What’s Next in Audio?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling Too Old?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doing It Differently

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

João Martins
Editor-in-Chief

One More Take

“One more take.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

João Martins
Editor-in-Chief

Industry Watch: January 2014

2013 CEA Technology Winners

Charlie Hughes

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

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

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

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

 


2014 CES Best of Innovations Awardees

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

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

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

 

 


HTSA 2013 Awards

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

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

Other loudspeaker companies that received awards include:

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

 

 


Harman Opens First US Store

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

Industry Watch: December 2013

Primax Acquires 70% Share of Tymphany

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


AudioXperts Closes Due to Lack of Funding

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

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

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

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

 


Leon Speakers Acquires Media Décor

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

 


Lenbrook Launches Bluesound Brand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Triad Releases New Behind-Wall Speakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


NTI America Celebrates 10th Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Holiday Sales Predicted to Rise

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

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

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

 


NEAR Returns to Consumer Products

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


KEF Releases THX Architectural Speakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Artison’s New In-Wall Subwoofers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Light, Sound, and Wireless Magic from AwoX

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

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

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

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

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

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

striimLIGHT_mini_1146

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

AwoX
www.awox.com

Industry Watch: September

Dr. Amar Bose (1929–2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Timothy Dorwart (1955–2013)

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

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

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

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


 

Pure Audio Ships New Jongo Products

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

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

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

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

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


 

Bowers & Wilkins Introduces the CM10

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Circuit City for Sale

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

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


VOXX Sees Gain Despite Slower Sales

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

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

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

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

January Products: HiWave Wireless Speaker, Power Amp Kit, Wolfson DAC

HiWave develops new wireless speaker platform

HiWave offers a Bluetooth wireless speaker demonstrator that runs for 100 hours at normal levels from a single charge cycle.

HiWave Technologies, a provider of innovative audio amplifier ICs, full-frequency range speaker drivers, and next-generation haptic-touch devices, has developed a new product called Endfire. Endfire is an efficient wireless stereo speaker reference platform that delivers 100 hours of high-quality audio playback at typical listening levels.

Endfire uses Bluetooth to pair with tablet PCs, smartphones, and laptops and outputs 30-W audio from its two full-frequency range, wide-dispersion HiBM36S12-8 BMR speakers. These are combined with HiWave’s DyadBA3 module, which supports both AVRCP and A2DP Bluetooth audio profiles and uses the HiAS2002 stereo amplifier. The system is powered by three 2,200-mAh Li-ion batteries and charged via a micro-USB connection.

The reference platform consumes less than 300 mW during typical playback and its onboard HiWave HiAS2002 (Audium) amplifier can switch voltage rails to reproduce peaks without any detectable artefacts. The system automatically enters standby when not in use and waking. Device pairing and battery check are controlled via Endfire’s volume control dial.

The HiAS2002 amplifier IC and BMR speaker drivers are available from HiWave. Visit www.hiwave.com for more information.

 

Akitika’s complete stereo power amplifier kit

Akitika’s GT-101 contains everything you need to build a stereo power amplifier.

Akitika’s GT-101 is a complete stereo power amplifier kit that supplies everything but the solder. It produces greater than 50-W RMS per channel into 8 Ω with low distortion and low noise. The kit includes a toroidal power transformer, film, COG capacitors, metal film resistors, heavy-duty extruded aluminum heatsinks, isolated input jacks, double sided FR-4 PC boards, five-way speaker binding posts, and a fully regulated power supply. It’s contained in a black custom chassis. The component quality is characteristic of high-end equipment, at a cost of a little more than $300. Akitika’s GT-101 stereo power amplifier sounds better because you build it. Visit www.akitika.com for more information.

Caption: Akitika’s GT-101 contains everything you need to build a stereo power amplifier.

 

Wolfson’s newest DAC delivers great sound

Wolfson Microelectronics has introduced its latest stereo digital-to-analog converter (DAC), the WM8533, which provides audio performance in a small package for a wide range of consumer electronic applications.

The WM8533 delivers 106-dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and features an integral charge pump, a software control interface, and offers 2 Vrms line driver outputs where a 3.3-V power supply rail is used. The WM8533 is suitable for a wide range of consumer digital audio applications including set top boxes, digital televisions, DVD players, and games consoles.

The WM8533 also features ground-referenced outputs and a DC servo to eliminate the need for line driving coupling capacitors and effectively eliminate pops and clicks at power on. The device also supports all common audio sampling rates between 8 and 192 kHz. For more information, visit www.wolfsonmicro.com.

Q&A: Andrew Spitz (Sound + Interaction Designer)

Andrew Spitz is a Copenhagen, Denmark-based sound designer, interaction designer, programmer, and blogger studying toward a Master’s interaction design at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID). Among his various innovative projects is the Arduino-based Skube music player, which is an innovative design that enables users to find and share music.

The Arduino-based Skube

Spitz worked on the design with Andrew Nip, Ruben van der Vleuten, and Malthe Borch. Check out the video to see the Skube in action.

On his blog SoundPlusDesign.com, Spitz writes:

It is a fully working prototype through the combination of using ArduinoMax/MSP and an XBee wireless network. We access the Last.fm API to populate the Skube with tracks and scrobble, and using their algorithms to find similar music when in Discover mode.

The following is an abridged  version of an interview that appears in the December 2012 issue of audioXpress magazine.

SHANNON BECKER: Tell us a little about your background and where you live.

Andrew Spitz: I’m half French, half South African. I grew up in France, but my parents are South African so when I was 17, I moved to South Africa. Last year, I decided to go back to school, and I’m now based in Copenhagen, Denmark where I’m earning a master’s degree at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CID).

SHANNON: How did you become interested in sound design? Tell us about some of your initial projects.

Andrew: From the age of 16, I was a skydiving cameraman and I was obsessed with filming. So when it was time to do my undergraduate work, I decided to study film. I went to film school thinking that I would be doing cinematography, but I’m color blind and it turned out to be a bigger problem than I had hoped. At the same time, we had a lecturer in sound design named Jahn Beukes who was incredibly inspiring, and I discovered a passion for sound that has stayed with me.

Shannon: What do your interaction design studies at CIID entail? What do you plan to do with the additional education?

Andrew: CIID is focused on a user-centered approach to design, which involves finding intuitive solutions for products, software, and services using mostly technology as our medium. What this means in reality is that we spend a lot of time playing, hacking, prototyping, and basically building interactive things and experiences of some sort.

I’ve really committed to the shift from sound design to interaction design and it’s now my main focus. That said, I feel like I look at design from the lens of a sound designer as this is my background and what has formed me. Many designers around me are very visual, and I feel like my background gives me not only a different approach to the work but also enables me to see opportunities using sound as the catalyst for interactive experiences. Lots of my recent projects have been set in the intersection among technology, sound, and people.

SHANNON: You have worked as a sound effects recordist and editor, location recordist and sound designer for commercials, feature films, and documentaries. Tell us about some of these experiences?

ANDREW: I love all aspects of sound for different reasons. Because I do a lot of things and don’t focus on one, I end up having more of a general set of skills than going deep with one—this fits my personality very well. By doing different jobs within sound, I was able to have lots of different experiences, which I loved! nLocation recording enabled me to see really interesting things—from blowing up armored vehicles with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) to interviewing famous artists and presidents. And, documentaries enabled me to travel to amazing places such as Rwanda, Liberia, Mexico, and Nigeria. As a sound effects recordist on Jock of the Bushvelt, a 3-D animation, I recorded animals such as lions, baboons, and leopards in the South African bush. With Bakgat 2, I spent my time recording and editing rugby sounds to create a sound effects library. This time in my life has been a huge highlight, but I couldn’t see myself doing this forever. I love technology and design, which is why I made the move...

SHANNON: Where did the idea for Skube originate?

Andrew: Skube came out of the Tangible User Interface (TUI) class at CIID where we were tasked to rethink audio in the home context. So understanding how and where people share music was the jumping-off point for creating Skube.

We realized that as we move more toward a digital and online music listening experience, current portable music players are not adapted for this environment. Sharing music in communal spaces is neither convenient nor easy, especially when we all have such different taste in music.

The result of our exploration was Skube. It is a music player that enables you to discover and share music and facilitates the decision process of picking tracks when in a communal setting.

audioXpress is an Elektor International Media publication.