What's New?

Written by Bill Leebens

In Copper #`13 we announced a contest, offering a PS Audio LANRover for the best answer to the question, “What is there in audio that’s really new?” Several technologies mentioned in responses  may have been new a few years ago, but to me that’s not NEW new (that may be arbitrary, but I’m calling the shots). We received a wide range of responses, some provocative, some amusing…but all were interesting. We print them here in their entirety, along with a few comments from me in bold italics. We hope you’ll enjoy reading them. —Editor.

So do not know how current it is, but I have been experimenting with Detecting the difference between Regular Redbox CD’s, CD’s sampled at 24/96, SACD’s and Gold CD’s as compared with:

Emerald Coated CD’s. The Emerald coating is claimed to reduce stray refracted light that we cannot see. The stray light affects the amount of noise during playback the Emerald Coating reduces this noise. I can send photos of Emerald CD I have been listening to when at home. Away out of town at the moment.

Below is an article I found on-line that references an Emerald spray product for CD’s, but it has to do with a spray product, not what I have.
The Emerald coated CD, I have was manufactured with a visible Emerald coating not a spray. The CD is an Audiophile CD and came from MA Recordings, but the Principle behind the spray seems to support the objective of the manufactured CD with the Emerald Coating. (Paul Stevenson) (Sounds like the green pen revisited, to me.)

I think the biggest new thing in audio is how we consume music. Personal digital DJ’s / internet radio are so common we don’t even think of them anymore except as another source. Streaming and sharing has gutted the industry which depended on physical album sales. But what do I know, I’m just the guy who had the room in issue 11.

Voxativ Speaker drivers. Incredible design + sound  Also driven with the Battery supply is crazy good. (Andre Turlings) (Yes, they’re excellent–but Lowther-inspired drivers, especially with field coils? I can’t think of those as “new”, by any means. Sorry!)

I spotted this on line and thought it would be unquestionably, uniquely NEW in audio!!
(Chris Coakes) (It’s a utility pole. New? An audacious application, maybe–but not new.)

Software defined DACS implemented in FPGAs. Like in the top-of-the-line PS Audio DAC. Software defined anything is a hot topic in IT. (Fred Bosick) (Thanks, and clearly I’m a believer, but not as new as I’d like.)

As a genuinely NEW idea – how does ‘sound diffusion at source’ rank?

Sure, Manfred Schroeder proposed the use of Quadratic Residue reflector panels in auditoriums, as a method for treating standing waves and other distractive reflections – but to actually ‘diffuse’ the sound into the listening space? We’re talking a mathematically derived ‘pure’ diffusion here; nobody had even thought of it. Of course, it was hard to do – but having been granted a patent suggests that no one else had even tried.

That ‘diffusion at source’ seems to make any room a better listening space is great. That you don’t need to turn the room into an anechoic chamber is even better (if you’ve been in one you’ll know what I mean). And that it not only militates against specular reflections that often present as ‘false cues’ but also energises the actual recorded cues in a way that ‘presents well’ to human audiology, is truly worthy of an audition. (Joe Hayes)

This is an interesting question, what is truly new in audio? I started by thinking, what was new at one time, going back over the last 30 years. Things that were new all seem based on ideas of the past. Two that came to mind were the CD, and the Power Plant. They were real innovations at the time. Now looking at the present there are a few things that appear to be new, but can be traced back.

They are the ultrasonic record cleaners and the company that offers SAM, where they supply corrections for known loudspeakers. Still based on earlier technology.

I think the one thing that could and will be an innovation is the adapting of virtual reality. I just heard an interview today that states the realism they are achieving is to the point that it can be used to train athletes like quarterbacks and for example, people caught in a virtual fire, trick their minds into feeling the heat.

Zuckerberg has recently purchased the company for billions.

I think with this technology you will be able to place yourself in the audience of concerts. It will feel so real that people who can afford the early commercial versions will with the combination of the visual and digitally manipulated headphones experience, for the first time at home the Absolute sound. Well there minds will believe that. And in time that technology will be mainstreamed. I personally wouldn’t want one, but I am old. Younger people will want it. Imagine going to that hip-hop show without the hassle of leaving their homes.

Every other “new” thing in audio has really been a refinement of existing technology. I remember something about a laser or optical device that could read and play vinyl records, but have not heard anything lately about it.  (Jeff Starr) (I get the buzz about VR stuff, but I don’t think it’s there yet for audio.)

Assuming that ‘audio’ should be synonymous for HIFI or stereo your question creates an ill posed problem, Bill. Advancements in Highend HIFI cannot but be based on research in psychoacoustics and cutting edge technology. Thus every serious progress in HIFI marketed as innovation had been previously discovered in other areas most often in military research. Thus nothing in HIFI will ever be new under the sun! (forum)

The way I see it, what makes a difference and it’s really new is the wealth of information and the associated broadening of the musical experience. I’ll explain myself.

The digital era has marked a step-function increase, that has permeated everything in our lives (audio being but a small aspect), much like the industrial revolution did at the end of the 19th century.

You could have perfectly good analogue evolution in audio if there had not been any digital revolution. But once in the digital era, you could have as well perfectly good digital evolution in audio, either if you use the silver spinning discs (whatever the types available), or the music files in a computer. That is the usual, expected ways in which things evolve, in a steady gentle slope.

When listening to music from LPs, silver discs or files, your information used to be limited to what was included in the sleeves and cases, or that which could be googled. At least, in the digital realm, until recently.

But what is of real relevance is having at your fingertips in a portable device not only the instant selection of your music to be played, but also the amount of information associated. This almost instant and vast wealth of information presented by music management interface softwares is what is really a leap jump in audio and in the enjoyment of music, for us audio and music fans.
Could anyone have ever guessed this? (Juan Palaua) (Good points, but basically true of all smartphone tech.)

I recall speaking to my friend Murray Zelligman years ago about the amplifier circuit David Berning designed as an OTL where he uses a high frequency carrier to support the signal. I have to mention that Murray spent decades trying all sorts of amplifier circuits, power supplies,etc to design his own amps. He even owned a couple of patents for FET/tube combos. So Murray tried tons of things and knew lots of amp history. And that day he told me that all the circuit topologies, both tube and solid state had been around for decades and the changes were at best significant details, both tube and solid stae. But David’s design was a true invention, the first new idea he had seen in his many years in audio.(Allen Edelstein) (To the best of my knowledge, Berning’s design is unique–but at this point it’s not new, as in 2016.)

To me the “new” in audio is software.  The last few years has seen a rapid advance in both software players and cataloging software.  With the emphasis on digital files and streaming the software players and renderers have finally caught up to their potential.  From Solos to Roon to an ever widening group of proprietary options giving the consumer a seamless way to access their music and also accompany the listening with the ability to access liner note and artist information while listening. (Beau Ranheim)

The answer to this is much simpler than you think.  What is new in audio is the ability to hear and share all types of music through the internet and other digital means.  There is no way we would have been able to had this kind of exposure to all of this music, even 5 years ago.  Maybe we can finally silence the people that say there is no good music anymore. (Wayne Berkowitz)

One of the most innovative ideas I have heard of in the audio world (specifically headphones) involves the assignment of particular location of a sound so that when you turn your head that sound appears to be emanating from one spot and does not move from it, so that if the sound is in front of you just slightly to your left and you turn your head completely around,  it is behind you slightly to your right. In the world of gaming, it would certainly make things more realistic. For example in a WWII battle game, you could hear a Tiger tank rumbling to the right of you, with their support soldiers marching behind them on the left and you as a squad leader guiding your men through the terrain, dodging machine gun nests to your objective.

Sound emanating things retain their sense of place, (or point of place), allowing you to be in that landscape, but not bother your neighbors with a potentially bothersome surround sound speaker setup late at night. The innovation comes from how and how quickly you can change and manipulate the signal, more so than a piece of hardware itself. (Tom Abbott)

The cartridge  DS-W1 Night Rider from Japan, which produce music signals photoelectrically, using infrared LED. (Haluk Ozumerzifon) (Sorry. Would you believe Philco, 1940?)  http://atomictoasters.com/2013/09/philco-beam-of-light-phonograph/    

I believe that virtual reproduction of audio by implantation of a device in the central nervous system hasn’t been discussed much before. This would effectively bypass all physical reproducing  elements, including the ear, so that music reproduction would be truly private. The device would effectively combine electronic and physiological elements to make this possible. Perhaps an early implementation of superconductive elements.
Now, this would be tremendously convenient and would allow people with hearing deficiencies to enjoy music again. It may even be possible to design an algorithm to cancel out tinnitus.

The problem with virtual audio reproduction is the lack of apparent resolution. When reproducing music in my head I find the frequency extremes to be lacking, with only a distant image of the musical event. But I am sure this could be worked out.

A variation of this concept would involve reproducing virtual music not only inside one’s head but in an actual room mimicking loudspeakers. With all the spatial cues present.

Another variation would be to create “beamed” music, that could be reproduced only within a narrow window and not outside of it. A special device would be installed in the ceiling creating a hologram of the musical event below.  Stepping outside the intended listening area would cancel out all sounds.(Nestor Salguaro-Polidor) (Implants creep me out, and the narrow-beam bit sounds like that Tom Cruise movie I hate. It’s also been done by several companies, none of whom I can think of right now….)

For me what is new is not the technology which is ever changing or what medium the technology is played on.  What is frankly new for me and I have noticed in drips and drabs is a genuine positive feeling in seeing young children attend shows (such as the Capital Audiofest).  Those few vendors that have engaged my kids have frankly indicated that they need to see more of this.  Kids as we know are our future in its most fundamental way and we need to nurture and mentor them in what is important.  Music is very important.  The faithfulness of music reproduction is important as well but if it is not shown to them all you will see is a teenager listening to MP3s.   

I will share a brief moment regarding my daughter who is now 7.  I took her and my son (now 9) to a Capital Audiofest show and they listened to a variety of music over Audeze and Mr Speaker headphones.  When they sat down and listened they were completely still, not a muscle moved, completely immersed in the musical experience and this really hit home for me.  For me the new has to become routine so the next generation of Audiophiles can continue to educate and show us all what music really sounds like. (Tyrone Vias) (I’m happy to hear this, but I’m not sure we can consider it new.)

I would like to share a new audio design I found to be interesting and New to me.

I receive start up campaigns from Indiegogo and one that caught my eye was a set of headphones I found to be revolutionary.  They are called Aura and what they do different is they spend 30 seconds measuring each ear’s frequency response without any input from the user.  Once your response is known any music played through the headphones are equalized to bring you the same experience as someone with perfect hearing.   Being in my 60s this concept really hit my get excited buttons.  On top of that the headphones appear to be of high quality.(Alan Morgan)


Certainly nothing new but the medium has made music so accessible to our youth and many are now beginning to ask about how to get better or best SQ for their favourite genres. The portability factor delivers music even when they are on the go. Their desire for trendy mediums and better sound has led to a resurgence in vinyl as well as cool products for digital playback both static and portable.

Music has a Cool factor.

Software and hardware.

The Digital revolution, once shunned by Audiophools as a gimmick and lacking in resolution and warmth, has a NEW acceptance aspect. This appears to be driven by better software, better hardware as well as a whole new world of accessibility for playback thanks to players like iTunes, JRiver and the tweakers who add value to these players.

So the NEW “attitude” is innovation and this is driven by a whole NEW herd of Musicphiles who want to hear their music their way. They are also introduced to NEW artists and genres by streaming services seamlessly, as if it was in their own libraries.

Perhaps this music based focus and the ability to audition present second choice genres, with affordability, is also NEW and is very stimulating for the artist industry.

Without the music what would they need playback equipment for? (Gordon Grobec)

A transducer in the form of an inflated balloon which reproduces music by rapidly introducing or withdrawing a gas.  (B. Jan Montana) (Sorry: the Navy did compressed-air hailing loudspeakers a century ago. Similar in principle, if not execution.)

I’LL SAY HD-VINYL (Mark Harris) (I’ll believe it when I see it. Sorry.)

On Demand Music.

Originally, I was thinking podcasts were a new thing but then I realized that podcasts are treated mostly as a broadcast medium, like an old radio show.  That technology dates back to the 1920s.

For a few minutes, I thought internet delivery might be a new thing but that’s just  the telegraph originating in the late 1800s.  BTW, could Twitter by any more telegraph-like?

One might say that on-demand music dates back to library technology.
And, sure, one could go to the library and get a copy of a song or album and play it.  But that assumes one knows what to look for, how to look it up, etc.  With on-demand music it’s as easy as saying, “Siri, play some Stones for me”, or “Echo, play Jay Z’s latest album.”

That has never existed in our world before last year.  If your questioned was intended only as a hardware-centric thing then I offer the Amazon Echo (which implements the above). (Arturo Perez) (I’ll buy it. Winner winner chicken dinner.)

I think one thing that’s new and important in audio (although it depends on the time scale you use) is the renewed focus on time-domain behavior, especially in digital audio. I’m thinking of MP versus FR digital filters–ringing, pre-echo, etc.–and also new storage-and-transmission technologies such as MQA. I don’t remember what exactly, but there was also something in Ted Smith’s technical presentation on the DS design, captured on video now posted on YouTube–that also made me think of this, although I haven’t watched it in a while and don’t remember exactly what.

I know people have been thinking about this for a long time, but it seems like the focus in digital audio was mostly on the frequency domain, and that there’s been a gradual shift over the last, what, decade-plus? And it seems to have made a difference.

Next up: a return to time-alignment in loudspeakers? (Jim Austin) (Important, but strictly speaking, not new.)

What was new when we landed on the moon?  Rockets had been around for centuries (invented by the Chinese), yet a person setting foot on the moon was certainly “new!”

So I posit that what is really “new” for audio is the result of advancements that:

1)      Let us listen to music in our homes with clarity that was unheard of even 10 years ago with picosecond-level jitter stability (e.g, DirectStream and BHK, coupled with better recordings using increasingly more accurate microphones)
2)      Libraries that offer huge selections and availability that we don’t have to  physically buy (we can, but we don’t have to with some streaming services)
3)      The ability to get some of the above in good-sounding portable devices (DAPs like A&K, FIIO, LHL Wave when it’s ever actually delivered to the Indiegogo backers)

You can make the same argument for cars.  Looking at a 1912 Buick one realizes the functions on the 1912 model are pretty much just as they are today between engine, chassis, coachwork, suspension,  brakes, and whatnot, but it’s a lot more enjoyable to go on long trips in my “new” car than its 1912 counterpart.

I feel so blessed to be able to live in this time when such advances are not only available, but also affordable.  (David Rosing)

Well, the pace of advancements in DAC technology in the last five years is pretty staggering, PS Audio’s Directstream included. But to me, the biggest “new” thing is the studios in general are FINALLY doing a decent job at digital mastering new content and remastering the crap they’ve been feeding us for years. (Still waiting, however, for lots of that lifeless garbage to be remastered…) High-res formats are frosting on the cake, a high-res remaster being particularly tasty, e.g., Van Morrison’s “Moondance.” Combined with new DAC technology, you can now get a stunningly realistic playback experience that erases any advantages vinyl ever had against poorly mastered digital. The unwashed masses sadly have no clue how good it can be. (David Fair) (Important, but kinda vague.)

I’d have to say SOFTWARE!  And that software is ROON.

Music, how it is being played and explored, in my house hold hasn’t been the same since ROON.  The ability of that software to open up a world of music to me that was not possible just a year ago is fantastic.  How else would I have gone from listening to Miles Davis and end up at Erykah Badu via the bass playing of Ron Carter.  Fascinating! (Jason Chin) (Important, but rather derivative of Sooloos, by the same crew.)

IMHO, the newest, most innovative technology that advances the sound quality of home audio is Ted Denney’s (Lead Designer/CEO of Synergistic Research) Atmospheres. I have heard this gizmo demonstrated several times, and I am convinced of its effectiveness. (George Sakakini)

No doubt that our hobby has constantly reinvented the wheel over and over.
What would be interesting is if somehow a device could be designed that would allow everyone to have exactly the same hearing abilities. ( physically and mentally )

But then the differences in hearing abilities seems to be what keeps the audio industry going!  We all need to be careful what we wish for. (Robert Aka “MrDerrick”)

What’s new in sound? NOTHING!!!! (Mario Gouveia) (umm…okay. ;->)

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