Solid-state micro-speakers bring the low end to ANC earbuds
Earlier this year, we introduced solid-state micro-speaker technology from California's xMEMS Labs that's designed to replace coil-based drivers in wearable audio products. Creative was then announced as the first manufacturer to include the technology in TWS earphones, and now the company is aiming for satisfying low end with the Cypress speaker.
The Cypress solid-state MEMS speaker employs ultrasonic modulation to transform "ultrasonic air pulses into rich, detailed, bass-heavy, high-fidelity sound." We've previously seen ultrasound used in directional desktop speakers like the Soundlazer, but such things can be a little lacking in the lower registers. But the xMEMS technology is aiming to offer "stronger, deeper bass that is consistent with the best 10 - 12 mm legacy coil speakers, including sound pressure levels (SPL) greater than 140 dB as low as 20 Hz."
The modules each measure 6.3 x 6.5 x 1.65 mm (0.24 x 0.25 x 0.065 in) and feature a modulator to generate an amplitude-modulated ultrasonic carrier wave that's reported to be "an exact acoustic copy of the source signal" along with tech to demodulate the ultrasonic wave to transfer "acoustic energy down to the baseband, producing the intended audible sound as a result."
The design is also said to offer all of the benefits of other xMEMS solid-state speakers, including a faster mechanical response than legacy coil speakers for "unrivaled details, clarity and separation," accurate sound reproduction thanks to "near-zero phase shift" as well as "unparalleled spatial imaging accuracy" courtesy of excellent part-to-part phase consistency, and "unmatched mid/treble clarity" from the rigid silicon diaphragms.
The company reckons that the new micro-speakers should be a good fit for active noise canceling earbuds, with their faster electrical-to-acoustic conversion allowing for extended ANC bandwidths to cancel out noise sources such as a crying baby, while also catering to simpler digital signal processing designs for the potential of reduced latency, fewer errors and lower power consumption.
"By shifting to a sound from ultrasound principle, the xMEMS Cypress micro speaker can now officially replace traditional coil-and-magnet speakers in active noise canceling earbuds," said the company's Mike Housholder. "Cypress maintains all of the benefits of xMEMS’ existing speakers, while being 40x louder in low frequencies, achieving a key requirement for ANC earbuds."
Prototypes of the Cypress silicon are already being sent out to select customers, ahead of demonstrations at CES 2024 in January. Samples with the companion Alta controller/amplifier are due to follow from June 2024, and mass production is scheduled to start late next year.