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audioXpress Magazine

December 2020


From The Editor's Desk
For Future Memory It seems like leaving 2020 behind is the only good thing we can look for.
Editorial By J. Martins


audioXpress Magazine December 2020


  With this December 2020 edition we are proud to conclude another year of progress in helping to construct a better publication, more relevant to its readership. And in the constant search for the most relevant topics, we have been looking at industry announcements and developments in the ever more critical area of wireless audio. But either we did too good a job last year or there isn't much more to report for now, especially considering that we didn't have industry events and there were no major product innovations in the category this year. There were some announcements, particularly early in the year at CES 2020. But nothing has resulted as yet.

For me, one of the major disappointments (maybe I'm too impatient with technology) is the fact that there weren't significant developments regarding the introduction of Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio. Recently, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced it will start qualifying products using the LC3 Low Complexity Communication Codec, part of the new LE Audio Specification announced at CES, back in January (and which we covered in our April 2020 edition). But the organization also confirmed that it doesn't expect the rest of the specifications that define all the use cases for LE Audio to be released before mid-year 2021. For now, it is just encouraging manufacturers to start implementing the new Fraunhofer/Ericsson codec, and we are still waiting to hear about the many possible uses of Multi-Stream Synchronized Audio, Broadcast Audio, or Bluetooth Audio Sharing.

And while licensing efforts already indicate that there is wide industry support for LC3 and LE Audio, the problem now seems to be that we just don't know when products supporting the next generation of Bluetooth Audio will start showing up. As the new global pandemic conditions dictate, products will simply "drop" when we least expect it.


audioXpress Magazine December 2020


With its major adoption in personal audio and mobile categories, Bluetooth is already dominating consumer electronics and the audio industry. Bluetooth is even being offered in classes of products that absolutely don't need it, such as turntables. And most using the "old" Bluetooth 4 specification and SBC codecs...

The pandemic and the increasing time spent at home has also paved the way for growth and opportunities in home audio. And naturally, with more people from the same household sharing the space for more time, renewed pressure has been placed on existing technologies, including wireless networks, as audio is also being streamed over Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11) within the home. The problem is, wireless audio streaming over Wi-Fi remains the realm of just a few companies, some of which continue to fight each other in the courts over the multi-room protocols — which naturally deters further competition. And while that happens, even with Wi-Fi 6 seeing one of the fastest adoption rates ever for the technology (according to the Wi-Fi Alliance), the audio industry is not doing much to improve its side of things.

That's where I feel we will have more opportunities to publish an interesting industry update... next year. For now, there's just too much uncertainty. As an example, in March 2020, the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association (WiSA - www.wisaassociation.org), made the crucial announcement that it would be expanding support for Dolby Atmos. More than 60 leading consumer electronics brands are currently shipping WiSA products supporting 5.1 and 7.1 surround configurations — which are great to have with the convenience of wireless, but are not exactly game-changing.

Supporting immersive audio, and specifically Dolby Atmos height channels, will enable WiSA speaker partners to develop products with increased mass appeal. Making it easy for consumers to configure wireless systems for Dolby Atmos content and enjoy immersive 3D audio experiences with WiSA Certified speakers can take the technology to a whole new level. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, this firmware update has not yet materialized.

It seems like leaving 2020 behind is the only good thing we can look for. Not only did things not progress the way they could have, all over the world we mourn the losses of precious lives, including many industry friends who have left unfinished work that will never be replaced.

In this edition, we are honored to pay tribute to the life of someone who positively inspired so many of us. Jeffery Allen Bagby, 60, of Kokomo, IN, sadly passed away March 24, 2020. The entire audio community realized a deep sense of loss and sadness for the disappearance of one of its friendliest voices, one of the most enthusiastic speaker builders and a prolific contributor to the global DIY audio community. To highlight the significance of Jeff Bagby's contributions, we asked one of his lifelong friends, Ben Shaffer, to look back on his work and help us preserve his memory.


J. Martins





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