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Rosita Longevity wants to teach seniors how to live long, healthy lives

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Longevity, as far as startups are concerned, tends to be a moonshot-y space where technologies like biotech and AI are experimentally applied in a sort of modern day alchemical quest — and the great hope is to (somehow) ‘hack’ biology and substantially extend the human lifespan. Or even end death altogether.

Coming considerably closer to Earth is Spanish startup Hearts Radiant, which says it’s in the “longevity tech” business but is taking a far more grounded and practical approach to addressing ageing. In short it believes it’s nailed a formula for helping people live to a ripe old age.

And — here’s the key — to do so healthily.

So its moonshot isn’t to help people get to a biblical 150 or even 120. It’s about supporting seniors to live well, up to a ‘good innings’ like 95, while (hopefully) retaining their independence and vitality through the application of technology that creates a structured and engaging lifestyle routine which works to combat age-related conditions such as frailty and social isolation.

Gently does it

The startup is coming out of stealth today to disclose a first tranche of pre-seed funding and chat to TechCrunch about its dream of supporting seniors to live a more active, fulfilling and independent life.

The €450k pre-seed round, which is led by JME.vc with participation from Kfund, Seedcamp and NextVentures, will be used for research and continued development of its Rosita Longevity digital coach. The app has been in beta testing in a limited form since January — currently only for Android devices, given seniors tend to have their relatives’ hand-me-down smartphone hardware (but iOS is on the roadmap) — offering livestreamed and on-demand video classes like cardio flamenco and age-appropriate yoga for its target 60+ year-olds. 

Rosita’s co-founders are husband and wife team, Juan Cartagena (CEO) and Clara Fernández (CCO), along with CTO David Gil. Their premise is that what humans really need, as they age, is guidance and motivation to stay as active as they can, for as long as they can — and that a digital platform is the best way to make personalized, ‘healthy habit’ forming therapy for seniors widely accessible.

“We believe that we have to be a habit engine,” says Cartagena, offering “health longevity” as another descriptor for the scope of what they’re aiming to achieve.

Fernández is drawing directly on her years of experience as CEO of Balneario de Cofrentes, a family business in Valencia, which she describes as a “longevity school” or camp for seniors — and which the website suggests is a combination of spa/hotel, physical therapy/rehabilitation and education center. There she’s been responsible for overseeing activity and education programs tailored to seniors, offering guided exercise and advice on things like disease avoidance and good nutrition.

“Over the last ten years we have developed a very comprehensive strategy on how to educate, how to create habits in the senior community so that they can increase their healthy lifespan,” she explains. “We have a specific methodology. We start with teaching seniors how to manage their current health situation and we progressively start educating them with lifestyle, prevention of the main diseases, and also education about the latest discoveries in the field of science.”

“I realized that the main way to expand this was taking it online,” she adds on the decision to package the program into a digital coaching app — “where a bigger percentage of the senior population could benefit”.

Lifestyle is a key part of the proposition. But they’re most comfortable with the badge of ‘longevity tech’.

“We are trying not to play in fitness for many reasons,” adds Cartagena. “It’s limited in scope. And we are trying to go beyond that — it’s just the starting point [for reducing frailty] and the issues related to that, including the final ‘disease’ which would be dependence.”

Since the premise underlying the Rosita app hinges on the proven health benefits of regular, moderate exercise as a means of combating a range of age-related conditions — such as muscle mass loss and reduced bone density leading to frailty (which in turn can lead to a fall, a broken hip, and a senior who’s suddenly dependent on personal care) — or, beyond that, as a general bolster for mental and brain health — they are squatting on established (rather than moonshotty) science.

Although they do still need to demonstrate that digitally delivered, personalized programs of lifestyle coaching — featuring familiar but still sometimes clunky technologies like AI and chatbots — can actually help reverse frailty (in the first instance) for seniors participating remotely, with no human physiotherapists on hand to help.

Screenshots of the digital coaching app (Image credit: Hearts Radiant/Rosita Longevity)

Hence some of the funding will go on researching how their bricks-and-mortar ‘longevity school’ program translates to a digital platform. And, more specifically, whether personalised digital coaching for 60+ year olds will yield tangible reductions in frailty (and thus gains in active years) in the same way that in-person group exercises have already been shown to. (One area that certainly merits close study is whether social human contact derived from a purely digital experience vs in-person group therapy makes a difference to treatment outcomes.)

It’s true that no smartphone in the world can transform a bog-standard bathroom into a full on luxury spa. But other elements of the Balneario’s program simply need digitizing and structuring to serve up similar benefits, is the thinking.

The sorts of digital activity programs they’re devising for the app are designed to be fun for seniors as well as beneficial and appropriate for a particular frailty level. Examples of classes currently offered include reduced mobility dance, burpee-free ‘cross fit’, and osteoarthritis-safe karate.

The onboarding process involves an assessment to determine a senior’s frailty level in order that users are offered content at an activity level that’s appropriate for their physical condition.

Long is the road

Cartagena notes they’re working with Dr. José Viña, a professor at the University of Valencia, who is renowned in the longevity field. “He has proven he can revert frailty in the earliest stages by applying a certain methodology to specific muscles with a treatment of exercise-fusion — with some lifestyle habits. Now what has not been proven is whether that is applicable to a remote environment where people do it on their own,” he adds. “And this what we are doing right now. This pre-seed round is basically to take that uncertainty, put that in front of a few thousand [app] users, take that research… and see if in the next 12 months we improve [their frailty level].”

The actual Balneario is closed at the moment, in this health-stricken year of the novel coronavirus, but the plan is to reopen in March 2021 — and then introduce the annual intake to Rosita — garnering ongoing feedback on whether or not it’s steering them toward health-supporting habits.

“It’s all about understanding the customer so well and that’s where the competitive advantage of this company really comes from,” argues Cartagena. “By having 15,000 seniors per year coming to the school, every year we understand the customer very well, their habits, what they do, what they don’t. They come every year so we can ask them what did you do last year?

“That will be for us the way to have a massive focus group — let’s say a sliding window of focus group that we can see for ten days using the product — and we can iterate much faster by seeing not people just through our analytics but people who are using the product in front of us. One hundred or 500 people a day in our resort. And I think that will be a fundamental way in which we can actually build something that people really need and use and care about.”

The current version of the app doesn’t yet include AI-powered personalized coaching. But that’s again where the pre-seed funding comes in. “The initial coach for education and frailty itineraries should be ready in three weeks (together with our iOS app),” says Cartagena. “This solves a pressing problem our users have today.

“The personalized coach (pathologies, followups, context, atomization of exercises, etc) has a lot of logic behind and testing this properly will take more time. We will release that intelligence slowly and we should feel ‘proud’ by Christmas. That will become our Habits Engine. Together with our geroscience research plan, those are the uncertainties to get right with our current funding.”

Targeting chronic pain is another key aim for the app, although he concedes there may be some types of pain they won’t be able to address. The co-founders add that the app is intended to supplement not replace traditional healthcare — pointing out it’s being designed to be more forward-looking; aka that prevention of age-related problems is exactly the strategy to live better for longer.

“Telehealth is more about managing a disease — we’re more about preventing,” adds Fernández. “We’re more about discovering what are the indicators and the tools to make sure that the senior population… understand what it happening to their body, what is going to happen over the next ten years and start to slowly develop those habits so that they can minimize, reduce the evolution, the natural ageing process.”

Cartagena notes they are also working with researchers on developing sensor hardware that could go alongside the app to enhance their ability to predict frailty — suggesting it will allow them to define a wider/more nuanced range of user categories (the first version of the app has three categories but he says they want to be able to offer nine).

Smartphone and sensor hardware combined with AI technology has, for some years now, been enabling a new generation of guided physical therapy apps that seek to offer an alternative to pharmaceutical-based management for chronic pain — such as Kaia Health and Hinge Health, to name two. And of course mindfulness/guided mediation has become a huge app business. While the broader concept of ‘digital health’ has, over the past half decade or so, seen CBT-style therapy programs packaged up to be put on tap in people’s pockets. So there’s nothing inherently strange or exotic about the idea of a longevity coach for seniors.

Albeit, getting the user experience right could well be the biggest challenge. Cartagena says the app’s tone is important — talking in terms of not wanting to be “patronizing” or make seniors feel like Rosita is giving them “homework” — so they really click with the virtual coach and stay engaged.

Fernández too emphasizes the goal is to sustain good habits. Ergo, this is a (gentle) marathon not a sprint. 

If they can design a safe and engaging experience that seniors don’t find off-putting, tedious or confusing the potential to expand access to therapies, activities and information that can improve people’s quality of life looks huge. Frailty is also only the team’s first focus. As they develop the product and grow usage they want to be able to support their users to form healthy habits that could help stave off neurodegenerative conditions like dementia, for example. Combating loneliness and social isolation is another goal. So there’s a whole range of health plans they’re hoping Rosita will be able to deliver.

“What we’re doing right now is focused especially on frailty — we’re developing the personalized AI coach on top of that — and what we’re going to do is start adding the layers of all the different health plans that we’re going to be establishing off the longevity coach,” says Fernández. “Nutrition, cognitive stimulation, relaxation and breathing, and on top of that we will put all the prevention strategies — and all the classes that we’re preparing for longevity.

“One of the things that we have tested in the clinic that is very important is to educate the user. Not just on what they need to do today — but on what is happening to their ageing process, what is happening to their metabolism, what is happening to their musculoskeletal system. How and why your body is ageing is fundamental so you can make small decisions. By empowering users through education they can understand and relate to why this specific thing that you’re telling them today is useful in the long run.”

“One of the most successful strategies that we have built is creating this whole course on longevity which is what is happening to your body — what science knows today about the field of longevity,” she adds. “And how you can minimize those symptoms. And those things we’re translating completely into the [app].”

Cartagena also points to the risk of a COVID-19 ‘4th wave’ of deaths that could result from seniors becoming more frail than they otherwise would after being forced into a more sedentary existence as a result of lockdown measures and concerns about their risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Or, in other words, sitting at home on the sofa might help seniors stay free of virus but if abrupt inactivity risks their vitality that too could cut short a healthy lifespan. So tools to help older people stay active are looking more important than ever. And to that end he says the app will remain free throughout the pandemic — envisaging that could stretch into 2022.

The plan for the business model is b2c, likely focused on selling premium content — such as connecting users directly with a therapist to chat through their progress. In the meanwhile they’re relying on VC to get their digital “motivation engine” to market.

Right now they have 5,000 “pre-registrations” for the app and 1,000 seniors actively testing the product (all aged 60 to 80, in Spain). They’ve also just pushed out an update, moving the software out of the ‘early access’ phase — as they progress toward launching their “personalized AI coach for longevity.”

And while Rosita’s coaching is currently only available in Spanish — with the team having recorded “hundreds” of videos so far for different levels and chronic pathologies — the aim is to scale up in Europe (and perhaps beyond), starting with the U.K. market. Which makes English the next natural language for them to build out content.

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JBL L82 Classic review: These retro speakers offer modern acoustics

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It’s been nearly a year since I reviewed the JBL L100 Classic, a reimagining of one of the most famous speakers of decades past. It quickly became one of my favorite speakers.

With the smaller (but not certainly not small) L82 Classic, JBL has outdone itself again, at least in the reviewer’s eyes. At $2,500, it is one of the most enjoyable speakers to grace my apartment — one that looks good, sounds great, and has the measured performance to back it up.

Design

The retro look — a boxy wooden design with a massive woofer — is likely to be divisive, but I love how different it looks from almost anything else on the market. It’s a statement piece, and it fits the Brooklyn hipster-ish vibe of my apartment well, though I do wish the speaker came in lighter tones; I think a finish in white with lighter wood wrap could better fit many kinds of modern decor.

As with the L100 Classic, the L82 can be ordered with the line’s iconic waffle-iron-looking grille in black, blue, or orange. I would’ve opted for the blue, personally, but the black unit I reviewed is a neutral option that should work in many people’s homes. I just wish the grilles used magnets instead of annoying friction-based pegs. Not everything needs to be retro.

JBL does make custom stands for the L82 at $250 a pair, which sit a little lower and angle the unit up slightly. But unlike the L100 Classic, for which I thought the custom stands were necessary, the L82 can just about fit on a typical bookshelf speaker stand without looking ridiculous.

In any case, you’ll want to set them on a sturdy surface, as the L82 comes in at a hefty 28 lb per speaker, what with its large, boxy design and 8-inch woofers. Unlike the L100 Classic, the L82 is a 2-way design with just a woofer and a tweeter. This can often create problems for integration due to the large difference in size between the units, but as we’ll see later, the tweeter’s waveguide and ability to extend lower than usual, ensure a smooth transition between the lows and highs.

The Setup

Before we get to the sound, it’s worth noting that the L82 has a customizable sound profile — something rare to find in a passive pair of speakers (as in, one that requires external amplifiers and doesn’t feature digital signal processing).

This is thanks to a high-frequency knob which gives you fine control over the speaker’s upper frequency response. The knob covers a wide portion of the frequency range, and therefore can effectively change the speaker’s sound rather dramatically. Too bright? Turn the knob down. Too dark? Turn it up!

I wish more speakers would include physical controls like this. Though you can always EQ the sound manually through an AVR or other device, sometimes just a slight change in the tilt of the frequency response is the difference between a speaker sounding ‘good’ and ‘great’ in your home.

Another way the L82 let you tweak sound is in how you position the speakers. Unlike the L100 Classic, which had an asymmetrical layout in which the tweeter was always on the same side of the body, the L82’s tweeters are mirrored.

This means you can adjust the soundstage of the speaker to a notable degree depending on which speaker you choose as your left and right units. You can have the tweeters on the inside edge for a slightly more focused, slightly more compressed soundstage, or on the outside edges for a slightly more expansive but diffuse soundstage.

JBL doesn’t provide a specific recommendation in the L82’s manual, but Chris Hagen, the L82’s designer, told me:

“In setups where the speakers are widely spaced compared to listening distance, the speakers should be placed so that the tweeters would be inboard, or closer to each other. This would also be the case if both speakers are inside of, but next to, reflecting surfaces (such as the walls, or large pieces of furniture).

If the speakers are placed closer together than the listening distance and there are no reflecting surfaces just outboard of them, then it is recommended to place the speakers so that the tweeters are outboard, or furthest away from each other.”

I preferred the outboard position. Though the speaker sounded good with both setups, the difference in spatial presentation was quite obvious in my home, with the outboard position yielding a more expansive soundstage, even if I tried moving the speaker to compensate for the difference in tweeter position. Your mileage may vary.

The Sound

I have to admit, I was a little nervous going into this review. The L100 Classic is one of my all-time favorites, and I didn’t know if the L82 would be able to recapture that feeling. After all, I’ve listened to some amazing speakers since then.

My worries were misguided. The L82 are wonderful.

Like the L100, there were three things that stood out to me in particular: First, a fantastic, expansive soundstage. Second, an overarching sense of neutrality despite the retro looks. And three, a toe-tapping sense of dynamics one rarely finds in bookshelf speakers.

Although impressions of soundstage will vary from room to room, the L82 managed to throw an image that seemed to extend well beyond the edges of the speakers — both horizontally and vertically. The sense of scale is impressive; on albums for operas and musicals like the excellent Hadestown, the L82 make it easy to imagine singers occupying a physical stage in front of you rather than being replicated from a pair of boxes.

The L82 shares a tweeter and a shallow waveguide with the L100 Classic that is designed to throw out a wide soundstage rather than the deep waveguides or horns that tend to narrow the soundstage on some modern speakers. The Buchardt A500, for example, has a slightly more focused soundstage than the L82 as positioned, but I preferred the L82’s sheer sense of scale in direct comparisons.

In terms of tonality, it’s easy to assume the L82 would have a ‘retro’ sound due to the looks — one might anticipate exaggerated bass, sizzling highs, or other obvious coloration to give it some kind of special charm. But no — these are speakers neutral enough I’d be happy to use them as studio monitors.

That’s not to say they are completely devoid of character. The speakers did have just a bit of a midbass emphasis that give kick drums some extra oomph — a ‘flaw’ I do not mind. Though bass quantity can vary depending on your home and placement, the L82 reach low enough that most users probably don’t need a subwoofer (although I always recommend one).

This is especially true if you mostly listen to acoustic music, but even on Beyonce’s ‘Partition,’ a track that starts with a frequency sweep that sounds like a subwoofer test, the L82 manages to present all but the deepest sub-bass. You should get useful energy into the 30 Hz region in-room.

On the treble front, the default ‘0’ knob setting may have just a tad more ‘sparkle’ than neutral if you aim the speakers right at your listening position, but as I preferred them with just a little bit of toe-in, I found the default balance largely appropriate.

In any case, these are relatively subtle traits that can be tweaked by knobs and positioning; the prevailing impression is one of transparency. Vocals shine in particular, to my recollection having a more neutral tonality out of the box than perhaps any speaker I’ve heard since the Dutch & Dutch 8C.

Lastly, ‘there’s no replacement for displacement,’ as the saying goes; in this case, that means the 8-inch woofer offers relatively effortless dynamics compared to the typical 5 and 6-inch woofers in your average bookshelf speaker. Though I tend to listen at don’t-annoy-my-neighbors volumes, I got the distinct impression the L82 was able to hit dynamic peaks more cleanly than most speakers meant to be mounted on a stand. When I did risk an annoyed knock on my door, the L82 managed to get as loud as my ears could handle without any audible distortion.

The measurements

I almost always outline my listening notes before taking measurements, as I try not to let the data color my subjective thoughts too much. I also like to think I can puzzle out most of the qualities of a speaker through listening alone.

Sometimes I’m a bit off from the mark, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them. I noted the L82’s prevailing characteristics are neutrality with an expansive, accurate soundstage, and this is evident in the measurements.

Some background: Using a technique that allows me to reduce the influence of reflections from my measurements, I can approximate the speaker‘s “true” sound as it would be measured in an anechoic chamber. We begin with a graph called a ‘spinorama,’ so-called because it involves rotating the speaker around its horizontal and vertical axes to capture its sound at 70 different angles. Yes, that is as tedious as it sounds.

The spinorama was actually developed by researchers at Harman, JBL’s parent company. It distills those multitudinous data points into one simple graph, giving us a useful summary of both the speaker‘s direct sound and how it radiates sound into a room. This single graph is usually enough to separate the good speakers from the bad ones.

Here’s the spinorama I measured for the L82 Classic with the HF knob at its default setting:

Measurements were performed using a Room EQ Wizard at a distance of 1 meter, with the microphone pointed at tweeter height and the horizontal center of the speaker. Measurements were gated at 6.5 ms, and the nearfield on-axis bass response was merged over 1/2 octave centered at 550Hz. The off-axis bass response was simulated with VituixCAD.

Explanations of how to interpret these lines are provided over at Speaker Data 2034 and Audioholics. Here’s my summary if you think the above lines might as well be rainbow spaghetti:

  • The On-Axis and Listening Window curves represent the ‘direct’ sound of the speaker before any reflections, and they should be relatively flat. The On-Axis is measured with the speaker aimed directly at the microphone, while the Listening Window is an average of 9 measurements within a ±30° horizontal ±10° vertical window. This accounts for the fact most people don’t sit perfectly still or centered, so it is generally the more important of the two. As the first and loudest sounds to arrive at our ears, the direct sound has a huge impact on our perception of tonality.
  • The rest of the curves focus more on the indirect, or ‘off-axis’ sound — the sound that will reflect off your walls. The Early Reflections is particularly important, as it averages several angles to estimate the very first bounces off your walls, floor, and ceiling to reach your ears. These reflections contribute significantly to our impressions of tonality and soundstage (the latter being particularly affected by horizontal measurements).
  • The ER curve should generally tilt down by roughly 8-10dB from 20Hz to 20kHz, though it can vary for speakers with unusual directivity characteristics. The most important thing is that its shape roughly match the direct sound, indicating the reflected sounds are similar in character to the direct sound.
  • The Sound Power curve represents an average of the speaker‘s sound in all directions. It’s not as useful as the other curves for speakers that mostly radiate sound forward, but it should generally look like an even steeper version of the ER curve.
  • The Predicted In-Room Response curve estimates how a speaker will measure in a real room by combining data from the LW, ER, and SP curves. For the majority of speakers, the PIR curve looks very similar to the Early Reflections curve, so it is often omitted.
  • The Directivity Index and Early Reflections DI curves tell us how similar the off-axis sound is to the direct sound. These are calculated by subtracting the Sound Power and Early Reflections curves from the Listening Window, respectively. Smooth DI curves suggest the off-axis and direct are similar, which bodes well for the soundstage. Good DI curves also imply a speaker will respond well to equalization.
  • Bumps that persist in both the direct and off-axis sounds suggest an audible resonance. Resonances are bad as they color all music and remind you you’re listening to boxes rather than live music.
  • You generally don’t have to worry about what happens above 10kHz, as most people can’t hear much up there and music tends to have little content in this region anyway.

Got all that?

Long-story short: The L82 performs admirably, especially considering it is a passive design without built-in digital EQ to help it out. The only significant flaw present in this image is the messiness in the direct sound around 1-2kHz, but it is not one I found to be really be audible.

Before we dive in, it’s worth acknowledging that JBL was willing to send me the official spinorama for the L82 Classic captured in its anechoic chamber. Lo and behold:

That is very similar to what I was able to achieve with my jerry-rigged at-home setup. How close? Here’s what happens when I scale JBL’s spinorama curves to match my own:

The biggest differences in the measurement is in the smoothness of the predicted in-room response; mines a little bumpier, but that might be explained by the fact my measurements were taken at just 1m compared to the 2m minimum technically demanded by the spinorama standard.

This is about as close as you could expect two sets of measurements with different methodology, equipment, and speakers samples to be. At the very least, it confirms my sample performs as intended, and I find it extremely refreshing as a reviewer to see a company is willing to send me its data. It shows JBL has nothing to hide.

Consistency established, we see the speaker has a direct sound that mostly reflects what I heard: relatively flat with a bass boost around 100Hz and a gently rising treble that can be tuned to taste with the HF knob. Here you can see the effect of the HF knob at different settings: default (white), max (blue), 12-o’clock (green), and minimum (red).

The HF knob lets you tune the upper mids and treble to taste. Depending on your room and positioning, you might find you want a bit more or less treble than default, though I assume no one will be using the speaker at its minimum setting.

The one quirk in the direct sound is a sharp dip and bump from roughly 1-2kHz. I actively tried to detect this in listening tests after I’d seen the measurements, but could not confidently do so. That’s perhaps because the artifacts are largely balanced out off-axis, as seen by how the ER and other off-axis curves are smoother in this region (in JBL’s more than mine, but this may be partly explained by different methodology).

It’s also worth noting a flaw that isn’t here: most two-way speakers show a large dip in the off-axis curves around their crossover point, something I often find leads to a recessed sound in the vocals. The L82 avoids so with its relatively low 1.7 kHz crossover and a compact waveguide around the tweeter, yielding extremely smooth early reflections and PIR curves (a tad smoother in JBL’s data than mine, but hey, they have an anechoic chamber and I don’t).

In the off-axis curves, we see a peak above 10kHz, but as most music does not have much content in this region and many people do not have great hearing above 10kHz, it’s unlikely to be a problem. Moreover these extra high frequency sounds are rapidly absorbed off-axis, and this resonance is blocked on-axis by a phasing plug placed over the tweeter. It’s unlikely to be an audible issue unless you are listening over 30 degrees off axis from the speaker, which you shouldn’t be doing anyway.

We now turn to the off-axis measurements, we can see evidence for its expansive soundstage and excellent imaging performance.

First, I should note the speaker was measured at tweeter height, at the horizontal midpoint of the cabinet.

My reference point for measurements. JBL later informed me their reference point was a little lower, at the height of the waveguide’s bottom screws.

Because of the asymmetrical tweeter placement, we have different measurements for each side of the speaker.

Lets start with the measurements on the ‘far’ side of the tweeter — towards the port in the above picture:

We see here extremely well controlled sound off axis. Even all the way out to 90 degrees, the curves remain smooth, gradually changing with each 10 degree interval. The shape of the off-axis curves match the on-axis cure well, except for above 10kHz where sound will likely be absorbed or unable to be heard anyway.

Next we have the measurements on the ‘close’ side of the tweeter:

Mostly similar performance. We can see the off-axis sound is actually bit louder on this side, which may be why I found having the tweeters on the outside to yield a larger soundstage even when compensating for tweeter-to-tweeter distance.

With the tweeters on the outside, the sound reflecting off your walls will be louder too, which typically leads to a perception of a larger soundstage. There is a dip happening around 2 kHz that could be problematic, but on balance, it does not appear to be a major audible issue as it balances out in the overall response.

For more of a ‘big picture’ view, it can be useful to make a few averages of these curves. Below we estimate the reflections off walls to the ‘Front,’ ‘Side,’ and ‘Rear’ of the speaker, as well as the Total Horizontal Reflections — an average of these three curves.

You can see the sidewall reflections are very close in character to the direct sound, predicting good soundstage performance. The Horizontal ERDI curve represents how close the total horizontal reflections are to the listening window, and we see the smooth curve we’re looking for.

One more visualization — here’s what we call a contour plot or polar map. It shows how the speaker’s sound changes as you move away from the reference point on the horizontal plane:

Turning to the vertical performance, the speaker’s ceiling and floor reflections are fairly well controlled and largely balance each other out. Most speakers exhibit larger flaws in this regard:

However I should note that the vertical ‘sweet spot’ is fairly narrow above tweeter height – the sound changes substantially just by 5-10 degrees above my reference point.

The speaker is much better controlled below tweeter height, barely changing down to 15 degrees below my reference point. This may be the best reason for buying the official stands, which recline the speakers so they point slightly upwards.

Alternatively, you could find another way to angle the speakers, like the Isoacoustics Aperta stands — or maybe you’ll just melt into your couch while you’re enjoying the music. It shouldn’t be much of an issue in a typical setup, especially since the speakers are taller than normal, but it’s worth noting if you listen from very close.

Lastly, here’s that info visualized again in a polar map:

Are these the most pristine measurements I’ve ever seen? No, but they are among the best I’ve seen for a passive design, especially once you consider how the flaws are balanced out off-axis and the flexibility afforded by the treble knob. The ER and PIR curves are particularly smooth, suggesting a great balance in a typical living room setup.

You can get active speakers or studio monitors that have slightly tidier measurements, but how much of an acoustic improvement you’ll see is debatable. In any case, few speakers that measure better manage to do so while maintaining this wide a soundstage — that’s not something I’m personally willing to give up.

Retro looks, modern sound

I’ll summarize my thoughts about this speaker this way: If I had $2,500 to spend on speakers right now, I’d be buying the JBL L82.

Though I wish the speaker came in lighter colors, and I’d love to see an active design with DSP to clean up the few flaws in the measurements, the L82 is a joy to listen to. It has a mostly-transparent tonality with just enough of a bass boost to differentiate itself, and the expansive soundstage is among the best I’ve heard. That the sound is slightly tweakable is just icing on the cake.

While great speakers will wow me when I’m paying attention, the L82 is one of the even rarer speakers that forces me to pay attention — it just sounds that good. I hated having to send these back, and hope I get the chance to hear them again soon.

For more gear, gadget, and hardware news and reviews, follow Plugged on Twitter and Flipboard.

Published October 20, 2020 — 20:28 UTC

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Here’s why Netflix shares are off after reporting earnings

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Shares of consumer video service Netflix are down sharply after the bell today, following the company’s Q3 earnings report.

Why is Netflix suddenly worth about 5% less than before? A mixed earnings report, a disappointing new paying customer number, and slightly slack guidance appear to be the answer.

The numbers

Heading into the third quarter, Netflix told investors that they should expect it to generate revenues of $6.33 billion, operating income of $1.25 billion, and net income of around $954 million, worth about $2.09 in earnings per share.

Today, Netflix reported $6.44 billion in revenue, operating income of $1.32 billion, along with $1.74 in per-share profit off of net income of $790 million.

Netflix bested its revenue goals, but fell short on profitability.

The company also managed to best analyst revenue expectations of $6.38 billion, while missing out on analyst per-share profit expectations of $2.13.

Adding to the pain, Netflix also missed expectations on new customer adds. In its Q2 earnings, Netflix said that it “forecast[ed] 2.5m paid net adds for Q3’20 vs. 6.8m in the prior year quarter,” because its “strong first half performance likely pulled forward some demand from the second half of the year.”

Today Netflix reported just 2.2 million customer adds, missing its own targets and sharply missing analyst expectations of around 3.3 million for the period (some analyst counts had an even higher guess).

Looking ahead, Netflix says that in Q4 it expects revenues of $6.57 billion, operating income of $885 million, $615 million in net income, earnings per share of $1.35, and 6.0 million new paid customers in the period. The street had been looking for $6.58 billion in top line, and just $0.94 in per-share profit, so it’s hard to parse which part of the forecast is driving more investor sentiment.

Regardless, today’s earnings report will not move Netflix’s share price too far from its recent, all-time highs. The company may take a ding from its profit miss, but nothing material.

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Netflix user growth slows as production ramps up again

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After the COVID-19 pandemic drove impressive subscriber growth earlier this year, Netflix’s numbers have come back down to Earth.

The streaming service added 15.77 million net new subscribers in the first quarter of the year, followed by 10.09 million in Q2. It only projected 2.5 million for Q3.

Today’s earnings report shows the company falling short of that already-underwhelming goal, with only 2.2 million net additions, bringing its total subscriber base to 195 million. And it’s forecasting 6.0 million net additions in Q4, compared to 8.8 million in the same period last year.

“As we have highlighted in our recent investor letters, we believe our record first half paid net additions would result in slower growth in the back half of this year,” the company said in its letter to shareholders. “If we achieve our forecast, it will put us at a record 34m paid net adds for 2020, well above our prior annual high of 28.6m in 2018.”

The company also said that “retention remains healthy and engagement per member household was up solidly year over year.”

While the pandemic may have accelerated Netflix’s user growth, it also halted film production for safety reasons. That’s meant a slowing release schedule — though the delay is less noticeable for Netflix, since it had so many shows and movies in the pipeline.

With production resuming, the company said it’s actually completed principal photography on more than 50 productions since mid-March, with plans to do the same for 150 additional productions by the end of the year.

The fourth season of “Stranger Things​,” the second season of “The Witcher” and action film ​”Red Notice”​ (starring Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds) have all resumed production as well.

The announcement includes viewership numbers for a handful of shows and movies released in the last quarter: 43 million subscribers chose to watch the new season of “The Umbrella Academy,” 48 million chose to watch “Ratched,” 38 million chose to watch “The Social Dilemma” and 78 million chose to watch the Charlize Theron action movie “The Old Guard.” (Reminder: Netflix’s “chose to watch” metric refers to the number of subscribers who watched at least two minutes of a program.)

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