Sennheiser Introduces AMBEO VR Mic Compact Ambisonics Microphone
High-quality 3-D audio that eliminates the boundaries between playback and reality - this is the promise of the AMBEO VR MIC that was showcased by Sennheiser at IBC 2016. Up until now, VR productions had to record immersive audio with complicated microphone setups. The AMBEO VR Mic puts everything into a compact and easy-to-use handheld - making it an ideal tool for any professional VR and spatial audio production. The microphone will become commercially available in November 2016.  Read More

Cadence Offers Industry's First Licensable MPEG-H Audio Decoder for Tensilica HiFi DSPs
Cadence Design Systems announced immediate availability of the next-generation MPEG-H Audio decoder based on Cadence Tensilica HiFi DSPs. MPEG-H Audio is a future broadcast standard and is expected to be one of the key audio technologies adopted worldwide for new TVs. Through close collaboration with Fraunhofer, one of the developers of the open ISO MPEG-H Audio standard, Cadence is first to market with an implementation for a licensable DSP.  Read More

A Different Kind of Speaker: Onyx from Orion Labs is Like an IP Walkie-Talkie Featuring Amazon Alexa
Orion Labs announced that its smart walkie-talkie with unlimited range, Onyx, is now available across the US and that Onyx will have Amazon Alexa integration in the fourth quarter of 2016. Onyx is a different kind of smart miniature speaker, allowing voice connections at the touch of a button using cellular networks or Wi-Fi, including group conversations. A free software update will add integration with Amazon Alexa, creating an ideal portable and hands-free voice personal assistant.  Read More

ICEpower and Audio Bricks Merge to Create a New Audio Amplification Powerhouse 
Danish company ICEpower, independent from Bang & Olufsen since May 2016, announced the decision to merge with Audio Bricks, and to acquire its holding company, Bolecano Holding AB, from Sweden. While ICEPower is highly recognized in the market as one of the leading brands in audio amplification, Audio Bricks is a relatively new company, created in 2014 by Patrik Boström and Lars Press Petersen, which have now become partners and shareholders of ICEpower, respectively holding the position of CTO, Amplification, CTO, Research, and SMPS in ICEpower.  Read More

Comply Foam Launches Comply Universal Foam Tips
Comply Foam launched new foam audio tips with patented SmartCore technology, making it easier than ever for casual consumers to choose a solution for their earphones. With the launch of its new precision-engineered Comply Universal foam tip line of audio accessories, Hearing Components is making quality sound and comfort a "grab-and-go" no-brainer for casual consumers, while allowing big box and specialty retailers to save coveted customer service resources and peg space.  Read More

Sennheiser Introduces Next Generation of Popular HD 500 Headphone Range
For those seeking to enhance their experience of home entertainment and unlock the full potential of their home audio equipment, Sennheiser has launched the next generation of its popular HD 500 series headphone range. Powered by the audio specialist's proprietary transducer technology for excellent sound performance, the new headphones feature enhanced ergonomics for exceptional wearing comfort and contemporary good looks.  Read More

Riedel Communications Reinforces Market Reach with ASL and DELEC Acquisitions
In the digital/IP age, the intercom market has also expanded into media distribution and infrastructure. The companies that understood that strategic reach are now the dominant players. Following several other acquisitions in the intercom segment, at the IBC 2016 show, Riedel Communications announced the acquisition of ASL Intercom BV, from The Netherlands and DELEC Audio und Videotechnik, from Germany. With those acquisitions, Riedel has considerably expanded its engineering resources.  Read More

Blackmagic Design Makes a Grand Entrance Into Professional Audio with Acquisition of Fairlight
As reported back in July 2016, Australian technology development company Fairlight.AU was actively seeking a buyer for its Professional Audio technology to focus on licensing its existing generic user-interface technologies. At IBC 2016, the largest company in broadcast and professional video technologies from Australia, Blackmagic Design, confirmed the acquisition, together with many other spectacular announcements.  Read More


Editor's Desk

Spatial Age Speakers

Once again this week we have an impressive number of new products and technology announcements as a direct result of recent trade shows. In the previous week, we had a torrent of announcements in the consumer electronics space with IFA 2016 in Berlin, followed this week by the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) 2016, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands - the largest international event of its kind outside US and certainly one of the most important for the broadcast and media communities. And before we even dive into the CEDIA 2016 announcements - happening this week - I thought I should share a few impressions of my visit to IBC.

Introduced two years ago, the Genelec 8351A Acoustically Coaxial Smart Active Monitor (SAM) System is now a reference for the production community... and it also sounds great at home!

I'm not going to discuss all the impressive technology announcements from IBC 2016, a show dominated by the introduction of impressive new 4K UHD production technologies, new media distribution initiatives, IP convergence, the cloud or even the impressive virtual reality and 360 video displays - all naturally surrounded by impressive demonstrations of immersive audio and corresponding binaural presentations of spatial audio content. Instead, since some of those announcements are already available online, I am going to talk about speakers.
Yes, speakers are a different reality when we get out of the world of high-end and conventional hi-fidelity stereo to immerse ourselves in the new realities of consumer media streaming experiences - as presented at these two recent shows - IFA and IBC. The latter show offered a unique perspective of the challenges that speaker designers face when confronted with the new realities of digital media - where radio, TV, IPTV, OTT streaming services, and new media such as virtual reality (VR) merge. From production and transmission needs to the consumer's experience, we are now very far from the traditional pair of stereo speakers.
Neumann designed its excellent KH 310 D three-way active tri-amplified monitors and KH 810/805 active subwoofers for the needs of complex multichannel working environments.
IBC provides a unique global perspective of how broadcasters and content producers monitor audio content these days - almost always surrounded by 5.1 and 7.1 setups and confronted with the need to monitor downmixes and upmixes, while making sure the loudness levels are in compliance with the new - now globally imposed - transmission and distribution standards. In Berlin last week, we heard about Bluetooth speakers and whole-home wireless speakers. At IBC we see content production focused on multichannel surround, immersive formats, spatial, objected-oriented and new binaural experiences - two apparently divergent perspectives. But are they?
What consumers will increasingly use at home and on the move to receive content are "simplified" setups, increasingly wireless and portable, or generated by a single speaker array, which provides a DSP processed and room-compensated representation of room-filling stereo and immersive format audio signals for the home and portable and integrated solutions that, in turn, resort to some sort of binaural emulation of the complexities and richness of the multichannel sources. And for those multiplatform media strategies, audio professionals have to deal also with mobile experiences, which by the way, are also receiving immersive audio formats. In all cases, the end result tends to be presented as some sort of "spatial audio" experience, instead of the traditional left/right representation.
And what do audio engineers and content production professionals use to monitor those audio mixes? At the IBC 2016 show, I was able to see that the speakers used to reference those signals are mostly compact nearfield - typically powered speakers. At these shows, we find monitors from Genelec (dominant by a large percentage), followed by active monitors from brands such as Neumann, Focal, JBL, and others. This year I was surprised to find the new Dynaudio LYD professional monitors, since you don't see new models being adopted very quickly in this market segment.
I mentioned Genelec and, for anyone that follows the broadcast and content production markets, it is clear how successful the Finish brand has been since the introduction of its 8000 series and more recently its Smart Active Monitoring (SAM) series, now celebrating 10 years in the market. The familiar design of the Genelec nearfield cabinets (and subwoofers) has proven extremely efficient in these environments, where typically they are used in close proximity, or are configured in surround setups - sometimes they are even used as single-channel sources, just to provide listening on set.
Precisely two years ago, Genelec introduced its new 8351 model, the most inventive monitor Genelec has ever designed. Its initial design brief specified "a smaller 3-way" while maintaining the overall proportions of the 8000 Series. Using the Minimum Diffraction Coaxial driver from the 8260, combined with a large waveguide and acoustically concealed woofers, the 8351 redefined the near-field experience with accuracy and performance normally found in much larger monitors. In just two years, the coaxial design of the Genelec 8351 proved to be one of the most popular and reliable choices for studio work and content production in TV, radio, film, and new media. Now, we can find it supporting all types of presentations at shows such as IBC.
On the consumer side, we have completely new speaker designs as a target. It didn't surprised me to see a picture of a recently refurbished recording studio using a Sonos Play:5 Smart Speaker on the meterbridge of a large console. Probably not the ideal place to have it, considering its sound radiates in all directions and it uses DSP room compensation, but I couldn't help but sympathize with the engineer's need to listen how his mixes would sound when streamed wirelessly to a single compact speaker. And I guess, much in the same way audio engineers are now forced to compare their mixes on small earbuds, they should always hear how their creations will sound on a single summing Bluetooth or Wi-Fi speaker.
And then there's soundbars, which were mainly created to compensate for the thin speakers integrated in most LCD displays. The funny thing is that, with televisions evolving to the latest standards, like Ultra-High Definition (UHD) TV (4K and beyond), soundbars are supposed to reproduce the latest Dolby and DTS immersive formats. Sometimes connected wirelessly to satellite speakers and a subwoofer, but more often than not, just by itself. And that's why I decided to talk this week about speakers.
Apart from the Dolby and DTS immersive formats, future television standards and streaming services are going to support also MPEG-H Audio, designed to offer a cost-effective means to elevate the sound quality beyond 5.1 surround while incorporating groundbreaking new interactive and immersive features across the full range of modern viewing devices from high-end home theaters, to tablets, smartphones, and soundbars.

The Fraunhofer 3D Soundbar reference design for MPEG-H audio (in front of the 4K TV) is able to replace a fully featured immersive audio installation in the same demonstration (using nine white Genelec monitors.)
At the Fraunhofer IIS booth during IBC 2016, I was able to experience the latest demonstration of MPEG-H audio content using its new Soundbar reference design. I have previously attended similar Fraunhofer MPEG-H demos and I heard the first prototype of the soundbar design at CES 2016, back in January. The presentation at IBC 2016 was different only because the soundbar is now a finished reference design that manufacturers will be able to use for their own implementations. However, we must take into account that the first MPEG-H transmissions will occur next year in Korea, so we can expect to see finished products at CES 2017. Cadence Design Systems already announced the first licensable MPEG-H Audio Decoder for its Tensilica HiFi DSPs, which will enable those designs. The article link includes more information about the adoption of MPEG-H in the new UHD TV Korea standard, which is fundamentally based on the new ATSC 3.0 standard in the US. To read more about the new MPEG-H Audio international standard click here.
The Fraunhofer-developed system enables users to choose different audio presentations, including volume control over specific audio elements in a program and features immersive sound using only a soundbar. And this was what impressed me the most. The immersive sound experience from this soundbar is simply the best I have experienced and proves what a clever speaker design and DSP can do for our living rooms. I was already well impressed with demos of binaural reproduction of immersive sound content on a simple smartphone and headphones. But the demonstration with the Fraunhofer 3D Soundbar truly brings immersive audio to mainstream consumers. Of course, the MPEG-H Audio system will also work with other immersive audio speakers and audio receivers entering the market.
The Genelec 8430 IP Network monitor represents the future of professional audio tools, allowing users to emulate multiple playback scenarios in any format and speaker configuration.
The challenge for audio professionals now consists of dealing with complex Higher Order Ambisonic (HOA) productions, with audio objects for additional languages, alternate commentary, and complex scenarios such as to capture a live 3-D musical performance. This, while anticipating the playback on even more consumer devices, with various speaker configurations, from conventional stereo to 5.1 surround plus four height speakers for immersive formats, all the way to binaural playback for headphones and spatial audio on soundbars. Judging by the experience with the Fraunhofer 3D Soundbar and MPEG-H audio - of which I'm not yet authorized to reveal more details - it will be worth it!

When designing new professional audio monitors or new generation home speakers and soundbars, speaker designers should keep in mind the need to offer IP connectivity, as Genelec is already doing with its 8430 IP Network monitor, because that will be the only way to quickly emulate all the user scenarios, including DSP management, once they start implementing control functions with audio streaming. Want to know a reason why we need IP-networked speakers? We need to be able to connect via IP networks to anticipate what those soundbars and speakers will do in wired and wireless connected modes... from the studio to the end user. Having network connectivity will be the only way to achieve the necessary predictability.

R&D Stories
Genelec 8351 Acoustically Coaxial SAM System - 
Rethinking a Three-Way Monitor
By Aki Mäkivirta, Jussi Väisänen, and Ilpo Martikainen
Introduction by João Martins and Vance Dickason
Two years since the incredible Genelec 8351 Acoustically Coaxial SAM System was introduced to the world, this three-way monitor has already proven to be one of the most accomplished projects from the famous Finish brand and it's also on the way to become one of its best-sellers. That's no small feat. On "Rethinking a Three-Way Monitor," audioXpress readers will find the most complete article about the new Genelec 8351A monitor introduced in 2014, during the 137th Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention in Los Angeles, CA. Enough to say that this is a tri-amplified studio near-field monitor with an ingenious design that introduces enhanced directivity control at lower frequencies in a relatively small speaker. The article explains the "outside-the-box" thinking that resulted in one of the most interesting loudspeaker designs in recent times, as explained by the authors - Aki Mäkivirta, Jussi Väisänen, and Ilpo Martikainen.
This article was originally published in audioXpress, June 2015.  
Read the Full Article Available Here

Voice Coil Test Bench
Scan-Speak 32W/4878T00 Subwoofer 
By Vance Dickason
This Test Bench article examines the 32W/4878T00 12" subwoofer from high-end driver manufacturer Scan-Speak. Over the years, Scan-Speak has become known for its midwoofers and tweeters, which is to say that its products can be found in a large percentage of the high-end loudspeakers on the market in the last 40 years. Having used Scan-Speak's drivers in designs for some of my consulting business customers, I found it also makes some excellent subwoofers. The 32W/4558T00 represents its second addition to the Revelator subwoofer line and has a generous feature set that includes a proprietary nine-spoke cast aluminum frame that is completely open below the spider-mounting shelf. Other features include the incorporation of a stiff flat 12" cone that uses a paper sandwich formulation with a unique, patented foam fill technology that is stiff and light, an 85-mm hard paper dust cap, nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) surround, and a 7"-diameter flat cloth spider that has the lead wires woven into the body of the spider (damper). The 32W/4878T00 is driven by a 75-mm diameter (3") voice coil wound with round wire on a paper-reinforced vented titanium former. The motor system powering the cone assembly utilizes a 25-mm thick, 175-mm diameter ferrite magnet sandwiched between a polished 8-mm thick front plate and a polished and shaped T-yoke that incorporates a 36-mm diameter pole vent. This motor incorporates the Scan-Speak patented symmetrical drive (SD) - which was originally patented in 1973 - motor system that uses shaped gap parts and copper shorting rings. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, March 2013.  Read the Full Article Online

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