Wolfson Microelectronics extends the sound of silence

Wolfson Microelectronics has announced its first mass-market noise-cancelling stereo headset reference solution, incorporating a unique feed-forward ambient noise cancellation (ANC) technology, called myZone™ ANC.

The product is intended to be quickly and easily customised and branded by the leading consumer electronics companies, including mobile phone manufacturers.

The USB rechargeable WM182 is a ‘white label’ ANC headset, ready to be re-packaged according to customer design requirements and delivered to the consumer in-box or as an after-market accessory. Speaking to E&T prior to the launch, Kevin Carey, ANC Business Development Manager at Wolfson, said,

“If you look at mobile music, there’s a convergence: iPods, mobile phones, even the Blackberry now has a relatively good MP3 player. Instead of being an audio codec, this is a finished product. We’re not looking to establish a Wolfson brand; instead, our technology customers will add their industrial design. Our core acoustic reference is standard and can be adapted to any design.”

The myZone feed-forward ANC technology is said to produce crystal-clear audio by eliminating background noise, removing the need for consumers to increase the audio volume to compensate for external noise. With headphone volume levels undergoing EU review, the WM182 provides manufacturers with an ideal solution to prevent hearing damage caused by listening to loud music for extended periods, whilst delivering HD quality sound.

The headset’s ANC technology stems from Wolfson’s acquisition two years ago of Sonaptic and is, as Carey describes it, “the evolution of that technology”.

Carey also described the advantages of Wolfson’s “feed forward” approach: “It captures ambient noise before it hits the ear, tackling the noise before it mixes with the music in the headphones. With a feed backward design, it’s listening to the music and trying to remove the noise, but there are elements of the music that also get removed. Feed backward systems tackle the problem up to about 800hz [low-mid range frequencies]. With our new earbud solution, we can cancel up to 1.5KHz [low-high range frequencies] and with a pad-on-ear design we can go higher. The further away the microphones are from the ear, the sooner you can capture it.”

Of the headset launch, Rash Sahota, VP and General Manager of ANC and Software Solutions at Wolfson Microelectronics, said: “Wolfson developed this headset in response to customer requests and its introduction to market is a natural evolution of Wolfson’s world-class ANC technology and semiconductor devices. Wolfson will continue to use its tried and tested fabless model to support this ground-breaking ODM activity.”

Delivering over 30db peak noise cancellation, the WM182 features an in-line control pod containing a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, which provides around 30 hours of ANC playback; mini USB charge socket; call answer/end button; ANC on/off switch; and two colour LED status indicator for power and charge. It also features a noise sensing microphone in each ear-bud, plus a voice microphone.

Many customers, including multiple Tier 1s, have sampled and are currently evaluating the headset. Wolfson will introduce a range of additional complementary headsets later this year. Wolfson’s existing technology customers include Nokia (for the BH905) and Audio Technica for headphones and Cambridge Audio and Linn for hi-fi equipment.

This is the first foray in taking a mass market product in to the consumer space for the Edinburgh-based company, which specialises in the supply of high performance, mixed-signal semiconductor solutions to the consumer electronics market.

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