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The Sounds Of CES 2012

I saw a lot of new tech at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show and did a number of videos that can be found in our Engineering TV CES 2012 coverage. One challenge with doing lots of videos is finding things that are easy to view. 3D HDTVs are definitely hard to do but audio is actually harder and I think that sound technology was the unsung hero of this year's show.

The importance of audio at CES actually struck me on the way home. Qmadix was giving away some of their iHarmonix earphones at the show. I just happened to be walking to my first meeting when someone handed me a card about free earphones.

Now, I haven't used any high end earphones although I do fly with somewhat expensive noise cancelling headphones. I am now going to have a tough choice because the iHarmonix earphones are great. Unfortunately, like doing videos of audio technology, you have to really hear them to know how good they are. I now hear details on music I have not heard before. The sounds are often subtle but it makes a difference.

In any case, it got me to look back on the other interviews I did at the show and a lot had to do with audio. It started with Conexant Systems. They demoed their CX20708 Superwide Band Voice Input Processor SoC with AEC in a teleconferencing application. Not only was it able to handle echo cancellation and deliver a full duplex conversation it could also cut out the movie playing in the background. Maxim Integrated Products' also had a teleconference demo as well but you can check out the video for more details. Like the headphones, you really need to hear these to really appreciate the technology.

It would be one thing if it was one audio technology but there were lots more being shown behind closed doors. IDT had a quad speaker tablet demo that would adjust the audio output based on the tablet's orientation. GenAudio showed off some spatial audio technology that was remarkable. The AstoundSound 4D can move an audio source anywhere around the listener.

Fraunhofer had some interesting technology too. It is called SAOC (Spatial Audio Object Coding). It is a forthcoming MPEG standard. It pairs audio streams with decoding software with tags on the input streams. In the demo, this was the announcer at a tennis match. The user's decoder can highlight the game's audio or the announcer. Want to hear what the announcer is saying? Just tweak the control.

Need to run off to another trade show but I'll see about writing up some of the non-audio technology I saw as well. In the mean time, check out out videos on Engineering TV.


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