Industry Watch: April 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


RadioShack Plans Several Store Closings

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

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

 


B&W Launches New Opening-Price Series

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

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

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

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

 


The Bluetooth Speaker Craze Continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Majority of Soundbar Sales Below $500

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

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

 


NRF Reports Expect Rise in Retail Sales

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

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

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

Industry Watch: March 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

Klippel Presents Three-Day Lecture

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

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

 


 

Alma’s Hires New Association Manager

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

ALMA International selected Barry Vogel as its next manager.

ALMA International selected Barry Vogel as its next manager.

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

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

 


 

CE Revenues Reach Record High In 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

Bluetooth Speakers Dominate New Loudspeaker Product Releases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Mackie Adds The MRmk3 Series

MackieMRmk3SeriesThe new MRmk3 Series Studio Monitors were among the highlights when Mackie recently refreshed the line. The MRmk3 Series includes three affordable, professional monitors with optimized electronics and custom-matched amplifiers/drivers, complemented by a powerful subwoofer (MR10Smk3). Featuring custom-tuned ports and rugged all-wood MDF cabinets packed with acoustic absorption material, the new Mackie MRmk3 full-range monitors include the 5.25” MR5mk3, the 6.5” MR6mk3, and the 8” MR8mk3.

The Mackie MRmk3 are active monitors specifically designed to reveal the full frequency range in music recording and mixing, optimized with a minimum-diffraction waveguide system and different sized polypropylene woofers together with a 1” silk dome tweeter and Class-A/B amplifiers rated from 50 to 120 WRMS.

All the units feature high- and low-frequency level adjustments with 100-Hz and 3.25-kHz shelving in the rear panels, featuring XLR, TRS, and RCA input connectors.

Mackie
www.mackie.com

KRK Systems Launches New Rokit Generation 3 Monitors

KRK Systems, now part of the Gibson Pro Audio division, claims it is the leader in the worldwide home studio market when it comes to powered monitors. KRK Systems is certainly one of the world’s most respected studio reference monitor manufacturers. So, when the company decided to refresh its popular Rokits, now in its third generation, there must have been a good reason.

KRKg3-familyWithout dramatic changes, the new Rokit G3 family shows a cleaner more refined look and finishing, with “radiused” edges that help reduce distortion from diffraction. The monitors now offer a new 1” soft dome tweeter and new glass-Aramid composite woofers. The changes expand the Rokit’s frequency response up to 35 kHz, with better vocal clarity and extended bass response from 35 Hz. The proprietary bi-amped, Class-A/B amplifier provides SPL up to 109 dB and the waveguide design helps achieve the detailed imaging, while the front-firing bass port reduces boundary coupling to enable flexible room positioning. One of the key changes is in the back of the monitors, where high-frequency adjustments can be found to tailor the system to the user’s personal taste. The low-frequency adjustments compensate for room acoustics.

KRK Sytems, Inc.
www.krksys.com

LSR 3 Series: Affordable Studio Monitors From Jbl Professional

The 3 Series studio monitors leverage the new technology developed for JBL’s flagship M2 Master Reference Monitor.

The 3 Series studio monitors leverage the new technology developed for JBL’s flagship M2 Master Reference Monitor.

JBL Professional introduced a new professional studio monitoring range at an affordable price. The 3 Series studio monitors leverage the new technology developed for JBL’s flagship M2 Master Reference Monitor, which was launched earlier this year. This is also the first studio monitor line to incorporate JBL’s patent-pending Image Control Waveguide, with a distinctive appearance and rugged build.

The JBL 3 Series features two models: the LSR305, 5” powered studio monitor and the LSR308, 8” powered studio monitor. The LSR305 responds from 43 Hz to 24 kHz and a 108-dB peak sound pressure level (SPL). The LSR308 features a 37-Hz-to-24-kHz response and a 112-dB peak SPL.

Surrounding the high-frequency tweeter and located directly above the woofer, the new Image Control Waveguide precisely controls the sound emanating from the monitor in the vertical and horizontal planes. With a complex contour employing tiny, meticulously engineered ridges, the waveguide optimizes the loudspeakers’ phase relationship, and the blend of directed and reflecting sound arriving at the listening position. In addition, the waveguide enables 3 Series models to deliver neutral sound across a large working space.

The 3 Series’s long-throw woofer and damped woven composite tweeter are designed to reproduce the powerful transients and microdynamics of any mix. JBL’s patented Slip Stream low-frequency port design works with the woofer to produce deep bass response at all playback levels. The port’s double-flared shape is precisely engineered for greater low-frequency extension and reduced turbulence. Efficient Class D amplifiers provide enough power to the drivers to deliver the output and dynamic headroom needed for the most demanding production styles.

Each 3 Series model incorporates a range of features to integrate the loudspeakers into a variety of environments including multiple inputs, a detented volume control, and an input sensitivity switch for compatibility with professional and consumer equipment.

The loudspeakers cost $199.99 and $325 for the LSR305 and LSR308, respectively.

JBL Professional
www.jblpro.com/3series

Industry Watch: October

CEDIA 2013 Manufacturers’ Excellence Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


CEDIA Benchmarking Surveys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


First Annual TWICE VIP Awards

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

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

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

The categories included:

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

Loudspeaker-related winners were:

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

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

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

 


Klipsch History

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

 


Advanced Audio Systems Engineer Joins MISCO

Photo 4: Engineer Richard Field joins MISCO.

Photo 4: Engineer Richard Field joins MISCO.

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

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

 


Onkyo’s Active Soundbar

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Sony’s 7.1-Channel Soundbar

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

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

 


Vizio Launches Three New Soundbars

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

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

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

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

 


CEA Consumer Confidence Study

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

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