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Updates from the Inbox – New Speakers, MQA and More!

This week’s update starts with two brothers from Arizona (one is the designer and one is the engineer). With the incursion of fund raising into the public consciousness, many things both good and bad have come to fruition (or not) and the market of audio is no exception. The brothers VETR are going for it, have a Kickstarter and write a very nice email, so here it is.

At first glance the vowel-light PANL1 Speaker System appears to be a carbon fibre panel driver paired with a 60W subwoofer. According to the guys from AZ, the 1.5mm thick twill-weave drivers are rated down to 48 Hz and can output up to 115dB of sound with 48W of power per channel. While I’m sure you can derive some sort of audio from nearly any rigid surface, everyone loves carbon fiber, so why not? The complete PANL1 System starts at $299 for the earliest bird special, which includes the sub (and a built-in amplifier for the two panel speakers). Plenty more info (including a frequency chart) are located on the VETR Kickstarter page.

Although MarkAudio-SOTA loudspeakers have been batted around the review scene a little and made a few appearances within the audio show circuit, the “Dream Team” comprised of Mark Fenlon and Co. is now formally releasing 3 new speakers to the US market. Opting for a more direct approach, the trio of loudspeakers are exclusively available through the company site and come with a 30-day return policy. The line starts with two bookshelf entries called the Cesti B ($1,895/pair) and Viotti One ($2,995/pair). The former is a dubbed a “medium-sized two-way bookshelf” while the latter is “MarkAudio-SOTA’s flagship 2-way stand-mount”. The Cesti T floorstander ($3,495/pair) bumps up the low frequency extension with a pair of twin Sota 11 bass-mid drivers and comes in black, red or white.

More from the press release:

“MarkAudio-SOTA’s unique All-Range driver approach offers the rich midrange that is typical of a wide-range single speaker design, while providing a dynamic, full frequency range extending from 40Hz to 25kHz. The three dual driver speakers’ systems use different combinations of a custom-designed, 110mm (Sota 11) wide-range mid-bass driver mounted in a ported cabinet along with an acoustically isolated 50mm (Sota 5) tweeter. Both drivers use a low mass, mixed-alloy cone that generates exceedingly accurate audio transparency with incredible detail.

The company’s all-range drivers utilize a 2.4 kHz crossover frequency with gentle, 2nd order electrical and acoustic slopes that gradually blend the outputs, maximizing the advantages of their symmetric wide-dispersion drivers. The simple design, with few reactive components, also aids in amplifier matching, allowing MarkAudio-SOTA speakers to be easily driven by low-power designs. The result is a 2-way loudspeaker without any obvious crossover transition, and a smooth, transparent, yet dynamic and natural musical response especially apparent in vocal reproduction.”

More info:


The first time I ran across the UK-based Snugs was at CES this year. Snugs fills in an interesting gap between universal fit IEMs and customs. While universal fit offers sharing capabilities, resell value and ease of purchase, they never quiet seem to match the fit and seal of a good pair of customs. Snugs is looking to change all that with their custom-fit buds that wrap around your favorite universal earphones. Its a bespoke job that allows for an easy connection to any pair of reasonably sized IEMs. At CES 2017 the company even utilized the same non-intrusive 3D scanning technology that Ultimate Ears introduced at NAMM the year previous. In the US they have partnered with Echobox, you can attach the custom tip to any of their Finder, Nomad or Traveller models for around $173 USD. Like other custom molds, they can be personalized with unique colors, designs or graphics upon request.

From the Snugs rep:

“Snugs is a custom-fit earphone brand from the UK. The 3D laser scanning technology you sampled at CES is currently only available in the UK, although we hope to roll this out in the USA very soon. For now, if US customers want to purchase Snugs for their Echobox earphones they can visit  and follow the instructions there. However they will have to have traditional impressions made (rather than the laser scan you had at CES). Our team will help guide them through this process.”

Two updates from MQA came down the pipe late last week. First is that the high resolution folding technology is now formally integrated into one of our favorite playback software Audrivana Plus. In the latest revision (ver. 3), the software taps into several of the key transmission benefits inherit in the tech and also includes a MQA validation indicator viewable from within the software. For more of the fine details and excerpts directly from the software’s designer Damien Plisson, check out John Darko’s (of DAR fame) detailed take on it here.

The second announcement from MQA involves the Japanese record label Ottava. The label will be the first to issue a CD utilizing MQA starting with the album “A. Piazzolla
by Strings and Oboe” which is a recording of the UNAMAS Piazzolla Septet and mastered by engineer Mick Sawaguchi.

From the press release:

“MQA technology captures and reproduces the original sound quality using less data, and the MQA CD works in exactly the same way as the MQA digital file. With a conventional CD player connected to an MQA-enabled device – such as those from Meridian, Mytek, Brinkmann and Technics – the MQA CD will ‘unwrap’ to the original sample rate.”

Benchmark Audio brought this guy to our attention. Bound from the open source community, its a fairly in-depth scientific take on a few digital audio talking points the community has recently been undertaking regarding digital and analog sound processing. Its perhaps a little more to bite off than the average consumer will like to chew, but the show’s host Monty Montgomery has some performance power he wields on a level that still taunts us while wait for the next video to come out. Its like Mr. Wizard with a beard, only way more technical.

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