What’s Next in Audio?

audioXpress is deeply rooted in the R&D and DIY audio communities. So is Elektor, our sister publication that originated in Europe. Elektor International Media (EIM) group publishes Elektor, audioXpress, Voice Coil, the Loudspeaker Industry Sourcebook, and Circuit Cellar.

For those interested in building electronic things, analog or digital, audio related or not, for a hobby, addiction, or pure passion, we recommend Elektor as a must-read practical electronics magazine. You will not be disappointed. Because audioXpress is part of the EIM group, we share common resources such as our excellent Elektor.LABS service and web community. Projects from around the world can be submitted—and you are immediately rewarded for your submission. Your project’s development can be supported by our team of experts, as well as other members. So, we would like to invite all our audioXpress members to register at www.elektor-labs.com. Check it out! You will see there are already several interesting audio-related projects you can follow and discuss.

We also have exciting things on the horizon for all DIY audio aficionados. You will be the first to hear about them if you are a member of the Elektor.LABS community.

On a similar note, we are approaching the publication date of our Loudspeaker Industry Sourcebook (LIS), which this year will include a searchable online version. There is no better way to find a supplier for anything audio-related be it speakers, transducers, amplifier modules, components, or any other part for your projects, from prototype stages to high-volume production.

For this year’s LIS, our team has been compiling and analyzing important trends. It’s clear the audio industry is speaking volumes in completely new areas (e.g., Bluetooth speakers and anything mobile) while “wearable” concepts are about to revolutionize the market. Just like tour-guided systems enable you to receive relevant information in different languages by walking into an exhibit and approaching a display, now personal mobile devices and wireless transmissions will expand the concept to the retail and entertainment markets. Such products already exist for sports events, and soon those collective experiences will be reinforced with “bring-your-own” personal devices. These notions weren’t feasible five years ago, because the technology was not there—or was simply too complicated and expensive.

At the same time, clever ideas without business plans to back them up don’t necessarily equal product success. Nor does it mean all ideas should immediately be converted into crowd-funded campaigns on Kickstarter. Doing so risks turning a valuable resource designed to help finance new start-ups into a site filled with collective deceptions.

We’ve seen examples of many “good-idea” products introduced on Kickstarter that are not viable in the real market. And remember, one product is not a company and not a business by itself. You need a market opportunity larger than one single product idea.

Also, there’s nothing like a good electronics community to find technical solutions and prove the concept in earlier stages. Sometimes, it’s not a good idea to include a powerful lithium battery in a device we are going to use for hours in our ear canals. And 3-D printers are great and will create new business opportunities, but do we really need consumers “printing” speakers? Others simply need to realize we now have powerful computers with touchscreens in our pockets. We don’t need more boxes and remote controls!

Industry Watch: April 2014

N.E.A.R. Returns to the Outdoor Speaker Market

New England Audio Resource (N.E.A.R., which was originally called New England Audio Research) was founded in 1988 by Bill Kieltyka. Interestingly, the company purchased a lot of the transducer tooling from Rudy Bozak, and its line was always based, as with Bozak, on aluminum cone woofers and tweeters. (For a period of time, I designed the networks for the entire N.E.A.R. line of two-channel and home-theater speakers).

The company also originally held the patent for a magnetic fluid technology that replaced the ubiquitous cloth spider to supply compliance to woofers. (Sony is now using this technique in some of its current speaker line ups, following the patent’s expiration.)

Bogen Communications acquired N.E.A.R. in 1997. Bogen kept the name going for a couple of years, but it ultimately closed the company and kept Kieltyka as an employee.

Although the N.E.A.R. name has been absent from the market for more than 14 years, Bogen is bringing it back with a new line of outdoor loudspeaker products.

N.E.A.R.’s first residential lineup in years includes the LB4, the LB5, the LB6, and the LB8, which are all full-range bracket-mount speakers. They will be available in white and black. The lineup also includes the IG 5, the IG 6, and the IG 8, which are full-range speakers designed to be placed on the ground or partially buried. An eighth speaker, the IGS 12 band-pass subwoofer, is also designed to be partially buried. The speakers can be driven by the NEAR 6XL amplifier, which delivers 2 × 600-W output into either 70-V or 8-Ω loads.

In the 8-Ω versions, the bracket-mount LB4, LB5, LB6, and LB8 cost $279, $499, $579, and $679 each, respectively. The 70-V versions for large homes and yards cost $319, $539, $619, and $719 each, respectively. The in- and on-ground IG5, IG6, and IG8 speakers can be used in 8-Ω and 70-V installs and cost $619, $779, and $859, respectively. The partial-buried IGS12 band-pass subwoofer ($1,599) drives either 8-Ω or multi-tap 70-V install. The beehive-shaped IG and IGS models will be available in a terra cotta color.

The speakers and subwoofer can be driven by the 2 × 600-W 6XL amplifier ($1,599) with selectable high- and low-pass crossovers and a low-frequency contour to extend bass performance below 40 Hz. A summing circuit enables stereo material to be combined into both channels.

All four LB speakers feature a patent-pending lever bracket for a tool-free final installation, the company said. The four two-way models use metal-cone spiderless woofers and 1” aluminum inverted-dome tweeters. The coaxial driver arrangement of the LB6 and LB8 and the close proximity of the woofer and tweeter in the LB4 and LB5 provide consistent dispersion for horizontal and vertical placement, according to the company.

The on- and in-ground IG speakers also feature metal cone spiderless drivers, which N.E.A.R. said can operate under water. But the company also adopted a domed woofer design in these models to shed water that may otherwise collect in a cone. The design also improves audio linearity, the company said.

A water-shedding grille prevents moisture from entering “under all but the most extreme conditions,” the company added. The frame of the coaxial-driver assembly also directs away any water that may find its way in, N.E.A.R. added.

The IGS12 subwoofer features a 12” metal cone spiderless driver whose output fires through three horizontal slots about a third of the way from the enclosure’s top. The slots should be located just above ground level when the enclosure is buried. The openings are covered by a stainless grille and hydrophobic fabric.

 


RadioShack Plans Several Store Closings

According to various industry sources and the Wall Street Journal, RadioShack may be about to close about 11% of its stores. The chain is in the midst of a nearly year-long turnaround effort that includes updates of the company’s stores, product assortment, and brand image.

The iconic retailer lost $112 million in the third quarter, its seventh consecutive loss, as it jettisoned unproductive products, and secured $835 million in new financing in December. RadioShack operates about 4,300 stores in the US and 270 in Mexico. Another 1,000 franchised locations are run by independent dealers in the US and franchise operators abroad.

 


B&W Launches New Opening-Price Series

Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) recently unveiled a new opening-price series of in-room loudspeakers that incorporate technology from the company’s higher end lines to improve performance. The 600 series, which began shipping in March, includes the floor-standing 683 ($1,650/ pair), the smaller floor-standing 684 ($1,150/ pair), and the 685 ($700/pair), which can be placed on a stand or a bookshelf. The series also includes the 686 bookshelf ($550/pair), which is the most compact speaker in the series. The HTM61 center channel costs $750 each and the HTM62 center channel costs $450 each. All six models will join a trio of 600-series subwoofers, which will be available in black ash finish.

New technology used in the series includes double-dome tweeters derived from the company’s CM10 speaker. The tweeter features two separate aluminum domes, the second with its center portion cut out. The second dome is glued to the first dome’s rear face to deliver lightness and rigidity.

A new tweeter-decoupling design developed for the 600 series uses a gel ring to physically separate the double-dome tweeters from the cabinet. This prevents resonances from transferring between the baffle and tweeter. The design boosts clarity and delivers “outstanding imaging and dispersion,” according to B&W. The company also added the anti-resonance plugs for mid/bass drivers, used in B&W’s PM-1 speaker, which, again according to B&W delivers smoother response and lower distortion when driven hard.

Another new technology developed specifically for the new 600 series is a dual-layer aluminum bass driver, which features an aluminum bass cone reinforced with a second layer of aluminum around its periphery to deliver more effective damping and a higher break-up frequency to reduce distortion. The dual-layer aluminum design appears in the top floor-standing model.

 


The Bluetooth Speaker Craze Continues

The Bluetooth speaker craze shows no end in sight, which means that more people are listening to music on their smartphones. Here are some of the latest product releases in this category.

MB Quart—Car audio brand MB Quart (acquired by Maxxsonics in 2005) is getting into the portable audio market with the launch of four battery-powered Bluetooth speakers that cost $59 to $199. All products in this new line will be available in April in multiple colors. They feature battery lives ranging from 5 to 12 h. All will come with USB-charging capabilities, hands-free speakerphone capabilities, voice confirmation, and Bluetooth AVRCP to control basic music playback functions on Bluetooth-connected mobile devices.

The QUBOne ($59) features a single driver, a built-in microphone for hands-free calling, and two bottoms, to enable the unit to be placed on its side and keep the controls accessible. The rest have dual drivers but are mono.

The QUBTwo ($99) adds Bluetooth’s secure simple pairing profile, noise-canceling microphone, shock-resistant rubber housing, 8-h battery, and an input jack. The QUBThree ($149) includes a 10-h battery and tethering loop.

The QUBFour ($199) includes a 12-h battery and efficient neodymium magnets that, coupled with an amplifier that operates at a higher voltage, delivers louder sound with deeper bass. The QUBFour also contains dual-source Bluetooth technology to enable two mobile devices to be paired simultaneously to one speaker, making it easier to switch between two mobile devices for music playback. The speaker also includes a 110-V adapter. Apple mobile devices display the speaker’s battery status.

Bose—Bose released the SoundLink III, its latest portable Bluetooth speaker. The third-generation SoundLink Bluetooth speaker features longer battery life, higher output, and a new industrial design.

The $299 model extends playback time of its rechargeable lithium-ion battery by 30%, now lasting up to 14 h. The new model lacks its predecessor’s integrated bi-fold nylon cover, which doubled as a stand that angled the speaker. The new model stands upright on a flat surface. An optional $34 accessory cover is available in gray, blue, green, orange, and pink. The Bluetooth LED signal lights are also new and said to make pairing and switching Bluetooth devices easier. The SoundLink III stores the six most recently used Bluetooth devices in its memory making it unnecessary to pair a previously paired device.

The speaker also features a new DSP algorithm and improved electronics to play louder through four neodymium-magnet drivers and dual-opposing passive radiators, according to Bose. The industrial design has a fingerprint-resistant wraparound metal grille, rounded edges, and a silicone button panel on top to protect it against dirt and dust. The SoundLink III retains an auxiliary input, a microUSB for software updates, and an AC wall charger.

This speaker joins a smaller SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speaker ($199). The first SoundLink was introduced in 2011 and updated in 2012.

bēm wireless—Bluetooth-speaker supplier bēm wireless is launching the Wireless Speaker Band, which is a Bluetooth speaker that’s worn on the wrist and doubles as a hands-free speakerphone. The Speaker Band ($49) incorporates a speaker, a microphone, a spoken audio caller ID, an answer button, and compatibility with most voice-recognition apps. For music playback, it features play, pause, skip, and reverse buttons. Its rechargeable battery delivers up to 6 h of talk time. The device is promoted as a safer alternative to searching through a purse or pocket for a phone, especially if the phone owner is driving. The speaker band is available in six colors: black, white, blue, red, gray, and green. bēm, founded in 2012, manufactures portable Bluetooth speakers, including a boombox-style speaker with an integrated carrying handle.

Pyle Audio—Pyle Audio recently released a shower-friendly portable Bluetooth speaker/speakerphone. The Gator Sound waterproof speaker and speakerphone is a lightweight, waterproof unit with a hook for hanging on a shower head, a built-in microphone for hands-free calling, and a push-button control to connect to any Bluetooth-enabled device. It features a rechargeable lithium battery, a USB charging cable, enhanced bass production, and available in blue, white, or black ($49.99).

 


Majority of Soundbar Sales Below $500

GfK Group, the German market research giant, performed a year-long study of soundbar retail print ads and found advertised prices varied greatly throughout 2013. GfK was founded in 1934 by Professor Wilhelm Vershofen as a Nuremberg, Germany-based scientific institute, “Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung.” It was the birth of institutional market research in Germany.

With its recent study, the research firm noted that 89% of the soundbars advertised were priced around $500; however, as the year progressed, the focus shifted to lower-priced soundbars. In the early part of 2013, 50% of the advertising focused on sub-$300 models. This trend increased with the sub-$300 products comprising 70% of all soundbar advertising, according to GfK.

 


NRF Reports Expect Rise in Retail Sales

Retail sales are projected to rise 4.1% this year, which is somewhat improved over 3.7% gains in 2013. According to a report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF), continued economic growth and an expanding labor market and housing sector will help stoke consumer confidence and expenditures.

NRF’s published data forecasts a real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2.6% to 3%, the fastest in three years, and a decrease in the unemployment rate to near 6.5% or lower by December.

In 2014, retailers will be investing in faster fulfillment, mobile payment, in-store mobile marketing, and “name your own price” shopping tools. The sales projection includes most traditional retail categories (e.g., discounters, department stores, grocery stores, specialty stores, auto parts and accessories stores, and non-store categories). The sales projection excludes sales at automotive dealers, gas stations, and restaurants.

Industry Watch: March 2014

Harman Prelaunches New Infinity Home Audio Speakers, Teams With Linkin Park

HARMAN International prelaunched its new Infinity One Bluetooth speaker at the 2014 CES International.

HARMAN International prelaunched its new Infinity One Bluetooth speaker at the 2014 CES International.

At the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), HARMAN International announced that the Grammy award-winning, multi-platinum alternative rock band Linkin Park will be Infinity brand’s new ambassadors. Suggesting a common history of pushing boundaries, challenging convention, and producing cutting-edge sound, the exclusive five-year partnership between Linkin Park and Infinity will go beyond advertising to include product design collaborations.

To mark the new relationship, Linkin Park helped unveil a CES preview of two all-new Infinity product lines—the Infinity Reference Loudspeakers Series and the Infinity One, the brand’s first portable wireless sound system. The Infinity One will feature wireless streaming and a built-in rechargeable battery with up to 10 h of playtime and offer consumers premium quality sound and the utmost in mobility (see Photo 1).

The Infinity Linkin Park gold-edition reference tower speakers were unveiled at the 2014 CES International.

The Infinity Linkin Park gold-edition reference tower speakers were unveiled at the 2014 CES International.

Linkin Park is working closely with new Infinity product portfolio’s design and engineering teams on development, voicing, and industrial design. For the launch of the new Infinity Reference Loudspeakers Series, the band collaborated with Infinity to create “gold-dipped” special edition floor-standing loudspeakers (see Photo 2).

The Infinity Reference Loudspeakers series features nine models with clean, contemporary looks, tapered side panels, and a black premium finish. The series will include two bookshelf models, two floor-standing models, two center-channel models, one surround model, and two powered subwoofer models. The series will utilize the latest HARMAN proprietary technologies to deliver amazing audio performance at accessible price points.

Although Infinity gradually morphed into a strictly car audio brand for the past several years, Infinity’s new Reference Series should re-establish its credibility in the living room. The home speakers all use a ceramic metal matrix diaphragm (CMMD) dome tweeter with a waveguide design borrowed from Revel’s great Performa3 series speakers. The three-way models also have a 3.25” flat-piston CMMD midrange driver, plus 6.5” woofers for the R263 tower ($1,099/pair) and 5.25” woofers for the R253 tower ($899/pair).

 


 

Klippel Presents Three-Day Lecture

Professor Wolfgang Klippel (Institute of Acoustics and Speech Communication, Dresden University of Technology, Dresden Germany) will present a three-day lecture (as a block seminar) from March 17–19, 2014 at the Dresden University of Technology.

On day one and day two, Klippel will lecture about audio systems—modeling, measurement, and control. On day three, attendees can choose from two different lectures—control theory or hands on training. For more information or to register, visit www.klippel.de.

 


 

Alma’s Hires New Association Manager

The Association of Loudspeaker Manufacturing and Acoustics (ALMA) International recently hired Barry Vogel as ALMA manager (see Photo 3). He will succeed Carol Bousquet.

ALMA International selected Barry Vogel as its next manager.

ALMA International selected Barry Vogel as its next manager.

Vogel began his career in the consumer electronics industry in 1976 when he opened a CB radio and accessories store in Central Square, NY. Eventually transitioning into car audio, his store experienced strong growth for many years. He expanded his business from a 400-ft2 leased department in a larger store to a 2,000-ft2 free-standing building. He eventually bought a 6,500-ft2 building with eight installation bays and 3,000 ft2 of display space.

In 1993, Vogel became a founding member of Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association (MERA). He initially served as the Education chairman, later advancing to become President and Executive Director. Vogel is an active member of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). He is also involved with writing mobile electronics certified professionals (MECP) training and reference guides. In addition to his new duties as ALMA’s manager, Vogel maintains a consulting business that helps independent retailers remain growth oriented and relevant in today’s Internet world.

 


 

CE Revenues Reach Record High In 2014

Revenues for the consumer electronics (CE) industry are projected to grow 2.4% in 2014, reaching a new record high of $208 billion, according to “The US Consumer Electronics Sales and Forecasts,” the semi-annual industry report released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The forecast projects that new, emerging product categories will grow by 107% year-over-year in 2014.

These new technology categories, including 3-D printers, Bluetooth wireless speakers, convertible PCs, health and fitness devices, smart watches and Ultra-HD television displays, are cumulatively expected to contribute more than $6 billion to the overall CE industry in 2014. While these emerging product categories represent less than 3% of the entire CE industry, they drive 65% of the total industry revenue growth.

Sales of mobile-connected devices, specifically smartphones and tablets, will continue to contribute significant unit sales and revenue to the total CE bottom line in 2014. Although revenue growth has slowed, unit sales will continue to see steady increases.

Smartphones are expected to maintain their position as the industry’s sales leader in 2014, with unit shipments projected to reach 152 million, up from 138 million units sold in 2013. Additionally, smartphone revenues are expected to generate $41 billion in 2014, a 4.6% increase from $39 billion in 2013.

Unit sales of tablets are projected to reach 89.3 million this year, up from 77.4 million in 2013. Revenues for tablets will reach $27.3 billion this year, up by 3%.

Bright spots within the television category will help drive revenue growth this year, as larger screen sizes and innovative display features have consumers upgrading their video experience. Although total unit sales of displays are predicted to remain even with 2013 levels, total TV sets and display sales are projected to reach $21.3 billion in 2014, up 2% from 2013’s better than expected $21 billion revenue level.
LCD flat-panels continue to dominate the total number of sets sold each year. Both unit sales and revenues for LCDs are projected to increase slightly, with 39 million LCD TVs expected to ship to dealers in 2014, resulting in $19 billion in revenue.

Innovative features such as Ultra HD and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) within the display category are beginning to gain awareness. Unit shipments of ultra-HD displays are expected to surpass $1 billion for the first time this year, while OLED displays will reach $836 million.

Elsewhere in the industry, several other categories are expected to see positive growth in 2014. For the audio industry, soundbars, headphones, and Bluetooth wireless speakers remain the standout products. Soundbar shipments are projected to increase 22% to 3.5 million units and reach $676 million in revenue. Headphones are expected to sell 71 million units, earning $1.5 billion in revenue; while Bluetooth wireless speakers are expected to generate $430 million in total revenue in 2014, a 12% increase year-over-year.

For automotive electronics, the growth of new vehicle sales in 2014 will drive factory-installed systems to reach $11 billion in revenues, an increase of 20%.

For electronic gaming, the release of next-generation gaming consoles is projected to propel unit shipment growth, up 42% year-over-year, to reach revenues of $5.7 billion in 2014.

 


 

Bluetooth Speakers Dominate New Loudspeaker Product Releases

The consumer electronics (CE) market currently has a seemingly insatiable appetite for small Bluetooth-connected speakers, or at least that is the indication from several loudspeaker manufacturers. Several manufacturers released products within the last few months, including:

Boston Acoustics—Boston Acoustics launched its first Bluetooth speaker, the MC100Blue ($149 suggested). The MC100Blue is an AC-only single-chassis tabletop speaker that streams AptX over Bluetooth. It features NFC for tap-to-pair functionality, dual-ported 3.5” drivers, and BassTrac technology to maintain bass output at low listening levels.

The gloss-black speaker also features analog auxiliary input and headphone output. The 6” × 15.8” × 5.3” speaker is said to deliver a 70-Hz-to-20-kHz frequency response. The wall-mountable speaker comes with a remote and it is available from the company’s website (www.bostonacoustics.com).

The speaker joins the MC200Air ($199), which is also a tabletop speaker. The MC200Air includes Apple AirPlay to wirelessly stream music via home Wi-Fi networks from Apple’s mobile devices and iTunes-equipped computers. The speaker system also incorporates embedded Wi-Fi, DLNA networking with PCs and smartphones, and an Apple-certified iPod/iPhone/iPad USB port to change Apple devices and play music when it is connected.

Harman Kardon—HARMAN International launched its first Harman Kardon brand AC-only Bluetooth speaker system. It joins two Harman Kardon-brand AC/DC Bluetooth speakers unveiled in September 2013.
The new Nova Wireless speaker system ($299) consists of two left-right two-way speakers with transparent spherical enclosures. The system doubles as a speaker system for TVs, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, and so forth via its analog and optical digital inputs. The Bluetooth pair features NFC, 2 × 20-W amplification, biamplification, a 1.25” tweeter, a 2.5” midrange/woofer, and a passive radiator to extend bass response.

The system delivers a 70-Hz-to-20-kHz frequency response and uses HARMAN DSP to improve imaging and sound-stage depth. The brand’s AC/DC Bluetooth speakers include the flat, square Esquire with NFC ($249). Its targeted to business travelers and doubles as a phone-conference speaker with an omnidirectional microphone. The brand’s other AC/DC Bluetooth speaker, the Onyx ($499), is a spherical tabletop speaker that also incorporates Bluetooth, AirPlay, Wi-Fi, DLNA, and NFC.

Infinity—The Infinity One wireless speaker is part of the relaunch of the Infinity brand name, which also includes nine new home theater and stereo speakers. The Infinity One looks and feels like a Bluetooth speaker designed by the military industrial complex! Its aluminum body contains four 45-mm drivers plus a passive radiator at each end to reinforce the bass. The speaker’s internal rechargeable battery is rated at 10 A and provides 10 h of run time. The Inifinity One will be available in June, along with some “luxury type” accessories.

Kicker—Kicker, a division of Stillwater Designs and Audio is shipping its latest tabletop Bluetooth speaker as part of its 2014 plan to add more Bluetooth speakers in broader price range.

The Amphitheater Bluetooth BT2 ($299) joins three other tabletop audio products, including the Amphitheater BT ($249) with Bluetooth and a 30-pin connector made for iPod/iPhone/iPad docking speakers.

The other two models lack Bluetooth. They are the Amphitheater ($249) and the iK501 ($149), which both feature a 30-pin connector made for iPod/iPhone/iPad docking speakers.

The 2014 additions will include more Bluetooth-only speakers as well as Apple-docking speakers equipped with Bluetooth. All Amphitheaters are 50-W models with 5” woofers, 0.75” tweeters, and a square 6” × 6” passive radiator to deliver a 24-Hz-to-20-kHz frequency response and ±3 dB. They also feature DSP to optimize sound performance. The Amphitheaters come with USB ports to charge external devices and an auxiliary input jack to connect non-Bluetooth devices.

With a free KickStart app for Android and iOS devices, users can adjust the speakers’ responses via the app’s eight-band equalization, bass and treble sliders, and wide or tight imaging. The app also offers the option to load and save sound presets for specific music genres or for different music sources.

Klipsch Group—Klipsch Group is expanding its Klipsch Music Center speaker selection with its lowest-priced model to date, the Klipsch Music Center Gig ($199). The new model, which arrived in stores in November 2013, is a Bluetooth-only portable AC/DC model that joins two other AC/DC Bluetooth-only models in the series: the Klipsch Music Center KMC1 ($299) and the Klipsch Music Center KMC3 ($399). Bluetooth is also a feature of the AC-only Klipsch Music Center Stadium ($1,999), a triamplified stereo speaker with Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Apple AirPlay, DLNA, USB compatibility with Apple mobile devices, and optical digital input.

The Klipsch Gig is the smallest of the speakers. It measures 3.6” × 7” × 2.1” and weighs 1.4 lb. The system features dual 1” full-range drivers, dual 2” passive radiators, DSP-based equalization, AptX audio decoding, NFC for tap-to-pair functionality, 3.5-mm auxiliary in, hands-free speakerphone capability, and international power adapters for AC operation.

Its built-in, rechargeable lithium-ion battery delivers 12-h playback time with default volume and 4-h playback time at maximum volume.

Performance specifications include a 77-Hz-to-20-kHz frequency response with “usable” bass down to 64 Hz, 96 dB SPL at 0.5 m, and 2× 5-WRMS amplification with 20-W total peak power. The speaker features a silicone chassis in black or white and a perforated metal grille.

Panasonic—Panasonic expanded its portable Bluetooth speaker selection with the SC-NA10 ($199) and the SC-NA30 ($299). The compact speakers offer 20 h of playback time on their rechargeable batteries.
The two stereo models join the brand’s other Bluetooth-only speakers, including the portable AC/DC SC-NT10D ($99), the AC-only SC-NP10 with a tablet stand ($199), and the AC-only SC-NE1 ($199). Both models feature NFC for tap-to-pair functionality, 3.5-mm auxiliary in, and XBS master sound processing, which is said to improve clarity and accuracy. The SC-NA30 features two front 2” full-range drivers and two passive bass radiators. The SC-NA10 features two 1.6” front speakers and one passive bass radiator.

Yamaha—Yamaha expanded its portable Bluetooth speaker lineup with the NX-P100 ($199). The NX-P100 is a moisture-proof model that features NFC pairing and streams the AAC and AptX codecs.
It joins the brand’s PDX-B11 ($179), which lacks NFC and AptX streaming. The metal-body NX-P100 has a rectangular shape. Other features include a hands-free speakerphone capability, an internal rechargeable battery with 8 h of playback time, and a USB port for charging mobile devices. It is available in black and white.

Doing It Differently

Time moves quickly. We are already feeling the aftermath of 2014’s first two major industry shows. This is also a year when audioXpress is completing its transition to an expanded publication that addresses the needs of the audio engineering community—not only for those who have fun listening to music (there are plenty of magazines doing that) but mainly for those who imagine, create, and work with audio technology.

This year began with the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, NV, introducing innovations on all fronts. It was also the largest CES in show history. While some companies introduced products based on users’ needs, it appears many consumer electronics companies still prefer to throw hundreds of new ideas at the wall to see what sticks. I guess a major electronics show like the CES is the ideal place to test those ideas, but sometimes we have to wonder why the successful companies that only introduce market-ready products don’t even need to attend the CES.

Yes, we miss seeing Apple at trade shows and we miss the inspiring clear vision of the late Steve Jobs. Apple is one those companies with products that are the perfect combination of state-of-the-art technology and innovation that are available for purchase exactly as advertised. And while the company was not in attendance, Apple’s products still dominated the 2014 International CES. It is no surprise that many great ideas and reference designs were designed to complement the iPad, the iPhone, and even the new Apple Mac Pro workstation.

IK Multimedia promoted its iRing wireless sensors to control music apps (or any other apps) using only gestures. We’ve also seen great photography peripherals for the iPhone and many new charging and home-automation solutions. There are even iOS-device-controlled robots and drones. And of course, no audio company could ignore the huge market created for wireless speakers and headphones. Many were especially designed for Apple’s mobile devices, leveraging Apple’s push for Bluetooth Smart 4.0 and AirPlay technologies. Apple also effectively revitalized the worldwide home audio market.

Wireless speakers, headphones, soundbars, integrated A/V receivers and audio systems are experiencing impressive growth rates, according to recently published market reports. Bluetooth products, in particular, continue to bolster the wireless speaker market, offering the convenience of portability, while multi-room audio based on Wi-Fi is also on the rise. Among the 20,000-some products introduced at the 2014 International CES, there were a significant number of new headphones and earphones.

After every CES, we should also acknowledge those sparks of inspiration from obscure companies and the truly exciting technology announcements. For example, cars connected to mobile networks—actually talking and seamlessly interfacing with our mobile devices.

It’s always difficult to understand why, but clearly, in the middle of all the Internet-connected toothbrushes and forks, speech-recognition watches, and curved television screens, some innovations make complete sense and leave us asking ourselves “why did it take so long?”

João Martins
Editor-in-Chief

Industry Watch: February 2014

New President Heads MartinLogan, Paradigm, and Anthem

Rocco Melchione recently accepted the position of president/CEO for the Paradigm, MartinLogan, and Anthem brands. He replaces Tim Valters, who held that title for the last four years. Melchione has more than 20 years of experience at the senior executive level in global manufacturing and sales, the company said. His experience includes global supply-chain management, process improvement, and quality practices,

Melchione also had a leadership role in the expansion of a global division of Panasonic and helped integrate Baldwin Piano into Gibson Guitar Corp. as a Gibson subsidiary, the company added. Senior management teams for all three brands report directly to him.

ShoreView Industries, the parent company for the three brands, ShoreView Industries, owns 100% of MartinLogan and more than 50% of Paradigm Electronics, which includes the Paradigm and Anthem brands. The remaining percentage of Paradigm Electronics is owned by Scott Bagby, one of the company’s founding partners. Despite the change, the company said it will continue to focus on its specialty audio retailing.

 

 


 

Fujitsu Ten’s Eclipse Brand Returns to CE

Fujitsu Ten’s Eclipse brand, which left the car audio aftermarket in 2010 after 21 years, is making a US comeback in the home-audio market (see Photo 1). The Japanese company displayed its current range of stand-mounted, tapered, sphere-shaped home speakers ($490/pair to $11,200/pair) at the 2014 International CES (January 7–10 in Las Vegas, NV).

Fujitsu Ten Eclipse

Fujitsu Ten’s Eclipse brand now offers the TD-M1 speakers
($1,300/pair) with Wi-Fi, AirPlay, AirPlay Direct, DLNA, USB B to connect to a PC/Mac, USB A to connect to an iPhone/iPod touch, and a 192-kHz/24-bit DAC.

Fujitsu Ten also introduced a pair of high-end powered subwoofers—the TD725SW MK2 ($7,000) and the TD520SW ($4,500)—and a wireless Airplay speaker. The AirPlay speaker, shaped like the company’s other tapered spherical speakers, is called the TD-M1 ($1,300/pair). The new products ship in February 2014. The company’s current speakers became available in January 2014.

The new audio Eclipse brand entered the home speaker market in Japan in 2001 and has expanded its line to Asia and Europe. Although the brand was briefly in the US some years ago, the Eclipse home audio brand is ready to “properly” enter the US home market in February 2014. Both subwoofers are said to combine power and speed. They use two small-diameter drivers in a back-to-back configuration linked by an aluminum bar. The configuration combines small-diameter driver speed with large-diameter driver power.

Both subwoofers feature Class-D amplifiers, a low-pass filter bypass, an IR remote, and a selector to switch between 5.1- or 2.1-channel inputs. They deliver 500 W and 250 W, respectively, of nominal output with 1% total harmonic distortion (THD). The playback range is 20–150 Hz and 25–150 Hz, respectively. The larger model measures 21.5” × 19.7” × 20.6”.

The AirPlay speaker, which also features time-domain technology, comes with Wi-Fi, AirPlay, AirPlay Direct, DLNA, USB B to connect to a PC/Mac, USB A to connect to an iPhone/iPod touch, and a 192-kHz/24-bit DAC. An iPhone app is available for remote control of power, volume, and input switching.

The DAC provides users the option to remove the oversampling filter during the playback process. Oversampling filters remove noise that occurs when digital sound is converted into analog. The speaker’s oversampling-free mode removes the oversampling filter for enhanced clarity, the company noted.

The speaker features a Class-D amplifier, touch-sensor controls, and a speaker-angle adjustment, which enables users to choose different angles (0°–20°) with a single touch to optimize imaging for a given listening location.

A 3.5-mm input enables connection to TVs and other devices. The speaker measures 6.1” × 8.6” × 9.5” and features ring 3” drivers, a 70-Hz-to-30-kHz frequency response, and 20-W nominal output at 1% THD.

 


 

Atlantic Technology Adds Bluetooth to Its Powered H-PAS Soundbar

While Atlantic Technology (AT) has lowered the price of its PowerBar from $799 to $699, the big news is that the PowerBar now includes Bluetooth capability. The included Bluetooth receiver features nearfield communications (NFC) for tap-to-connect functionality and streams the aptX codec over Bluetooth. The Bluetooth 4.0 receiver connects to the soundbar via the bar’s analog audio input.
The AT product stands out because of its unique H-PAS technology that delivers bass to 47 Hz at “theater-level sound pressure levels (SPLs).” Typical soundbars usually have 150-to-200-Hz capabilities. The H-PAS also improves dialog clarity because of the low woofer excursion that produces less bass distortion. The AT PowerBar also incorporates DSP with Dolby Digital and DTS to deliver a two-to-five-channel experience.

Light, Sound, and Wireless Magic from AwoX

Building on the success of its Awox StriimLIGHT Bluetooth light bulb, AwoX launched the AwoX StriimLIGHT Wi-Fi LED bulb, which is equipped with a 10-W speaker

Building on the success of its Awox StriimLIGHT Bluetooth light bulb, AwoX launched the AwoX StriimLIGHT Wi-Fi LED bulb, which is equipped with a 10-W speaker

After causing a market sensation earlier in 2013, French-based AwoX has expanded its AwoX StriimLIGHT range of innovative “musical light bulbs.” The company designed the world’s first LED light bulb with a built-in 10-W speaker. This revolutionary device enables users to play music from their smartphones, tablets, and computers via a Bluetooth connection.

Following the device’s market success, AwoX introduced two new musical light bulbs: the AwoX StriimLIGHT mini and the AwoX StriimLIGHT Wi-Fi. The latter has a much greater range than the Bluetooth version and supports a dimming function, enabling finer control of lighting and mood. With the device’s audio synchronization capability, users will also be able to add as many bulbs as they wish, creating a congenial multiroom solution with powerful sound.

On the lighting side, AwoX StriimLIGHT Wi-Fi has a dimmer switch to control the ambience. AwoX has also announced the launch of the AwoX StriimLIGHT mini to fit an E14 socket, which shares the same characteristics as the Awox StriimLIGHT Bluetooth. Equipped with a 3-W speaker, AwoX StriimLIGHT mini is easy to install.

The company is currently selling its products in Europe and plans to make its three products available in the US and Canada.

striimLIGHT_mini_1146

AwoX is a board member of the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), the audio/video interconnection standards organization, and holds several major international patents for its connected technologies and multimedia products.

AwoX
www.awox.com

Industry Watch: October

CEDIA 2013 Manufacturers’ Excellence Awards

The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) has announced the 2013 Manufacturers’ Excellence Awards finalists. Thirty-one product finalists were named in the Best New Product category and two product finalists were named in the Sustainable Lifestyle Product Innovation category. The award winners were announced at a press conference on Friday, September 27, at the 2013 CEDIA EXPO.

In addition, winners were also recognized at the annual Electronic Lifestyles Awards Celebration on Saturday, September 28. Both events occurred after this issue was printed. Winners will be announced in Voice Coil’s November issue. The loudspeaker-related finalists included:

  • Core Brands (CEDIA founding member)—Niles Cynema Soundfield In-Wall Soundbar (see Photo 1)

    Photo 1: Niles Cynema’s Soundfield in-wall soundbar received the CEDIA Manufacturers’ Excellence Award

    Photo 1: Niles Cynema’s Soundfield in-wall soundbar received the CEDIA Manufacturers’ Excellence Award

  • Sonance (CEDIA founding member)—Sonarray SR1 System outdoor speaker system (see Photo 2)

    Photo 2: Sonance’s Sonarray outdoor system also received the CEDIA Manufacturers’ Excellence Award.

    Photo 2: Sonance’s Sonarray outdoor system also received the CEDIA Manufacturers’ Excellence Award.

  • Sonance—SLS High Output outdoor speaker system
  • Sonance—Visual Performance VP66 In-Wall Speaker

 


CEDIA Benchmarking Surveys

If you manufacture loudspeaker products for the custom install market, it is important to stay informed with the installer network. CEDIA has released key findings from its 2013 Benchmarking Surveys, which evaluate the performance and the state of home technology professional companies for 2012 and reports on 2013 expectations.

The results conclude that home technology professional companies continue to experience moderate growth, focusing on operational efficiencies (historically, one of the largest prohibitors of profitability) and are ready to bring in additional staff to accommodate a growing workload.

The 2012 survey participants expected a revenue increase of 12% from 2011. The 2013 participants reported a 10% actual increase and an 18% expected increase in 2013.

The median number of employees stayed flat from 2010, 2011, and 2012 with six employees per company (full- and part-time), while revenue per employee rose from $135,000 in 2011 to $145,950 in 2012. However, participants indicated they will increase their staff by 14% in 2013.

In 2012, there was a stronger commitment to operational efficiencies with 80% of the participants reporting that they focused on standardizing operational practices in 2012 for increased profitability. This was the most applied tactic out of the 10 presented.

Of the participants offering recurring monthly revenue services, the percentage of companies offering remote network monitoring and diagnostic services continues on a strong positive trend (e.g., 16% in 2011, 32% in 2012, and 41% in 2013).

The survey report, compiled by Profit Planning Group, provides detailed benchmarks, best practices, and trend analysis based on data collected from home technology professional companies. All the survey participants received a customized report comparing their companies to similar-size companies, the industry median, and the most profitable industry companies. This custom report also included a suggested action plan for increasing profitability and trend analysis for participants of more than one year. The estimated value of this custom analysis is $2,500.

For the first time, CEDIA is also offering free condensed versions of the reports to all CEDIA members as a membership benefit. The full survey reports are available for purchase through the CEDIA Marketplace at the following rates:

  • 2013 CEDIA Benchmarking Survey—Finance, Project Management, & Marketing: $700 for members/$1,200 for non-members
  • 2013 CEDIA Benchmarking Survey—Staffing, Benefits, & Compensation: $300 for members/$800 for non-members

For more information about the CEDIA Benchmarking Surveys and member report access, visit www.cedia.net/benchmarking or e-mail research@cedia.org.

 


First Annual TWICE VIP Awards

The nominations were submitted, the voting took place, and the selections were made for TWICE magazine’s first-ever products awards—the TWICE VIP (Very Important Product) Awards.

Retailers and distributors voted online for the TWICE VIPs, honoring the products that have made the biggest differences in their businesses.

Retailers and distributors voted on products in specific categories based on product features, product design, and consumer value. The eligible products retailed in the US, or were scheduled to be sold at retail, from fall 2012 to spring 2013.

The categories included:

  • Accessories: gaming peripherals, HDMI cables, headphones less than $300, headphones more than $300, health and fitness technology products, mounting accessories, power and charging devices, projector screens, smartphone accessories, and tablet accessories
  • Camcorders: action video camcorders
  • Cameras: DSLRs (interchangeable lens) and point-and-shoot cameras
  • Car: connectivity to mobile device for in-dash head units, remote security/convenience system controlled from a smartphone, and car speakers
  • Computers and Tablets: tablets and laptops
  • Home Audio: A/V receivers $699 or less, A/V receivers more than $699, iPod/iPhone docking speakers, portable wireless speakers, soundbars at $499 or less, and soundbars more than $499
  • Major Appliances: bottom-mount refrigerators and high-efficiency (HE) washers
  • Video and TVs: big-screen flat-panel TVs (42” to 55”), big-screen flat-panel TVs (58” and larger), streaming IPTV set-top devices, and home-theater projectors

Loudspeaker-related winners were:

  • Headphones More Than $300: Polk UltraFocus 8000
  • Headphones Less Than $300: Skullcandy Crusher
  • Soundbars $499 or Less: Harman International JBL Cinema SB200
  • Car Speakers: Pioneer Electronics TS-A1605C 6.5” Component Speaker
  • Soundbars at More Than $499: Samsung Electronics HW-F750 2.1-Channel (see Photo 3)

    Photo 3: Samsung’s  HW-F870 soundbar received a Twice VIP award.

    Photo 3: Samsung’s HW-F870 soundbar received a Twice VIP award.

 


Klipsch History

Loudspeaker engineer Jim Hunter wears many “hats” at Klipsch, among them is company historian. Keeping the historical records of Paul Klipsch is important for Klipsch, and to the rest of us. Paul Klipsch was an important pioneer in the loudspeaker industry and knowing the “rest of the story” is fascinating. To that end, Hunter (who gave a great presentation on Klipsch history at the 2013 ALMA Symposium) has recently updated Paul Klipsch’s historical information on the Klipsch website (www.klipsch.com/founder).

 


Advanced Audio Systems Engineer Joins MISCO

Photo 4: Engineer Richard Field joins MISCO.

Photo 4: Engineer Richard Field joins MISCO.

Richard Field has joined MISCO, a US-based global manufacturer of speakers and audio systems, as a design engineer (see Photo 4). Field has a BS from Southern Illinois University in audio electronics. His loudspeaker engineering career spans more than 25 years. He was an automotive transducer specialist for Harman. He also designed transducers, loudspeakers, and active systems for Klipsch. One of Field’s noteworthy designs was the award-winning Klipsch ProMedia series of personal audio systems. Field also spent three years at Loudspeaker Component designing cones, tools, and processes.

“Richard’s love of loudspeakers shows in his long list of successful and profitable designs,” said Dan Digre, MISCO’s general manager. “[This] makes him a perfect fit for our seasoned engineering team. Richard had the good fortune to work directly with audio engineering luminaries such as John Eargle and Richard Small. And he has vast experience interacting with manufacturing facilities around the world. We’re really looking forward to working with Richard and everything he brings to the MISCO engineering team.”

 


Onkyo’s Active Soundbar

Onkyo has launched its first active soundbar and TV-speaker base. The new products join a 2.1-speaker home theater system in the Envision Cinema product series, which are designed to deliver home-theater audio with simple setup (see Photo 5).

Photo 5: Onkyo received the TWICE VIP award for its LS-B50 soundbar.

Photo 5: Onkyo received the TWICE VIP award for its LS-B50 soundbar.

The LS-B50 soundbar and wireless subwoofer has a $699 suggested retail price. The LS-B50 also doubles as a music system and will “talk” to Bluetooth and USB ports, which play audio from smartphones, tablets, and mass-storage devices. This soundbar features Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding, one optical input, one coaxial input, and one analog input.

As with the Onkyo Envision series’ $499 LS3100 2.1-speaker system, the LS-B50 is preprogrammed with the IR codes of nine major TV brands so it can be controlled from a TV remote. However, it is also equipped with its own remote. The LS-B50 also features a six-channel amplifier and proprietary AuraSphere DSP, which according to Onkyo, expands the traditional audio sweet spot from directly in front of the TV to the entire room. The technology manages equalization and sound pressure levels (SPL) in real time to create a “realistic 3-D immersion field” from PCM stereo and Dolby Digital audio sources, the company added.

The LS-B50 soundbar features six 2.75” diameter full-range drivers, two 1.19” diameter ring-radiator tweeters, and wireless 6.5” subwoofer. Three sound modes optimize playback of different audio content. The News mode cleans up and projects dialog more intelligibly. The Movie mode enhances the movie soundtracks’ impact. The Music mode delivers more balanced sound across the frequency range. The output is 40 W into 4 Ω. It comes with a wall-mounting kit and IR flashers for flexible placement options.

 


Sony’s 7.1-Channel Soundbar

Sony has launched the HT-ST7, a new “high-end” $1,299 soundbar (see Photo 6). The 7.1-channel HT-ST7 soundbar, which does not carry the Sony ES high-performance series designation, is now sold at Sony Stores and electronics retailers nationwide (e.g., Best Buy).

The product, engineered in collaboration with sound engineers at Sony Pictures Studios, features an aluminum chassis that incorporates Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoders, nine independent speaker drivers, seven amplifier channels, three HDMI inputs, an HDMI output with audio return channel, three S/PDIF digital audio inputs, one analog-audio input, magnetic-fluid speakers, S-Master digital amplifiers, and S-Force Pro Front-Surround technology. The HT-ST7 also features built-in wireless Bluetooth and supports AAC and aptX streaming over Bluetooth. The soundbar’s nearfield communication (NFC) technology enables users to tap their mobile Bluetooth devices to establish Bluetooth connections and stream music.

 


Vizio Launches Three New Soundbars

Vizio has added three more soundbars, the S2929w, the S3820w, and the S3821w, with built-in Bluetooth to its 2013 lineup. The three new soundbars are in addition to the two models shipped earlier this year at suggested prices of $249 and $329. All the soundbars are wall mountable.

The $79 S2920w shipped in September and the $119 S3820w and the $179 S3821w were available in August. The $79 model is sized for 32” TVs. the other two soundbars are sized for 42” TVs. The two step-up models currently shipping are designed for 47” TVs.

Among the three new models, all but the S2920w feature Dolby Digital decoding. All three soundbars feature DTS TruVolume, DTS TruSurround technology, optical and coaxial digital inputs, and an analog RCA input. The S3821w model includes a wireless outboard 6” subwoofer. The S2920w delivers 95-dB SPL and 90-Hz bass response. The S3820w raises the output to 98 dB and deepens bass response to 65 Hz. The S3821w model delivers 100-dB SPL and 50-Hz bass response. All the soundbars share a design inspired by Vizio’s near-borderless M-Series Razor LED smart TVs.

Vizio’s top-end $329 S4251w is a 5.1 system that includes wireless surround speakers and a wireless subwoofer. Vizio uses its online social community, Vizio Fandemonium, to promote the products and give its fans exclusive access to a custom Pandora station and a chance to win a DTS-equipped soundbar.

 


CEA Consumer Confidence Study

Consumer confidence in the overall economy improved slightly, while sentiment toward technology spending remained flat in July, according to the latest figures from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The CEA’s Index of Consumer Expectations (ICE), which measures consumer expectations about the broader economy, increased 2.3 points in July to reach 167.8. The ICE remains 5.1 points lower than in July of 2012. The CEA Index of Consumer Technology Expectations (ICTE), which measures consumer expectations about technology spending, decreased 0.3 points in July to 86.2. However, the ICTE is 2.9 points higher than the July average over the last three years.

The CEA Indexes comprise the ICE and ICTE and are updated on a monthly basis through consumer surveys. New data is released on the fourth Tuesday of each month. CEA has been tracking index data since January 2007. To find current and past indexes, charts, methodology, and future release dates, visit CEAindexes.org.

Aphex Releases Audio Xciter App Update

Aphex, a leader in audio enhancement technology for more than 35 years, has updated its popular Audio Xciter app for the Android smartphone and tablet platform. The updated version provides a more responsive user interface and greater stability, fixing previous problems with in-app upgrades.

Audio Xciter has been popular with iPhone and iPad owners. This update brings Android users a new listening experience with Aphex’s patented audio processor technology—the same technology pros have been using for years in the studio and on stage. The Audio Xciter app’s familiar interface provides instant access to the user’s library, playlists, and Bluetooth playback support, with studio-quality enhanced playback.

An update for the Audio Xciter app on the iOS platform (iPhones, iPods, and iPads) is currently in the works. Try Audio Xciter for Android platforms for free on GooglePlay (http://bit.ly/17Rt6Z7).

Industry Watch: September

Dr. Amar Bose (1929–2013)

Amar Bose, founder of Bose, passed away on July 12, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Bose Corp.)

Amar Bose, founder of Bose, passed away on July 12, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Bose Corp.)

Amar Gopal Bose (Amar Gopal Boshu) died recently at his home in Wayland, MA.

He was born November 2, 1929, and became the chairman and founder of Bose Corp. (see Photo 1). An American electrical engineer of Bengali descent, he was listed on the 2007 Forbes 400 list with a $1.8 billion net worth. The child of an Indian Bengali father and an American mother, Bose was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. His father, Noni Gopal Bose, was an Indian freedom revolutionary from Bengal who, having been imprisoned for his political activities, fled Kolkata (Calcutta) in the 1920s to avoid further prosecution by the British colonial police.

Amar Bose first displayed his entrepreneurial skills and interest in electronics at age 13, when, during the World War II years, he enlisted school friends as co-workers in a small home business, repairing model trains and home radios to supplement his family’s income. Bose graduated from Abington Senior High School and entered Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), graduating with a BS in Electrical Engineering in the early 1950s.

Bose spent a year in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, in the research labs at NV Philips Electronics and a year in Delhi, India, as a Fulbright student. In India, he met his wife, Prema, from whom he later divorced. He completed his PhD in electrical engineering from MIT, and wrote a highly mathematical thesis on nonlinear systems. Following graduation, Bose took a position at MIT as an assistant professor. He focused his research on acoustics, which led him to invent a stereo loudspeaker that would reproduce, in a domestic setting, the dominantly reflected soundfield that characterizes the listening space of the audience in a concert hall.

Bose was awarded significant patents in two fields, which, to this day, remain important to the Bose Corp. These patents were in the area of loudspeaker design and nonlinear, two-state modulated, Class D power processing.

During his early years as a MIT professor, Bose bought a high-end stereo speaker system at a RadioShack in 1956. He was reportedly underwhelmed by its performance. This would eventually pave the way for his extensive speaker technology research, which concentrated on key weaknesses in the high-end speaker systems available during his time and focused on psychoacoustics, which would become a hallmark of the company’s audio products. Bose Corp. was founded in 1964 with initial capital from several investors, including his MIT thesis adviser and professor, Dr. Y. W. Lee, who invested his life savings in the effort.

Applying similar psychoacoustic principles to headphone technology, Bose created the Tri-Port Earcup Drivers. Today, Bose Corp. is a multifaceted entity with more than 12,000 employees worldwide that produces products for home, car, and professional audio, and conducts basic research in acoustics, automotive systems, and other fields. As a privately held company, Bose Corp. does not publish its financial numbers; however a few hundred shareholders receive audited annual financial statements. In addition to running his company, Bose remained a professor at MIT until 2000.

Bose President Bob Maresca remembered the man behind the name, saying in a statement that the company is “deeply saddened” by his passing.

“It is impossible to put into words what Dr. Bose meant to each of us, and to [the company],” Maresca said. “He was more than our chairman. He was our teacher—always encouraging us, always believing that we could do great things, and that anything was possible.”

Dr. Bose is pictured with his mentors Dr. Y. W. Lee, far left, and Professor Norbert Wiener, right, at MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics in 1955. (Photo courtesy of Bose Corp.)

Dr. Bose is pictured with his mentors Dr. Y. W. Lee, far left, and Professor Norbert Wiener, right, at MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics in 1955. (Photo courtesy of Bose Corp.)

Bose carried that mantra into his work as an MIT teacher, joining the faculty in 1956 and spending more than 45 years as an educator. He retired in 2001. According to MIT President L. Rafael Reif, “Amar Bose was an exceptional human being and an extraordinarily gifted leader. He made quality mentoring and a joyful pursuit of excellence, ideas, and possibilities the hallmark of his career in teaching, research, and business. I learned from him and was inspired by him, every single time I met with him.”

During his tenure at MIT, Bose started a research program in physical acoustics and psychoacoustics and received the Baker Teaching Award in 1963–1964, among other honors (see Photo 2). In 2011, Bose gave the school the majority of his company’s stock in the form of nonvoting shares, ensuring that all dividends would be used for the school’s education and research mission.

His son, Vanu Bose, is the founder and CEO of Vanu, a firm whose software-based radio technology provides a wireless infrastructure that enables individual base stations to simultaneously operate GSM, CDMA, and iDEN. Amar Bose’s daughter, Maiya, is a chiropractor.


 

Timothy Dorwart (1955–2013)

Timothy Dorwat, CEO of Community Professional Loudspeakers, passed away on July 15, 2013.

Timothy Dorwat, CEO of Community Professional Loudspeakers, passed away on July 15, 2013.

Timothy Dorwart, formerly of Whitehall, PA, passed away on July 15, 2013, after a valiant 10-year battle with cancer (see Photo 3). He was 58. An industry leader and a mentor to many, Dorwart was known as a warm and gentle man who loved his family and his friends. He had more than 30 years of sales, manufacturing, and management experience in the pro audio and music industries.

Dorwart had an impressive career. He spent 20 years as the Director of the Bose Professional Services Division, followed by four years as a Vice President for DMX Music. From 2007 to 2010, he led the Stanton Group through a successful turnaround as its CEO. He guided the acquisition of the Stanton Group to Gibson Guitar, forming its new Pro Audio Division. Dorwart served as the General Manager of the Gibson Guitar Pro Audio Division, until he accepted the position as CEO of Community Professional Loudspeakers in February 2013.


 

Pure Audio Ships New Jongo Products

Pure Audio, the Internet-radio and docking-speaker company, has shipped the first products in its Jongo wireless multi-room audio lineup. The Jongo series consists of two tabletop Bluetooth/Wi-Fi speakers, a Bluetooth/Wi-Fi adapter that connects to existing stereo systems, and a Pure Connect iOS and Android app.

The app uses Wi-Fi to act as a Jongo-system controller, simultaneously streams songs stored on a mobile device to multiple speakers, and concurrently streams Internet radio stations and music services to multiple speakers. The app accesses more than 20,000 radio stations, about 200,000 free on-demand programs and podcasts, and the Pure Music subscription-streaming service.

Two different songs can be simultaneously streamed to different speakers if two mobile devices are used at the same time. With Bluetooth, users can stream music stored on a mobile device and any app’s audio to one speaker at a time.

The Pure Connect app also enables users to direct PC-stored music to Jongo speakers. Only one song at a time can be streamed. The $199 Jongo S3 portable, rechargeable wireless speaker and the $129 A2 multiroom hi-fi adapter are available from several retailers, including Amazon, Target, OfficeMax, and Pure.

The Pure Connect app for iOS devices is available with an Android version to be released later this year. The company also plans availability of the 100-W AC-only tabletop T6 speaker. The A2, J3, and T6 incorporate built-in Wi-Fi 802.11b/g with WEP and WPA/WPA2 support; Ethernet port; and decoding of WMA, AAC, MP3, MP2, and FLAC audio files. The AC/DC J3 features a 3.5” neodymium upward-firing mid/bass driver and four 0.75” high-frequency drivers in 360° with a total 10-W RMS output. Its rechargeable battery pack delivers at least 10 h of listening per charge. The J3 and T6 come with color grille options. The A2 adapter incorporates 24-bit internal DAC and optical, coaxial, and dual (RCA) phono analog audio outputs.


 

Bowers & Wilkins Introduces the CM10

Bowers & Wilkins is replacing the flagship speaker in its CM series, bringing technologies used in its reference 800 series to the CM series for the first time. The CM10 replaces the CM9 and became available in August at a suggested price of $4,000 per pair.

The new CM10 is shown with a painted black-gloss finish. (Photo courtesy of Bowers & Wilkins)

The new CM10 is shown with a painted black-gloss finish. (Photo courtesy of Bowers & Wilkins)

The CM10 will be available in a painted black-gloss finish or in two real-wood veneers, rosewood or wenge. With the new technologies and other improvements, the CM10 plays louder than its predecessor, delivers more extended bass and delivers better imaging with lower distortion.

Technologies incorporated from the 800 series include a tweeter placed on the top of the speaker cabinet, which provides better imaging and dispersion and creates a more natural, spacious sound. The tweeter’s aluminum dome is strengthened using a second aluminum layer to stiffen the whole structure and prevent the voice coil from going “out of round” at higher frequencies. As a result, the double dome pushes the first break-up frequency up from the standard dome’s 30 to 38 kHz. This makes the tweeter “more piston-like” in the audible frequencies below 20 kHz and delivers greater clarity and control even at high volume levels. Putting the tweeter on top of the cabinet also helped open space for three bass drivers instead of two without increasing cabinet height. The result is increased sensitivity, deeper bass, lower distortion, and higher maximum output, the company said.

For the first time in a CM series speaker, the midrange driver, a Kevlar FST driver, is decoupled from the rest of the cabinet to reduce cabinet coloration. Moving the midrange closer to the top of the cabinet also improves dispersion and increases the sense of airiness.


 

Circuit City for Sale

Circuit City, the stores still empty with the Circuit City logo showing, is up for sale once again. Current owner Systemax has put the trademark and domain names of Circuit City and fellow former consumer electronics (CE) chain CompUSA up for sale after consolidating those businesses under its TigerDirect brand last year. The company acquired Circuit City’s intellectual property in a 2009 bankruptcy auction and purchased the CompUSA brand and 16 of its stores in 2008, as former Systemax retail executive Gilbert Fiorentino sought to fill a CE market vacuum.

Fiorentino later resigned and returned millions to Systemax amid charges of kickbacks and theft. He reached a separate settlement with the SEC last year. Last month, his brother, Carl Fiorentino, was indicted and now faces jail time for taking millions in bribes from Systemax suppliers. According to Hilco Streambank, which is handling the sale, the Circuit City and CompUSA websites drew “tens of millions” of annual visits under Systemax, while its co-branded chain of CompUSA and TigerDirect stores grew to 43 locations at its peak.


VOXX Sees Gain Despite Slower Sales

VOXX International turned a net profit and higher operating income, but sales were slightly off in its fiscal first quarter, which ended May 31. Its net income was $2.1 million in the quarter compared with a prior year’s net loss of $4.7 million. Operating income for the quarter was $3.4 million, an 11.6% gain over the year-ago period performance of $3.1 million. Net sales were $193 million, a decrease of $1 million, or 0.5%, compared with net sales of $194 million reported in the comparable year-ago period, VOXX reported.

Automotive sales for the quarter were $104.9 million, an increase of 4.5% over $100.4 million reported in the comparable period last year.

Premium audio sales for the fiscal 2014 first quarter were $40.2 million, an increase of approximately 1.7% as compared with $39.5 million reported in the comparable period last year. Voxx had growth in its domestic operations, primarily driven by higher sales of new soundbar products and premium wireless speakers. This growth was partially offset by lower international sales, predominantly in Europe.

Consumer accessories sales were $47.6 million for the quarter, a decrease of approximately 11.8% as compared with $54 million reported in last year’s comparable period. This decline was related to lower international sales, mostly in Europe. The declines were partially offset by increased sales in domestic operations, driven primarily by higher sales of wireless speakers and personal sound amplifier products, VOXX said. As a percentage of sales for the fiscal first quarter, automotive represented 54.3%, premium audio represented 20.8%, and consumer accessories had a 24.7% share.

Industry Watch: August

By Vance Dickason

Jade Design Acquires Bob Carver Brand

Photo 1: Dan Laufman, of Jade Design, is shown with Bob Carver. Jade Design recently acquired the Bob Carver brand.

Jade Design, the parent company of Emotiva, Emotiva Pro, and Sherbourn, has finalized its acquisition of the Bob Carver brand and all its assets, including intellectual properties and exclusive design services (see Photo 1). Under the terms of the agreement, Jade Design will move the Bob Carver line’s manufacturing to Jade’s Franklin, TN, facilities, which will be expanded to accommodate the increased work. Jade will also manufacture future Emotiva and Sherbourn products.

Jade Design will implement a sales structure similar to the Sherbourn brand. This sales model focuses on direct-to-consumer sales with a companion dealer discount program. The company has also found ways to streamline Bob Carver’s operation and will pass along those cost savings to consumers. Jade is also working on a stereo preamplifier, another stereo tube amp, a smaller pair of monoblock amps, and, in the long term, a tube-based DAC.


ALMA Issues a Call for Papers

The Association of Loudspeaker Manufacturing & Acoustics (ALMA) International has issued a “Call for Papers” for the 2014 Winter Symposium, “Suppliers Unchained: Maximizing Value from Your Acoustic Component Sources,” to be held at The Tuscany Suites & Casino in Las Vegas, NV, January 4–5, 2014. This symposium will focus on loudspeaker component suppliers (e.g., spiders, cones, baskets, voice coils, magnets, etc.). Additionally, a review of ALMA standards and test and measurement technologies will focus on cost-effective quality control and standardization. This year, there will be a one-day break between the Winter Symposium and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which runs January 7–10.

Papers, tutorials, seminars, and exhibits will demonstrate how the coordination and application of standards and measurements can achieve cost-effective quality control from suppliers worldwide. Papers, tutorials, and seminar topics are welcome. Abstracts will be evaluated on the basis of their overall quality and relevance to the symposium’s theme, value to the industry, and practical feasibility. Papers and tutorials are scheduled to last 30 min.

The ALMA Winter Symposium will be co-chaired by Mark Beach of Dyne Analytics and Peter Andrews of Materion Electrofusion. Contact Beach (mark@dyneanalytics.com) or Andrews (peter.andrews@materion.com) to discuss the program. The submissions closing date is October 15, 2013. Presenters must supply copies of their presentations in electronic format by December 15, 2013. Submissions should be e-mailed to management@almainternational.org. Visit www.almainternational.org for more information.


Shapiro Responds to Obama’s Patent Proposals

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), made the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s five executive orders and seven legislative suggestions aimed at curbing the influence of “patent trolls”:

“President Obama’s decisive action against Patent Assertion Entities (also known as patent trolls), is on the side of innovation and job creation and against the spineless parasites of society who ruin American businesses. Obama’s strong action specifically directs the Patent and Trademark Office to determine the ultimate corporate owner when patents are filed and allows the court greater discretion in awarding attorney fees for spurious patent litigation. The President also urges Congress to pursue legislative approaches to curbing patent trolls, including protection from end users and “loser pays” fee shifting.

“The President’s actions are appropriate and necessary given the rise in threats of lawsuits and actual suits against millions of American businesses who have done nothing wrong other than use common web tools or try to create and sell products incorporating common technology. Businesses ranging from the smallest startup to the largest Fortune 500 companies are suffering from the enormous waste that the threat of litigation and actual litigation are causing. Each one of these threats must be taken seriously by a company. The cost of fighting these suits comes directly off a company’s bottom line and requires time and resources to be taken away from research and the hiring of Americans.

“Patent troll litigation now dominates all patent litigation. Additionally, they are often brought by overseas investors and law firms who extort businesses that calculate that it is cheaper to settle rather than to pursue the six- or seven-figure costs against defending a patent claim. I applaud President Obama for today’s strong and decisive action against patent trolls, and also Congress as it is currently considering several bills to stop this extortion racket that is jeopardizing the health of American business.”


Triad Speakers Expands Soundbar Line

Photo 2: Triad Speaker’s OnWall MiniSat 3.0 soundbar provides a high-performance front speaker solution.

Triad Speakers, one of the few remaining US loudspeaker manufacturers that builds its own enclosures, expanded its passive soundbar lineup with the addition of a three-channel on-wall model to its MiniSat series (see Photo 2). The MiniSat Series already included a three-channel passive in-room soundbar and a three-channel in-wall soundbar.

The OnWall MiniSat 3.0 is less than 3” deep and available in widths up to 82”. Pricing for different finishes starts at a suggested $1,100 and $1,500, respectively. This soundbar features three 4” proprietary fiber-blended paper-cone drivers and three 1” cloth-dome tweeters. The organic fibers in the midrange/woofers are said to increase stiffness with lower mass to deliver greater accuracy and lower distortion.

The OnWall MiniSat 3.0 is Triad’s 11th soundbar, including its 3.0 models with three channels, 2.0 models with two channels, and 1.0 models with one channel. For its gloss finishes, Triad uses a proprietary EcoGloss process that uses multiple layers of water-based paint and hand polishing, adding four to five man-hours to the build process.


Soundcast Offers Its First Bluetooth Speaker

Soundcast Systems, a wireless speaker manufacturer, is entering a new market with the launch of its first Bluetooth speaker, an outdoor model called Melody. Priced at a $449, shipments started in July but the product will be on allocation until August. This product launch follows the June shipment of a BlueCast Bluetooth receiver adapter as an option for the company’s battery-operated outdoor speakers, which use proprietary 2.4-GHz wireless technology to stream music from a PC or a tabletop iPod/iPhone dock up to 300’ away.

The new Melody Bluetooth speaker is an all-weather splash-proof speaker that streams the AAC and AptX codecs over Bluetooth to improve sound quality. The weather- and UV-resistant cylindrical speaker features a built-in carrying handle, four 3” full-range drivers, and four passive bass radiators in a 360° array. It also includes 20-h built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery and Bluetooth AVRCP, which enables the speaker’s keypad controls to remotely control the play/pause and track up/down functions of a Bluetooth-connected tablet or smartphone whether the device is playing stored music or music from Internet music apps.

The speaker includes an AC adapter, a 12-V car adapter, a MicroUSB for charging, and auxiliary input. Weighing 9 lb, Melody measures 9” in diameter and is 9.5” high. Soundcast also offers wireless transmitters and receivers for use with subwoofers and surround speakers.