GN Audio (Jabra) Acquires VXi and BlueParrott
GN Audio - the owner of Jabra - announced that it has acquired VXi Corp., the headset manufacturer of both the VXi and BlueParrott brands. Jabra is a brand of the global GN Group and market leader in its segment of audio solutions. The GN Group is made up of GN Hearing with the flagship hearing aid brand ReSound and GN Audio with the flagship brand Jabra, and now also includes the VXi and BlueParrott brands.  Read More

Libre Wireless Technologies Powers New Pioneer and Grundig Wireless Audio Products
Libre Wireless Technologies development solutions for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth audio are now powering new products from leading CE brands on cost-sensitive applications. Libre's LSBT1 Bluetooth module and the mainstream LS5B Wi-Fi media module are now integrated in Pioneer's new integrated X-HM36D and X-CM66D mini-systems. Libre's wireless audio solutions are also powering the latest Grundig wireless multiroom line with Google Cast support.  Read More

Lucid Audio Delivers Enhanced Listening Experiences
Lucid Audio, a subsidiary of a hearing aid company, is now turning up the volume on the audio entertainment device industry with its own smart technology applied on headphones and other wireless products. The company announced its new AMPED products that are able to enhance music and calls by providing users with up to 9x amplification of outside ambient sounds so they can hear exactly what they want, when they want.  Read More

New Schurter Waterproof Push/Pull IEC Connectors with IP67 and IP69K Protection
Schurter introduced a new waterproof IEC connector consisting of the appliance inlet type 4761 and the rewirable cord connector type 4762. With its high protection class IP67 or IP69K connected or unconnected with cover, this appliance coupler is perfect for supplying power to appliances used in harsh environments such as industrial, marine, laboratories, or any type of outdoor appliances.  Read More

Wireworld Launches Bold New Design for Cat 8 Ethernet Cable
Wireworld Cable Technology announced availability of its new Starlight Category 8 cables for high-speed media network applications. These thinner and more flexible cables utilize a new conductor geometry, which Wireworld says were developed to support higher transmission speed for more lifelike reproduction of streamed music and video.  Read More

PreSonus Releases StudioLive AR USB Hybrid Mixers
Listen, Inc., announced the release of SoundCheck Version 15. This release for Mac and Windows expands the testing capability of SoundCheck with additional external control, calibration, audio mixing, and hardware integration, and introduces the first in the company's redesigned virtual instruments, the multimeter. Meanwhile, the Boston-based company was awarded a patent for its audio test amplifier, SC Amp.  Read More

Digital Audio Denmark (DAD) Cooperation with Dynaudio and Avid
At the 141st Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention, Digital Audio Denmark (DAD) scored big with some key announcements of joint projects with Danish speaker powerhouse Dynaudio, and a very interesting new product development for Avid, with the preview of the new MTRX audio interface for Pro Tools. Two powerful alliances, given DAD's expertise with audio networking and AD/DA conversion technologies.  Read More

Newly Ratified IEEE 802.3bz Standard Allows 5-Gigabit Ethernet of Existing Infrastructures
The Ethernet Alliance, the global consortium dedicated to the advancement of Ethernet technologies, hailed the ratification of the IEEE 802.3bz standard, allowing an upgrade path for existing infrastructures, considering the more than 70 billion meters of Cat5e/Cat6 cabling installed worldwide. The new IEEE standard provides network access layer bandwidth to evolve incrementally beyond 1 Gigabit per second (Gb/s) to 2.5 Gb/s and 5 Gb/s.  Read More

Mike Klasco

Guest Editorial

Mobile Music Quality - One Step Forward

Yes, you can state the obvious that the main purpose of your smartphone is for phone calls. Yet, most of us also spend the lion's share of our time listening to music from our smartphone. ESS Technology has a distinguished leadership role for DACs with its SABRE product line and a magic brand name for establishing a pedigree for audio playback. ESS offerings range from DACs and headphone amplifiers to low-noise voltage regulators and audio System-on-Chips (SoCs) optimized for audiophile components and no-compromise portable audio products. Flagship efforts from OPPO, Vivo, OnePlus, and other brands have managed to integrate ESS components although some of the early implementations of these esoteric techniques were awkward to use, power hungry, or performance compromised.
ESS's patented 32-bit HyperStream II is an architecture initially launched in its SABRE PRO DAC series (ES9038PRO) at CES 2016. The ESS team now has a no-compromise elegant solution for smartphones, the ES9218. Focused on bringing the audio experience from the living room to the smartphone, the ES9218 SABRE Hi-Fi System-On-Chip integrates 32-bit stereo Quad DACs, high-power headphone amplifiers, ultra-low noise DAC references and output switches to save space and cost.
The ES9218 certainly has the right stuff! The ES9218's integrated DAC supports up to 32-bit 384 kHz PCM and DSD512 data in master or slave timing modes. A fully programmable FIR filter with eight presets provides a customizable sound signature and the ES9218's integrated headphone amplifier supports up to 2 Vrms output with analog volume control to achieve dead quiet noise floor at real-life listening levels. The Analog Volume Control delivers 130 dB SNR at low listening levels by reducing noise as the audio signal decreases. The integrated output switching allows non-hi-fi sources, such as speech, to bypass the ES9218 to minimize power consumption. Internally connected parallel quad DACs deliver superb 124 dB DNR and -112 dB THD+N. True 2 Vrms outputs are capable of driving professional high impedance headphones and deliver professional line-level outputs.

ESS ES9218 evaluation board.
The question is can a smartphone using the ES9218 solution reach the sound quality levels of audiophile components? From the quantitative side the answer is yes, the specs are impeccable, but what about intensive subjective listening auditioning with excellent headphones but with demanding drive requirements? For our listening tests, we used the ESS ES9218 evaluation board, which is the reference design that smartphone manufacturers would use to integrate the 9218 audio subsystem into their smartphone designs.
Of course, garbage in means garbage out and the ES9218 supports the industry's popular high-resolution and lossless audio formats including FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, and WAV as well as compressed legacy formats. I enlisted Alex Vlach, our Golden Ears, to spend time auditioning the ES9218 using a range of earphones and headphones and here are his impressions.
The laptop provided by ESS has two USB ports, which were both utilized to (a) power the board and to (b) feed the audio signal to the board. After playing around for a while, I found a solution to make valid comparisons with my OPPO Digital HA-2. Using my Mac mini and iTunes I was able to feed the same audio signal to the ESS board and to the OPPO Digital HA-2. I couldn't use the line out signal of the HA-2 because its ES9018-K2M chipset outputs 1 V vs. the 2 V of the ES9218 chipset.
This means I had no choice but to engage the headphone output of the HA-2 (thus, using the internal amp) to "volume match" the output level against that of the board to achieve equal apple-to-apple comparisons. This is by no means a scientific approach because I don't have the equipment to truly calibrate the outputs within 0.1 dB of each other, however I feel confident it was close enough to make a reasonable subjective evaluation.
Once set up and volume-matched, I was able to toggle back and forth between devices (which involved pausing the song, disconnecting my headphones from one unit and connecting to the other as well selecting the audio output device in the mac midi settings), in roughly 5 seconds. The headphones I used were the beyerdynamic T1 and Hifiman HE-500. I purposely chose these headphones to challenge both units' drive capability. (Note: The beyerdynamic T1 is 600 Ω, high impedance, and a challenge to drive as it needs higher voltage swing and the ES9218 delivers headroom as well as just sheer level.)
I used a cross-section of multiple music genres and recording quality files to assess both chipsets. It didn't take me long to observe differences that were consistent throughout the evaluation session. To my ears, the new ES9218 chipset sounds richer, smoother, and is fuller sounding. Every time I switched back to the HA-2, the sound was slightly more forward in the mids and the overall sound presentation was leaner, somewhat cooler with a slightly reduced soundstage width. Overall, the ES9218 sounds more linear and is more satisfying. The new ES9218 should also yield an advantage in long term listening fatigue.
Remember, we are comparing an ESS smartphone audio subsystem to OPPO Digital's outstanding dedicated unit. Final thoughts from Alex: There is no doubt in my mind that the ES9218 is an improvement over the ES9018-K2M. If this new chipset ends up being implemented in future smartphones and portable audio devices, I think it will reshape the mobile landscape sound-wise. I'm excited to see which products will adopt this new ESS chip!

The LG V20 will be available soon and has a great reason to still include a headphone jack!
Recently, we received an answer to Alex's question of who will be the first to introduce a smartphone with the ES9218: LG's LV20 new smartphone will feature this audio subsystem - perhaps a brilliant chess move against the iPhone 7 banishing of its own headphone jack. Specifically, let's have a reality check here - the ES9216 is heading for phones and other devices at a friendly price point, and it compares favorably to a specialty headphone unit that is by itself larger than a smartphone. We will be bench checking the LV20 soon and no doubt LG has done a reasonable job integrating the 9218 into the LV20 smartphone. This LV20 should sound much better than anything else, and even would be a viable competitor to the portable separate devices like portable DACs. This driver chip would be an excellent choice for people who want to have a high-quality headphone jack on their device. I also need to reiterate that the added headroom on the 9218 is a big deal and even outdoes most dedicated players and, when we compare it to other smartphones we have tested, no contest.
Frankly, considering the audio quality limitations from the iPhone 7, Apple may find it has taken a wrong turn and it will be the user interface/operating system that will help preserve its market position. In the smartphone world, too much market share, sooner or later, tends to cultivate a bit of boredom and contempt. The Sirin Solarin has its own unique and exclusive smartphone (yes, with ESS DACs), but costs more than 10 times the price of an iPhone. LG might have the scale, video, and camera technology, although Apple's operating system will always be a tough act to follow. In the next few months, the world will see if we really don't have room in our lives for a headphone jack....

From the Vault
The 5002 Project: A DIY Mono Amp Block
By Robert Nance Dee
I built this amplifier to run my Dynaudio X12 speakers. The X12s are not known for efficiency, but these little monoblocks run the accurate X12s with ease. Don't be fooled by their low power output. The limiting factor is voltage, not their ability to drive a load. Voltage limits the power because I conservatively limited the drive voltages to 18 V. I could have gone higher but didn't need to. They are fine just as they are and with a damping factor of 0.219 Ω and better than 15 W each into 4 Ω, they drive my speakers with no fuss. What you do get in spades is accuracy and an ability to drive difficult loads well. The Burr-Brown HA-5002 is a gem that I have used in several audio designs in both preamps and power amps. Why not? It has a slew rate of 1300 V/s. Figure 1 shows one block's square wave output, not at 10 kHz but 100 kHz. The 1 MHz trace is as equally impressive. Try and accomplish that with an op-amp! This article was published originally in audioXpress, February 2012.  Read the Full Article Available Here

Voice Coil Test Bench
Eighteen Sound 18iD 18" Woofer 
By Vance Dickason
Eighteen Sound sent us an unusual driver for this Test Bench, because it is specifically intended for use with the new generation of Class-D digital amplifiers that can drive extremely low impedance loads. While Eighteen Sound has several models in this configuration, this month we are testing the 18" model, the 18iD. Eighteen Sound has developed two high-powered transducers in accordance with Powersoft Audio's IPAL standards-the 21" 21iD, and the 18" 18iD. The high-power handling woofer 18iD is rated at 1,800 WRMS (AES Standard). Its features include a proprietary six-spoke cast-aluminum frame that incorporates six convection cooling vents located below the spider mounting shelf. Additional forced air cooling is provided by a series of 12 5-mm diameter peripheral vents located in the neodymium motor return cup, and a foam damped 40-mm diameter pole-type vent.
The cone assembly consists of an 18" straight profile ribbed carbon fiber loaded paper cone with a waterproof coating and a large 6" diameter hard paper dust cap. Suspension is provided by a three-roll M-shaped coated (sealed) polycotton surround in conjunction with Eighteen Sound's Triple Silicone Spider (TSS) spider technology. All this is driven by a 5.31" (135 mm) diameter high-temperature non-conducting former wound with a four-layer inside/outside round aluminum wire winding that Eighteen Sound calls Interleaved Sandwich Voice (ISV) coil. Powering the 18iD is a large neodymium ring magnet, in conjunction with a distortion reducing aluminum shorting ring. This article was originally published in Voice Coil, December 2015.  
Read the Full Article Online

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