The future of speakers and sound


30 October 2020

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If you love sound and music, then you know that speaker quality is one of the main factors that determine sound quality. Speakers don't seem to change as much as other things in our lives, like computers and cell phones, but are they immutable? To find out, you can explore the latest patents issued in the important area of ​​sound speakers. Foreign inventors and foreign countries are the most common winners from patients, especially from Asian countries. This applied not only to utility patents, which cover improvements to loudspeakers, but also to design patents, which cover artistic speaker cabinet designs.

A quick overview of the speaker structure helps you see where the latest innovations are being made. The speaker's sound-producing mechanism is held in place by a frame. The frame consists of: a basket, a soft donut-shaped gasket and two plates that carry the charge of the magnet. There are seven components to this mechanism. These elements are: the magnet, the metal core, a moving coil wrapped around a light coil, the cone or diaphragm. The voice coil and cone / diaphragm are a unitary assembly and are held in position by a surround speaker and spider (also known as a damper). When current flows through the voice coil, the electromagnetic force pushes it forward.

Of the 27 utility patents in the last 18 months, the largest number belongs to the voice coil, which has 8. The next most innovative component is the cone (also called the diaphragm), which has 6. The third is the spider (also called shock absorber) with 4 innovations. Followed by these are the basket (2), the magnet (2), the gasket (1), the horn (1) and the edge (1). A patent was even issued for a new type of dust cap (1) that disperses pressure waves with less interference. The dominance of voice coil patents could be proof that this is the tipping point because this is where electrical energy is converted into mechanical energy for the purpose of pushing air.

In addition to the innovations that focused on the components, there were 10 utility patents that involved a major restructuring of the speaker. Examples of this include the use of bar magnets or voice coils embedded in the cone. In fact, most of the innovations related to the overall speaker structure were for flatter speakers. A massive research and engineering effort dedicated to creating flat speakers was another clear trend in the last 18 months. All of this points to one thing: the speaker of the future is going to be flat. At least that's what the manufacturers think. This is likely based on market research showing customers competing for flat speakers to match their flat panel televisions.

An example of innovation in flat speakers comes from a Sony patent. This design produces a loudspeaker that can be 5 feet high, 3 feet wide, and where sound is generated by vibration motors that push a non-porous fabric. There is no moving coil or cone. Sony's patent includes the use of rack and pinion gears to adjust the location of the vibration on the fabric for optimal sound. We all want our flat-screen TVs, and in the future, we may all want our flat-screen speakers, too.


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