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AXUM: THE FUTURE OF WIRELESS AUDIO
Uncategorized | | 7. January, 2017

This article is the transcript of an interview with Igal Golva, CEO of Axum earphones, wireless earphones with secure fittings, designed for people doing exercise. A really interesting article about why these earphones are different to others on the market and what their plans are for the future of the company.

Mobile audio has always been a difficult balancing act. The need for great audio on the go has never been more prevalent. With smartphones now a staple for most people’s daily commute, exercise and fitness, the need for an audio solution that can be portable while still sounding good is the holy grail.

Apple, with the iPhone 7 has also forced people’s hands. The headphones they used to use are no longer as easy to pull out and plug in without the use of a dongle. This is where Bluetooth audio options come into play, and where the Axum wireless headphones are planning to make a splash. Currently on Indiegogo, the Axum are aiming to give people great audio, while ensuring they maintain that mobile, ultraportable feel. Currently at 528% funded, the Axum is proving to be a product many people want to get their hands on. We had a chance to talk to Igal Golvan, CEO at Axum, about what the headphones can do for audio and fitness and how they hope to change the way people view Bluetooth audio.

Axum: The Future of Wireless Audio 1

CGMagazine: Could you tell us a little about what Axum does and how these new headphones stand above the competition?

Igal Golvan: First of all, we not only offer four hours playtime (while others offer 1.5-2 hours) you can also get an additional four with the portable charging case. We achieved it by eliminating any unnecessary features. We are aiming to reach fitness junkies like us that need three things: fit, sound and battery life.

Our designers made a unique design that will fit you during the most extreme sport activities. In the last months all we did was test the earphones in every sport activity you can imagine .This included cycling, running, CrossFit , snowboarding and even sky diving .

The issue with True Wireless Earbuds is that all our competitors see this product as the latest technology in the headphones industry and as such they’ve aimed the technology at early adopters. Unlike them we understand the real potential of the product to become the mainstream earbuds of athletes, as the lack of cables is something so comfortable no one can even imagine, only when doing sport activities and listening to Axum earphones will you really understand the definition of freedom!

Axum: The Future of Wireless Audio 2

CGM: Could you go over what M-voiD® sound technology brings to the table?

IG: Sure. M-voiD stands for Multidisciplinary virtually optimized industrial Design. It’s a technology for the realistic simulation of audio systems using CAD data. It is a sophisticated technology that paves the way to reproduce outstanding sound performance to let consumers discover that earphones deliver the emotions and excitement comparable with a concert.

Realistic and predictive simulations by means of a fully coupled multiphysical electrical-mechanical-acoustical simulation model are the heart and driving backbone of M-voiD® technology. The major advantage of M-voiD® is that acoustic problems can be identified and resolved in the virtual domain before any prototype is being built.

Sound characteristics are virtually measurable and assessable and can be optimized on the virtual model. It is not just limited to the graphical reproduction. M-voiD® listens to the virtual sound of the earphone already on the computer by means of a special reproduction technique (called auralization), enabling improved sound. Bottom line, while even the largest companies out there can test 100 or maybe 10,000 prototypes to check and improve the sound quality before releasing the final product, we had the ability to test sound quality from over 10 million prototypes.

Besides that, Konzept-X also helped us with the driver design itself to maximize the results after we’ve changed the internal design.

Axum: The Future of Wireless Audio 3

CGM: With your Indigogo doing so well, do you foresee this will delay the final release?

IG: Exactly the opposite. We planned to wait until the funding period is over to head into mass production, but now that we understand the demand we’ll start doing it ASAP.

CGM: Why the choice to go with Indigogo over an option such as Kickstarter?

IG: We thought about KS, however the Indiegogo team was much more supportive and offered lots of relevant information on how to succeed with crowdfunding . We are product people and don’t understand crowdfunding, so a supportive team was something very important for us.

CGM: Do you plan to offer a retail version of these headphones?

IG: Of course, but first we’ll ship everything to our backers and then we’ll think about retail.

CGM: For the gamer on the go, will these offer anything beyond what is already in the wild?

IG: The perfect fit of Axum earbuds is something like you’ve never experienced before, you can see the bulky design of other brands such as Samsung and Motorola The last thing you want to do is wear those gigantic things all day long.

Axum: The Future of Wireless Audio 4

CGM: How do you think these headphones will do with the fitness crowd beyond just the music listener?

IG: We believe that beside the sound quality, the fit and comfort is something they’ll be addicted to. We noticed the reaction of the people while testing them out in the gym and we guarantee that once you try Axum earbuds you’ll never be able to use wires again!

CGM: Are there any obstacles you will need to overcome to bring these to market?

IG: Yes, there are many obstacles of unawareness from the customers. Many people are not familiar with this concept and think of it as a regular mono Bluetooth ear piece, so we are heading to a long journey of explaining our product and turning it into mainstream.

Axum: The Future of Wireless Audio 5

CGM: How do you feel these headphones will do with a crowded market? What sets Axum apart?

IG: We have full confidence in our product. First of all we know 100% that no matter how good your BT earbuds are, if they are not True Wireless they can’t compete with us. As for other True Wireless companies out there, based on their design they’ve never thought about athletes as their potential customers and it’s a shame as this concept is perfect for fitness and exercising. So we already have a huge advantage on them.

What exactly is a walkie talkie headset
Uncategorized | | 24. December, 2016

A Walkie Talkie is a handheld receiver or portable radio. Walkie talkies come in a pair and they communicate quietly with one another using radio waves, on a single shared frequency band.

Almost all of us grew up with walkie talkies. As children, and especially before the age of mobile phones and technology, we all had a pair and played with them in our gardens.

Walkie talkies have made a comeback. Or maybe they never really went out of style but now they’re sophisticated.

Each unit is battery powered and has an antenna for sending and receiving radio wave message. There is a transmitter / receiver and a loudspeaker. The loudspeaker doubles up as a microphone. There is a button that you push to talk, pretty much the same way that an intercom works. Some more sophisticated walkie talkies have separate loudspeakers and microphones; it just depends on what you need the walkie talkie for.

Walkie Talkies with noise cancelling headsets

Technology has changed so much and become so much more sophisticated. In the old days, think of the crackles that came with walkie talkies. It was often very difficult to hear what the other person was saying. But a will reduce or remove any unwanted sounds by using active noise control. Note that this is very different from passive headphones which use technique such as soundproofing. Noise cancelling is not soundproofing.

Our worlds are busy and we become bombarded and overwhelmed by everything around us. We need to listen to some things, but we want to cut out others. Noise Cancelling allows us to do this, while still allowing us to listen to the things we want to listen to at the volume we want them.

Pros of a walkie talkie headset?

Remember when we used to listen to music really loud so we could block out all the other external noise? You don’t need to do this anymore. walkie talkie headsets will block out most excess or excessive sound, or the ones you want blocked out anyway. You can now listen to your music at the volume you want, which does not need to be crazy, and the other external sounds (baby crying, man snoring next to you) will be blocked out anyway. Finally, you can listen to and enjoy music in the way you want to enjoy it, at a natural volume. You can hear the fabulous music, have a rich listening experience, and still not be disturbed by chatter around you.

Noise cancelling headphones are fabulous for when you travel or commute. You may be the kind of person who gets on a plane and train and chats to everyone around you. But you may be more solitary and want to sit down and zone out. You can do this easily with a walkie talkie headset. The beauty is that on a plane you won’t hear the noise of the aircraft or its passengers, but you will still hear the safety announcements.

It’s really easy to work in a noisy environment with noise cancelling headphones. You can focus easily without being disturbed and can make use of any space, productively. You can even go and study your history while at a party or in a restaurant. It is also a good idea to use them at home, while studying for exams or so; they cut out the excess noise and you can focus totally on your work.

Students used to turn up the volume of their earphones in order to cut out the outside world’. But with a walkie talkie headset they are finding it is easier to study when music is at a lower volume and when the outside distractions have been eliminated.

Cons to noise cancelling headphones?

There are always cons to everything. Some parents may say they would prefer no headphones at all. They like their children to be available and to engage more and talk more, but we know this is the way of the world. Everyone uses headphones; parents included/ Use them in moderation of course, but still be sociable and take time out in the day, be headphone free, and engage.

Noise cancelling headphones are not very cheap and are in fact possibly even ten times more expensive than ordinary headphones. However, like anything that costs money, they will last for a long time and are super reliable. They may cost more money but will ultimately give a much better noise-free experience.

Lots of research has gone into the design of these special noise cancelling headphones. Each set consists of inner components that cancel out the disturbing external sounds. Ordinary headphones do not have these components, i.e., you cannot cut out the outside sounds. It is quite obvious then, why noise cancelling headphones are more expensive.

These internal components also use up a lot of power. The power can come from internal replaceable batteries or they can be rechargeable. The walkie talkie headset that carry their own power supply means they are heavier than ordinary headphones. Not all sets carry their own power supply. The ones that are rechargeable are lighter, but they can drain the devices they need to plug into for power.

The quality of sound when using a noise cancelling walkie talkie headset can be compromised. It is unusual though and it is only the most sensitive of ears that would pick this up. There have been very few complaints of a tinny almost mechanical sound, but these complaints are few and far between.

Not all sounds are blocked out by a walkie talkie headset, although we did mention this under pros as well. It is never possible to cancel out all external sounds, but we still need to be able to hear police sirens, pilot announcements or the high pitched screaming of your next door neighbor. All every day external sounds though are muffled and definitely much quieter, and the sounds that you don’t need to hear, are gone.

Ericsson first to deliver 5G NR radio
Uncategorized | | 20. December, 2016

We are seeing a new era in communications at the moment, the move from tetra and RF to the mobile network. The uk’s emergency services will be moved over to EE’s ESN system slowly until 2020 using Motorola kit designed particularly for the technology. The natural evolution is 5G, which we won’t see for many years, but Ericsson have taken the baton and are running with it.

  • World’s first commercial 5G New Radio (NR) radio for massive MIMO and Multi-user MIMO coming in 2017
  • New additions to Ericsson Radio System address key requirements of 5G, in today’s networks
  • Pioneering Industrialized Network Rollout Services solution facilitates complete rollout from configuration to verification in a single visit

Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) is commercializing the world’s first 5G NR radio for massive MIMO, with the first deployments coming in 2017. Together with the Ericsson 5G Plug-Ins announced in June and Ericsson’s already commercially available Radio System Baseband 5216, which currently powers Ericsson’s award-winning Radio Test Bed, Ericsson is first to deliver all components of a 5G access network.

Tom Keathley, senior vice president, Wireless Network Architecture and Design, AT&T, says: “As we accelerate toward 5G, it’s beneficial to have a flexible radio platform that can be deployed not only for LTE, but also versions of future 5G NR standards.”

AIR 6468 combines advanced antennas with a large number of steerable ports to enable 5G technologies of beamforming, Massive MIMO and — building on that — Multi-user MIMO, initialized as MU-MIMO. These capabilities improve user experience while enhancing the capacity and coverage of the network and reducing interference. The new radio provides LTE support as well, so it is applicable in today’s networks.

Huang Yuhong, Deputy Head, China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI), says: “Massive-MIMO, also known as 3D MIMO, is an important milestone in China Mobile’s technology roadmap from 4G to 5G. We are very happy that Ericsson’s new radio product is coming to market soon to meet our needs and enable us to integrate 5G technologies into our existing networks.”

A host of new additions to the Ericsson Radio System are also coming that address key 5G requirements, in today’s networks.

Daniel Staub, Head of Joint Mobile Group, Swisscom, says: “On the road to 5G, we will continue to invest in LTE advancements that will become part of our 5G networks. For us, it is key that Ericsson has chosen to focus on advances that will support us in this evolution. These enhancements will further improve the customer experience.”

Additional new Ericsson Radio System gear addresses 5G concepts

  • Three new radios support Gigabit speeds for LTE and provide further flexibility in design: Radio 4407 and Radio 4412 enable 4×4 MIMO in one radio unit for FDD and TDD mode respectively, and Radio 8808 for advanced TDD beamforming applications
  • Addressing both the need for unlicensed spectrum options and the growing emphasis on small cells is the Radio 2205, a micro solution on unlicensed spectrum that is fully integrated in Ericsson Radio System, using the same baseband and network management
  • Two new baseband units support the growing need for densification: the outdoor micro Baseband 6502 and macro Baseband 6303 with Ericsson Rail System mounting for flexible site builds
  • Addressing interference issues in dense builds, Baseband P614 enables new band activation on challenging sites by mitigating Passive Inter Modulation, referred to as PIM mitigation, from static and dynamic sources both inside and outside the antenna system
  • Spectrum optimization is a growing need and Uplink Spectrum Analyzer is an Ericsson-unique software solution to remotely identify external interference without the need for costly measurement equipment and site visits
  • Exclusive to Ericsson is instant power sharing, used in the wideband Radio 2242. This capability allows power to be instantly shared between carriers, standards and bands, optimizing the use of radio resources
  • Cloud RAN will be an important 5G network architecture and Baseband C608 provides high-performance switching in Elastic RAN deployments

Peter Jarich, Vice President, Consumer and Infrastructure Services, Current Analysis, says: “Mobile operators, today, are clearly focused on the race to 5G commercialization, while also continuing to invest in their existing LTE networks. With a new 5G radio and LTE offerings which echo key 5G concepts – small cells, licensed-unlicensed band combinations, Cloud RAN, network densification, spectrum optimization – Ericsson’s new portfolio additions and Ericsson Radio System innovations provide a compelling way forward.”

To support new network builds, Ericsson has created the industry’s first Industrialized Network Rollout Services solution. The Network Deployment Delivery Platform coupled with Ericsson’s pioneering process facilitates the complete configuration, installation, integration, shakedown and handover of a fully verified site, ready in a single site visit.

Arun Bansal, Head of Business Unit Network Products, Ericsson, says: “Ericsson has driven innovation in every generation of mobile technology and now we are set to over-deliver on an aggressive promise. We are introducing the new hardware that 5G Plug-Ins, announced in June, will run on, so that the first operators can start to deploy 5G infrastructure.  And, we are also launching innovations that improve both the performance and efficiency of today’s networks using concepts that will evolve into 5G.”

We found this news story on the Communication news website

DJs Shouldn’t Have to Live With Constant Ringing in Their Ears
Uncategorized | | 20. December, 2016

When you think about DJs you don’t worry about their hearing, but this is a real issue in the music world, they seem to be slow in picking up this issue, probably because the industry can be full of bedroom DJs, that don’t consider hearing protection. As the article below says, it interferes with the mixing. This article was originally published on THUMP Canada. 

I’m waiting to get my hearing tested and I’m scared. Most of my work as a music journalist, along with my social life, has revolved around loud music for more than two decades. While I often wear cheap foam earplugs, I haven’t been as consistent as I should have been, and I’m particularly worried about is the damage I’ve done while DJing.

I was never a famous touring DJ, but spent many years playing long shifts on a weekly basis at Toronto bars, sprinkled with occasional club and warehouse party gigs on larger sound systems. I’ve never worn any hearing protection in the booth, as I found earplugs interfered too much with mixing. Gradually I’ve noticed that I’ve been turning up the monitors over the course of a long night, and the ringing in my ears was taking longer and longer to fade away after each gig. A few years ago, I started to realize I was having trouble keeping up with conversations in situations where there was a lot of background noise.

Then one day that familiar ringing never stopped.

Even though hearing loss caused by loud music is a well-known reality, most working artists view it as an issue they’ll deal with when they’re retired, not aware of the fact that it can often impact artists at the height of their careers.

“I would go home after a gig and my ears would be ringing really badly, and then one day I noticed that they never stopped ringing anymore,” says Toronto house DJ and producer Sydney Blu, who’s been playing regularly since 2000. “Not long after that, I noticed that whenever I’m in a nightclub and someone talks to me in my right ear, I have to stop them and put my left ear to their mouth.”

She eventually got herself fitted for custom musician earplugs, but found she could never get used to DJing while wearing them. Instead, Blu just tries to keep her monitors as quiet as possible, and turns them down completely in-between mixes. “Most of the older DJs that I know all have tinnitus. I wish I had thought about it earlier, and realized how bad it could get.”

There is no way to reverse tinnitus currently, and the treatment options for hearing loss are still in their infancy. For busy DJs who are constantly touring and playing festivals around the world, many don’t notice the ringing in their ears getting worse until it’s too late.

“I think it’s rife in the DJ field,” says NYC house music veteran Roger Sanchez. “A lot of people have tinnitus and they haven’t even identified it. They’re just so accustomed to their ears ringing, and they think it’s just because of their gig the night before. But if you’re playing three or four times a week, your exposure is almost constant. Then when they step back, they realize they have tinnitus.”

Sanchez has been performing for 36 years, and started to experience permanent ringing towards the end of the 90s. Like Blu, he got himself fitted for custom earplugs, and feels they’ve saved him from further damage. However, he admits there was a learning curve when it came to mixing while wearing hearing protection.

“In the beginning, I felt like I couldn’t hear things clearly. It was like someone had put their hands over my ears. It took me a while to acclimate, but what I started noticing was that I could turn my monitors up, but it didn’t sound piercing any more. I also had them put bass bins in a lot of booths, which helped compensate.”

Sanchez says that it’s become much more common in recent years for big name DJs to wear custom earplugs while performing. He finally got tested properly in 2010, and found there was a significant dip in upper range of his hearing around the 800hz range, but was relieved that the loss wasn’t worse. The persistent ringing in his ears is still there though.

“Right now I hear the ringing, but I’ve just become accustomed to it. I don’t notice it when I’m walking on the street, or if I’m not paying attention to it, but the second I quiet everything down, the ringing starts. It’s not too loud, thank god. I think using the filters prevented it from getting to that level. I know some people who have it very loud.”

Custom musician earplugs can cost more than $200, but they’re one of the few options for DJs who need to be able to accurately hear the effect of their EQ tweaks and filtering. The cheap disposable earplugs you can buy at the drugstore will protect your ears the same amount, but change the sound so much that few performers use them.

“A cheap foam earplug might bring the sound down by 25db at one frequency, and 10db at another,” explains Adam Rhodes, the US director of hearing protection company ACS Custom. “They muffle the sound, because it’s not a true response. You can’t hear anything, it takes away the enjoyment of the experience, so you just end up taking them out. When you’ve got the right filter though, you’re not sacrificing the quality at all: you’re just turning it down.”

ACS works with many of the biggest names in electronic music, from Tiesto to Zedd to Deadmau5. Rhodes says that there’s much more awareness of the issue now, although too often artists come to them after they’ve already done permanent damage. “Pretty much every week we hear someone say they wish they’d heard about this ten years ago. We hear that often,” he says. “I think it’s all about education. We’re at a festival every weekend in the summers, trying to make it as accessible to them as possible.”

Many touring musicians have switched to in-ear monitors in recent years, which block out external sounds, while amplifying what they need to hear. In the electronic music world however, they are far less common, as they require DJs to completely rethink their approach to mixing.

“In-ear monitors haven’t always worked for DJs,” admits Rhodes. “They like to wear the cans over their ears, so they can take them off, and do a mix with one ear covered. There are some DJs who use them though, like Deadmau5. We have one model now that have ambient microphones built in, so that they can still hear the mix. That’s kind of the next level, but it’s still hard to persuade DJs to use them. They’re so used to wearing headphones and it’s almost part of their outfit when they’re performing.”

One artist who has transitioned to in-ear monitors is Dutch DJ and producer Laidback Luke. He started wearing custom earplugs in the early 2000s, after becoming concerned about tinnitus and a growing lack of sensitivity to loud volume levels. Around 2008, he decided to give in-ear monitors a try and has used them ever since.

“I just wasn’t getting the definition I was looking for in DJ monitors. We tried the in-ear monitoring, and I was so happy with the clarity. Even in big halls with lots of reverb, my monitoring would always stay the same,” he says. “It was a revelation to me. I could keep the volume low, and still hear every little detail in the song. I couldn’t hear the crowd anymore, but that just made me work harder to get applause.” It wasn’t until three years ago that he finally got up the courage to get his hearing tested.

Thankfully, it turns out that his early adoption of ear protection had a huge impact, and the results were completely normal. Even the constant ringing and beeping that panicked him early in his career has subsided.

My own ringing isn’t nearly as bad as it was a year ago, but it sure seems loud in the complete silence of the soundproof booth in the downtown Toronto clinic where my hearing is being assessed. I struggle to hear the tones, but feel optimistic that I’m able to notice some of the very high-pitched signals they’re feeding me. However, I’m also noticing that there are long pauses during where I probably should be hearing something.

“Do you work with heavy machinery?” the doctor asks me as he looks at my results, which makes my heart skip a beat. When I explain that I’m around loud music constantly, he tells me that explains what the chart is telling him, and why the highest frequency range of my hearing is still decent.

“It’s not actually too bad. Your left ear has a dip at 1K, but it’s still within the normal range. Your right ear has a much larger dip though, at 4K. You should really get yourself a pair of custom musician earplugs.”

I leave his office feeling relief that my hearing isn’t worse, but embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to take it seriously. Thankfully, it’s not too late for me to stop things from getting worse.

Benjamin Boles is on Twitter.

LeBlanc: Protect your hearing it is irreplaceable
Uncategorized | | 15. December, 2016

This is an excellent story about how hearing protection is sometimes be essential, and when you’re on the shooting range it has to be vital. But it is important to get the right set of headphones that will protect your hearing sufficiently. Lessons can be learnt from this excellent case study.

There is no doubt that we all take our senses of sight, smell, and hearing for granted as long as we are strong and healthy and everything is working well. When we are young we tend to believe that we are indestructible and readily adopt the idea that “it will never happen to me.” Consequently, we can develop some bad habits and be a little loose when it comes to preventative measures for almost anything.

I know because that was my attitude at thirty years old when my eye doctor made a comment in passing that my eyes were perfect, but the chances are I would be needing reading glasses by the time I was 50. I scoffed, but you could almost have set your watch by it because by the time I was in my late 40’s my arms started to get shorter when it came to reading, tying on fishing lures and other things that required scrutiny up close. At 50 I was wearing reading glasses.

Growing up I never bothered too much about wearing ear protection. When I was plinking it was with a .22 rifle that only put out a little noise if you were the shooter so the thought of hearing protections seemed ludicrous. When hunting I do not know if I have ever heard my firearm discharge and beside that unless I was dove hunting I seldom shot too many shots anyway.

The change of heart came when I started shooting on an indoor range, while in the Air Force. I noticed after shooting a few rounds with my .22 caliber, Ruger Single Six that my ears would ring for a while afterward. One night a grizzled old Master Sargent suggested I wear ear protectors or take a chance of damaging my hearing. I took the recommendation to heart and have been wearing them ever since. The result has been that after many years of shooting .22’s, large caliber handguns, rifles and shotguns my hearing is still intact and working well.

Shooting is not the only activity that can cause hearing problem as any loud noise can damage your hearing. The intense vibration caused by loud noises can injure or destroy the hair cells inside the cochlea, so they no longer function to transmit nerve impulses to the brain. If that happens, you will experience hearing changes.

Hearing protection is needed anytime one is exposed to sounds above 80 decibels (dB). Normal human conversation runs about 30 to 35 dB. At its peak level, the sound of a 12-gauge shotgun is about 140 dB. 9mm runs around 159 dB and a .38 special with a six-inch barrel is about 156 dB, a .22 LR pistol with the same length barrel 140, an M-16 is about 154, a .45 ACP pistol is 155, and a .357 Magnum revolver is 164. All of them are around double the safe sound level. Just to be on the safe side I used to wear muff type hearing protectors and usually ear plugs also when on the range.

For range use today there is an array of muff style hearing protectors. The new style that I now use have not only hearing protection, but also hearing enhancement. The controls on each ear can be tuned to match your individual optimum hearing and increase the volume up to eight times normal. So when the range master gives a command or when you are speaking with a companion on the shooting line you can speak in a normal voice and hear them as well or better than without the power muffs. Yet when you shoot the sound activated compression circuit reduces the sound from the shot to a noise reduction rate of 24dB.

This is very important on a shooting range because I have missed range commands in the past from the range master simply because I could not hear them through my hearing protection.

The new muffs I use are from Walker’s but they offer many other styles in their Game Ear series. These are unlike the muff style protectors as the bulk of the unit fits behind your ear with an earpiece that fits inside your ear, the unit weighs less than one fourth of an ounce and can be used with or without glasses. These too can be fine-tuned to your specific hearing, allow you to turn the volume up to magnify sounds from five to seven times and still reduce the sound of the shots to a rating of 29dB.

The ability to custom tune the devise to your hearing as well as adjust the volume up on these models will enable the hunter to more readily pickup games sounds in the woods. Sounds like a squirrel jumping through the trees or when their belly slaps a tree when they jump from one to another. It will help the hunter pick up the minutest sound of a deer brushing by limbs or the whisper of them walking through leaves or disturbing a rock.

So now there is really no acceptable reason not to wear hearing protector and if you get a good set it may even enhance your chances of bagging some more game.

Far offshore windfarms present communications challenges
Uncategorized | | 14. December, 2016

This is an interesting article debating the different types of communication that can be used over a long distance, and as they distance moves further and further, the different types of communication drop off or become part of an infrastructure. As engineers battle with this problem, knowledge of how radio frequencies and applications becomes paramount.

As offshore windfarms are built further and further from land, alternatives to conventional VHF communications are going to be required

A cornerstone of any major project is clear communication between all parties. As we move windfarm construction further offshore, maintaining efficient voice and data communications becomes essential. With many projects now being constructed beyond the range of VHF radio and cellular telephone, such as a Gemini or Dudgeon offshore windfarms, crew transfer vessel (CTV) operators and their clients are experiencing challenges achieving practical and affordable offshore communications. My experience on two far offshore projects in the last 15 months has shown that creative thinking can work together with existing equipment such as TETRA radio to reduce the risks and stress that poor communications can generate.

Communication solutions on offshore windfarms depend on the phase that the operation is in, the size of the project and the distance from shore. Many smaller, older windfarms rely on VHF radios to communicate between shore and vessel and shore/vessel and work team on the turbines. However, VHF is limited in range being a line-of-sight system, and the signal has trouble penetrating structures such as wind turbines due to the Faraday cage effect. Conventional cellular telephone coverage is also possible on nearshore sites, with some windfarms installing a cellular mast within the windfarm. Vessels at anchor off the Dutch port of IJmuiden can thank the windfarm industry for good connection when waiting for a pilot if they have contracts with the provider KPN.

When moving further offshore, luxuries such as a cellular mast will not be installed during the construction phase, and it is most likely that VHF radios will not be sufficient. It is common for the developer to install a TETRA radio network – similar to those used by national emergency response services such as police and fire departments.

TETRA, or terrestrial trunked radio as it is properly termed, is a secure network allowing one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many communications. This means that the marine controller can speak directly and privately to one party or to the entire offshore spread depending on what is needed. It transmits on a lower frequency than VHF so covers a greater range. This still is not enough to cover the distances experienced on far offshore windfarms. If multiple base stations are used, each base station can then automatically rebroadcast a message thus expanding the network coverage. On a recent construction project, it was found that there were communications blackspots in the area of the sea passage from the base port to the site. This was later eliminated by fitting full base station units rather than just handheld transceivers on the CTVs. The CTVs then became vital links in the communications network and ensured the blackspots were reduced or eliminated altogether.

TETRA has many other advantages, including the ability to penetrate the tower of a wind turbine, and calls are not dropped when moving between base station carriers due to the network configuration. This is especially important if vessel-carried base stations are relaying far offshore. The network is also secure, which ensures that commercially sensitive information cannot be intercepted. With the one-to-one mode, it also means that managers can have detailed conversations on sensitive subjects.

However, anecdotal information received from vessel crews in the field appear to indicate that TETRA, although a good system, is not foolproof. One vessel master reported that, after 15 months on site, they still had blackspots with TETRA and sometimes have to use the cell phone application WhatsApp to request that turbines be started or stopped so that he can land a team.

TETRA does not solve the operational problems experienced by vessel-operating companies who require frequent voice and data communication with the CTVs to ensure a smooth delivery of service. As most sites far offshore are outside of cell phone coverage and clients demand that daily reports are issued on time, creativity is needed. There is a simple solution that could solve all of the communication problems far offshore – installing VSAT satellite communications on each CTV, which allows instant telephone and data transfer.

However, the practicalities of chartering in today’s windfarm industry eliminates this option, as the client will not want to pay for installation and operation, and a vessel owner cannot afford such a luxury. Charterers therefore need to make a decision: either they assume responsibility and the costs for practical workable satellite communications on their vessels or look for practical alternative solutions to deliver what is needed far offshore.

One practical solution to maintain communications between the marine co-ordination centre and vessels is to step back a generation and use medium frequency/high frequency single side band radios, which are common equipment on larger CTVs and is standard on service operation vessels (SOVs) or installation vessels.

When used in conjunction with the digital selective calling (DSC) function of the GMDSS standard, voice communications can be maintained at long distance without operating cost. Unfortunately, current guidance for the marine co-ordination in windfarms as found in the G9 Good practice guideline: The safe management of small service vessels used in the offshore wind industry does not yet consider marine co-ordination and communications in far offshore windfarms.

Another practical solution to improve data communication is to install powerful WiFi antennas on the decks of SOVs and other major offshore assets to allow CTVs to have internet access when they are in close proximity. CTVs can then download passenger manifests and weather reports and upload the daily progress report and synchronise planned maintenance and email systems.

CTVs spend considerable time in close proximity to the SOV during passenger transfer, bunkering or waiting for the next assignment, and it is relatively easy to set up the computers to connect and synchronise without operator input, thus reducing the risk of distraction. SOVs should be designed with space for CTV crews to use as a secure office so that laptops can be left connected to the network. In this way, crews can have two computers and prepare work when on shift, transfer via a data stick and upload when they go off shift.

One of the most effective tools that we have identified is WhatsApp, which seems to require very low signal strength to connect and transfer brief messages. On recent projects, we have found that most vessel/office communication occurs in this medium, including fault finding and incident reporting and investigation. Crews have found it quicker to video a CCTV system playback and send via WhatsApp than download the CCTV video and send it via a file transfer service. As synchronising an electronic planned maintenance system offshore is very time consuming, our superintendents have taken to sending the worklists via WhatsApp to the vessels who then confirm back with text or images when a job is complete. The superintendent then does the PMS administration from their office with the advantage of high speed network connections. Experience with WhatsApp has led me to believe that agile, low data applications will form part of the future of offshore communication.

Far offshore projects have moved from planning and dreaming to reality. However, effective and cost-efficient communication solutions have not moved with them. Like most challenges with far offshore windfarms, there is no single solution, but experience has shown that, with creativity and flexibility, projects can communicate with their teams and operators can manage their vessels.

Better equipment earlier on in the construction phase, such as MF/HF radios in the MCC and on the vessels, TERA base stations on the vessels and open deck WiFi on construction assets will all assist in improving safety and reducing stress while ensuring that unnecessary costs are not incurred.

How Many Walkie-Talkies Can Operate on the Same Channel?
Uncategorized | | 4. December, 2016

Theoretically, you can use an unlimited amount of walkie-talkies on the same channel (although in practice you might experience a few problems if you took that suggestion literally). Basically, there isn’t really a set limit. You could use as many as you like provided they are set up correctly. Anybody set to the right channel and in range at the time of transmission would then be able to pick up the signal and respond to it.

Most radios have access to 8 channels. These channels each have 38 separate ‘identification tones’. The user sets his/her channel up with the desired tone and then only other users who know the channel/tone will be able to hear the transmissions. As a result, there are, in any given area, about 304 different combinations, so signal interference is unlikely to affect you.

Please do not interpret this answer as saying that your radio has access to 304 possible channels. It does not. It will likely only have access to 8. Some less reputable manufacturers tend to falsely imply access to 304 channels; this is simply not the case. You will have access to 304 possible tone/channel combinations, that’s all.

To better explain the CTCSS codes and how they work; we’ll include a little information from Amherst.co.uk’s FAQ page.

“CTCSS stands for “Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System”. These codes are also often called “Privacy codes” If a CTCSS tone is selected; a CTCSS sub-audible tone is transmitted along with the regular voice audio by the transmitting radio. The receiving radio, set to the same CTCSS tone, will only receive audio if it contains that sub-tone. Interference from other users on the same frequency is therefore rejected (unless they are also on the same sub-tone). This is a way of allowing groups of users of walkie-talkies on the same channel to avoid hearing messages from other nearby users”.

So, in conclusion, you can probably use as many walkie-talkies as you like on the same channel. As long as the units in question are of the same type (either VHF or UHF) and have the same CTCSS setup, then you simply shouldn’t have a problem. You also shouldn’t suffer from signal interference due to other users (although you may still experience signal loss/interference/degradation from other sources). We have talked about combating signal loss elsewhere, so please see the other questions if you have any problems in this area.

Innovative radio technology keeps New Zealand’s Firefighters safe
Uncategorized | | 1. December, 2016

We champion the advancement of communications within the emergency services, not only because it is an important part of their working day, but because they still have a long way to go before it is perfect. This news story comes from New Zealand and focuses on the fire service and is supplied by Motorola themselves.

Firefighters serving with New Zealand Fire Service will benefit from improved safety and communication while working in fire grounds through an innovative two-way radio solution.

The new solution from Motorola Solutions and Spark will enable the service’s 10,000 career and volunteer firefighters to stay connected to their colleagues in the field via reliable and robust voice communication.

Having attended around 73,000 incidents in the past year alone, New Zealand Fire Service needs the best tools for the job. The organisation will receive more than 4,500 new radios designed for use in the most severe fire ground environments.

A major feature of the solution is a cornerstone Motorola Solutions innovation, a remote speaker microphone that will be fully integrated within firefighters’ breathing apparatus. This will be combined with the radio’s convenient push-to-talk button, which enables firefighters to communicate easily and safely in the harshest conditions.

Paul Baxter, Chief Executive & National Commander of the New Zealand Fire Service, said,

“Communication is critical to safety on the incident ground, and much of that communication comes from the use of incident ground control (IGC) radio. That’s why we were so exacting in our requirements for these new radios.”

“The radios will help us to resolve radio interface issues with firefighters’ breathing apparatus while also delivering improved noise cancellation and battery life.”

By using a combination of single and multiband radios operating across both VHF and UHF bands, the solution aligns with the fire service’s vision of leading integrated fire and emergency services for a safer New Zealand.

“This radio solution enables us to move away from using a mix of models and frequencies and toward a nationally consistent standard that will make it easier to work with our emergency service partners,” Baxter said.

Murray Mitchell, Director ICT for the New Zealand Fire Service, said, “We wanted a solution that is safe, easy to use and doesn’t distract firefighters from their work during critical incidents.The design features incorporated in these new radios will help our firefighters work more safely and efficiently.”

Spark will provide in-country support including service management and a customer support desk.

Spark Digital CEO Tim Miles said: “Radios are life-saving tools for our emergency services, and great team communication can be the difference between a managed incident and a disaster. We are very proud to play a part in improving the on-ground experience for our Kiwi Fire Service heroes.”

Motorola Solutions Managing Director for New Zealand and Australia Steve Crutchfield said the solution drew on his company’s experience in providing tailored, mission-critical communications for public safety agencies all over the world.

“Firefighters depend on reliable and robust voice communications in emergency situations so they can concentrate on the job of protecting our communities and potentially saving lives,” Crutchfield said.

The radios are part of a five-year contract, giving New Zealand Fire Service operational and cost certainty throughout the life of the contract.

The contract also provides access provisions for related government agencies wanting to take advantage of the new radio technology.

A review of the Icom IC-7300 direct RF sampling transceiver
Uncategorized | | 26. November, 2016

Icom and ham radio go hand-in-hand, one of their main markets is supplying top of the range equipment, this IC-7300 follows on from the wonderful IC-F7200 (which is a favourite in the office) and sits along side the new range of digital IC-F1000 & 2000 radios that are going really well, but have a new connector type, so new icom earpieces are needed. Read the comprehensive review we found from the swling.com website.

In August 2015 at the Tokyo Hamfair, Icom debuted a new type of transceiver in their product line––one featuring a direct RF sampling receiver. Essentially, it was an SDRtabletop transceiver.

At about the same time that the IC-7300 started shipping around the world, Icom pulled their venerable IC-7200 off the market. Yet the IC-7200 was established as a well-loved product, due to its highly sensitive receiver, its relatively robust front end, and its quality audio. Moreover, it was simple to operate, which made superb as a Field Day or radio club rig.

Therefore, even though the IC-7300 promised much more versatility than the IC-7200, for its price point it had a tough act to follow.

So, of course––even more so than with any other radio Icom has introduced in the past few years––I was eager to get my hands on a IC-7300.  I’m very fortunate that my good friend, Dave Anderson (K4SV) was one of the first purchasers of the IC-7300, and that he didn’t mind (after only having the rig perhaps one week!) allowing me to borrow it for a several weeks for evaluation.

Note:  I should state here that since this rig was loaned to me, I evaluated it based on the firmware version it shipped with, and made no modifications to it.

Icom-IC-7300-FrontThis review primarily focuses on the receiver’s performance, functionality and usability.

Introducing the Icom IC-7300

In recent years, the “big three” ham radio manufacturers have been using color displays, and––Icom most especially––touch screens. While I’m no fan of backlit touch screens in mobile applications, I  think touch screen displays make a lot of sense in a base radio. If carefully designed, a touch screen can save an operator from heavily-buried menus and decrease the number of multi-function buttons on the front panel.

The challenge, of course, is making a display with intuitive controls, and one that is large enough, and with sufficient resolution, to be useful to the operator. In the past, I’ve been disappointed by many displays; the most successful have been incorporated in DX/Contest-class (i.e., pricier) transceivers, meanwhile, entry-level and mid-priced transceiver displays often seem half-baked. While the graphics may be crisp, spectrum displays at this price point are often too compressed to be useful, and if not a touch display, force the user to pause operation in order to find the correct knob or button to change settings. In such cases, I find myself wondering why the manufacturer went to the expense of a color display at all––?

Icom-IC-7300-Display

But what about the C-7300 display?  I’m thoroughly pleased to report that Icom did afantasticjob of balancing utility and function in design of the IC-7300’s color touch display and front panel. There are  number of ways you can chose to display and arrange elements on the screen–since I’m an SDR fan, I typically chose a display setting which gave the waterfall the most real estate. Of course, one can chose to give the frequency display priority or a number of other arrangements.

User interface

I can tell that Icom built upon their experience with the IC-7100––their first entry-level touch screen display transceiver.

I was able to get the IC-7300 on the air in very little time. Within five minutes of turning on the IC-7300, I was able to:

  • change the display to feature a spectrum waterfall;
  • change the span of the waterfall display;
  • adjust the TX power output;
  • change the filters selection and the transmit mode;
  • change bands and make direct-frequency entries;
  • adjust notch, passband, and filter width;
  • adjust AF and RF gain;
  • set A/B VFOs and operate split;
  • change AGC settings;
  • turn on Noise Reduction/Noise Blanker, and
  • adjust compression.

Basically, I found that all the essential functions are clearly laid out, accessible, and highly functional.  Impressive.

The IC-7300 ships with a manual–– aptly titled, the “Basic” manual––and a CD with the full and unabridged operations manual.  The Basic Manual covers a great deal a lot more than the manual which accompanied the Icom ID-51a. If you read through the manual, you’ll readily familiarize yourself with most of the IC-7300’s higher function operations, and especially, you’ll be able to adjust the settings to your operation style. The Manual is written in simple language, and includes a lot of diagrams and graphics.

If you’re like me, you will find you’ll also need to reference that unabridged manual, so hang on to the CD, too.

Still, I imagine there’s a large percentage of future IC-7300 owners that will never need to reference the manual––especially if they don’t care about tweaking band edges or similar settings. Yes, believe it or not, it’s that easy to use.

Operation

Icom-IC-7300-Function-Buttons

While I spent a great deal of time listening to CW and SSB in various band conditions and at various times of day, I spent less time on the air transmitting.

With that said, all of my transmitting time was in CW since the IC-7300 mic was accidentally left out when my friend loaned me the rig.

I’m please to report that CW operation is quite pleasant. All of the adjustments––RF Power, Key Speed, and CW Pitch––can be quickly modified using the multi-function knob. While in CW mode, you can also toggle full break-in mode, which is quite smooth, via the function button and touch screen.

SSB functions are similar. While in  SSB mode, the multi-function knob allows you to change the tx power, mic gain, and monitor level. The function button opens an on-screen menu with VOX, compression, TBW, and the monitor toggle.

Here’s a short video I made with my phone while I made a few adjustments to the IC-7300:

Of course, my smartphones’s microphone can’t accurately reproduce the audio from the IC-7300, but you probably get the idea.

The only annoyance I noted––and perhaps I’m more sensitive to this, being primarily a QRPer––is that the 7300’s cooling fan starts up each time you key up. It even comes on when transmit power is at its lowest setting. I find this a little distracting in CW.  Fortunately, however, the 7300’s fan is fairly quiet and operates smoothly.

Receiver performance and reader survey results

Since our radio comparison shoot-outs have been particularly popular (and useful; check out our shoot-out between top portables, and ultra-compact radios, and others), I decided it would make sense to invite our informed readership to evaluate the Icom IC-7300’s performance in a series of blind, informal tests. (For information about these surveys,please read the first survey.)

Below, I’ve matched the labels (Radio A/Radio B) with the radio models.  I’ve also included pie charts which show the results from the survey.

Icom IC-7300 vs. WinRadio Excalibur

Weak Signal CW (40 meter band)

CW

Based on listener comments, those of you who preferred the ‘7300 did so because the CW was more interpretable and stable.

Some of you noted that I didn’t quite have CW at the same pitch on both rigs. I believe this is because the IC-7300’s calibration was ever so slightly off. This has since been addressed.

Weak/Strong SSB QSO (40 meter band)

SSB

This result was almost tied. The Excalibur’s audio––without any adjustments––has a fuller and “bassier” sound. The ‘7300 can be adjusted to have similar characteristics, but the default EQ settings produce very flat audio. Many of you commented that the IC-7300 more faithfully produced audio optimized for SSB.


 

Shortwave Broadcast recordings

The following recordings were made on the 31 meter broadcast band in the evening. Both radios had the same filter width: 9 kHz and 8.2 kHz.

Weak Shortwave AM (Radio Bandeirantes 31 meter band)

Weak-SW-AM

There was a noticeable preference for the WinRadio Excalibur in this particular audio set. Even though the Excalibur’s audio splattered a bit, the content was more interpretable. The IC-7300’s audio sounded flat in comparison––again, something that can be adjusted quite easily in the ‘7300’s audio settings.

Strong Shortwave AM (Radio Romania International, French 31 Meter Band)

Strong-SW-AM

Once again, the Excalibur won favor, but I imagine results would have been closer had I adjusted the ‘7300’s audio EQ.


 

Mediumwave Broadcast recordings

Note that the following mediumwave recordings were made during the morning hours (grayline). The strong station is the closest AM broadcaster to my home; it’s not a blow-torch “Class A” type station, merely the closest local broadcaster.

In the “weak” sample, I tuned to 630 kHz where multiple broadcasters could be heard on frequency, but one was dominant.

Both radios are set to a filter width of 9.0 kHz.

Strong Mediumwave AM (1010 kHz)

Strong-MW-AM

Two out of three listeners preferred the Excalibur in this example.

Weak Mediumwave AM (630 kHz)

Weak-MW-AM

In this particular example, the IC-7300 could not pull the strongest broadcaster out of the pile as well as the WinRadio Excalibur. In fairness, the Excalibur was using AM sync detection, something the IC-7300 lacks.

Icom IC-7300 vs. Elecraft KX3

IMG_20160424_105444629

I also decided to pit the IC-7300 against my well-loved Elecraft KX3.


Audio Clip 1: CW (20 meter band)

Elecraft KX3: Radio A

Elecraft - CW

Based on comments, readers who preferred the IC-7300 felt the CW sounded more pleasant and stable.


Audio Clip 2: Weak Signal CW (20 meter band)

Elecraft - WeakCW

Your comments indicated that the CW seemed to “pop out” of the noise slightly better with the IC-7300.


Audio Clip 3: Weak/Strong SSB

(Sable Island working Asia/Pacific on 20 meter band)

Elecraft SSB

These results were spilt in the middle. Again, I believe this comes down to personal preference in the audio. And again––in both radios––the audio EQ can be adjusted to suit the operator.


Receiver performance summary

I enjoy producing audio clips for readers to compare and comment upon. Each time I’ve done so in the past, I’ve had listeners argue the virtues of a particular audio clip while others have the complete opposite reaction to that same clip. Not all of us prefer our audio served up in the same way. No doubt, there’s a great deal of subjectivity in this sort of test.

I’ve had the IC-7300 on the air every day since I took possession of it. I’ve listened to SSB, CW, and lots of AM/SW broadcasters.

And here’s my summary: the IC-7300 is an excellent receiver. It has a low noise floor, superb sensitivity and excellent selectivity. I even slightly prefer its audio to that of my Elecraft KX3, and I’m a huge fan of the little KX3.

I’ve written before about how difficult it is to compare SDRs; the problem is that there are so many ways to tweak your audio, filters, AGC, noise reduction, etc. that it’s hard to compare apples with apples.

In the audio samples above, the IC-7300 and WinRadio Excalibur were both set to their default audio settings. In SSB and CW, the IC-7300 excels, in my opinion. CW seems to pop out of the noise better and SSB is more pleasant and interpretable. The Excalibur has a better audio profile for AM broadcasters, though. Its default audio simply sounds fuller–more robust.

The audio from the IC-7300 on AM sounded absolutely flat. However, if I tweak the audio of the ‘7300, adding more bass, it instantly sounds more like a dedicated tabletop receiver.

I should also mention that while the IC-7300’s built-in digital recording is a fantastic and effective feature, it doesn’t produce audio true to what’s heard through headphones live. This is especially the case when you add more bass and treble response as in the RRI example above. When the audio EQ is set to a default flat, it’s quite accurate.

To be clear:  for broadcast listening, I’ll still reach for my SDRs (the Excalibur, FDM-S2,TitanSDRand CR-1a).

If, however, I have limited space and/or budget for multiple receivers, I’d be quite happy using the IC-7300 as a broadcast receiver on the HF bands.

Speaking from the Shortwave Radio Listener (SWL) perspective, meanwhile, am I pleased with how the ‘7300 handles the broadcast bands?  Most definitely.

And as a ham radio operator, am I pleased with the IC-7300’s receiver––?  Absolutely.

In short:  the IC-7300 seems to have some of the best all-around receiver qualities of any transceiver I know under $2,000.

Summary

Every radio has its pros and cons. When I begin a review of a radio, I take notes of my initial impressions. Here’s my list for the IC-7300:

Pros

  • Excellent sensitivity and selectivity
  • Excellent, highly-customizable RX and TX audio
  • Color touch screen interface
  • Spectrum display is large enough to be useful
  • Intuitive functions
  • Twin PBT is both intuitive to operate and effective
  • Effective RF gain to compensate for noisy band conditions
  • Built-in RX and TX recording, file transfers via common SD card
  • Front panel knobs and buttons are spaced appropriately and easy to use
  • Quiet cooling fan (see con)
  • Decodes RTTY on screen
  • Built-in ATU
  • Antenna analyzer function (not tested)

Cons

  • Lacks secondary receive antenna jack on rear panel
  • Cooling fan immediately starts up on CW/SSB transmit at any power setting (see pro regarding fan noise)
  • Occasionally you may get lost in deeper customized functions
  • Supplied printed basic owner’s manual, while well-written, doesn’t fully cover the IC-7300s functions and options; you must explore the digital owner’s manual in supplied CD.

Conclusion

In a nutshell: Icom has hit a home run with the IC-7300.  If I didn’t already have an Elecraft KX3 and K2, I would buy the IC-7300 without hesitation.

Though the price point is a little high for an “entry level transceiver,” it’s worth every penny, in my opinion. For $1500 US, you get a fantastic general-coverage transceiver with an intuitive interface, nearly every function you can imagine, and performance that would please even a seasoned DXer.

Though I haven’t done and A/B comparison with the IC-7200, I imagine the IC-7300 would prevail in a test. The IC-7300 would certainly wipe the floor with it’s more economical brother, the IC-718.

Radio clubs, take note:

In my view, the IC-7300 has the makings of an excellent radio club rig in which performance, functionality, as well as ease of use are important. I expect that the IC-7300 will not only cope very well with crowded and crazy Field Day conditions, but it will also give any newcomers to the hobby a little experience with a proper modern transceiver. The fact that you can view signals so easily on the spectrum display means that it will be easier to chase contacts and monitor bands as they open and close. Indeed, what better way to mentor a newly-minted ham in modes, contacts, carriers, QRN, QRM, and so forth, than to simply point these out on the IC-7300’s bright, clear display––?

If your club is considering a transceiver upgrade or purchase, do seriously consider the IC-7300. I think you’ll find this rig is up to the task.

And for home? The Icom IC-7300 may be all of the rig you’ll ever need.

Could hearing loss be a hidden cost of gaming?
Uncategorized | | 24. November, 2016

Is this is a real problem? Do you use a set of headphones whilst gaming? This article has information on how damaging wearing gaming headphones is and what the future impact might be. Read this, examine how you use your headphones and get on with life…

According to the Q1 2016 GameTrack report, 18.8 million people between the ages of 6 and 64 game and those between 11 and 64 spend an average 8.8 hours per week doing so.

 Amongst Gamers the largest group is 15 to 24 year old males who are most at risk of permanently damaging their hearing. This group spends the most amount of time gaming and are also the most attracted to the “loud” games. Furthermore a majority of them live in a shared accommodation and use headphones so as not to disturb others. This group also the most likely to take part in other activities which can be harmful to their hearing such as listening to music through headphones, going to gigs and festivals, and nightclubs.

 Unfortunately the price of their enjoyment could well be significant and permanent hearing damage. Whilst there is clearly a risk to the Gamer, it could transfer as a liability to the games companies in the form of legal action relating to their duty of care.

 The first significant step is to make Gamers aware of how much sound exposure they are experiencing and what they can do to prevent hearing damage, because hearing damage is permanent

 Hearing damage is caused by the combination of how long you listen (time), how loud you listen (volume), and what you listen to (energy content). The combination of these three factors create a “sound dose”, if the dose is too high it starts to damage your hearing.

 The UN’s World Health Organisation and hearing conservation organisations are increasing awareness of the risks and advise users to restrict their daily sound dose to less than 85dB average over 8 hours.

 Gamers who use headphones currently have no realistic way to indicate what level they are listening at and how much of their daily sound dose they have used. The answer will be to provide them with an intelligent sound dose measurement app or software, giving them their individual sound dose exposure information and guidance, with optional protection, so that for the first time they can make informed decisions about their hearing health.

Hytera launches new DMR handheld radio
Uncategorized | | 14. November, 2016

Hytera have a wide range of radios in their catalogue now, and this is a new addition. The PD98X is for the professional communicator, a radio that has more added extras than a lot of smart phones. A couple of questions we would like to ask are:

What will the price be?

Can I use my current Hytera earpiece with this radio?

And when will this be available?

But this does seem to be a nice addition to the Hytera range and we can’t wait to try it out.

Hytera, a leading solution provider of professional mobile radio communications, has launched its latest digital mobile radio (DMR) handheld PD98X, adding another strong member to its top-notch DMR portfolio.

PD98X offers an exceptional audio experience through noise cancellation technology, while boasting new features including full duplex calls, recording capability via Micro SD, Bluetooth 4.0 for audio or data and single frequency repeater mode to increase coverage, said a statement from the company.

GS Kok, senior vice president of Hytera, said: “We are proud to announce the launch of PD98X.”

“A series of cutting-edge innovations and designs have been added into this new model to make it a full-featured radio to satisfy customers’ increasing demand for functionality and user experience,” he said.

The addition of the PD985 positions Hytera with the most complete DMR radio portfolio to meet diversified requirements, from simple, reliable and cost-effective handsets (PD3 and PD4 series) to rugged and feature-rich solutions (PD5 and PD6 series), up to the high-end, professional system radios (PD7, PD9 and X1 series), it said.

The key advanced features of PD98X include:

•Full Duplex Call

PD98X enables frontline personnel to make telephony calls between other PD98X and telephones or mobile phones.

•Single Frequency Repeater Mode

Based on interference cancellation technology, PD98X is able to use one slot to receive a signal and another to transmit it in the same frequency using DMO mode to extend the communication distance.

•Built-in Bluetooth 4.0

With integrated Bluetooth 4.0, PD98X supports both audio transmit and programming via Bluetooth.

•Noise Cancellation and 2.5W Audio Output

Maximum 2.5W output speaker and new noise cancelling technology ensure clear and loud voice communication.

•IP68 Protection

PD98X complies with the highest dust and waterproof standards, to confront the harshest environments. The radio continues to function after submersion down to 2 meters for up to four hours.

•Smart Battery

This feature makes it easier to monitor the battery status, such as battery life time and charging time, reducing charging time dramatically.

•Audio Recording via Micro SD Card

PD98X supports up to a 32GB Micro SD card, to record up to 576 hours digital/analog audio.

The whole portfolio offers display and non-display, GPS and non-GPS, UHF and VHF versions, allowing customers to select the best handset for their daily operation and mission-critical scenarios,

Source – http://www.tradearabia.com/news/IND_312771.html

Motorola Solutions CTO: Public Safety Will Be Transformed By Data-Driven Communications Read more at http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/networks/broadband/motorola-solutions-public-safety-data-197830#WCOWXTjdibreBRqI.99
Uncategorized | | 10. October, 2016

The good old walkie talkie will still have a place in most businesses, but Motorola being a technology company they are always innovating, they are underpinning their future communications on data, currently date networks cannot cope with this but as the technology grows, Motorola will be able to produce handsets, motorola accessories and communications that will seamlessly use this without any problem, we look forward to the future. 

Motorola Solutions CTO Paul Steinberg explains how data and enhanced communications can make cities safer – even if they’re not smart just yet

As CTO of Motorola Solutions (MSI), Paul Steinberg says he has three broad remits.

paul-steinberg-motorolaThe first is to advance the company’s technology with his team of engineers and data scientists, the second is to drive its patent strategy (“What patents we get and what we do with them”) and the third is to invest in startups so MSI can get access to something it doesn’t have.

“It keeps you humble because there’s always someone else doing things faster and better than you,” he tells TechWeekEurope.

Public safety

Motorola Solutions now only deals with public safety communications systems. It was spun off from the Motorola Mobility handset business that was sold to Google (and later Lenovo) in 2011 and sold its handheld computing division to Zebra Technologies in 2014.

This might seem like a very narrow focus but it’s a market in which the present day Motorola senses a great opportunity as emergency services update their infrastructure to improve service and cut cost.

In the UK, MSI is working with EE to help deliver the £1 billion Emergency Services Network (ESN) – a 4G platform that will allow for data-enabled services alongside critical communications – and save the government £1 million a day

These upgrades will power what MSI sees as the big trend in public safety: the coupling of communications with data analytics, a vision it recently outlined at Critical Communications World (CCW) in Amsterdam.

“[Mission critical communications are] every bit as important as they have been and we expect [them] to be tomorrow,” explains Steinberg.

“Mission critical intelligence brings in connecting things – data. It becomes more about context and situational awareness. The investments we’re making are more in that direction.

“One of the things we’ve been working on is the connected first responder. What we did was we built a context engine that’s at the heart.”EE 4G (3)

Context engine

The ‘context engine’ built by MSI brings together various different inputs. For example, Bluetooth connectivity can unite weapons, body sensors and imaging equipment to give a police force a greater overview of a situation.

Steinberg explains a scenario where if the context engine detects a weapon has been fired and a policeman is not at a station or at a firing range, their video camera will automatically switch on. Other situations could give a paramedic of firefighter additional information, possibly through wearable technology.

“Why did we do the Context engine? ‘Eyes open, hands free’: keep focussed on what you’re doing and keep your hands available to do what you need to do,” said Steinberg.

“We envisage this working as an ecosystem with well-designed interfaces around the core context engine. We see ecosystem partners offering applications and hardware. And some pieces of those we will offer as Motorola. We see it increasingly as a software problem.”

Connected platform

image: http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Motorola-Solutions-public-safety-3-1024×768.jpg

Steinberg favours acquisitions as a way of advancing his goals and MSI has venture capital operations to fund the third part of his remit. MSI monitors the development of numerous early stage companies with a view to boosting its own business.

Motorola Solutions public safety (3)“[Takeovers] give us technology or a skillset that we can’t do properly [ourselves],” he explains. “If the concept looks like it has legs, that’s when we make the decision. In some cases we don’t proceed.”

Sometimes the target is more established. MSI has bought Airwave for £817 million, a move which it is believed will help accelerate the transition to next generation systems. Airwave currently powers the pre-ESN communications capability of the UK emergency services and Steinberg sees the acquisition as a method to migrate customers rather than innovate.

“It brings us another data point but it doesn’t really change how my team works,” he says. “It’s a company that helps us ensure we have an orderly migration.”

Smart cities and smart vehicles

MSI says the Context Engine and its vision of data-supported communications will be strengthened by the parallel development of smart cities; even if it’s too early to have any impact right now. Steinberg describes ‘shotspotter’ technology capable of detecting when and where a gunshot is fired, aiding emergency services, and believes smart cars will also play a role.

“I think as the city becomes smarter, we can benefit from the environment,” he predicts. “We can fuse that together and help facilitate real time decision making. The next mobile platform is the vehicle. I think that will create some interesting opportunities for us.”

But the very nature of emergency services means technological jumps are not to be taken lightly. A technical hiccup can mean the matter between life and death and although political reasons might have delayed the transition to LTE, concerns about reliability will have played a role too.

Steinberg agrees and is adamant that no matter what advances are made, MSI will not jeopardise the basics.

“The foundation of our business is communications and it always will be,” he states. “Making sure our platform is resilient, usable and mission critical in harsh environments while layering on this intelligence.”

Read more at http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/networks/broadband/motorola-solutions-public-safety-data-197830/2

In Ear Monitor Buyer’s Guide: Custom vs. Generic Fit
Uncategorized | | 7. October, 2016

It is understood that ear moulded plugs are far more comfortable and effective than the mushroom plugs, but which ones are the best? The Custom fit or generic fit. This article runs over the positives and negatives of that question and comes to a conclusion, if your debating to get some moulded ear plugs or some from the shelf, you will want to read this first.

Over the past 20 years, In Ear Monitors (or IEMs) have become a near-necessity for live performance.

In years prior, engineers would inevitably have to crank up a venue’s stage monitors loud enough for the musicians to hear themselves over the audience, over the sound coming from the stage, and over the main mix.

This would often lead to an arms race of ever-increasing stage volume, potentially causing feedback issues and compromises in clarity and quality for the live mix.

Custom in-ear monitors from JH Audio, one of the first commercial brands to make a name for itself in the IEM market.

With the advent of in-ear monitors, all this began to change. In the mid-1980s, Etymotic developed the first-ever insert-style earphones, and soon after, a designer named Marty Garcia began making one-off custom in-ears for rock stars like Todd Rundgren.

By 1995, Jerry Harvey, founder of Ultimate Earsand JH Audio, brought some of the first commercially-available dual-driver IEMs to market. All of a sudden, everyday musicians had an option that allowed us to save our hearing, get better monitor mixes, and dramatically reduce the chances of feedback onstage.

Today, IEMs are increasingly being considered useful tools for the studio as well. Their ability to prevent sound leakage can be of tremendous value in helping to control click and instrument bleed, and in saving musicians’ hearing by allowing them to monitor at lower levels.

Some musicians and engineers, such as drummer Rich Pagano of The Fab Faux, will use IEMs to quickly check for phase when mic’ing up a drum kit, while others turn to IEMs as a kind of audio microscope, using them to help check for and remove extraneous low-level noise.

Any modern musician would be wise to consider adding in-ear monitors to their toolkit. But is it worth it to dish out the extra money on custom fit IEMs, instead of saving some money with the generic fit ones?

In testing a variety of in-ear monitors from brands like Westone, Ultimate Ears, Future Sonics, and even Skullcandy (that last of which is not recommended for professional use), I have found that there are cases in which generic fit earphones may work better than their custom counterparts. Making the right decision for your needs comes down to considering the following four factors:

1) Cost

Ultimate Ears custom fit in-ear monitors.

Custom fit IEMs tend to cost more than generic fit ones, as it takes more time and effort for the manufacturer to craft a product designed specifically for the unique anatomy of your ear.

Getting custom IEMs made also requires that you go to an audiologist to make a mold of your ear canal that the IEM company can then use to make your monitors fit as well as possible.

Take note of both of these costs, which can range from $100-$200 or more for a fitting from an audiologist, and $299-$1499 or more for the custom monitors to be made.

2) Comfort & Seal

Custom fit IEMs are custom, so they should feel really comfortable, right?  Well, yes and no.

In my experience, custom fit IEMs can feel a little tight in the ear canal compared to generics, especially at first. Hearing so little acoustic feedback from your performance can also take some getting used to, and the tight seal of custom fit in-ears can feel particularly awkward when signing.

Because of this, my looser-fitting Westone 3 generic IEMs actually feel more comfortable to me on vocal duties, so I often find myself using them over my custom fit Future Sonics when I step up to the mic.

Matt Bellamy from Muse (recently featured in Get THAT Guitar Tone) has been seen using both customUltimate Ears UE-11s and generic-fit Westone UM2s when on tour, and my guess is that he has similar reasons.

Though the tight fit of custom IEMs and lack of acoustic feedback from your performance can be a challenge, it’s worth noting that generic foam-tip IEMs also provide their own tradeoffs: The looser fit of generics can sometimes create a bit of a tingling or “tickling” feeling in your ear when playing at higher volumes, so it may be useful to have a pair of each and go with what feels best depending on the date and venue.

Silicone-based Encore Studio custom IEMs from ACS.

Another option here is the custom fit brandACS, which makes its IEMs out of soft silicone shells.

This softer silicone-based design is meant to offer both better comfort and a tighter fit than the hard acrylic shells used by brands like Westone and Ultimate Ears.

Though these silicone monitors sell for a premium price of $400-$1,200 and up, they may help bridge the gap between the tight seal of custom acrylics and the looser and easier fit of foam-tipped generic IEMs.

3) Hearing Protection

In addition to cutting down on sound leakage to help improve sound quality and reduce feedback, another primary benefit of IEMs is that they can offer considerable hearing protection by helping to block out exterior noise, allowing you to monitor at lower levels.

Some of the best custom fit brands like JH Audio and Ultimate Ears offer NRR ratings of 26dB in reduction, and some of the better generic brands advertise comparable results as well. (Though your results with generics may vary depending on the fit and seal in your ear.)

In the long term, reducing the levels you’re regularly exposed to—even by a few extra decibels—could mean the difference between a long and illustrious career as a “golden-eared” audio engineer and potentialtinnitus and irreversible hearing loss.

Also worth checking out is the REV33 system, which can be added on to your your in-ear-monitoring system to help reduce distortion and ear strain. Many live musicians, including Phil X and Steve Salas swear by the system. According to the company:

“All in-ear monitors and headphones generate damaging, unwanted noise and distortion that forces the ear to shut down and compress for protection. The REV33 reduces the symptoms of tinnitus, ear-ringing, ear-fatigue, buzzing and dampened hearing by preventing in-ear monitors and headphones from producing this unwanted noise and distortion.”

4) Waiting and Time Considerations

After getting my first pair of IEM’s made, I found that the right ear monitor turned out well, but I was not getting a proper seal in the left ear at first. This made the monitors essentially useless for my live sound needs at the time, and so I had to send them back for some tweaking.

When I got them back a couple of weeks later, the seal still wasn’t great, so I had to send them back once again for further modification, and visit my audiologist a second time to take another impression of my ear canal to send in.

Getting the perfect fit turned out to be quite a time-consuming process (as well as an expensive one) so unless you’re on the hunt for a long-term solution with as much acoustic isolation as humanly possible, you might satisfice with generic IEMs, or keep some around as an alternate option.

In that case, I would recommend the generic in-ears from Ultimate Ears, Shure, or Westone.

Ultimate Ears’ generic fit UE900 model sports 4 drivers for $400.

The Ultimate Ears UE900’s are a great sounding 4-driver IEM that only costs $399, while the $99 Shure SE215 single-driver IEMs advertise an astonishing 37dB of noise reduction (more than most custom IEMs) at a great price.

My own triple-driver Westone 3’s (since replaced by the W30 model) are the most comfortable in ear monitors I own right now, and they isolate a lot more noise than most thanks to their foam-tip construction.

Compared to custom in-ears, any of these model can potentially save you time and money, or work as a welcome supplement for those times when the tight fit of custom in-ears feels irksome.

I hope my experiences here help you make the right decision when you go to buy your own IEMs. In short, I found that less-expensive generic foam-tipped IEMs worked better for me in many situations, and the savings enabled me to spend my money on better drivers with a fuller sound.

If you’ve used IEM’s in the past, let us know in the comments below whether you prefer custom fits or generic fit ones, and why.

Ordering Two Way Radio Earpiece From Earpieceonline
Uncategorized | | 2. October, 2016

In the world today, walkie-talkies are very important tools. From security services, construction sites, camping sites to use during emergency rescue missions, they are a vital part of the communication industry. In the past, walkie-talkie users walked around talking and listening directly from the big phones’ but with the advancement of technology, walkie-talkie accessories have made it possible to seamlessly communicate using earpieces and headphones connected to the walkie-talkie while it remains strapped to the belt. At Earpieceonline.co.uk we have a wide range of top quality walkie-talkie and radio accessories to help ease communication with workmates.

Using a radio earpiece for a walkie-talkie is very convenient and it simplifies the communication by a mile. Radio earpieces and headsets help in remaining discrete and offer clearer communications. This feature is important especially for police and security agents looking to conduct investigations and surveillance unnoticed. The push to talk features make it easy to walk around while communicating. Radio  earpieces help in noise cancellation enabling loud and clear communication. When looking to buy a good radio earpiece, other than considering your budget, it’s important to consider the comfort and ease of use of the earpiece. Earpieceonline.co.uk, they have the best Radio Earpieces and Connectors together with many other Radio accessories. They have high quality Radio Earpiece Styles that guarantee to suit your working needs. Below are some of the top Earpiece Accessories, Connectors and Earpiece styles available in the Online store;

Earpieces

Earpieceonline.co.uk.co.uk, have the best earpieces both wireless and wired. These earpieces can be used together with all the leading 2 way Radio Brands like Motorola, Kenwood, Entel, Hytera and Icom. Their earpieces are very small, light and comfortable to wear. The small invisible earpieces will help provide clear and covert conversations. Your information is secure with these small masterpieces and no one will even realise that you are on radio communication.

They also have different styles of earpieces available in store. With D shaped earpieces, C shaped earpieces, acoustic tube (2 wire and 3wire) and bone conductors. It is upon the customer to make the choice for the most appropriate earpiece suited for his/her needs. Here are some of the available earpiece types in the store; High quality 3 wire covert earpieces, earpieces adaptors, in ear moulds and mushroom replacements for acoustic tube earpieces. The 3 wire covert earpiece kits available in our store include; The Covert Motorola Block connector earpiece, Covert Motorola 2 Pin connector earpieces, The Covert Kenwood 2 Pin connector earpiece and Icom Multipin connector earpiece. These earpieces can be used with most of the leading Radio brands in the market.

These acoustic tube earpieces are made from very durable materials with Kevlar cable reinforcement. The connecting wires to these connectors are long enough giving you freedom to walk around comfortably. They further have Noise reducing microphones, push to talk buttons and are all RoHS compliant. The features might slightly vary depending on the brand of earpiece you prefer.

We also have wireless kits to further make your communications discrete and easier. These kits are very small, light and easy to use. The inductive pack of the kit is attached to the collar of a shirt or inside a jacket and it then transmits audio signals to the in-ear wireless earpiece. A small push to talk button is concealed in the user’s wrist where the user will be talking to. The available wireless kits in EarpieceOnline include; Inductive wireless flat pack with its in-ear wireless earpiece and the Neck Loop Inductor Earpiece with an In –Ear wireless receiver. All these earpieces come with well-designed mushroom replacements.

Connectors

Different radios have different connection ports. At EarpieceOnline, they have a range of earpiece radio connectors to connect earpieces/headsets to all the leading radio brands like Motorola, Kenwood and Icom. Whereas other connectors are tailored to specific brands, some are universal and will be used to connect more than one 2 way radios. Some of the available connectors at Earpieceonline.co.ukinclude; interchangeable universal connectors- this connectors allow you to interchange between different radios like the Motorola GP340, GP344, GP360, DP3400, DP2400, all Icom, Hytera and Kenwood radios. We also have replacement connectors that are used to replace specific connectors. They include; DP2400 replacement connectors, Entel Multi-pin Connectors, GP340 Connectors and many other individual brands. Be sure to check with us for your desired connectors.

Why shop with us

Earpieceonline.co.uk have a large team of experienced professionals to help you with choosing and buying 2 way radios and accessories. We sell high quality products which meet the required standards to satisfy our customers. Our prices are very affordable considering the durable and the quality of the products that we offer. Our customers enjoy very fast responses to queries and we deliver the purchased items quickly. Visit our online store at EarpieceOnline.co.uktoday and get high quality products to suit your business. If you are looking for the best 2 way radios, earpieces, connectors, adaptors and many other communication accessories then EarpieceOnline is your perfect spot to shop.

Earpiece Like Secret Service: 5 Key Points
Uncategorized | | 2. October, 2016

When you think of the US Secret Service agents, the image that comes to mind is that of a person in dark sunglasses, black suit, and a coiled tube thing goes into his ear. The coiled tube thing is what the agents use to monitor and communicate what’s going around them, where dangers lurk and where they’re are needed. Unfortunately, the coiled tube thing tends to be very noticeable such that the bad guys will easily identify the secret service agents. Over the past couple of years, various earpiece companies have closely worked with the US secret service, and have supplied the agents with quality covert tactical earpieces. The covert tactical earpieces are much better than the traditional coiled tube earpieces because of a number of reasons. Some of the reasons include;

1. Discreetness/Covertness

Security professionals typically chose earpieces based on just how discrete/covert they want to be. The level of covertness or discreetness is usually determined by the type of earpiece, earpiece style, and also the color. As aforementioned, if you want to identify a secret service agent you can simply look for the guy with a coiled tube type of earpiece. Luckily for secret service agents, various earpiece companies now offer earpieces which allow the secret service agents to efficiently communicate in a more covert and discreet manner without anybody noticing. They allow for discreet communication between the agent and his or her team.

In-ear earpieces are typically more discreet because they’re worn inside of the the ear as compared to the over-the-ear earpieces which are worn outside of the ear. It is also wiser to opt for colourless earpieces as opposed to the coloured earpieces for extra covertness. You can also opt for the wireless earpieces; the wireless earpieces are usually preferred over the wired earpieces since it is hard to tell that somebody is actually wearing the wireless earpiece as compared to the coiled tube, wired earpieces. The wireless earpieces normally receive the signals wireless. One needs to have a separate microphone worn at the end of the sleeve, or even on a lapel. In order to send a message to the other(s), the wearer has to speak into that microphone, and the other(s) will receive the message via their wireless earpieces.

2. Comfort

You should obviously choose an earpiece which is comfortable to wear; Some of the crucial questions to ask prior to choosing an earpiece can include; how easy that earpiece is to not only wear, but also to remove, how easy is it to control and use the earpiece, and also whether the earpiece will be able to remain intact for as long as needed without falling off. One of the main reasons why most people dislike the coiled tube earpieces, is the lack of comfort. Most agents say that the coiled tube earpieces cause a lot of ear fatigue. Most of the secret service agents are usually connected to the radio 12 to 16 hours per day, and some agents will have the earpieces draped over their ears and hanging out, with the volume of their radio turned way up so they do not have to have to plug the coiled tube earpiece in their ears all day long. . Fortunately, the covert/discreet earpieces are very comfortable to wear. They use speakers which are smaller than the average ear canal; this means that there’s very little contact, thus are ideal for secret service agents who want to avoid the feeling of ear fatigue.

3. Sound quality

Secret service agents are dealt with protecting the President and as such, it is crucial to get everything right, including the message being sent to their earpiece. In case of a sensitive situation, it is even more crucial to get the message right or correctly. Listening to sounds which are being pushed up a coiled tube may leave a margin for error. The tactical earpieces have the speakers placed in the canal of the ear which means that the sound is basically created there, (approximately 7millimeters from the eardrum), and is worn in both of the ears. This allows the wearer to clearly listen to what’s being transmitted through the earpiece, meaning they will be more efficient in their work.

4. Volume

This is one of the main reasons why secret service agents dislike their coiled tube earpieces. Many of the secret service agents say that they usually feel like they are gradually incurring hearing loss especially in the ear which they plug the radio earpiece. Well, with the covert earpieces, the ear isn’t plugged so that the sound pressure can get released. And since it’s worn in both of the ears, and the speakers are located in the ear, the radio may be turned down, and you will have much better sound clarity. This allows agents to work more efficiently, and in addition, they will have no fear of incurring hearing loss.

5. Localization

The brain is typically wired to locate where sounds/noises originate from, or rather the brain is wired to localize. When you hear a sound from the right side, you will know it since it enters your right ear a little louder and a little quicker, and your brain registers that the sound came from the right direction. This means that a secret service agent, or anybody wearing the coiled tube type of earpiece in their right ear, might hear a similar sound a little louder in their left ear since their right ear is plugged. In sensitive situations, mistaking the location of the sound can be disastrous since it could leave time for bad guys to get away, attack, or complete their objective. The tactical earpieces are designed such that they help the secret service agents to accurately locate the actual place the sound is originating from.

Conclusion

The covert earpieces address all negative issues which anybody who wears or uses the coiled tube type of earpiece experiences. They’re comfortable, discreet, they use top notch, high end, high quality speakers which offer the best clarity, they help in reducing the risk of future hearing loss since one can reduce/adjust the radio volume, and they also allow wearers to accurately and quickly localize the direction a sound is coming from.

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