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Christie IBC BBC 201014 021114

Flat speaker, fat sound

17 September 2009

Walls with voices
Walls with voices

The Fraunhofer Institute has developed flat panel loudspeakers set to revolutionise the installation market. The technology concept was unveiled at the IFA show in Berlin, at the beginning of the month, and is claimed to deliver full sound reproduction. Scientists responsible for the loudspeakers say the technology will be powerful enough for professional film or concert applications in the future.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT in Ilmenau worked with Sennheiser electronic to challenge the perception that good sound reproduction requires space for the loudspeaker membrane to vibrate and therefore demands bulky speakers. They acknowledged that flat panel loudspeakers can be integrated almost invisibly into the surroundings, adding that the quality of the sound in conventional models suffers if speakers are installed on walls or in furniture.

The group claims to have developed a special loudspeaker: ultra-flat, but resonant.

"This new generation offers tonal balance and acoustic pressure at a level that will even allow the use in the professional movie or concert segment in the future," said Dr. Sandra Brix from IDMT. To make this possible, Brix and her team took their inspiration from the loudspeakers of premium headphones."

"We are opening up a new application area for our highest quality electrodynamic headphone miniature loudspeakers in this alliance with Fraunhofer. Because of their compact overall depth, they are excellently suited for use in the flattest loudspeaker boxes, without any losses in tonal persuasiveness," said Prof. Dr. Jürgen Peissig, head of the Signal Processing and High Frequency research department at Sennheiser electronic.

They are arranged in groups, or "arrays", so that they allow audio quality that the Institute claims has not been seen in the past. "Even if these flat panel loudspeakers are placed directly on the wall or integrated into media equipment or furniture, they can reproduce a frequency range from 100 hertz to 20 kilohertz," according to Dr Brix. "This distinguishes our new concept from conventional flat panel loudspeakers that achieve response characteristics at this level only if kept at a certain minimum distance from the wall."

The Institute says the ultra-flat loudspeakers are suited for multichannel systems and the IOSONO audio system. Based on the principle of wave field synthesis, IOSONO is claimed to produce a realistic and spatial sound field throughout an entire listening area via a large number of small loudspeakers arranged in a ring. The new design and sound means this large number of loudspeakers can now be discreetly integrated into the surroundings. In the future, Dr. Brix is convinced, it will be possible to use this technology in all areas that call for an integration and reproduction of sound as invisible as possible. Automotive and aircraft construction obvious candidates, but spas and hotels also want to create aesthetic surroundings. For example, the flat panel loudspeaker could inconspicuously disappear into the ambient design in form of a picture or decorative element.


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