Speakers to Get Invisibility Cloaks

Calm down, calm down. It was simply a manner of speech. No, they haven’t developed the all too popular garments that render the wearer invisible, but we are about to take a look at some pretty spiffy technology that will doubtlessly save you some space in the family room as well as give you something to brag about to your somewhat less technologically inclined friends: “invisible” speakers.

Though the company didn’t have a very large presence at CES this year, Emo Labs toted a bit of technology that (I hope) will soon start rolling the stone into becoming a standard included with many devices porting flat-panel screens, especially laptops and netbooks, desktop monitors, television screens, and perhaps even cell phones and other ultra mobile devices.

Traditional speakers are essentially cones vibrated by an electromagnet, taking up real estate that is often valuable when your living room is small or when you’re carrying around a lappy, not to mention causing a fuss when you’ve got the subwoofer too close to the old CRT television. What all the fuss about these so-called “invisible” speakers is that this new speaker design implements a membrane vibrated by motors situated around the edge. So, in layman’s terms, what we have here is a transparent speaker of sorts that can be placed on an existing flat panel screen, giving superb sound quality with a fraction of the space that traditional speakers would have used. The bigger the screen you have, the bigger the membrane you have, the better the sound quality.

Not sold on the idea? Certainly membrane speakers will catch on, especially in the notebook market where the space that was once reserved for speakers can be used for more important components, but the quality of sound just can’t match something as bulky and expensive as the shiny, attractive speakers we pay through the nose for today, right? Perhaps– but then perhaps not. According to Harry McCracken who witnessed some of the prototype speakers on display at CES, “they showed me a Diana Krall concert on an ordinary-looking medium-sized flatscreen TV, and the sound was big enough that I wondered if they’d tucked a multi-piece speaker system with a subwoofer out of sight. Another demo involving a 15-inch LCD such as the ones built into notebooks was equally impressive.”

I’ve never heard of Emo Labs before, but it sounds to me as if the big fatties of quality speaker production are going to have a run for their money once these are released into the wild. Let’s just hope that Emo won’t put a depressing Gothic look to their products– I may just have to slit my wrists.


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