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November 29, 2012

Hi-Fi Sound Tech in Season for HD Voice and Superwideband

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

Hard-core audiophiles have to be giddy at the prospects for high-quality sound becoming mainstream in mobile devices over the next year. International CES (News - Alert) 2013 is featuring numerous manufacturers of earphones while MEMS manufacturer Akustica has announce four new HD voice microphones this week.

CES's annual Best of Innovations Design and Engineering Showcase highlights leading-edge consumer technology, with honored products selected based on engineering qualities related to technical specifications and materials, aesthetics and design qualities, the product’s intended use and function, unique features and how the design and innovation of the product compares to others in the marketplace. Sennheiser and Phaeton are two examples of high-end audio tech available for purchase today.

Sennheiser's IE 800 "in-ear canal headphones" represent top-of-the-line listening technology in the category, providing a frequency response from 5 Hz to 46,500 Hz, a scratch-resistant ceramic housing, an Extra Wideband (XWB) driver with a diameter of only seven millimeters, and a vented magnet system to cut back on wobbling of the diaphragm due to air flow. List priced at $999.95 -- yes, more than most tablets and laptops! --  these earbuds aren't for mere mortals, but true lovers of sound.

If you don't have deep pockets for earphones costing more than your tablet, Phiaton's PS 210 BTNC earphones combine Bluetooth 3.0 and noise cancellation technology in a half-in-ear headset. At a price point of around $130 list, the earphones allow users to answer phone calls via Bluetooth and get rid background noise with a special "Echo-Off" feature. Users also have the option to simply bypass wireless mode and plug directly into any audio device when needed.

Listening is half the equation as sound also needs to be captured in high quality. Akustica, a division of Bosch, announced four new HD voice MEMS microphones.   The new microphones are drop-in replacements for today's most commonly used MEMS microphones with high signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio and pin-to-pin compatibility with existing microphone parts. Features include a SNR of 63 db, "flat frequency" for super wideband performance, and tightly matched sensitivity of +/- 2 dB. The AKU142, AKU342, AKU240 and AKU440 are currently sampling to lead customers, with mass production ramping up in the first quarter of 2013.

Akustica's news couldn't come at a better time for the super wideband/"Full sound" community. Fraunhofer, Qualcomm (News - Alert), and the open source community are all jockeying to provide a universal codec able to deliver everything from low-bit-rate narrowband voice through CD and better stereo quality music through smartphones and other mobile devices.




Edited by Rich Steeves
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