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.

Adlib Audio Launches AA Install Speaker Range

adlib-speakersLiverpool based Adlib Audio launches a new specialist division – Adlib Speakers – to manufacture and market its AA brand of speakers, which are very proudly made in Liverpool, England. Hand-crafted and designed to perfection by a dedicated team of individuals who know their audio, using quality components, precision engineering and innovation, the AA series intends to be the ultimate ‘boutique’ brand for those who understand that their sound really matters. Adlib has been making, installing and using the AA range very successfully for the last 15 years, primarily for its own installations and projects, and now they believe the time has come to step up and make the AA series available for re-sale worldwide.

Currently there are four products available for re-sale in the AA range – the AA61, AA81 and AA121 – containing 6, 8 and 12 inch drivers respectively, complete with a dedicated AA12HL 12 inch sub. All the AA series cabinets are constructed from premium birch ply sourced in Finland, and are available with a hard-wearing textured paint exterior for installs. A huge amount of quality engineering and detail goes into manufacturing the AA range all featuring the best components, custom speaker chassis, compression drivers and Adlib’s own custom crossover networks.

www.adlibspeakers.co.uk

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.

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

Audiofly AF180

Audiofly AF180

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

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

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

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

www.audiofly.com

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

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

Westone Signature W50/60 Earphones

Westone Signature W50/60 Earphones

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.westoneaudio.com

Industry Watch: 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.

The January 2014 Edition of audioXpress is Now Available Online!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PreSonus Shipping New StudioLive AI-series Active Integration Loudspeakers

The new line includes the full-range StudioLive 312AI, 315AI, and 328AI 3-way powered speakers and the StudioLive 18sAI powered subwoofer. All models use custom drivers, Class-D amplifiers, wireless and wired networking and communications with powerful DSP to create a unified working environment. The StudioLive AI-series speakers incorporate Fulcrum Acoustics’ TQ Temporal Equalization algorithms, using multiple, fully addressable Finite Impulse Response (FIR) filters to eliminate horn reflections and to correct linear time and amplitude anomalies in coaxial systems. Collaborating with Fulcrum Acoustics’ co-founder, Dave Gunness, PreSonus software designers incorporated custom TQ algorithms with dynamics processing, FFT tools, and performance monitoring into the onboard DSP.

www.presonus.com/products/live-sound-reinforcement

PreSonus Ships Ultra-Compact E4.5 Studio Reference Monitor

PreSonus E4.5 Ultra-Compact Studio Reference Monitor

PreSonus E4.5 Ultra-Compact Studio Reference Monitor

PreSonus is shipping the ultra-compact Eris E4.5 studio reference monitor, the third model in the Eris series of two-way monitor speakers announced one year ago, at the NAMM 2013. As with the Eris E5 and E8, the E4.5 can be user-adjusted to the acoustic space, allowing to create a more accurate listening environment or to simulate different common listening environments.

A four-position Acoustic Space switch controls a second-order shelving filter, centered at 1 kHz, providing three attenuation points (no attenuation, -2 dB, and -4 dB), allowing control of the bass response relative to the wall proximity. A High Pass switch sets the low-frequency cutoff (second-order slope, -12 dB/octave) to be flat, 80 Hz, or 100 Hz, with a continuously adjustable (±6 dB) High Frequency and Midrange controls, allowing a linear response for accurate monitoring.

This affordable new monitor speaker features balanced ¼” TRS, unbalanced RCA and unbalanced 1/8” inputs, being ideal for bedroom studios, school music programs, and as a high-quality replacement for computer speakers.

The Eris E4.5 features a 4.5-inch, Kevlar low-frequency transducer, a 1-inch (25 mm), silk-dome, high-frequency tweeter, and a rear bass-reflect port. A 25W Class AB amplifier powers each speaker, SPL is rated at 100 dB and frequency response is from 70 Hz up to 20 kHz.

The Eris E4.5 anticipated MAP/street price is $199.95/pair.

www.presonus.com/products/Eris