In a previous post Hear This: ‘Ear-Worn Computing’ Around the Corner, I talked about the next generation of headphones (Headphone 3.0) and how this is likely to impact the market over the next few years. At CES 2023 this vision of the future became a little closer to reality, with several companies demonstrating technology that could drive this forward. In many cases we saw incremental improvements demonstrated by incumbent vendors, with several start ups looking to shake things up. I have focused on 3 segments for this post.
Connectivity – The Bluetooth SIG were celebrating the launch of LE Audio, giving improved audio quality, lower power and lower latency, whilst enabling new features such as Auracast™ broadcast audio. It will take many years for this to proliferate through the device market (as it needs new chipsets) but it will drive incremental improvements across billions of devices.
An additional connectivity technology that is touted to drive greater improvements in audio streaming is UWB and we saw some companies (in stealth mode) demonstrating their solutions, which potentially enables higher data rates, improved efficiency, and ultra-low latency.
Microphones – Knowles announced 3 new microphones in its SiSonic range, which offer enhanced specifications (e.g. SNR approaching 70dB) that can enable significant improvements in features including ANC and transparency. Start-up Sensibel was showcasing its new MEMS mic technology that can achieve 80dB SNR performance.
Software – Bragi is one of the founders of TWS and over the last few years it has been using its vast knowledge and IP portfolio to create reference designs for “hearables” and bring together different partners across the ecosystem. Along with its OS and app, it has helped well-known brands such as Skullcandy and Klipsch bring TWS devices to market.
Start-up Sonical is providing an alternative solution, with an advanced SoC and OS to bring next generation features to high-end devices. Sonical was also demonstrating the use of UWB with its solution.