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audioXpress Magazine

March 2024

 

Meeting The Standards
UWB high-resolution low-latency audio interface.
Editorial By J. Martins

 

audioXpress March 2024

 

  Audio professionals working in product development, design, manufacturing, and system implementation always meet new challenges as technologies change and evolve. In professional or consumer applications, digital audio signals are being carried using a number of different platforms, technologies, and digital protocols, creating a complexity that no single company in the test and measurement (T&M) field is able to address on its own. Increasingly, T&M companies specific to the audio industry are being forced to focus on one specific angle (e.g., electronics product design, acoustic measurements, production line testing, etc.).

On the software front, things look a bit more dynamic, with the availability of solutions that are more or less able to react quickly to new industry demands. But on the crucial instrumentation front, where certification and calibration are a cornerstone of the quality and safety of the products and services we rely upon every day, the pace of product innovation is creating a growing gap with the available T&M hardware.

 

 

The audio industry depends upon technologies that are not specified with the requirements (and interests) of the audio industry in mind (clearly!), and their availability is completely controlled by the mobile, IT, telecom, and the large technology players, making it extremely difficult to follow the continuous specification updates and the pace at which products are made available in the market.

A very good example of that is the current transition that we are facing toward Bluetooth LE Audio. As developers, R&D departments, engineering houses, and manufacturers learn to deal with these new wireless challenges, everyone basically is digging into "wild territory." And given the pressures to go to market, there is no other way but to fill in the gaps with whatever is available.

 

audioXpress March 2024

 

What's causing that extra latency? Where is the culprit that is causing strong degradation to the clean audio signal at the input? Are we measuring it correctly? Is it on the DSP, the codecs, the actual transmission? This frequently involves combining NASA-worthy scientific instruments with open-source hardware and software, or anything that some obscure manufacturer might be able to quickly put together to monitor the streams, analyze the new protocol, and generate and record audio over a variety of interfaces.

I am certain that many of our readers now working with new products that feature Bluetooth LE Audio and Auracast are smiling when reading these words because they are all going through the same. And that includes, naturally, those in charge of creating the new test and measurement updates for our most popular audio analyzers to support the latest Bluetooth specifications.

In this issue of audioXpress we provide a few examples of the latest innovations in the audio test and measurement sector, and I am particularly happy that our colleague Rens Tellers was able to write about the Listen SoundCheck T&M suite. The Boston, MA-based company founded by Steve Temme and its growing and extremely talented engineering team is a company that has always been able to navigate this fast-evolving landscape. Listen has no choice but to keep up, because the majority of their customers are on the production lines where those new technologies are sent to the market. And Listen has always been on the front lines when it comes to high-resolution audio, new audio formats, smart speakers, voice interfaces, new wireless audio protocols... whatever it might be they are always able to offer a testing solution.

 

 

Meanwhile, wireless audio is again evolving with Wi-Fi 7 and now also Ultra Wideband (UWB). At all the industry events I've attended, there were serious discussions about using UWB for audio transmission in both professional and consumer applications.

In fact, in response to growing industry interest and activities around UWB technology, the Audio Engineering Society has created a new Task Group to develop a new standard for a UWB high-resolution low-latency audio interface, built upon the IEEE 802.15.4ab draft standard. And obviously, as those efforts progress, we will need to evaluate all the critical parameters that make UWB "the perfect technology to meet the performance demands of ultra high-quality audio," as the UWB Alliance proclaimed.

 

 

J. Martins
Editor-in-Chief

 

 

 

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