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

One More Take

“One more take.”

Remember that joke? The producer in the recording studio says to the band: “Not bad, fellas. Let’s do one more take, this time with more emphasis on tone, harmony, melody, rhythm, composition, lyrics, musicianship, tempo, and originality.”

Maybe it’s time for the audio industry to try “one more take.”

During last year’s 135th Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention in New York, it was apparent that the audio engineering community unites several generations. Also, the younger but much more technically perceptive generation is fascinated by the achievements of those who had the “privilege” of working in the big studios and doing audio production for live concerts, or during great broadcast moments from the 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s.

The younger generations have learned to value the tools and what they can do with them. They even value the “good old analog” electronics, essentially by using plug-in emulations of the real things inside Pro Tools or Logic. Yet, this generation also encodes studio recordings to MP3s.

From one content format to another, the music industry continually re-released its content in physical media until the Super Audio CD (SACD) and the Blu-ray disc (on video) formats appeared. And that was it. Suddenly, the Internet, mobile devices, and digital files changed everything. With that change came the MP3, the iPod, iTunes, and mobile networks. This accelerated the demise of physical media, on which the entire music industry had become over-dependent.

Meanwhile, technology continues to evolve. Even though SACD is dead and gone, the key developments remain valid and high-resolution audio is still a logical proposition. But is it well understood by the “plug-in” generation? A very faint sign of hope emits from the enthusiasm detected at events such as the AES conventions and the NAMM shows.

With new 64-bit processors and OSes becoming the norm, large bandwith networks available everywhere, and memory and storage increasing faster than consumers’ actual needs, it seems the industry is ripe for another go at quality.

As our contributing author Gary Galo noted in his impressions of the 135th AES Convention, it seems consumers are rediscovering the virtues of high-resolution sound and finding compressed formats such as MP3 unacceptable. But at the same time, mobile platforms and wireless networks have created new consumer behaviors. People are increasingly listening to music via headphones, soundbars, and portable wireless loudspeakers. Therefore, we need a new approach to address that changing landscape, and it’s not going to be with $20,000 home stereo (or multichannel) systems.

If downloading high-resolution audio files is practical and inspires a new group of record companies to reinvest in high-quality content production, it is clear that 1-bit DSD recordings could also breathe new life into studios, the pro audio industry in general, and even many high-end audio brands.

And it is at forums such as the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA—where those same generations again meet with producers and musicians—that the conscience needs to be raised. Not at the Venetian Hotel demo rooms in Las Vegas, NV. The signs are still fragile, the economic environment remains unstable, and the market trends are uncertain, but it all seems to be aligning for a “new take” in the audio industry.

João Martins
Editor-in-Chief

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

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.

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.”

From Broadcast to Home Recording to Digital Networks—Where the New audioXpress is Going

AXCover_122013Dec_120pxFor readers seeing this “second” issue of audioXpress since we introduced our new format and layout last month, I feel I should explain the concept a little more. Our target deadline for this relaunch was decided some time ago and I couldn’t think of a better place to introduce our “new” magazine than the AES convention in New York City!

I can summarize our concept in a few words: more (of what our readers expect), electronics (our roots), and audio innovation (our focus).

We are proud of our heritage as Audio Amateur, Audio Electronics, Glass Audio, and Speaker Builder magazines. Those titles were born in a time when amateur radio was still developing hand-in-hand with electronics and radio technology. And that is precisely why audioXpress is a part of the electronics publication portfolio of Elektor International Media (EIM).

But you may be wondering about audioXpress’s evolution and what to expect in the future.

It’s important to clarify that we will not continue to be a “home electronics” or consumer application-focused publication. We believe we should share the most interesting audio stories in the industry, independent of their application areas—consumer or professional, music or broadcast oriented. Hence, the innovation focus.

The most important consumer technologies often start with those developed for professionals. So, we will follow audio electronics innovations, together with the all-important disciplines of electroacoustics (and, needless to say, software, digital audio, networking protocols, and audio synthesis).

We believe that a publication such as audioXpress cannot focus only on the “home approach,” which still appeals to many enthusiasts and hobbyists. Some of us clearly remember the 1960s, when live concerts used “consumer” amps and speakers, before there were guitar amps and large speakers. At Woodstock, there were McIntosh amps (now a purely home audio brand) and the PAs were early versions of the JBL speakers (today both a pro and a consumer brand). Five years later, all the big “pro audio” brands in live sound, such as Electro-Voice and JBL, dominated that market (in the US at least). During this time, things were different in the recording studios. There, technology was first “borrowed” from radio and TV broadcasting. This is long before we had “home studios” using computers. And where exactly did that come from?

In the era of the Internet, blogs, and social networks, many magazines have disappeared. But we know a magazine can flourish. In addition to its content and its readers, a magazine must also have a purpose. It must provide a sense of community. More importantly, it needs to offer readers content they can’t find elsewhere. It does not matter if our readers are professionals, students, or enthusiasts. Our common interest unites us, whatever the platform: print, online, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail newsletters, or mobile apps.

We want to build a better audioXpress with more content, representing the common interests of the audio community while also reflecting the industry.

João Martins
Editor-in-Chief

Audio Engineering Society (AES) Welcomes New President, Dr. Sean Olive

The 135th Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention, held Thursday, October 17, through Sunday, October 20, 2013, at the Javits Center in New York City, was hailed as one of the AES’s biggest successes in recent memory. Now, the AES prepares to welcome Dr. Sean Olive as its new president, taking over from outgoing President Frank Wells. Currently serving as Director, Acoustic Research for HARMAN International, Olive is based in Northridge, CA. His location is ideal since the 137th AES Convention will take place in Los Angeles in the fall of 2014.

Dr. Sean Olive

Dr. Sean Olive

Olive’s experience is wide-ranging. His education includes a B. Mus. from University of Toronto, a M. Mus. in sound recording from McGill University and a PhD in sound reproduction from McGill. He served as an audio research scientist for the National Research Council of Canada for several years, before joining the HARMAN team in 1993. He has stayed active in academia, teaching classes at UCLA on occasion, and has been involved in various aspects of the AES’s technical committees and research initiatives. He displays an unwavering passion for audio and the AES organization, and his unique perspective as a musician, educator, recording engineer/producer, audio researcher and consumer places him in an ideal position to guide the course of the society through the next year and help plot that course for coming years.

Among Olive’s goals is to continue diversifying AES’s scope and its membership. Olive said, “The recording industry has been at times resistant to change, and we are still feeling the effects of the failure to fully embrace digital technology. The ways that consumers are experiencing music are evolving at a rapid rate, with audio as a mobile experience now being much more common than a living room with a hi-fi system. Headphone sales are through the roof, and the AES has a chance to help improve the consistency and quality of the mobile experience. As our membership continues to move toward this world, along with the worlds of film, sound contracting, live sound, automotive audio and gaming, we need to further explore these avenues to better serve our members. There is also huge room for AES member expansion into the so-called ‘BRIC’ countries – Brazil, Russia, India, and China – and we plan to increase our outreach in those regions. The AES has a tremendous leadership role and a strong membership base, and I look forward to leveraging these assets to assist in the ongoing transition to the AES of the 21st century.”

For more information on the Audio Engineering Society and upcoming events, visit http://www.aes.org/.

Expanding horizons. Expanding a common passion.

AXCover_112013Nov_120xWelcome to a new audioXpress.

Having followed the audio market and visited the world’s major trade shows for the last 20 years or more, I gained a broad perspective about how exciting and innovative the audio industry is. In particular, I recall the enlightening perspective you can receive from any Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention. The convention provides a place where industry veterans can share their experiences in engineering and communications. We chose to unveil the redesign of audioXpress at the 135th AES Convention.

In the early 1990s, I was fortunate enough to be responsible for a licensed electronics magazine. I quickly learned that the audience of such practical and project-oriented publications was a combination of students, enthusiasts, and industry professionals. They all share a passion for that field, are involved in many different areas, and use their spare time to pursue electronics-related hobbies—the most popular of which is audio electronics.

Since then, I have started several publications addressing the informational needs of professionals in the broadcasting, professional audio, and installation/systems integration markets. I also learned how the evolution of technology from analog to digital and the convergence with IT platforms and IP infrastructure was changing the market landscape at an exponential pace.

During this time, Edward T. Dell, Jr. (1923–2013) was devoting his life to people with a passion for audio electronics and creating magazines including Audio Amateur (rebranded as Audio Electronics in 1996), Glass Audio, Speaker Builder, and later, in 2000, audioXpress. In 2011, Ed Dell sold his company to Elektor International Media (EIM) and retired.

Much in the same spirit of the original Audio Amateur—and with the support of a worldwide organization deeply involved in the electronics industry—we believe that audioXpress will blossom into a fascinating publication that follows the latest audio innovation trends, independent of the application field, and shares a common audience of engineers, consultants, and enthusiasts in the electronics and audio fields, most of whom are involved in R&D.

Although it was deeply rooted in the US, audioXpress—together with its sister publications Voice Coil and the Loudspeaker Industry Sourcebook—reached professionals around the world (e.g., Europe, China, India, and Brazil). It has gained more of a global presence since its acquisition by EIM, which also publishes some of the best technical books in the electronics industry.

I am really excited to bring the “new” audioXpress to a wider global audience, knowing that we can build on the tradition of the original publication and its diversified audience. We are working to create a magazine you will enjoy and anticipate reading every month.

João Martins
Editor-in-Chief

Member Profile: Dennis Green

Member Name: Dennis L. Green

Location: Farmington Hills, MI

Education: BSEE

Occupation: Retired

Member Status: Dennis has been a subscriber since the first issues of Audio Amateur and Speaker Builder. He switched to audioXpress after their demise, mostly for the component ads and the solid-state and speaker projects.

Affiliations: Dennis is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Audio Engineering Society (AES), and Southeastern Michigan Woofer and Tweeter Marching Society (SMWTMS).

Audio Interests: His primary audio interests focus on homebrew audio and field recording.

Most Recent Purchase: Dennis recently added an Apex Jr. subwoofer amp to his audio lineup.

Current Audio Projects: He is currently working on an optical sensor-based servo control upgrade for the Kilmanas Rabco tonearm featured in an Audio Amateur article in March 1976.

Dennis recently moved and has a temporary setup for his vast sound system.

Dennis recently moved and has a temporary setup for his vast sound system.

Dream System: Dennis said his dream system includes a home theater using Quad ESLs in a custom room. However, Dennis said he is “not at all unhappy” with his present system.” His current system includes: Swan IV satellites built from an April 1988 Speaker Builder article, four Peerless 8” midrange woofers (each side in concentric Sonotubes with sand damping in the space), and a Cerwin-Vega 189E  driver (salvaged from the movie Earthquake Sensurround system) in an enclosure that formerly contained a Jolly Giant system. The Jolly Giant system used a Hartly 24-inch “tweeter” and was also built using a Speaker Builder article. (Dennis intended some sarcasm here since that speaker radiated more energy at 20 kHz than at 20 Hz.) His present system measures ±1 dB from 60 to 16 Hz and –10 dB at 12 Hz.

Dennis also has a Swan crossover modified with Linkwitz-Riley stage for a subwoofer (his design) and a Lampton preamp built from an Audio Amateur schematic. However, his design added switching and a rack-mount enclosure. He restored Quad 303 and Dyna Stereo 120 power amps and a Leach Low TIM amp (built from plans in Audio magazine) that are temporarily driving the subwoofer (a new amp will be installed soon). He said his system is not very presentable since he has moved to a new home and remodeling projects have taken priority.

Digigram Researcher to Discuss New Automatic Gain Control Methodology at AES

AES135DigigramSturmelWebFrench company Digigram announced that its research project manager, Dr. Nicolas Sturmel, will present a paper and poster at the 135th AES Convention in New York City on Saturday, October 19, from 5:00 to 6:30 PM. The paper, “Automatic Analog Preamp Gain Control Using Digital Command,” addresses the problem of designing an automatic gain control (AGC) in the absence of dedicated hardware (e.g., voltage-controlled amplifiers).

Dr. Sturmel will discuss how Digigram overcame the challenges of fixed-gain steps and variable delay of the gain command to arrive at a proposed solution: a simple yet high-quality, digitally controlled automatic gain using only 10 MIPS of processing power from Digigram’s CANCUN high-end USB sound card, plus the built-in, high-end, digitally controlled mic preamplifier.

Dr. Sturmel is in charge of advanced research at Digigram. He holds a PhD in signal processing and was a postdoctoral fellow at Institut Langevin ESPCI in Paris and GIPSA-lab Grenoble. To learn more, visit www.digigram.com.