Pro AV Today

Curated by Cynthia Wisehart,

Pro AV Today pulls in stories from across the Internet that are important or interesting to our market. If you want to receive Pro AV Today in your inbox, subscribe to the

Graphene speaker creates sound through heat, not vibrations

By Michael Irving, New Atlas

Graphene may hold the key for a new type of speaker that doesn't need a vibrating membrane at all, instead generating sound through thermoacoustics. Pretty much every speaker works with a membrane that physically vibrates, distorting the air in specific patterns to generate sound waves. But now, researchers at the University of Exeter have developed a speaker that doesn't need to mechanically vibrate at all. The key to this potentially ground-breaking speaker is – what else? – graphene, which is heated and cooled with carefully controlled electric currents to create sound waves. MORE@NewAtlas

Why This Matters:

Just yesterday I was speculating with Chad Wiggins at Shure about the things we consider immutable about sound waves and physics, and what could or could not be emulated electronically rather than mechanically. I don’t have answers, just a sense that the interplay of physics, electronics (and even biology) is changing. The thing that doesn’t seem to change is the primal human response to sound and acoustics. So whatever happens with the gear, the sound experience has to matter. Right? -Cynthia Wisehart

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University students turn a flag into a loudspeaker

By Shivali Best, Daily Mail

Scientists have created a paper-thin, flexible device that can not only generate energy from human motion, but can act as a loudspeaker and microphone. The audio device could eventually lead to a range of consumer products, including a folding loudspeaker, voice-activated security patch, or roll up radio. MORE@DailyMail

Why This Matters:

Last year, the researchers successfully demonstrated this ferroelectret nanogenerator (FENG) device - by using it to power a keyboard, LED lights and an LCD touch-screen.  –Cynthia Wisehart

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Master & Dynamic’s first wireless speaker is a 35-pound block of concrete

By Dan Seifert, The Verge

Master & Dynamic has made a name for itself with headphones that combine style, premium materials, and good sound. For its first wireless speaker, the company is going all in on style. Thirty-five pounds worth, to be exact.
The new $1,800 MA770 speaker is unlike most other wireless speakers you’ve seen because its housing is a molded piece of concrete. Tipping the scales at 35 pounds, the MA770 is designed to be put in your house and stay there — there’s no taking this to the beach.
In that sculpted body, which was designed in partnership with architect Sir David Adjaye, are two 4-inch kevlar woofers and a 1.5-inch titanium tweeter powered by a 100 watt Class D amp. For connectivity, the MA770 has Chromecast built in, as well as Bluetooth and a wired auxiliary input. According to Master & Dynamic, the MA770 is the first Chromecast speaker that uses multiroom audio for stereo pairing. MORE@TheVerge

Why This Matters:

Gorgeous yes, portable no. And it really is housed in concrete molding. Here’s more on how M&D developed their own concrete. –Cynthia Wisehart

Spotify is testing lossless audio. Can you hear the difference?

By Frank Bi and Andrew Marino, The Verge

Below are three songs, each presented in three different versions: a lossless version at 1,411 kbps, a “premium” version at 320 kbps, and standard version at 160 kbps. Try and see if you can pick the lossless audio out of the three. MORE@TheVerge

Why This Matters:

I think this makes me sad. Because, without a trace of irony, it presumes that the fidelity of my device speakers is the constant. It does say: “this test works best on Chrome browsers.” I’m not kidding—it says that. Makes me want to tour the country with a good Genelec monitor or a pair of mastering headphones and introduce people to…well, music. -Cynthia Wisehart

Apple admits the Mac Pro was a mess

By Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge

Apple admitted that its flashy 2013 Mac Pro redesign was a mistake, and executives indicated that Apple intends to better support its professional users in the future. “I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will,” one of Apple’s top executives reportedly said.

The small, trash can-shaped Mac Pro — which Apple marketing VP Phil Schiller once touted as evidence that the company could still innovate — was designed to fit two smaller graphics chips, but the industry didn’t move in that direction.

“Being able to put larger single GPUs required a different system architecture and more thermal capacity than that system was designed to accommodate,” the exec is reported as saying. “So it became fairly difficult to adjust.”

That seems to explain why the Mac Pro, until today, went more than three years without spec refresh — an entirely unworkable situation for pro users who need top-of-the-line hardware. MORE@TheVerge

Why This Matters:

There will also be a newly rethought pro display as well. But no date. In the meantime, while Apple goes back to the drawing board, you can still feel free to buy a Mac Pro and you will reportedly get more bang for your Macbuck. According to Ars Technica, the base $2999 model will now include a 6-core CPU, FirePro D500 GPUs, and 16GB of RAM, while the $3999 option steps up to an 8-core CPU and D700 GPUs with the same RAM. For more details on the new plan, here’s a good longform look from Mashable –Cynthia Wisehart

Review: Doppler Labs’ Here One wireless noise canceling earbuds

By David Pierce, Wired

Life’s a little quieter when I’m wearing the Here Ones, a new pair of earbuds from Doppler Labs.

These $300 buds are headphones and then some. They put a volume knob on the real world, letting you control what you hear and what you tune out. I’ve been wearing them on planes, in crowded train cars, in the office, and on my living room sofa.

The Here Ones are a terrific, if slightly hamstrung, set of headphones. They’re also one of the most jaw-dropping tech demos I’ve tried in a long time. And they’re pretty solid evidence that you might want computers in your ears. Soon.

There is nothing quite like suddenly, magically muting the world. Layered listening is a wonderful way to soundtrack your life. And they look a lot better than AirPods. MORE@WIRED

Why This Matters:

These are those earbuds that allow you to self-mix your listening experience by dialing in the amount of ambient noise you want (or none at all)—it’s called “Layered Listening”. Here’s another review from CNET. -Cynthia Wisehart

These golden headphones were crafted by a mad genius

By Vlad Savov, Circuit Breaker

What at you see before you are the Final Audio Piano Forte X in-ear headphones, which cost a spectacular $2,199 and look, in the merciless words of a friend of mine, "like mini...[censored]. 

Not only are they expensive and garish, they aren’t even all that impressive technically. But if you think that’s a recipe for a total luxury tech disaster, you’d be wrong. These weird headphones sound good, fit well, and embody a unique recklessness — both from the designer and purchaser — that ensures their long-term exclusivity.

Final Audio is a Japanese company that is niche even by the high standards of extremism of Japanese audiophilia...

Why This Matters:

Extreme headphones from a deceased Japanese eccentric.–Cynthia Wisehart

Some perspective on the AMX "backdoor" security advisory

This is a cautionary tale, and not just about security. It’s also about the game of internet telephone and the line where caveat emptor meets caveat lector. Buyers must beware of security and readers must also beware of consultants and mainstream tech journalists covering the AV industry.  It is always important to understand the source. Start by reading the original blog post by SEC Consult for yourself. It is a strangely satirical take on something potentially serious for AMX and their many partners and stakeholders. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if any of this is accurate, sorta true, or a combination of good points and technical misunderstandings. The consumer tech press has now doubled down, riffing about stuff they don’t know a lot about (or how to spell Harman). Many of the stories amplified a key mischaracterization in SEC Consult’s security advisory. You can read that actual security advisory here

Read the whole advisory. Note that authors didn’t understand that the Black Widow diagnostics login that was the source of the concern, wasn't actually replaced with 1MB@tMaN (Batman), which served an entirely different purpose. Also note that the authors did not research what one could practically do once inside the NX-1200 diagnostic profile. Their research stopped at the point of accessing the profile and determining its permission levels, then extrapolating. As a side point, some press has found it suspicious that the Black Widow profile does not display when a list of valid user names is enumerated—maybe that’s sinister, but it’s alternatively a pretty standard precaution for a diagnostics/maintenance account. Finally read the AMX response.

AMX did release changes last month that dropped the legacy Black Widow profile (and with it the ability to do remote maintenance/diagnostics). That update was part of a larger package of security enhancements announced at InfoComm 2015 (within the timeline that SEC Consult says they were communicating with AMX about the Black Widow profile). SEC Consult says they have not had time to confirm that the fix addresses their particular concerns. Regardless “deliberately hidden backdoor” hyperbole is not a helpful characterization. We do know that the convenience of remote diagnostics, maintenance and admin is one puzzle to solve in terms of security, factoring devices, networks, and user compliance. We know there are problems in reconciling ease of use and security—and as an industry we must do better to modernize to IT security standards (which are themselves evolving). So the controversy serves a purpose, when kept in perspective. There were no reported breaches, indeed no audio, video or user data was accessible even with the identified breach. But there was clearly an opportunity to improve security that AMX has taken and will take further, including through communication about best practices. One thing I will say—this incident has poked the bear that was sleeping right next to the elephant in the room. Security is serious business--part science and part emotion, and we’re going to have to deal with both.  –Cynthia Wisehart

Why This Matters:

AMX addresses the secruity concerns directly in this media advisory. Allso read the original blog post by security firm SEC Consult and the related security advisory from the same company.

The Vacuum Tube is Back

By Maddie Stone, Gizmodo

There’s a new device in the works over at DARPA, the agency known for pushing the technological envelope with mind-controlled prosthetics and drone-launching submarines. This latest innovation? The vacuum tube. You might remember it from the first time humans invented it, way back in 1904.

Yes, the vacuum tube, hallmark of early 20th century electronics and CRT TVs, may be making a comeback. But this isn’t just DARPA engineers feeling bored or nostalgic: The vacuum tubes of the future will run at higher frequencies and powers than the dinosaur tubes of yesteryear, outperforming their solid state counterparts in certain applications.

But let’s back up a sec. For those who don’t recall, a vacuum tube is simply a device that controls electricity by channeling current between two or more electrodes inside a vacuum. Vacuum tubes were a basic component of many early electronics, including radios, television, radar, recording equipment, and computers. But in the 1950s and 60s, the invention of semiconductors made it possible to produce smaller, more efficient and more durable solid state devices, and vacuum tubes were gradually phased out. Tubes managed stick around in TV and computer displays until the early 2000s, when they were finally replaced with LCDs and plasma screens. MORE@Gizmodo


Why This Matters:

Our old friend the vacuum tube is having a high-tech Renaissance, a second life, a second chapter. Pick your middle-aged metaphor. It's fun to see old technology catch a break and Gizmodo's story gives you a good overview of the comeback.  For a more techy take, here's DARPA themselves on next-gen vacuum tubes. -Cynthia Wisehart

In depth: Windows 10 review

By Tom Warren, The Verge

Looking back at Windows 8, it’s easy to see where Microsoft went wrong. It was a giant bet on touch-based computing, but it made using a PC with a keyboard and mouse awkward, frustrating, and outright confusing. In our original review, I wrote that there was a “risk of alienating users and creating another Vista-like perception catastrophe” due to the sweeping changes.

That’s exactly what happened: developers didn’t flock toward Windows 8, and regular users did their very best to avoid it. While the tablet interface was a great experience, the rest annoyed everybody who just wanted a laptop that worked the way they were used to. Microsoft is trying to fix all that with Windows 10.

Windows has a cycle. Windows XP saved us from Windows ME, Windows 7 saved us from the Windows Vista mess, now Windows 10 is here to save us from Windows 8.

If you’re upgrading to Windows 10 on a desktop or laptop PC, then prepare to be delightfully surprised: the Start menu you know and love is back. It feels slightly odd to celebrate its return, as it should never have gone away. It’s probably the biggest change, aside from the dark theme, that you’ll notice after Windows 8. But Microsoft hasn’t simply just reinstated the old version from Windows 7. Instead, it’s completely redesigned it in a way that combines the best aspects of the last two versions of Windows. MORE@TheVerge

Why This Matters:

There are quite a few reviews out there—I liked this one. Also Time Magazine has helpfully collected some of the others in one link. And here's Pogue's take. -Cynthia Wisehart


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