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New iPod accessory maker to debut wireless products

post #1 of 48
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Next month, a new company will begin its foray into the $1 billion iPod accessory market with a wireless headphone kit for Apple Computer's iPod nano digital music players, AppleInsider has learned.

The headphone kit from Audition Products, which is reportedly based on "Liberty Link" technology developed by Aura Communication, is expected to offer quality wireless freedom for iPod nano users at a price point well below similar offerings that use Bluetooth wireless technology.

To date, tens of millions of dollars have reportedly been spent developing the Liberty Link wireless chipset that will be featured in the accessory from Audition. It uses magnetic induction to establish a digital radio link between an iPod nano base transmitter and the headphone. The technology is reportedly similar to RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), but is capable of creating a communications bubble with a range of 4-5 feet that completely surrounds the user. This limited transmission range should directly translate into longer battery life and lower accessory costs, AppleInsider has been told.

Additionally, the Liberty Link frequency spectrum is "better utilized" than competitive technologies due to the tightly controlled communications bubble. Like Bluetooth, privacy is ensured by pairing each headphone and base with an automatically generated code. However, the audio quality of Liberty Link is said to outmatch Bluetooth in most situations, as it does not suffer from pops or fades like traditional RF signals.

Liberty Link compresses the audio stream using 4:1 ADPCM (Adaptive Differential Pulse Code Modulation) before it is transmitted to the headphone. The stream is then decompressed in the headphone and broadcast to the listener. Some people who have experienced the pre-production Liberty Link systems state that they are offer "some of the best wireless experiences" so far for portable music.

Larger Images: Audition Wireless Transmitter; Audition Wireless Headphone

In pre-production tests, the wireless Liberty Link headsets "experienced almost no interference," one of these people said. The devices reportedly boast 10x better bit error rate performance than similar Bluetooth products, and will likely cost substantially less while also drawing less power. Retail pricing for the initial Audition wireless offering is expected to fall between $79 and $99, which will include the base transmitter, headphone and charger.

On the user end, functionality is quite simple. The iPod nano easily slips into the transmitter base, where the audio connection is made via the nanos headphone jack. Both the headphone and the base are reportedly powered by rechargeable Lithium Ion Polymer cells that will offer approximately 10 hours of uninterrupted playback.

Liberty Link enabled devices, such as the Audition products, can also leverage a unique "sharing" feature, where a single transmitter can be configured to broadcast to several listeners who reside in an 8-foot diameter. Once the primary transmitter has been set to sharing mode, listeners wishing to join in on the audio stream will be able to hold their headset close to the base and press a link button -- a feature well suited to two runners wanting to share a single transmitter.

Rumored iPod nano "sled" prototype

According to industry contacts, additional Liberty Link products for Apple's iPod nano and the Sony PSP may be on the way from Aura and its partners like Audition Products. Until recently, there has been little to no market for wireless headphones because consumers have not found the listening experience to be worth the price.

Aura Communications Liberty Link technology hopes to push the envelope by offering new price points for "cutting the wire" on portable audio players like the iPod, AppleInsider has been told. Another yet-to-be-announced product that may pack the technology has been described as an "iPod nano sled" (pictured above). However, further details of this device are unknown.
post #2 of 48
So it plugs into the headphone jack.
Which means there's nothing iPod-specific about it, and certainly nothing Nano-specific about it, except for the form factor.

So why don't they make a simple standalone unit that plugs into any headphone jack? It sounds like a great technology, it seems ridiculous they would spend all that money developing for one particular model of mp3 player when they don't need to. (It doesn't even connect using the iPod docking port.)

I'll assume since this is just rumor and there's no actual product information that the specs in this article aren't finalized. Looking forward to hearing more.

:d
post #3 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by dak splunder
So it plugs into the headphone jack.
Which means there's nothing iPod-specific about it, and certainly nothing Nano-specific about it, except for the form factor.

So why don't they make a simple standalone unit that plugs into any headphone jack? It sounds like a great technology, it seems ridiculous they would spend all that money developing for one particular model of mp3 player when they don't need to. (It doesn't even connect using the iPod docking port.)

I'll assume since this is just rumor and there's no actual product information that the specs in this article aren't finalized. Looking forward to hearing more.

:d

From what I understand, it is not iPod specific. But it will show up in an iPod nano accessory first.

Best,

-K
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post #4 of 48
Wireless audio devices suck!

Great however for picking up your neighbors portable phone calls, baby monitors, and cell phone conversations in crowded city though! LOL

No thanks. I'll pass.
post #5 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by BEatMaKeR
Wireless audio devices suck!

Great however for picking up your neighbors portable phone calls, baby monitors, and cell phone conversations in crowded city though! LOL

No thanks. I'll pass.

I take it you didn't actually read the post, then.
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post #6 of 48
lol thanks for the ad, ai
post #7 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by dak splunder
So it plugs into the headphone jack.
Which means there's nothing iPod-specific about it, and certainly nothing Nano-specific about it, except for the form factor.

So why don't they make a simple standalone unit that plugs into any headphone jack? It sounds like a great technology, it seems ridiculous they would spend all that money developing for one particular model of mp3 player when they don't need to. (It doesn't even connect using the iPod docking port.)

I'll assume since this is just rumor and there's no actual product information that the specs in this article aren't finalized. Looking forward to hearing more.

:d

It's actually probably not all that bad of an idea to customize this product to particular iPod models, due to the sheer quantity of iPod units that have been sold.
post #8 of 48
Does sound like an ad appleinsider, must be short of something to say!!

G5 2GHZ Power Mac, iPod Shuffle (1st Gen),iPod Nano (2nd Gen),iPod (5th Gen), Apple TV, Apple TV 2G x2, iPad 2,iPhone 4S, rMBP 15" 2.6

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G5 2GHZ Power Mac, iPod Shuffle (1st Gen),iPod Nano (2nd Gen),iPod (5th Gen), Apple TV, Apple TV 2G x2, iPad 2,iPhone 4S, rMBP 15" 2.6

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post #9 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by Kickaha
I take it you didn't actually read the post, then.

Why bother? It's more fun to make comments without actually knowing what was said. You have so much more leeway then.

I would like to get one for my desktop. I've tried several different types of wireless units, but they were all poor.

This could be made to work with anything.

You would just need an audio cable with a male stereo minijack on one end and a female on the other (available from Radioshack). The female for this device, and the male to plug into your computer, or whatever.
post #10 of 48
Press release: 1-6-06
http://www.auracomm.com/site/content...ses_1_6_05.asp

"Available 2nd quarter '06...priced about $5 in OEM volume...demoed with Creative at CES"
post #11 of 48
Bear in mind that "$5 OEM" price is for their proprietary chip.
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post #12 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by addabox
Bear in mind that "$5 OEM" price is for their proprietary chip.

If not, you have to admit that's a great deal1
post #13 of 48
That transmitter is BUTT UGLY! But, that "Sled" thing looks very nice! When Audition gets their transmitter looking like the "Sled", I'm buying.
post #14 of 48
I wonder how much thickness the sled adds to the Nano-- hard to tell from the picture.

I'm assuming that they're not getting everything, including batts, into that half inch of plastic on the bottom.
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post #15 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
If not, you have to admit that's a great deal1

Yeah, but you have to order in lots of a million!
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post #16 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by addabox
Yeah, but you have to order in lots of a million!

We can chip in!
post #17 of 48
Near field magnetic transmission has a few drawbacks. However, this isn't exactly magnetic coupling, the way RFID is. With a weakly-driven loop antenna in the 13.56MHz range, there isn't much transformer-like behavior, and this product should be thought of more as an HF Radio tuned to work in the so-called fresnel field.

1. At 13.56Mhz, It's extremely sensitive to ferromagnetic materials, and even metal in general. In other words, if your iPod or headphones are near a metal object, it might not work. Without divulging too much detail, I have spent a fair amount of time trying to get 13.56MHz RFID tags to work well in the presence of wrist-watches.

2. comparatively high power requirements. The radiation efficiency of transformers (or loop antennas) is crap. It's plausible that a higher frequency, higher data rate technology operating on a dipole antenna will offer lower power consumption and greater data rates.

3. It still creates far-field EMI.
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post #18 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by Splinemodel

At 13.56Mhz, It's extremely sensitive to ferromagnetic materials, and even metal in general. In other words, if your iPod or headphones are near a metal object, it might not work.....

Son of a bitch, once again the plate in my head constrains my choices!

Damn you, plate in my head!
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post #19 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by Splinemodel
Near field magnetic transmission has a few drawbacks. However, this isn't exactly magnetic coupling, the way RFID is. With a weakly-driven loop antenna in the 13.56MHz range, there isn't much transformer-like behavior, and this product should be thought of more as an HF Radio tuned to work in the so-called fresnel field.

1. At 13.56Mhz, It's extremely sensitive to ferromagnetic materials, and even metal in general. In other words, if your iPod or headphones are near a metal object, it might not work. Without divulging too much detail, I have spent a fair amount of time trying to get 13.56MHz RFID tags to work well in the presence of wrist-watches.

2. comparatively high power requirements. The radiation efficiency of transformers (or loop antennas) is crap. It's plausible that a higher frequency, higher data rate technology operating on a dipole antenna will offer lower power consumption and greater data rates.

3. It still creates far-field EMI.

That's very interesting. I'm not familiar with fresnel fields in this area. Are you talking about linear radiators? Or are you considering the loop to be a array element pattern? The design of that is critical, but good design should maximize that efficiency. But the math can get wonky.

As the back plate of most iPods is some alloy of SS, that itself could cause a problem. But I don't know which alloy it is, 200, 300, or 400 series. That could make a big difference.
post #20 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
That's very interesting. I'm not familiar with fresnel fields in this area. Are you talking about linear radiators? Or are you considering the loop to be a array element pattern? The design of that is critical, but good design should maximize that efficiency. But the math can get wonky.

As the back plate of most iPods is some alloy of SS, that itself could cause a problem. But I don't know which alloy it is, 200, 300, or 400 series. That could make a big difference.

Strap on the tanks, we're going deep.

Before I get too far into loop antenna application concepts, I will quickly mention that the antenna can be tuned with the iPod nearby, but in these cases it's very tough to get optimal impedance, and the matching network soaks up some power itself. This just means less antenna efficiency.

Anyway, a loop antenna is not like a dipole. 13.56MHz has a wavelength of about 22.5 meters, so making a 1/2 wave or even 1/4 wave dipole is out of the question. Instead, you can build a resonant circuit from some capacitors and a wire loop that acts electrically as an inductor. The perimeter of the loop, the area of the loop, and the geometry of the loop determine the characteristics of the antenna. It's a really simple idea, but unless you're using a circular, single turn loop whose perimeter is less than 1/10 wavelength, loop antennas are very complicated to simulate (and design) without some pretty serious numerical methods. Given the size of the units, I'm guessing the antennas used in this product fall into the simple category.

Moving on, the two loop antennas in the system act similarly as two coils in a transformer. The further the coils are removed from each other, the less the system is like a transformer, and the more it is like a regular, far-field antenna. Depending on the sizes of the two loops and the size difference of the two loops, the radius of the near-field regime may be different. In the loop antenna system, this said regime can be noticed by the coupling co-deviation the two coils cause on each other, which tends to shift the resonant frequency and attenuate transmission. (This is why RFID systems are designed to distribute their message bandwidth in a very particular way). At a certain distance, it mostly go away, but until there's at LEAST one wavelength separation, the system behavior isn't quite like a nice, far-field system. The intermediate range is sometimes known as the fresnel field.
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post #21 of 48
1:4 compressiion??

and at 128kbps being in the 1:10 compression range.... wont this sound like CRAP?
post #22 of 48
Lossy vs. lossless.

Compression rate has nothing to do with the final result in a lossless algorithm.
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post #23 of 48
all the same i wouldnt stick it in an advert.... would you?
post #24 of 48
Uh yes, most certainly I would, because otherwise engineers are going to wonder how the heck you're pushing the raw data across the link without losing fidelity.

This *preserves* the quality. Not their problem that some members of the public (who are not the targeted audience of that release) don't understand the technology.
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post #25 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by Kickaha
Uh yes, most certainly I would, because otherwise engineers are going to wonder how the heck you're pushing the raw data across the link without losing fidelity.

This *preserves* the quality. Not their problem that some members of the public (who are not the targeted audience of that release) don't understand the technology.

If they say that it's lossless, that should be enough. People understand that.
post #26 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by dak splunder
...it seems ridiculous they would spend all that money developing for one particular model of mp3 player when they don't need to..."

I think it's great when devices are made that are "iPod-only" because it strengthens the iPod, which is good for Apple and good for consumers because a strong iPod business allows accessories to be standardized around them making it safer for companies to innovate, and ultimatley gives consumers more to choose from. Apple's predictable iPod release cycles and market strength actually attract third parties by making it possible for accesory manufacturers to be innovative and still manage thier inventory successfully by avoiding excess inventory (to a degree.)
So if someone wants to sell an "iPod-only" accessory that's OK with me.
post #27 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
If they say that it's lossless, that should be enough. People understand that.

Yeah, but engineers know that 4:1 adacp is lossless, and engineers are the ones buying the asics. The article from AI goes much further than any documentaion available from Aura's site. The advertised 410kbps stream should be enough to provide lossless, CD quality sound if they use a 4:1 compression, with some extra room in the bandwith as well. That's enough information to let the integrator know exactly what the asic is meant to be capable of.
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post #28 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by Splinemodel
Yeah, but engineers know that 4:1 adacp is lossless, and engineers are the ones buying the asics. The article from AI goes much further than any documentaion available from Aura's site. The advertised 410kbps stream should be enough to provide lossless, CD quality sound if they use a 4:1 compression, with some extra room in the bandwith as well. That's enough information to let the integrator know exactly what the asic is meant to be capable of.

I haven't looked at the site.

But, 4:1 should do it, though that's a bit high for lossless in general. It would have to be a very good algorithm.
post #29 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
I haven't looked at the site.

But, 4:1 should do it, though that's a bit high for lossless in general. It would have to be a very good algorithm.

Wow, this is getting technical.

For most material the Microsoft ADPCM algorithm is the equivalent of AIFF. But compounding compression (say AAC with ADPCM) could ring out a few artifacts which the casual listener is not going to notice.

I listened to a Creative prototype using the Aura LibertyLink chip last year at CES. The audio quality is more than suitable for "portable applications". Of course the compression algorithm must be up to par... but voicing the headphone speakers is probably going to be more important. Most interesting is that on the CES floor, where there are hundreds of interferers (BlueTooth, WiFi, etc) there were no dropouts in the audio.

Anyway, the bigger question... is it worth the money to cut the wire?
post #30 of 48
if this is avalible NOW why is it on the FUTURE HARDWARE thread?
post #31 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by Trendannoyer
if this is avalible NOW why is it on the FUTURE HARDWARE thread?

Near future?
Audition product is available next month. From the write-up it looks like other LibertyLink based accessories will come out in coming months.
post #32 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by podlife
Wow, this is getting technical.

For most material the Microsoft ADPCM algorithm is the equivalent of AIFF. But compounding compression (say AAC with ADPCM) could ring out a few artifacts which the casual listener is not going to notice.

I listened to a Creative prototype using the Aura LibertyLink chip last year at CES. The audio quality is more than suitable for "portable applications". Of course the compression algorithm must be up to par... but voicing the headphone speakers is probably going to be more important. Most interesting is that on the CES floor, where there are hundreds of interferers (BlueTooth, WiFi, etc) there were no dropouts in the audio.

Anyway, the bigger question... is it worth the money to cut the wire?

AIFF is not a compressed signal though. That's straight off a CD, which is not compressed.

But you can't use two compression algorithms at once in any effective way. A fully compressed signal is already at the lowest information state it can be in for that purpose. One algorithm can be somewhat more effective than another, but to apply one over the other is not good practice, or very useful.

Try to Zip a file, and then use Stuffit. You will see what I mean.

Manufacturers don't "voice" headphones the way some small hi end companies do speaker systems.
post #33 of 48
Hurm.

AAC -> audio -> headphone jack -> wire -> headphones, right?

AAC -> audio -> headphone jack -> Aura box -> ADPCM -> wireless -> headphones

Unless I'm *completely* misinterpreting the scheme, ADPCM isn't being applied to a compressed format at all, but the decompressed audio signal.

cf Apple Lossless and AirPort Extreme.
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post #34 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
Try to Zip a file, and then use Stuffit. You will see what I mean.

That's because zip and stuffit are relatively close in max entropy levels.
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post #35 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by Splinemodel
That's because zip and stuffit are relatively close in max entropy levels.

Yes. That was the point I made about the lowest information state. It's exactly the same thing, assuming a perfect algorithm. That's why there is no point to using two algorithm's. If one is lossless, that's the best that can be done. Any minor gain by using another, different one, after that, that might be realised, would not be worth the extra computation time.
post #36 of 48
Manufacturers don't "voice" headphones the way some small hi end companies do speaker systems. [/B][/QUOTE]

Low end headphones are not voiced, but the speaker driver is matched to the cavity.

For medium end headphones the vent tape on the back of the driver is changed to give a response best suited for the cavity. You can make a tinny or boomy headphone by playing with the vent tape, the cavity and the venting.

iPod earbuds, made by Foster, get extra bass response having the longer tube extending over the wire.
post #37 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by Kickaha
Hurm.

AAC -> audio -> headphone jack -> wire -> headphones, right?

AAC -> audio -> headphone jack -> Aura box -> ADPCM -> wireless -> headphones

Unless I'm *completely* misinterpreting the scheme, ADPCM isn't being applied to a compressed format at all, but the decompressed audio signal.

cf Apple Lossless and AirPort Extreme.

I see it as:

AAC (or MP3) from iPod to iPod DAC to 3.5mm audio jack to input of LibertyLink

LibertyLink compresses 4:1 ADPCM and transmits over the link.

Headphone LibertyLink chip receives the transmitted ADPCM, decompresses, sends to headphone DAC and through to speakers.

I've read past papers on LibertyLink. The transmission scheme is GMSK but that would have nothing to do with the audio.

Paper mentions a "back channel" which is transmitted from the headphone back to the base unit. It's for power control, bit error checking, and offers the possibility for the headphone to control the player in future implementations. If that is used via the iPod OmniConnector then "made for iPod" license will have to be paid.
post #38 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by podlife
Manufacturers don't "voice" headphones the way some small hi end companies do speaker systems.

Low end headphones are not voiced, but the speaker driver is matched to the cavity.

For medium end headphones the vent tape on the back of the driver is changed to give a response best suited for the cavity. You can make a tinny or boomy headphone by playing with the vent tape, the cavity and the venting.

iPod earbuds, made by Foster, get extra bass response having the longer tube extending over the wire. [/B][/QUOTE]

I should go and tell Grado and Sennheiser about that. Neither do that. I mention them. because I've worked with both in the past. Joe was, for many years, until he passed away, a friend of mine.

Matching a driver and case isn't "voicing". We do that by formula. The same way we design free standing speakers. The only difference is that we need to use formulas that simulate the ear cavity as well, instead of calculating total power into a room.

Voicing is listening to a design late in the design process and then doing final tuning and changes to the design, by ear. The designer does that. A very few designs may allow you to "Tune" for your preferred balance, but that is not voicing.
post #39 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
Yes. That was the point I made about the lowest information state. It's exactly the same thing, assuming a perfect algorithm. That's why there is no point to using two algorithm's.

Well, JPEG is actually an assortment of lossless algorithms along with a lossy one. If I remember correctly, JPEG uses both Huffmann encoding and RLE. But I understand what you mean. In any case, this 4:1 alg that's the topic here is done on the decompressed AAC/MP3 audio signal.
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post #40 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by Splinemodel
Well, JPEG is actually an assortment of lossless algorithms along with a lossy one. If I remember correctly, JPEG uses both Huffmann encoding and RLE. But I understand what you mean. In any case, this 4:1 alg that's the topic here is done on the decompressed AAC/MP3 audio signal.

That's correct. I was responding to a post that, I believe, was suggesting that two separate compression schemes were being used.
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