Audio News for February 28, 2017

Home Electronics Spying on You? –  The convenience of your Amazon Echo and Google Home could come at a cost, according to some security experts. The “wake word” is either “Alexa” for the Echo or “Hey, Google” for Google Home, but in order to recognize those words, the two devices are, by definition, listening to everything you say, even when you think your are out of earshot. That’s just a bit scary. And it’s not just those two companies who can access your devices. Somehow outside your home can access your machine and potentially use these items to spy on you. One security expert says “Make sure you have a firewall, and certainly use antivirus and malware software on your computers.”

Google Home Adds Voice Shopping – You can now order everyday items just by asking Google Home. You’ll have to set up a default address and payment method, of course. Just to the Google Home app More Settings and select Payment under the Google Account Setting section. Agree to the terms, enter your card information and billing address under Payment Method. Follow the on-screen prompts and select your delivery address.  Over 50 retailers already participate and thru April 30 you won’t have to pay membership fees to participate at stores that typically require one. Ordering items over $100 is not allowed.

3D Force Touch Remotes Enable Next Generation HMI –  Peratech’s Quantum Tunnelling Composite sensor technology, in the Humax remotes, offers a user experience that customers are looking for in next-generation TV, set-top box, and Over The Top service remote controls. A Peratech CEO said “(We) are now collaborating on customer projects that will improve the home entertainment user experience within the next year.” The premium model Humax remote eliminates most of the single-function buttons and restores easy one-handed control to the user’s multi-media system. Full press and gesture functionality is offered thru a multi-touch force sensor, and it has longer battery life compared with a capacitive touchpad solution. The touch experience is intuitive, precise and reliable, even when using gloved fingers in the presence of moisture.

The Rise of Hi-Res Audio – Smartphones have not been seen as serious audio equipment because of the compromises that must be made for portability, size and price. But lately there is an undercurrent that is turning ears. Attention is being made to digital audio quality. Audio CDs have been the reference for quality and details, but hi-res audio, which samples at 96Hz, 192Hz or even higher, and at 24-bits word length instead of 16-bits, is slowly becoming the lossless audio format of choice. DACs turn the hi-res digital signal to analog to operate the speakers or headphones. They also reduce the noise levels. People are becoming aware of how bad their listening experience can be on smartphones, and the stage seems to be set for a hi-res audio revolution on smartphones, but it won’t happen soon, because of two related issues: cost and space. Most audio playback hardware today isn’t quite up to the standards of hi-res and you may not hear the difference between your MP3 or CD audio files and hi-res ones unless your improve your playback gear greatly, which is not inexpensive. And there are few streaming services which offer better than CD-quality and may not actually qualify for hi-res audio, which is not yet set in stone as is hi-def video. Hi-res streaming also magnifies the file size factor, as all of these higher-res audio files do. And don’t forget the higher-fi of vinyl, 45 rpm, direct-disc and tape – although it is not hi-res.

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