A New Brand Identity for the Relaunch of Ciare
Following the acquisition by Italian driver manufacturer 18 Sound, announced in November 2015, the new Ciare brand identity has been presented at the Prolight+Sound 2016 show, in preparation for the company's relaunch. The Senigallia, Italy brand already shared the booth with 18 Sound at the Frankfurt show and introduced three new drivers, including an improved coaxial design, a new 1" exit high-frequency driver and a midrange 6.5" driver.

Sennheiser and Apogee Partner to Offer MK 4 Digital for USB and iOS
At Prolight+Sound in Frankfurt, Sennheiser previewed the new digital version of its MK 4, now using high-quality Apogee A/D conversion and mic preamp technology to directly connect to iOS devices, Mac and PC computers. The large-diaphragm MK 4 digital is the ideal partner for any mobile recording task requiring great sound quality with the typical warmth and detail of a true condenser microphone.  Read More

Martin Audio Unveils CDD-Live! Dante-Enabled Coaxial Differential Dispersion Speaker Systems
Martin Audio unveiled its much anticipated CDD-LIVE! Series at Prolight+Sound 2016. Targeted at sound reinforcement and monitoring applications, the full-range systems leverage the company's patented Coaxial Differential Dispersion (CDD) technology, combining the "point-source" benefits of coaxial design with the consistent coverage of differential dispersion, to evenly project sound front-to-back while exhibiting wide horizontal coverage close to the speaker.  Read More

Innovative Dante-Enabled 3D Audio Lab at Virginia Tech 
An innovative 3D audio lab recently put into use at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, gives undergraduates and graduate students experience with a 57-channel Ambisonic environment for both hands-on learning and research. Virginia Tech also reaches out to middle and high school students to give them early experiences in this cutting-edge audio technology as a way to stimulate interest in pursuing audio later on. This innovative effort uses equipment from a variety of companies that produce Dante-enabled network audio gear.  Read More

Klipsch Offers Limited Edition 70th Anniversary Heritage Speakers
Klipsch Audio, a VOXX International Company, is commemorating its 70th anniversary by issuing limited runs of its Klipschorn and Heresy Heritage series speakers. Special attention has been paid to the details of each new speaker, as they feature design enhancements, exotic wood veneer finishes, special edition logos, and unique grille cloths.  Read More

Amadeus Launches New PMX D Series Dante-Connected Speakers at Prolight+Sound 2016
Amadeus, French provider of high-end audio solutions and services, launched its new PMX D Series active speakers - three different models, with 8", 12" or 15" coaxial drivers - built-in 24/96 DSP and analog, AES3, and audio networking Dante I/O. This is the same innovative company who gave us the extraordinary Amadeus Philharmonia high-end speakers, which were also on display during Prolight+Sound 2016.  Read More

Amate Audio's All-New X12CLA Compact Curvature Array Cabinet
Amate Audio is a well-established sound reinforcement systems manufacturer from Barcelona, Spain, and a good example of how a company with well-designed products can differentiate itself in the highly competitive global market. Amate's most recent development, the Xcellence X12CLA compact curvature array, has the potential to project the company further with major improvements in performance, power to size, and ease of deployment.  Read More

VUE Audiotechnik Reveals Large Format Systems at Prolight+Sound
With a strong market position in the North-American market, VUE Audiotechnik will leverage the Prolight+Sound 2016 show to reinforce its offerings for the European market. In Frankfurt, VUE will unveil new products in the AL-Class and H-Class range, and present the technologies behind VUE's most distinguished products.  Read More


Editor's Desk

Do People Talk to Machines?

Listening to music in the kitchen while cooking? Than apparently the Echo smart speaker is for you!
While I am immersed in all the frantic activity of another Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse show in Frankfurt, Germany, I thought I should get this week's editorial ready in advance. And right about the moment I was going through my weekly notes, I received another social media post mentioning how Sonos is doomed because it didn't anticipate the launch of disruptive products such as Amazon's Echo Smart Speaker 
and Google's Chromecast for Audio, which were launched prior to Sonos' new flagship Sonos PLAY:5 smart speaker and the amazing speaker-tuning software Trueplay.
That was one of many references and articles I had seen in a short time, mentioning Sonos CEO John MacFarlane statements regarding layoffs and key executives leaving the company. Other similar posts on social media were comments about how bad Apple was doing in terms of getting ahead of the competition and the fact that it didn't announced anything "as innovative" as Amazon Echo - especially considering that they now own Beats. I will not expand on those rumours and opinions, which I think are not fair to any of the companies involved.
Instead, I prefer to focus on the topic in question, which Sonos CEO John MacFarlane mentions in that Billboard interview - and what he directly stated in the company's blog - full reading recommended. MacFarlane specifically says: "We're fans of what Amazon has done with Alexa and the Echo product line. Voice recognition isn't new; today it's nearly ubiquitous with Siri, OK Google, and Cortana. But the Echo found a sweet spot in the home and will impact how we navigate music, weather, and many, many other things as developers bring new ideas and more content to the Alexa platform."

He even goes on to say "Alexa/Echo is the first product to really showcase the power of voice control in the home."  So, does this mean that any product that doesn't feature a voice recognition interface is doomed?

I found interesting a recent study on the topic by 451 Research - one of the rare market researches on the popularity of voice recognition - that basically says only 13% of US consumers use those tools on a daily basis and that 37% use at all, even if only once a week or once a month.

This is something I had thought before and I always wondered, since I never use those "personal voice assistants" at all. Apparently, the vast majority are like me. They tried it and didn't like it, or never tried it because they have reluctance to "talk to machines" or even speak out loud in public or even in private. A quick review of several forum threads on the topic - mostly relating to Apple's voice assistant Siri, confirms this. Even among those people who say they actually use it, they confess to using it basically in the car when they are alone, or eventually in the kitchen, when their hands are occupied.
And this is in the US, where voice recognition in English works better than anywhere else. Other English countries with strange accents (see this hilarious video) or non-English speaking countries have many other problems with voice recognition. This means that we might be actually be talking about a very small percentage of the global population - my guess is lower than 5% - that have actually used Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Now, or anything similar.
Which doesn't mean we shouldn't invest in those technologies. Several other companies are investing heavily in personal voice assistants, such as SoundHound, which has publicly released its voice-powered virtual assistant Hound for both iOS and Android. As 451 Research Senior Analyst Raúl Castañón-Martínez, comments on SoundHound's initiative, "Speech recognition is becoming a standard feature for consumer devices as in the case of the Samsung smart watch and Windows 10 with Cortana easily accessible on the Windows key. Speech recognition is particularly relevant for wearable devices and use cases where voice provides more efficient user interaction than tapping a touch screen or entering data on a keyboard. Hound is the newest competitor and going up against giants such as Apple Siri, Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Echo. This is an intensely competitive space, but there is always room for innovation, and Hound seems to have developed a product that is a couple of years ahead of its competition. Tech giants such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple are investing heavily in developing voice-controlled UI for different types of devices. I'll be surprised if the company is not picked up within the next year or two by one of these companies."
It's all about the ecosystem, as Amazon knows. And DIY can even be a part of it!
My question on this topic remains on the technology actually becoming reliable enough. I still remember the jokes on the Samsung voice-activated TV at CES, but more importantly is the actual connectivity with an ecosystem that makes it useful. It's not a question of "voice recognition," it is what you can actually do with it and how complicated are the alternatives to simply "dictating" commands. As many smart-home companies already discovered, people don't actually complain about flipping a switch to turn on/off the lights, if the alternative costs anything above $10,000.
If we remember the Nest thermostat "$3.2 billion revolution," to this day, we still have no idea how to connect that beautiful object to actual air-conditioning or central heating systems in 95% of the world regions. And if Nest is actually able to control some existing low-voltage solutions, the fact is, you still have a much larger investment on that "minor part" of the installation than the actual cost of a beautiful third-party thermostat. (Apple spent $3 billion on Beats, but at least it actually makes money with it).
The same is true for the Amazon Echo, with the difference that Amazon made sure that it's "smart-speaker" would actually "speak" to several different ecosystems (many of which, Amazon refuses to sell on its website - but that's an entirely different story...). A hands-free speaker you control with your voice? Not really that important. The Alexa Voice Service that provides information, news, sports scores, weather, apart from playing music from Spotify or reading audiobooks, all hands-free, is the key. But for that, you need the connectivity to a wide ecosystem. Amazon is working on connecting its Echo solutions to lights, switches, thermostats, and more from major brands.
Apple HomeKit is the right kind of platform to create an expanded ecosystem. But it still needs a successful reference product.
Apple started some time ago to work on this and created its HomeKit precisely to create the foundation of a wider ecosystem. And even though it didn't release the products, it already controls a gigantic share of the market with all iOS products and even the recent Apple TV, all using Siri. Basically, they just need to ensure that HomeKit is not restricted to its own hardware and OSs and might eventually work with all other operating systems, in the same way it has to work with all other "smart" devices and protocols out there.
Until then, my recommendation would be for audio companies to stay away from that game, much as I recommended that audio companies stay away from developing dedicated music-servers. Because I believe the actual interface for all those things will continue to evolve in smartphones and wearables, something we will be carrying with us all the time - like our tastes in music and love for high-quality sound, which the Amazon Echo doesn't offer.
As I was writing this text, I was listening to some tracks from a brand new album by an '80s British electronic synth band called Blancmange - which Spotify cleverly recommended. Like the vast majority of other obscure bands I like - and not even debating the topic of classical music - I have no idea how to "say" Blancmange out loud in a way that Siri would understand - and above all, I don't want anyone to listen to me trying!

Test and Measurement
"I Can Hear It. Why Can't I Measure It?"
By Dan Foley
"I Can Hear It. Why Can't I Measure It?" is the title of an excellent article written by Dan Foley from Audio Precision for audioXpress Focus on Test & Measurement Special issue, March 2016. Dan Foley discusses how audible distortion can be difficult to measure and explores the instrumentation noise floor's impact on what can be measured. As he explains, instrumentation noise floor is an overlooked contributor for the reason we are not able to measure a particular audible "distortion," especially with low sound pressure level (SPL) signals. Read the Full Article Available Here

Voice Coil Test-Bench
Wavecor TW030WA13/14 Neodymium Tweeters 
By Vance Dickason
This Test Bench characterizes the Wavecor TW030WA13/14 neodymium tweeters. The A13 is the 4-Ω version, while the A14 is the 8-Ω version. The Wavecor TW030WA13/14 tweeters offer a 30-mm wide surround precision-coated cloth diaphragm optimized for high-frequency cutoff above 20 kHz, internal chambers below the dome and surround, copper-clad aluminum voice coil winding with a vented voice coil former, flexible lead wires for large excursions with crossovers below 3 kHz, and black anodized motor parts for enhanced cooling including a rear-mounted aluminum heatsink, a copper-clad pole piece (shorting ring), plus gold-plated terminals. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, April 2015.  Read The Full Article Online

AX April 2016: Digital Login
Audio Product Design | DIY Audio Projects | Audio Electronics | Audio Show Reports | Interviews | And More 

Don't Have a Subscription?
VC April 2016: Digital Login
Industry News & Developments | Products & Services | Test Bench | Acoustic Patents | Industry Watch | And More