Smart soundbars are coming | radioinfo

Smart soundbars are coming

Sunday 08 September, 2019

As smart technology continues to gain pace, digital technology supplier Frontier Silicon has launched a new control card to make sound bars smart.

The global soundbar market totals 20 million units a year.

Lower priced entry-level soundbars typically provide stereo or 2.1 surround capabilities to enhance the basic audio capabilities of many TV models. However, they generally lack Wi-Fi connectivity, so cannot offer a range of “smart” features. Frontier Silicon's Venice X card will change that.

The Venice X module adds capabilities such as access to online music libraries from services such as Spotify or Amazon Music Unlimited, internet radio, podcasts, Bluetooth audio streaming, DAB+, FM, mobile app control, and cloud connectivity for future upgrades.

Venice X is a cost-optimised, customisable system which enables brands and manufacturers to build high quality smart soundbars cost-effectively, at mass-market prices.


With technology trade shows coming up in Berlin, IBC in Amsterdam and also in America, Frontier Silicon is actively demonstrating other new products in coming months.

The company will be demonstrating its voice-enabled Smart IoT platform at IFA, Berlin next week. The platform brings voice control, via the Google Assistant or Alexa Voice Services, to connected devices across multiple verticals.

Frontier’s experience in smart technologies and cloud services, coupled with its relationships with Google and Amazon, allows the company to develop custom solutions that help brands and OEMs to develop voice-enabled smart devices - quickly, reliably and cost-effectively. To date, Frontier has supported companies, predominantly in the audio sector, to bring over 20 voice-controlled models to market.

Frontier offers a flexible range of services for customers seeking to explore opportunities in voice-enabled smart IoT. A recent Proof of Concept example developed by Frontier is an Alexa-controlled coffee maker which the company is showcasing in its meeting room at IFA.

Frontier’s platform includes a Smart SDK and cloud services infrastructure, through which voice commands can be channelled, software can be securely updated over-the-air with Frontier’s Nuvola system and anonymised user data can be captured for analysis.

The company has also introduced the latest version of its new Smart Radio platform with Venice X – now with Amazon Music Unlimited.

Venice X is a feature-rich, cost-optimised solution for manufacturers who want to address the growing demand from consumers for dedicated audio devices which provide access to digital radio, podcasts and online music services – at mass market prices.

By adding Amazon Music Unlimited to its portfolio of services (Spotify is already part of the package), Venice X now gives listeners access to two major online music services. This new version of Venice X also adds Bluetooth Album Art and Podcast Player.

The Venice X platform combines DAB+, FM, internet radio and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity in a single turnkey solution. Smart Radios offer consumers access to DAB radio, thousands of Internet radio stations, online music services, such as Spotify, and podcasts from around the world. The combination of broadcast and internet connectivity in a single device creates a dedicated audio product with global appeal.

With its latest software release, Venice X now incorporates Amazon’s paid music service, Amazon Music Unlimited, which will include bluetooth album art on compatible devices such as Apple's iOS 13.

In addition, responding to the growing global audience for podcasts, Venice X has also introduced a new Podcast Player which provides access to nearly 20,000 podcasts and listen-again services.

Frontier’s latest digital radio offering is a new solution which enables manufacturers to build DAB+ radios with Bluetooth and a colour screen for retail prices potentially as low as €30.

Frontier’s family of modules and software are based on the company’s 4th generation DAB chip, Kino 4, the world’s first integrated consumer DAB radio chip. These solutions power the complete range of consumer DAB devices, including portable radios, clock radios, boom boxes, home audio systems and automotive aftermarket devices.

Frontier Silicon believes the market for DAB+ devices is poised for sustained growth due to these developments:

  • Germany, the world’s largest DAB+ market, continues to grow strongly, driven by the launch of new services and heavy promotion
  • In 2020, France will be the next major market to launch national DAB+
  • Switzerland last week confirmed that it would switch-off FM no later than the end of 2024.

These developments are underpinned by legislation in France and Italy requiring all consumer radios to have DAB+ from 2020. Following the adoption of the EU’s European Electronic Communications Code, policy makers in other European countries are now considering the introduction of similar rules.



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Anthony The Koala
8 September 2019 - 3:09am
The market for soundbars has existed since the introduction of flat-screen TVs. The reason was that before flat-screen TVs, larger speakers could be included in the design of the TV. For sure speakers today can reproduce high frequency sounds clearly. Listen to music through the tiny speakers of one's mobile phone. Great for high frequency response,but poor for bass. Very few flat-screen TVs have a 0.1 (bass or LFE channel) speaker.

While soundbars have a greater bass response, soundbars with multi-channel sounds are a good substitute for the real multi-speaker system especially in a confined space Even when soundbars are available with multichannel virtual 5.1-channels, Dolby Atmos and DTS-X they will never replace the sound of a multiple speaker arrangement.

Having said that, soundbars with wifi and bluetooth capability are not new, for example the Sony HTRT5 5.1 Ch.

It is a natural extension for the soundbar to incorporate a DAB+ and FM radio. But it seems unfair that most DAB+ receivers do not have an AM receiver and this is no exception.

So if one does not have DAB+ with simulcasted AM broadcasts, that is not satisfactory. As I mentioned elsewhere, the sound quality of AM can rival FM, but most AM IF (intermediate frequency, usually 455kHz or 450kHz and occasionally 469kHz eg Panasonic RXED50) sections have bandwidths of 3.5kHz (7kHz DSB). Even if AM stereo is passe, a mono signal can be "virtualized" into multichannels by the soundbar's processor.

In sum, soundbars have a greater bass sound than the speakers contained in flat screen TVs. Virtual multi-channel sound is produced by the soundbar's processor. While soundbars won't replace an actual multi-speaker system, they are great where one is confined for space or does not want to spend on a multi-speaker system. Soundbars with WiFi and Bluetooth are already on the market.

It is great that one does not need to switch on the TV in order to use the soundbar.Today's story about incorporating DAB+ and FM is new. However it does not incorporate AM radio services, especially where DAB+ is not available.

Thank you,
Anthony of super exciting Belfield

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