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System Integration for the Connected Home

Audio

Apple Presents Echo-Style HomePod

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WWDC is traditionally a software conference, yet Apple uses it to present a piece of audio hardware-- the HomePod, essentially the iPhone maker's take on the Amazon Echo.

HomepodA white cylinder 18cm tall, the HomePod carries a 6-microphone array and is designed for voice-based control via Siri. Users can control music through the HomePod, as well as any other task Siri can handle, including home automation when paired with the HOme app on iPhone or iPad.

For playback the HomePod boasts an Apple-designed upward-facing woofer, 7 beam-forming tweeters, automatic room-sensing technology and an A8 chip (the same found in the iPhone) promising "advanced audio innovations."

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Grimani Systems Intros Delta Loudspeaker

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Grimani DeltaGrimani Systems announces the Delta-- a speaker designed for use in smaller rooms (18.5-37 square metres) with digital crossover and room correction equalisation features.

The Delta has a conic section array (CSA) waveguide for constant wide dispersion and wide sound staging throughout the frequency range, ensuring every listener is immersed in the same soundfield. It is shallow at 14cm deep, and is designed for concealing behind an acoustically-transparent screen or stretched fabric room decor.

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The Essential Echo Competitor

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Andy Rubin's Essential unveils a home device together with its smartphone-- the Home, an Amazon Echo-style smart speaker featuring a round "auto-display," as well as increased security.

Essential HomeThe company says users can activate the Home with a question, tap or even a "glance." Like similar products it accepts voice commands, allowing it to answer questions, set timers and control lighting. It also promises to gently manage the user's life, reminding them of meetings or when they're about to forget an anniversary.

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Audiolab M-DAC Goes Mini

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The Audiolab M-DAC range gets a smaller option-- the M-DAC Mini is, as the name might suggest, the smallest high-resolution DAC/headphone amp from the company yet.

M-DAC MiniThe M-DAC Mini carries the same technology as its larger siblings, namely the ES9018 Sabre32 Reference DAC. It handles 32-bit/384kHz PCM audio, as well as DSD64-128 and -256, via USB, and includes optical and coax inputs and outputs, USB type-A and mini-B ports (both asynchronous with discrete master clocks), stereo RCA outputs and a 6.3mm headphone socket. Wireless is included via aptX Bluetooth.

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Control4 Intros Triad Garden Array

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Control4 announces the Triad Garden Array-- a family of all-weather landscape speakers, including a best-in-class satellite speaker (GA4 SAT) and subwoofer (GA10 SUB).

Triad Garden ArrayDesigned for placement around flower beds or around a yard, the Triad Garden Array promises an outdoor audio experience "as simple, seamless and rich as it is indoors." The speakers are designed for outdoor use, with a durable all-weather exterior and a sealed enclosure resistant to dust, bugs and critters.

The GA4 SAT resembles a landscape lighting, and blends into gardens and flower beds. It carries a 4.5-inch Ultra-Broad Dispersion (UBD) driver producing 150-degree field of coverage, minimising areas where music is either too soft or too loud as listeners move between speakers, and is compatible with 8oh, 70V or 100V systems.

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Rest in Peace, MP3

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MP3, the much loved audio compression algorithm, is dead-- or so its creator, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, insists as it terminates licencing for a number of related patents.

MP3 PlayerInstead, the institute suggests, customers should switch to Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), which it describes as a "de facto standard for music download and videos on mobile phones." AAC is definitely superior to MP3, since it allows for streaming TV and radio broadcasting with higher-quality audio at lower bitrates.

The story of the MP3 format started in the late 1980s, when Fraunhofer and the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg joined forces to work on a means to send audio over telephone lines. The eventual result was the MP3, a technology the Fraunhofer failed to capitalise on due to a combination of industrial sabotage, piracy and, at one unfortunate point, the German government refusing to give a patent for a music streaming service due to its being technologically absurd at the time.

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Como Audio Intros Amico, Musica Speakers

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Como Audio announces a pair of follow-ups to the 2016 Solo and Duetto speakers-- the portable Amico and the CD player-equipped Musica, both featuring touchscreen control and wireless connectivity.

Como AudioThe Amico is the smaller of the two, with an interesting upright design. It pairs with devices via NFC, supports Bluetooth and wifi connectivity, and can handle online radio, Spotify Connect and even FM radio.

Pushing the audio are a 4-layer voice coil woofer and a dome tweeter. A built-in battery powers up to 8 hours of use on a single charge, while a 2.8-inch TFT touchscren provides control together with EQ adjustment and 6 presets.

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