Feeling Too Old?

With the year’s first audio shows behind us, we have seen several technical breakthroughs and innovations that give us reason to be excited. Thus far, we have attended the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) 2014, and the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE)!

The 2014 International CES was marked by the emergence of ultra-high definition (UHD) TV. Audio professionals need to be aware of the sound implications that accompany those stunning images. Most (giant) LCD panels are so thin there’s no space for high-quality speakers. The TVs may sound fine at home for sports, talk shows, and news, but there is a market for new speaker systems to complement these 4K TVs. And (sorry) I don’t think consumers will opt for multichannel unless we see new speaker designs that combine great quality with convenience.

In the majority of homes, the key will be perceptual audio algorithms and a better consumer experience with less hassle. That also means wireless solutions, especially for surround sound. At the 2014 International CES, we particularly liked the Philips Fidelio E5 wireless surround cinema speakers, a “Best of Innovations” in the Home Theater category.

Also, it is critical to understand that 4K content will not arrive at homes as physical media. As we saw at the 2014 International CES, Sony’s vision for 4K includes new cloud/online services, where hi-res audio and interactive gaming are also considerations. In my opinion, this means speaker and audio systems designers have good reason to work hard on new designs.

Another major trend at the 2014 International CES was wearable electronics, which will provide new opportunities, related to headsets, wireless audio, and maybe immersive/awareness experiences.
The NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, was also a vibrant event, complete with several major announcements for the studio and stage environments and, increasingly, many incredible options for iPad and portable devices. Apps for iPad (e.g., Korg’s Gadget featuring 15 virtual synths and instruments or Cakewalk’s Z3TA+ iOS) sound and look amazing.

There was also a new trend that combined portable wireless speakers with guitar rehearsal amplifiers. Take a look at the VOX SoundBox Mini and IK Multimedia iLoud portable speaker and you will understand. An outstanding example came from Line 6, after its recent acquisition by Yamaha. The new Line 6 AMPLIFi combines a high-performance guitar amplifier, a streaming Bluetooth speaker, and an iOS app in one powerful solution.

The NAMM Show also saw several new studio monitors and many Thunderbolt recording interface announcements, with Zoom making a grand entrance in that category. Our favorite recording solution was the new Universal Audio Apollo Twin, a desktop 2 × 6 Thunderbolt audio interface, which enables real-time universal audio digital (UAD) processing of its high-quality plug-ins.

The greatest NAMM surprise came from QSC Audio, which revealed its first digital mixer line, the TouchMix series. Behringer also announced a new Dante network option for its X32 range of digital consoles, adding that more than 100,000 units have been sold worldwide. Perhaps inspired by that incredible success, the Music Group also announced a new 40-input Midas digital console, the M32, which is available for less than $5,000.

If you don’t feel excited by these announcements, the music is probably too loud and you may be a tad too old.

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

Sony PHA-2 Named Best of Innovations at the CES 2014

Sony PHA-2

Sony PHA-2

Sony’s PHA-2 headphone amplifier was named Best of Innovations at the International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards event for its effectiveness and great listening experience when used with portable audio players or smartphones.

The PHA-2 headphone DAC/amplifier is part of Sony’s new line of High Resolution Audio products introduced in October 2013, along with the TA-A1ES integrated stereo amplifier. Both products offer superior sound reproduction and have been specifically designed to support the latest high-resolution music sources.

The new PHA-2 portable headphone amplifier is the first portable DAC/amplifier to be compatible with virtually every high-resolution digital file format, including up to 192 kHz/24-bit PCM and both DSD (2.8 MHz) and double DSD (5.6 MHz). It features a variety of advanced technologies, including refinements such as an Asynchronous Transport Mode using a dedicated signal generator to reduce timing errors for more accurate, jitter-free converter performance. It also incorporates a high-precision D/A converter, along with devices such as a custom headphone amplifier IC with high slew rate and ultra-low distortion operation; output capacitor-less (OCL) current feedback architecture; and a dual power supply operation for more stable and accurate reproduction.

All of these select components are enclosed in a durable aluminum chassis, fully protected from external interference. The PHA-2 headphone amplifier also has a variable gain headphone input that supports a wide range of impedances. It also has  Zinc die-cast bumpers to protect the volume control and headphone connector from external shock and vibration.

The PHA-2 can be easily connected to PC and Macintosh computers via its USB 2.0 interface, and also includes a dedicated digital input for iPod, iPhone and iPad products. Other portable audio sources such as Android smartphones and digital music players can be connected via the analog audio input. The PHA-2 comes with a built-in Lithium-ion battery, which runs up to 6.5 hours with a digital connection and up to 17 hours with an analog connection on a single charge.

The PHA-2 portable headphones amplifier will be available beginning March 2014 for $599 at Sony stores and other national electronics retailers.

www.sony.com

Prescient Audio Awarded at CES 2014 For Its Revolutionary ThinDriver TD-12

Prescient Audio ThinDriver

Prescient Audio ThinDriver

Prescient Audio, from Rockford, IL, a consumer and professional audio manufacturer of high-performance loudspeaker technology, was named an International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree for its ThinDriver TD-12, in the High Performance Home Audio product category.

Prescient Audio’s TD-12 is the thinnest and lightest 12″ subwoofer available on the market, boasting an energy-efficient design. The TD-12 is a high-performance, 1,000-W loudspeaker that repositions the components from behind the loudspeaker to its perimeter. With a mounted depth of 2.25″, the TD-12 is the shallowest subwoofer available.

Its futuristic design allows for a smaller cabinet, requiring only 0.5 cubic feet of box volume. It can easily fit between standard wall joints within a wall cavity or underneath furniture or car seats. While it’s the thinnest loudspeaker profile in the industry, it still provides a rich, superior true-to-signal sound and incredible bass throughout all audible levels, all while offering the largest power-to-weight ratio in the industry at 120-W per pound.

According to Paul Niedermann, CEO of Prescient Audio, the ThinDriver TD-12 has been three years in the making and is now available.

www.prescientaudio.com

High-Res Audio Celebrated at the 2014 International CES

Consumers and the ecosystem are ready for more high-resolution audio (HRA) options.

At the 2014 International CES, consumer electronics manufacturers, retailers, music labels, and artists came together to support, promote, and examine key issues surrounding HRA at the Hi-Res Audio Experience TechZone and panel sessions. The Hi-Res Audio Experience TechZone was anchored by hi-res digital download pioneer and leader HD Tracks and included booths from Acoustic Sounds Super HiRez, iTrax, Blue Coast Music, Mytek Digital, and Native DSD Music.

Over the course of the 2014 CES, the Hi-Res Audio Experience TechZone featured three panels: “Welcome to the Hi-Res Music World,” “Meet the Hi-Res Music Creators,” and “Hi-Res Audio for Every Lifestyle.” Producers, label executives, and audio device manufactures discussed what the mainstream HRA file type will be, how to evangelize consumers to seek out HRA, and what the music industry can do together to further HRA.

“A common theme we saw at the Hi-Res Audio Experience is that 2014 is going to be the year that we see a significant uptick in the popularity and success of HRA,” said Karen Chupka, senior vice president for International CES and corporate business strategy. “We expect more HRA announcements over the next year and anticipate that the technology will have a strong presence again next year at the 2015 International CES.”

The panelists at each session held differing opinions about which file type is best for HRA, but agreed that eventually the market will decide what will rise to the top. Many of those who spoke also agreed that the experience of listening to HRA is an important part of communicating why the format is beneficial to the listener, and that the industry needs to work on changing the mindset of consumers.

“The Hi-Res Experience TechZone at this year’s CES was a resounding success,” said Marc Finer, technical director for DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. “Thanks to CEA’s support, we were able to bring together, for the first time, the industry’s leading players, including music companies, digital retailers, content creators and hardware manufacturers. All of these people came together to deliver a unified message, because they care about the quality of digital music.”

Adoption of HRA offers benefits for consumers, as well as new market opportunities for the CE and music industries. HRA offers the highest digital sound quality while retaining the benefits of digital audio, such as portability and personalization. HRA music files provide greater clarity and detail than MP3s and other compressed digital audio formats, resulting in a listening experience that more closely represents the original recording.

Music labels are expanding their HRA catalogs online with tens of thousands of HRA albums already available for download across all music genres. Every major music label has expressed support for HRA, including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group, in addition to leading independent labels. HRA digital music stores are already online, with more being added each day.
CEA’s Home Audio Division and The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing recently relaunched QualitySoundMatters.com, a website dedicated to improving the digital music listening experience. The site offers rich content and targeted information for consumers and professionals alike, providing articles on products, technologies, record labels, recording artists, and music producers who are leading the way in the quality revolution and explaining how to find and enjoy quality music recordings.

For more information on the Hi-Res Audio Experience Tech Zone and the panelists, visit: CESWeb.org/Conference/Conference-Tracks/High-Resolution-Audio-Experience.

For more on HRA, visit: HiResAudioCentral.com

Fraunhofer IIS Introduces Audio Codec Optimized for Television at CES

3-D AudioThe German R&D institute, Fraunhofer IIS (developers of mp3 and co-developers of AAC),  previewed the future of audio entertainment for TV broadcasts at CES International 2014 in Las Vegas, where it is unveiled the new Fraunhofer TV audio system based on the upcoming open audio standard MPEG-H Audio.

The Fraunhofer TV audio system is destined to push TV broadcasts to a new level and provide viewers with interactive features that offer control over the audio signal and true 3-D sound. As one of the main developers of MPEG-H Audio, Fraunhofer IIS is leading the evolution of television playback well beyond 5.1 surround sound.

“Throughout the development of the new Fraunhofer TV audio system based on MPEG-H Audio, Fraunhofer IIS focused on the needs of current and future TV broadcasts audiences for viewing content on a variety of devices from complete home theaters to mobile tablets and phones,” said Harald Popp, head of the business department of the audio and multimedia division of Fraunhofer IIS. “As a result, the system is a true multiscreen audio codec allowing for the efficient delivery of audio content to any screen over any kind of transmission channel, including broadcast, cable, Internet or 4G wireless networks.”
MPEG-H Audio is based on a new, efficient audio codec that includes processing to offer an optimized experience with controlled loudness on every device. It includes object-based audio and is capable of transmitting immersive 3-D sound. Object-based audio allows viewers to adjust the sound mix to their preferences, boosting otherwise hard-to-understand dialogue or creating a “home team” mix of sports broadcasts.

Industry Watch: January 2014

2013 CEA Technology Winners

Charlie Hughes

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

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

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

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

 


2014 CES Best of Innovations Awardees

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

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

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

 

 


HTSA 2013 Awards

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

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

Other loudspeaker companies that received awards include:

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

 

 


Harman Opens First US Store

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

Industry Watch: December 2013

Primax Acquires 70% Share of Tymphany

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


AudioXperts Closes Due to Lack of Funding

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

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

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

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

 


Leon Speakers Acquires Media Décor

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

 


Lenbrook Launches Bluesound Brand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Triad Releases New Behind-Wall Speakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


NTI America Celebrates 10th Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Holiday Sales Predicted to Rise

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

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

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

 


NEAR Returns to Consumer Products

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


KEF Releases THX Architectural Speakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Artison’s New In-Wall Subwoofers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High-Resolution Audio at the 2014 International CES

CES2014LasVegasAudioWebThe Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announces an increased focus on next-generation high-resolution audio (HRA) technology in response to growing market demand. To address the topic, CEA has planned a new TechZone, the Hi-Res Audio Experience, and several conferences at the upcoming 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Produced by CEA, the Hi-Res Audio Experience will showcase the latest high-resolution audio content coming to market and the latest technologies that will give consumers the highest quality listening experience. The 2014 International CES, will showcase the latest high-resolution audio content coming to market and the latest technologies that will give consumers the highest quality listening experience. The show will take place January 7-10, 2014, in Las Vegas, NV.

“Market trends indicate that consumers are poised to embrace high-resolution audio, creating tremendous new opportunities for CE manufacturers and the music industry,” says Karen Chupka, senior vice president, International CES and corporate business strategy, CEA. “With recent HRA announcements from a number of music labels, digital retailers and CE companies, we’ve created this new TechZone to help drive category growth and give our attendees the opportunity to explore the game-changing quality of high-resolution audio. Visitors also will meet leading creatives from across the industry.”

Located in The Venetian’s Bellini Ballroom, the Hi-Res Audio Experience is anchored by HD Tracks, a high-resolution digital download pioneer and industry leader .The TechZone also features companies including Acoustic Sounds’ Super HiRez Store, Blue Coast Music, Mytek Digital, and Native DSD.

A variety of high-resolution audio products also will be demonstrated or on display and several manufacturers will have products on display in their rooms in the Venetian Tower and at their booths across the CES show floor.

“For the past 25 years, my brother and I have dedicated our lives and our company to pushing the envelope in sound quality and we apply this same passion to music downloads,” said David Chesky, co-founder and CEO of HD Tracks. “Now we are pleased to join with a number of other artists, music stores, and electronic companies at CES to take high-fidelity music reproduction to a new level that was never before even imaginable.”

In addition to cutting edge exhibits, the Hi-Res Audio Experience will feature its own conference track at the 2014 International CES:

  • Welcome to the Hi-Res Music World, 1:00–2:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 7, 2014: Top executives from major and independent labels, along with their digital retail partners, will discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with licensing and distributing high-resolution music.
  • Meet the Hi-Res Music Creators, 3:00–4:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 7, 2014: Explore several topics including the key advantages to working in high-resolution formats, the availability of recording tools, and the importance of metadata to enhance the overall listening experience.
  • Hi-Res Audio for Every Lifestyle, 1:00–2:00 p.m., Wednesday, January 8, 2014: Examine the variety of high-resolution devices that are available today and the challenges related to marketing and promoting them.

CEA research shows consumers are ready to embrace high-resolution audio. The research indicates the appeal of high-quality audio electronics extends beyond enthusiasts and that the appeal of high-resolution audio extends far beyond higher quality audio devices. CEA found 4:10 (39%) of consumers with a moderate interest in audio indicate they are willing to pay more for high-quality audio electronics devices and that nearly 6:10 (60%) of consumers with a moderate interest in audio are willing to pay more for higher-quality digital music. Nine in 10 consumers say sound quality is the most important component of a quality audio experience.

Companies interested in exhibiting in the new Hi-Res Audio Experience should contact Kristen Nafziger at knafziger@ce.org or 703-907-7648. For more information, visit CESweb.org.

ALMA at CES 2013

The Association of Loudspeaker Manufacturing and Acoustics (ALMA) Winter Symposium, “Product Development in the Global Paradigm: Acoustic Modeling, Measurement, and Manufacturing in the Modern Marketplace” will take place prior to CES, on January 6 and January 7, 2013, at The Tuscany Suites & Casino, 255 East Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV. This program is loaded with technical presentations covering microdrivers, microphones, hearing aids, and other transducer-related technology. Registration is open.

Seminars—The symposium program features two powerful half-day seminars taught by widely respected loudspeaker experts: “Moving Coil Transducer Motor Design,” facilitated by Richard Little, founder of Far North Electroacoustics, and “Miniature Speakers and Microphones: Design and Application,” facilitated by Osman Isvan, a renowned inventor and audio systems engineer.

Papers and tutorials—Papers and tutorials will feature: “Audio System Variance in Production Vehicles” by Dr. Steve Hutt; “Following Load Lines to your Working Points,” and “Reluctance to Optimize: Coercing the Most Out of Your Magnets” by Dr. David Hyre, CTO, Dyne Analytics; “Perception and Measurement of Headphones,” by Dr. Sean Olive, director of Acoustic Research for Harman International; “Fast, Quality Testing of Loudspeaker Suspension Parts and Passive Radiators,” by Robert Werner and Dr. Wolfgang Klippel; “Modeling the Large Signal Behavior of Micro-Speakers,” by Daniel Knobloch and Dr. Wolfgang Klippel; “Measurement of Harmonic Distortion Audibility Using a Simplified Psychoacoustic Model,” by Steve Temme, president, Listen; “Estimating Short and Long Term Power Requirements for Powered Speakers,” Tim Sheen, Sonos; “A Modern Approach to Bass Response Extension in Conventionally Sized Loudspeakers,” by Boaz Shalev, CTO, Atlantic Technology; “Estimating Short and Long Term Power Requirements for Powered Speakers,” by Tim Sheen, Sonos; “MoTIV Motor Modeling Software,” by Mark Beach and Dan Wiggins, DYNE Analytics; “A New Algorithm for Surround Sound,” by Spiro Iraclianos, Global Transducer engineer, Harman International Automotive Division; and “Fine Measurements with the FINE R+D System,” by Peter Larsen, president, Loudsoft.

Driver Award Banquet—The popular ALMA loudspeaker industry Driver Award Banquet is Sunday evening, January 6, also at The Tuscany Suites & Casino. Driver Awards will be given to deserving recipients in the following categories: The Beryllium Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes significant and sustained contributions to the loudspeaker industry over the lifetime of a career; the Titanium Driver Award, which recognizes a specific technical contribution, accomplishment, or expertise in the loudspeaker industry; and the Gold Driver Award, which recognizes contributions to ALMA International.

Roundtables & Panel—The symposium’s theme, “Product Development in the Global Paradigm: Acoustic Modeling, Measurement, and Manufacturing in the Modern Marketplace” will be closely examined in roundtable discussions with a panel discussion follow up. Steve Temme, Listen’s president, will facilitate the discussion on measurement. Dr. Alex Voishvillo, JBL Professional’s senior manager of Transducer Engineering, will facilitate the discussion on modeling. Dan Wiggins of Dyne Analytics will facilitate the discussion on manufacturing, and Ken Berger will facilitate the discussion on international business. Peter Andrews of Materion Electrofusion will moderate.

The ALMA Winter Symposium is the world’s largest event entirely dedicated to the loudspeaker industry. ALMA is the only international trade association dedicated to improving the design and manufacture of loudspeakers. Visit www.almainternational.org for more information, to register to attend, to exhibit, or to sponsor the symposium.