Northridge, CA (June 11, 2021)—JBL Professional has released a series of updates for its JBL Tour Audio Software Suite, adding new features and addressing bugs as well. The update includes Performance Manager v2.8.0; ArrayLink v1.4.0 for Android and iOS; and LAC v3.6.0.
New features in Performance Manager 2.8.0 include added preset support for AE Compact speakers; updated speaker presets for VTX S25 with the aim to provide improved reliability; and general improvements and bug fixes.
The AE Compact Series models have been added to Performance Manager, and the new speaker presets were developed for all models to match the sonic and phase signature of VTX products. Meanwhile, the new presets developed for the VTX S25 dual 15-inch subwoofer address “a rare problem,” says JBL, where under specific conditions, woofer damage could occur. The new presets include optimized LevelMax parameters to ensure safe operation under any conditions, and the sound characteristics of the product, including MAX SPL, remain unchanged.
The new features for ArrayLink v.1.4.0 include compatibility support for LAC-3.6.0; an added new “Light Mode” UI theme for better visibility in daylight; support for Ground-Stacked Configurations (this requires LAC-3.6.0 or higher); the addition of a Cable Weight field to the Array Statistics page; and general improvements and bug fixes.
Users who download the updated Line Array Calculator III v3.6.0 will find a number of added features, including a new SPL Over Distance Graph in Mapping mode; Added Electronic Delay Steering for Suspended Subwoofer Arrays; the ability for LAC-3 to generate QR codes for Ground-Stacked Arrays; improved center-of-gravity calculations based on selected cable weight; and more.
Stow, OH (May 17, 2021)—Audio-Technica has released the Version 1.2.0 update of its Wireless Manager software.
Wireless Manager is a Mac OS/Windows application for remote configuration, control, monitoring, spectrum management, and frequency coordination of compatible Audio-Technica wireless devices.
Updated features in version 1.2.0 include a new multi-point receiver function; improved interface and functionality enhancements; increased compatibility; and minor bug fixes. The multi-point receiver function allows a single transmitter to switch between multiple compatible A-T network-enabled receivers that are set apart from one another. The user of the transmitter can pass from one receiver zone to the next, providing wide coverage without the need for a distributed antenna system.
A single transmitter can switch between 10 receivers on a single group. Up to eight multi-point groups can be configured within a single session. Applications could include large auditoriums/halls, houses of worship, sporting events, education campuses and other venues where installing long RF cable runs with antennas and necessary antenna management could become cumbersome and expensive.
A-T Wireless Manager software is compatible with all wireless devices operating in the UHF spectrum. When used with Audio-Technica 5000 Series (3rd Gen) and 3000 Series (4th Gen) with network control and monitoring, the software can coordinate and control all connected systems. The software can also interface with and monitor the latest 3000 Series networked chargers.
A-T’s updated Wireless Manager software (version 1.2.0) is available for download from Audio-Technica’s website.
Putting sound quality issues aside for a moment, when you ask an audiophile who has yet to embrace digital and streaming sources why he hasn’t made the leap, the answer usually includes the difficulty in easily and accurately connecting with and finding all the different music in his library. As someone who embraced digital music and streaming early on, I have to admit that finding all my digital music files has never been as simple as going to my record shelves and pulling out an album, but it should be that easy.
Roon’s latest version, 1.8, finally makes finding music, both in your home library and Roon’s supported streaming services, Qobuz and Tidal, almost as easy and intuitive as grabbing an album off the shelves, but with less crouching. To accomplish this required a major overhaul of Roon, which is why Roon 1.8 is such a big deal. And while longtime users won’t find radical changes in the basic layout, ergonomics, and playback methodology, they will, if they begin to explore, discover that Roon now uses its vast troves of metadata in a far more feature-rich manner that it happily shares with its users.
What Is Roon?
For readers who are unfamiliar with Roon, it is an application that claims to be “the ultimate music player for music fanatics.” Roon accomplishes this in several ways. First, it unites home libraries and streaming services libraries from Tidal, Qobuz, and Dropbox into one comprehensive, cohesive, and completely searchable library. And Roon’s search functions are extensive (we’ll get into how powerful and flexible later). Next, it makes it easy to send music to any room in your home via Ethernet or Wi-Fi. Finally, it provides a stable, hardware-agnostic platform that allows for individual optimization of every DAC you may possess.
The Roon application has three different, yet complementary, parts. The main part is the Roon Core. This is the section of Roon that does all the processing and interfacing. When using Roon, the Core section must be active at all times and should be on a computer with multiple processing cores, as well as a solid-state storage drive for the app itself. I’ve had my Roon Core (actually the desktop version, which is a combination of the Roon Core and Controller) on an Apple MacPro desktop, titanium trashcan model, for several years now.
Roon’s Core can also be installed on its own dedicated computer, and Roon even sells a “Nucleus” stand-alone computer that is specifically configured to run Roon. Roon offers two versions, the Nucleus ($1459) and the Nucleus Plus ($2559). You can also install the Roon Core application on one of 17 different Intel NUC computers that Roon has approved for Roon Core installation. Prices for these range from around $300 to just under $1000 for a NUC10i7FNx with case and solid-state drive. How hard is it to build you own NUC to run Roon? Here’s a quote from someone after a build: “It took literally 49 seconds to install and after that simply run Roon, select the core (which popped up immediately), and copy my music files to the internal 1TB SSD I installed.”
The other two parts of the Roon playback application are the Controller and the endpoints. The Controller app is the interface part that lets users make Roon sing and dance. It can be installed on any Android or iOS phone, Windows or Mac desktop or tablet, and offers all the control functions for Roon. An endpoint is any playback device that Roon supports. In my Roon system I currently have 16 endpoints, which includes four Raspberry Pi’s, three DACs connected via USB to my MacPro desktop, two DAC/streamers, several portable players, and a host of iOS and Android devices. Because I can, I have all my Roon endpoints connected via CAT 5 Ethernet, but Roon supports Wi-Fi (and AirPlay) as well as Ethernet endpoints.
Roon can be purchased one of several ways. You can get monthly, yearly, or lifetime subscriptions. Recently Roon raised its lifetime subscription rates, but did not discontinue them, although lifetime subscriptions would not be capable of supporting Roon long-term. Current rates in the U.S. are $12.99 for monthly, $119.88 for yearly ($9.99/per month), or $699 for lifetime subscriptions.
The following is a press release issued by PS Audio.
Boulder, Colorado, May 4, 2021 – PS Audio has released its Sunlight firmware upgrade for its PerfectWave DirectStream DAC and DirectStream Jr. The new OS enables the DirectStream DAC to deliver an extraordinary new level of musical realism and improved performance including quad-rate DSD capability, and significantly enhances the audio quality of the DirectStream Jr.
“The sonic improvements provided by the Sunlight are not subtle – it’s like getting an entirely new DAC,” said Paul McGowan, PS Audio CEO. “Sunlight is the result of testing more than 20 iterations of code and months of programming, listening and fine-tuning by our digital engineering guru Ted Smith, senior hardware engineer Darren Myers and others on the development team. It’s the ultimate expression of PS Audio’s ‘mountaintop’ series of upgrades.”
The Sunlight upgrade is made possible because the PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream DAC is one of the few DACs on the market that is fully programmable, by means of its FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) core processing engine. This flexible architecture allows every parameter that controls the DirectStream DAC to be configured and tweaked.
With the Sunlight OS, the DirectStream DAC will now accept quad-rate DSD via its I2S input. By precisely controlling the clock timing of the signals in the various stages of the circuit, noise and jitter are significantly reduced. The sonic results of the Sunlight upgrade are a greater sense of resolution and space, a more natural tonal balance with improved top-end extension, better micro and macro dynamics, and a much more involving and engaging musical presentation overall.
Sunlight OS for the PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream DAC can be downloaded free of charge by clicking on this link. Sunlight OS for the DirectStream Jr. can be downloaded at this link. In addition, Sunlight can be purchased pre-loaded onto an SD card (for the DirectStream DAC or USB stick (for the DirectStream Jr.) for $29 by clicking here.
New York, NY (May 3, 2021)—Audacity, the long-running open source, cross-platform audio editor, has been acquired by Muse Group. Founded in 1999, the free software program has been downloaded more than 100 million times to date.
In partnership with Audacity’s online open-source community, the new owners will be looking to expand the software’s feature set and update its ease of use. Dedicated designers and developers will be tasked to work on the software, but Audacity will remain free and open source.
Shepherding Audacity will be Martin Keary, recruited based on his efforts running MuseScore, an open-source music notation software that is also owned by Muse Group; Keary will oversee both brands. In a wide-ranging YouTube video detailing the history of Audacity, Keary noted that he will be interviewing users and creating online spaces to interact with those users in an effort to determine priorities and approaches to the program’s development going forward. Keary noted that the company will pre-publish designs and updates so users can comment before widespread implementation, taking advantage of open source’s transparency.
Some early priorities as Audacity moves forward will be the addition of non-destructive, stackable VST effects, as well as user-experience updates with the aim of making features easier to find and use. In the video, other, more experimental ideas are suggested and teased, such as a 3D spectral editing prototype that, if developed, could possibly offer haptic spectral editing via a haptic glove. With these and other additions in mind, Muse Group will be looking to hire a number of senior developers and designers with experience in audio and music technology.
Audacity’s new parent company, Muse Group, is pretty new itself, having only opened its doors last week on April 26, 2021. Muse Group owns the brands Ultimate Guitar, MuseClass, ToneBridge and MuseScore, which together reach more than 350 million users in more than 60 countries. The company is led by chairman Eugeny Naidenov and CEO Michael Trutnev; Naidenov founded Ultimate Guitar in 1998. In total, Muse Group has more than 100 employees in a fully remote-working oriented workforce; the company is privately held with no investors or external shareholders.
March 24, 2021 — Qobuz, the music lovers’ Hi-Res streaming and download provider, is now the first music service to deliver 24-bit Hi-Res audio streaming on Sonos. Qobuz customers will be able to listen to studio-quality music on their Sonos speakers, preserving all of the details and color of original recordings, with the ease of simply pressing play in the Sonos app. Available with the Sonos S2 app, this new integration is one of Qobuz’s broadest expansions of Hi-Res streaming support to date.
Qobuz USA Managing Director Dan Mackta said of the partnership, “Qobuz has always strived to make the highest quality audio accessible, as people become more interested in better sound. Now, on Sonos devices, we’re making it easy for millions more people to experience the improvement Hi-Res audio can make.”
“Our open platform enables partners to bring the best of their experiences to the Sonos system and our mutual customers,” said Ryan Richards, Director of Product Marketing at Sonos. “Qobuz has been at the forefront of high resolution music streaming, and we look forward to customers enjoying their music with the clarity, depth, and room-filling sound of Sonos.”
In 2013, Qobuz became the first music service to offer 16-bit FLAC streaming on Sonos. And now, it is continuing to expand access to higher-resolution streaming on Sonos by introducing 24-bit streaming, compatible with most products on the Sonos S2 platform, which supports up to 48 kHz/24-bit audio resolution. This new integration builds on Qobuz’s continued expansion of hardware partnerships, including the addition of Hi-Res compatible hardware on the Android platform several years ago.
Qobuz has always catered to the audiophile and the audio-curious market, with its expert curation, exclusive editorial content, liner notes, download store, and world-class sound quality. This expanded experience on Sonos will make premium Qobuz streaming capabilities accessible to a wider audience of music lovers. Qobuz has over seventy million tracks and is adding more in full Hi-Res quality every day.
Qobuz 24-bit Hi-Res streaming is available on Sonos in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.
Hamburg, Germany (March 17, 2021)—Steinberg has released WaveLab Cast production software, offering integrated tools for podcast recording, editing and publishing.
Created with an aim of helping podcasters improve the audio quality of their shows, the software includes sound correction tools, editing tools, features such as automatic ducking, a variety of signal processing tools and more. The Track Inspector provides simple 2-band EQing, while the signal processing offerings include a Voice Exciter, Compressor and Brickwall Limiter.
The specialist DAW also assists with the distribution of podcasts, connecting directly with five different podcast directories, including Spreaker, Podbean and Soundcloud
For livestreamers, it also offers postproduction tools for live streams’ audio, allowing users to remove pauses, unnecessary filler words and unwanted noises while remaining aligned with the video. Its signal processors and meters assist with enhancing the audio to ensure the best results.
The software is exclusively available through the Steinberg Online Shop for 69.99 euros. It is also possible to upgrade from WaveLab LE to WaveLab Cast for 19.99 euros.
Los Angeles, CA (November 19, 2020)—Radio industry veteran Brad Noble has launched Podcave, an all-in-one podcasting management and publishing platform, intended to support users through every step of podcasting, from show planning and guest booking, to publishing and promotion.
Using SaaS technology to provide professional tools and structure on a single platform, Podcast offers audio hosting powered in the background by OmnyStudio with included IAB-certified analytics. Elsewhere in the software is a complete episode planning suite that includes guest management, a segment planner, a music library (powered by radio imaging company Benztown), a trending topic/source finder, and a‘Record Assist’ focus mode for while users are recording an episode.
An internal promotion engine includes scheduling social media, notifying guests of their episode release, email marketing and text/SMS marketing. Users also gert a stable, customizable (including custom domain) website powered by PodcastPage.io. Podcave also offers a 30-day free trial.
Podcave’s founding team consists of radio veteran Brad Nolan, who has created radio shows now heard in hundreds of cities, and coached talent at the highest levels of radio broadcasting. John Michael has worked at some of the most influential radio stations in the US, including KROQ, JACK-FM, and AMP Radio in Los Angeles. Nikki Noble has managed online communities in the thousands, ran operations for major companies, and spearheads Podcave’s women in podcasting and social responsibility initiatives.
London, UK (November 11, 2020)—Shure has made a strategic investment in Finnish software company Ab Wavemark Oy, a software house centered around solutions for theater, broadcast, and content streaming applications.
In addition to products such as Wavetool and WTAutomixer, Wavemark has recently expanded its software portfolio into streaming applications with the debut of WTAutomixer, a multichannel gain sharing automixer plug-in that can be inserted to almost any DAW, enabling auto-mixing for uses like podcasting, remote learning and house of worship services.
Wavemark software has been used in conjunction with several high-profile theater applications using Shure Axient Digital Wireless Systems. Shure itself is no stranger to software solutions, as its offerings include Wireless Workbench for live events, as well as Designer, SystemOn, and its new IntelliMix Room Audio Processing Software for integrated systems.
“This move reinforces our commitment to the evolving needs of the pro audio and events industries,” said Brian Woodland, vice president, Global Business Development, Shure. “Both Shure and Wavemark have established strong relationships in the industry by understanding user workflows. Leveraging this mutual success, we will further support the growth in wireless system scale and complexity, help customers navigate the challenges of congested RF spectrum, while enabling advanced remote control, monitoring, and system management tools.”
“We are very proud of this collaborative approach with Shure,” said Timo Liski, commercial director at Wavemark. “The ability to share ideas and leverage synergies around software will be beneficial to customers in the audio industry.”
Purpose-built rooms with ideal acoustic treatments may not need room correction software, but the rest of us do. With chart-topping artists producing hits in re-purposed bedrooms, basements, garages and hotel rooms, the need for acoustic analysis and correction is greater than ever.
I reviewed Sonarworks’ Reference 4 software for PSN back in 2018, so I was eager to compare this new calibration/correction system from Dirac, as it promises to bring some different methodologies, concepts and results.
Dirac Live seeks to correct room anomalies and inaccuracies in both the time domain and the frequency domain to improve the soundstage with greater imaging and localization of sound, increased clarity and intelligibility, as well as tighter bass response with fewer resonances. This is accomplished with a combination of linear- and minimum-phase IIR filters, as well as impulse response correction (affecting the timing of signals and the ratio of direct to reflected sound).
Out of the Box
Dirac Live is available in the ‘big four’ formats (VST, VST3, AAX and AU) for both Mac and Windows (OSX 10.11 and up, Windows 10, respectively). A measurement microphone is needed for calibration; I used a USB reference mic as provided by Dirac, but other models are suitable (at least models that a frequency response plot is available for). Dirac Live is compatible with all the major DAWs and supports nearly every multichannel format under the sun (2.0, 2.1, 3,1, 4.1, 5.0, 5.1, 5.0.2, 5.1.2, 6.0, 6.1, 7.0, 7.1, 7.0.2, 7.1.2, Quadraphonic, Pentagonal, Hexagonal, Octagonal and Ambisonic). The stereo version sells for $349, while the multi-channel version is $499. I tested Dirac Live in stereo, as Audio Units on a Mac Pro.
There are two components to utilizing Dirac Live—the Dirac Live processor plug-in that will be inserted within a DAW session, and the calibration tool program that will read your room’s response, create a custom filter(s) and communicate with the plug-in. After instantiating the plug-in, you open the calibration program which scans for a “device” that will ultimately store your filters and do the audio processing. Dirac also makes a hardware version for home hi-fi enthusiasts, but this pro version sees the plug-in as its “device.”
The measurement process is lengthy and very specific, but not difficult, just like all the other correction systems I’ve tried. The process involves setting system volume for the playback of frequency sweeps, measuring those sweeps from nine different positions surrounding your listening position and then fine tuning the correction filter that Dirac Live suggests. The whole process took only about 10 minutes and is rather interesting, as you can hear changes in room response as the full-bandwidth sweeps excite your room, creating some resonances and some dips, and it’s fun to correlate graphs of the measurement on screen.
Next, you’ll “proceed to filter design,” and this is where the really interesting part is. Dirac Live has automatically generated a response curve, but you can customize that curve by grabbing control nodes, moving them to desired frequencies and then boosting or cutting. You can also choose to move the “curtains”—the dotted vertical lines placed very low and very high on the frequency graph, which represent the lower and upper frequency limits of Dirac Live processing (it is not wise to try to achieve perfectly flat response all the way down to 20 Hz, or all the way up to 20 k; that would eat up a lot of headroom).
Furthermore, custom target curves can be loaded in .txt or .targetcurve formats and then “snapshots” can be taken of the current condition, modified and then easily compared to other stored snapshots without having to close the current project—nice for ultra-fine tuning of curves. For those of you who (like me) want to know exact frequency values of your room’s trouble spots, you can zoom into your response curve with your mouse scroll wheel and pan across the frequency spectrum with <hold+drag>.
Now that you’ve created (and possibly modified) your target curve, upon going back to your DAW session, the Dirac Live plug-in is now loaded with your correction curve. You’ll notice the output level of the plug-in may be attenuated; this is in order to give Dirac Live some headroom to apply processing (the amount of attenuation is about equal to the sum of your target curve’s positive and negative deviation). You can now turn the processing on and off as well as switch between different target curves you’ve stored without any jumps in level.
For in-the-box mixing and mastering work, an instance of Dirac Live inserted on the master fader informs your decisions and then must be bypassed during bounce/render, or else the Dirac Live processing would be applied to your mix. Wisely, Dirac Live can be automatically bypassed when bouncing/rendering with a simple preferences setting. For analog mixing, I inserted the plug-in on my stereo mix track, where I would monitor the processing but it would not be recorded into my mix file.
Even though it’s a little jarring to suddenly hear your system responding differently, I began mixing with Dirac Live and got slightly improved results on my first attempt. My room is in pretty good shape except for some low ceiling-induced bass issues (with adjacent dips and bumps) and a bit of low-mid mud. Dirac Live cleared up that mud and did quite a bit for that bass response, inducing me to fine tune my kick drum, boost that bass guitar and get my lead vocal right in the pocket. Frankly, it’s hard to describe the improvements I heard, as they were slightly different than what my system corrected with Sonarworks; not relegated to just frequency response, it sounded like phase accuracy had improved and imaging was more exacting, perhaps due to the impulse response correction, as well as precision filtering.
One drawback to using Dirac Live was the inevitable switch to other monitors or headphones for reference. When using frequency challenged full-range monitors (Avantone Mixcubes), I had to bypass the Dirac Live processing, same as with headphones. I do wish that it offered correction for cans like Sonarworks does, which is as effective (if not more) as its correction for rooms/monitors.
The Final Mix
Even though it adds a little complication to mixing and mastering, Dirac Live can definitely improve monitoring accuracy to the point where it is worth the extra effort. At a cost of $349, the price is significant but not prohibitive, especially considering just how much knowledge can be gleaned from the measurement process. Furthermore, that knowledge can be very useful for the fine tuning of your room via furniture, bass traps, absorbers and diffusers that can help make Dirac Live’s job much easier.
If you work entirely in-the-box (and maybe even in a small boxy room), then software-based room correction is a no-brainer that should be utilized. If you do a lot of ensemble tracking or analog mixing like I do, then you may find the inevitable switching from unassisted monitoring to corrected monitoring to be a little jarring and maybe even disturbing to your “acclimation.” How I wish there was a freestanding hardware-based calibration/correction device that could be placed in-line before my main monitors so I could easily hear everything with proper correction, maybe even with headphone amps with their own specific correction.
Until that time comes, I still recommend Dirac Live for the wealth of knowledge it teaches you about your room, the tremendous flexibility it offers and what appears to be the best-sounding room correction algorithm on the market today.