Waypoints adopts a cradle-to-grave approach that not only streamlines the development of noise cancelling headphones but brings about increased control over their introduction into mass production and continuous manufacturing. Comprising a five-stage process, which responds to the unique challenges of headsets comprising regulated acoustics, working methods, tools and design expertise operate in unison to remove technical uncertainty and build confidence in end-product outcomes at the outset of any new program. The platform can be exercised in tandem with customers' existing processes and covers all facets of end-product design, development and manufacturing - including end-of-line test and production monitoring.
"Noise cancellation is a complex technology that demands the careful marrying of electronics, software and acoustics on a product-specific basis. As our customers have come to understand, successfully deploying an effective noise cancelling capability across multiple product targets requires considerably more than choosing the right silicon. By transforming SoundChip's unique system-level audio knowledge into powerful working methods and tools, which can be readily exercised by domain experts, we have created a platform capable of scaling the delivery of class-leading noise cancelling into new headsets with unprecedented reliability and speed," says Mark Donaldson, CEO of SoundChip.
With its Waypoints end-product development process, SoundChip is able to support the design-in of certain third-party NC chips in addition to its own class-leading and power-efficient HD-PA devices. "SoundChip recognizes that in a growing marketplace, integrated circuits are optimized for specific target applications. With this announcement, we have chosen to provide our customers with access to a more diverse range of electronics and software solutions where it makes best sense to do so," added Mark Donaldson.
Complementing the Waypoints platform is SoundChip's Soundstation portfolio of tools. During CES 2018, the company already started to introduce lead customers to the next generation of its leading Soundstation Production test, calibration and programming solution. Soundstation Production is the world's first cloud-enabled production test solution that employs Big Data analytics to enhance the testing, calibration and programming of hybrid noise cancelling earphones, headsets and hearables.
SoundChip recently opened a new engineering centre focused on the research and development of advanced noise cancelling (NC) technology and providing comprehensive design-in support for customer-initiated product development. Conveniently located between Manchester and Liverpool airports, the new facilities, which form part of the SciTech Daresbury campus, comprise three biometrically secured laboratories, enabling "IP Clean Room" end-product development. Each lab is provisioned with its own state-of-the-art acoustic measurement equipment, including diffuse-field-emulators and reference head-and-torso-simulators (HATS). Additionally, to facilitate the precise cataloguing of developmental work-in-process (WIP), the centre also comprises a secured materials repository.
As a leading supplier of advanced audio solutions for inflight entertainment, SoundChip is already delivering its new SoundPort solution – an audio jack technology which allows all known airline headphone formats, including powered and jack-enabled noise cancelling, and Panasonic HD-AUDIO models, to operate with an inflight entertainment system via a single USB-C connector. As Mark Donaldson explains, “SoundPort is a game-changer for airlines, supplanting large and expensive multi-socket audio jacks with a single USB-C connector that works with any airline headphone, including new digital models.”
Until now, to offer noise cancelling on-board, airlines have had little choice but to install audio jacks comprising a multiplicity of 3.5mm and 2.5mm audio sockets in either ARINC type C or D configurations. These jacks have proven to be unreliable, do not support digital audio, and often require enormous force to break the headphone’s plug away from the connector.
SoundPort eliminates the need for large and expensive audio jacks by relying instead on the extensible capabilities of USB-C combined with SoundChip-patented electronics. SoundPort works with all airline headphone types, including powered and jack-enabled noise cancelling models, conventional stereo headphones, as well as next generation Panasonic HD AUDIO headsets, which bring several new features such as digital audio and voice telephony. SoundPort’s integrated electronics autonomously detect the type of headphone connected to the jack and route incoming and outgoing audio signals accordingly. For example, SoundPort provides power to noise cancelling headphones that include their own circuitry, whereas for noise cancelling headphones designed to operate with circuitry in the jack, SoundPort’s electronics perform the noise cancelling processing.
For digital headsets, meanwhile, such as those compatible with Panasonic HD AUDIO, SoundPort passes digital signals to and from the headset and includes a powerful firewall to further protect inflight entertainment system data. To make any headphone compatible with SoundPort, including those already in use, requires the headphone’s cable to be swapped to one terminating in a USB-C connector – it’s that simple. SoundPort technology can be deployed in any panel-integrated and remote-jack configuration, including those which are form-and-fit replaceable with conventional USB-A, C and multi-socket jacks.