. The armature sits exactly centered within a magnetic field, so there is no force on the armature, thus the term “balanced.” The armature coil is held in the middle by two magnets until an electrical current stimulates it, causing the diaphragm to vibrate and create a sound wave. The sound wave then travels through the sound port of the driver, through the in-ear monitor into the eardrum for you to hear the accuracy and warmth of detailed sound. Balanced armatures can be tuned to focus on the highs, mids or lows or to reproduce the entire sound spectrum.

www.audiofly.com

Linx Fusion Headphones Receive Best of Innovations Recognition at CES 2014 Design and Engineering Awards.

Linx Fusion HeadphonesThe Linx Fusion is the first multisensory, active noise canceling set of headphones to fuse patented Linx Audio with ViviTouch electroactive polymer (EAP) technology to simultaneously transmit sound through the skin, bone, and ear to enhance comprehension in noisy environments and to address specific tonal sensitivities.

Audiology expert Able Planet Incorporated introduced the Linx Fusion patented multisensory technology in 2013, working with Bayer MaterialScience’s ViviTouch 4D Sound technology to create accurate reproduction and intelligibility. ViviTouch 4D Sound uses EAP technology that enhances the perception of loudness without increasing volume. It also enhances the bass response without overemphasizing annoying, high-frequency acoustic elements. Simultaneously transmitting sound through three distinct and separate audio delivery channels (skin, bone and ear) results in a clear separation of the audio.

www.ableplanet.com

Sennheiser’s New DJ Headphones Redefine Professional Performance

Sennheiser HD8-DJ

Sennheiser HD8-DJ

German audio specialist Sennheiser has led the professional audio market for more than two decades with its HD 25 headphones used by the world’s leading music producers and DJs. Sennheiser recently introduced at the CES 2014 in Las Vegas its new range of professional DJ and mixing headphones. Designed for the most demanding users and punishing pro environments, the HD8 DJ, the HD7 DJ, and the HD6 MIX have been developed in conjunction with some of the world’s top DJs—among them Bob Sinclar, Luciano, Andy Baxter, Missill, and Davina.

The three new headphones deliver excellent, dynamic sound reproduction with the highest levels of external noise attenuation, using durable materials and with exceptional build-quality.

The new headphones are inspired by the dynamic sound reproduction of the HD 25.

“Drawing on our success based around the HD 25 and extensive experience in high-end audio, the DJ range applies Sennheiser’s proprietary acoustic system to answer the needs of different performing and production applications,” says Ivan Kuan, head of Product Management, Sennheiser Consumer Electronics.

The HD8 DJ is dedicated to the needs of professional DJs with excellent sound reproduction, while the HD7 DJ offers an engaging, dynamic sound that’s perfect for playing live. Both delivering a mid-low end emphasis, the sound remains tight and never overwhelms, with clarity retained in the high frequencies. Meanwhile, the HD6 MIX, a model aimed primarily at studio-based music creation, delivers a balanced, accurate sound for mixing and monitoring work. “To hear every detail, the elliptical, circumaural ear cups were specially designed to ensure a perfect fit for more users. This provides excellent external noise attenuation that can cope with very high sound pressure levels for safer listening without turning up the volume excessively,” Kuan says.

The DJ headphone range is built for user comfort for hours at the decks, in the studio, or performing. The elliptical shape of the ear cups also avoids pinching the ears and is enhanced by interchangeable ear pads for comfortable listening during long periods of use. For hassle-free one-ear monitoring, both DJ models feature swiveling ear cups with up to 210° of movement and three different wearing positions. With both coiled and straight 3-m high-performance cables included that can connect to either ear cup, these headphones can adapt to suit any individual preference. A bayonet twist lock makes for secure connection to the headphones.

All three models are built to withstand the rigors of daily studio work and a life on the road. Sennheiser has engineered the range from durable, high-quality materials to take even the roughest everyday professional use, proven through rigorous and extended quality tests. And when the life on the road pushes the limits too far, Sennheiser’s new headphones offer replaceable parts and a commitment to customer service offering at least a five-year parts availability guarantee, even after end-of-life, and global support for quick replacements.

Key features:

  • Excellent sound reproduction with Sennheiser’s proprietary acoustics system
  • Capable of very high SPLs, suitable for DJ performance environments
  • DJ models: impedance of 95 Ω for optimum compatibility with DJ equipment
  • Monitoring model: impedance of 150 Ω for optimum compatibility with studio and mixing equipment
  • Elliptical, circumaural design for maximum comfort and excellent noise isolation; both DJ models feature swiveling ear cups (up to 210°) with three wearing positions
  • Top-of-the-range HD8 DJ model features metal-crafted reinforcement parts with an metal pivot ring
  • Single-sided coiled cable attachable to either ear cup; additional straight cable included (both up to 3m); oxygen-free copper cable with gold-plated connectors; bayonet twist lock for secure connection
  • All models come with interchangeable sets of ear pads to choose from; one in soft velour, the other in leatherette material

 

www.sennheiser.com

New Westone Signature W50/60 Earphones Introduced at the CES 2014

Westone Signature W50/60 Earphones

Westone Signature W50/60 Earphones

Westone, a manufacturer of high-performance audio and in-ear monitoring technology, has announced its new signature series W50 and W60 model earphones. Combining the latest in design with elite performance drivers and crossovers, the Signature W-Series is intended to continue the award-winning success of the Westone lineup while providing state-of-the art audio performance combined with superior design for improved comfort and fit. The W60, the brand’s first to offer six drivers, was awarded Digital Trends’s “Best Of CES 2014″ Award in the earphone category, rising above five other nominees.

The Signature W-Series features Westone’s proprietary balanced armature drivers and advanced crossover designs. The W60 includes six balanced armature drivers—dual driver for the tweeters, midranges, and bass—and multistage crossover designs (three-way), generating a powerful yet balanced sound that offers great detail and high-energy output. The W60 will be available in the first quarter of 2014 and will retail at $999.

The W50 model features five individual drivers in each earphone with the same three-way crossover. It will be available in the first quarter of 2014 with a suggested retail price of $749.99.

The W-Series is supplied with two replaceable cables—the EPIC cable for easy replacement or custom cable selection, as well as an Apple MFi cable with three-button controls and an integrated microphone. An Android control cable is available as an accessory. The new connector is compatible with all the new Westone cables including the ADV reflective cable and the new UM Pro cable. The EPIC replaceable cable is constructed of high-flex, ultra-low resistance tensile wire, reinforced with a special aramid fiber, and braided for durability, acoustic transparency, and isolation from mechanical cable noise. The new audiophile connector makes this cable solution conveniently user-removable, upgradeable, and replaceable.

The W-Series features interchangeable anodized aluminum faceplates (red, blue, and charcoal included), a straight EPIC replaceable cable, a replaceable MFi cable and MIC, an Executive Monitor Vault, a weather-resistant travel case, and five sizes of patented STAR and True-Fit Tips. With Westone True-Fit technology, the company combines 50-plus years experience with in-ear applications that have produced a low-profile, lightweight, universal earpiece that delivers maximum comfort and in-ear coupling for dynamic music listening.

“The W-Series is the latest in high performance earphones, designed and engineered for music lovers and audiophiles,” said John F. Lowrey, Vice President, Audio Group at Westone. “The W-Series represents superior sound performance, fit, and features that showcase the detail and clarity of the music.”

http://www.westoneaudio.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.

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