The requirements for the loudspeaker in the digital age must meet the standards imposed on the rest of the chain. The first is for the speaker to provide accurate sound information under the same conditions as the electronics may be used.

LOUDSPEAKERS AND THE DIGITAL AGE

Jan Plummer | Thorough Bass International

LOUDSPEAKERS AND THE DIGITAL AGE
by Jan Plummer - President
Thorough Bass International

The requirements for the loudspeaker in the digital age must meet the standards imposed on the rest of the chain. The first is for the speaker to provide accurate sound information under the same conditions as the electronics may be used.


The loudspeaker has always been the most controversial issue amongst audio experts associated with an industry capable of producing some of the most disparate pricing of any audio products. The industry is known as the consumer electronics industry and markets loudspeakers as subjective phenomena with no defined quality goals and pricing that can exceed that of luxury housing in some instances. Sure, there exists in science and the military special types of sound transducers that can have considerable cost but these types of loudspeaker are typically involved in research and special military applications. It also appears that even amongst these scientific explorers the excepted method of enclosing loudspeakers remains the same as that of the consumer loudspeaker industry.

The consumer loudspeaker industry goes one step further in attempting to make sound as realistic as possible using generic technology basically as it existed 100 years ago. The refinements in the loudspeakers have basically been that of driver materials and variations of the now over 100-year-old folded-baffle box design. In the early days of audio it was realized that the folded box had to be big to maintain low frequency response and all attempts to reduce the size of the box has resulted in further degradation of the already flawed method in use.

The electronics industry has been demanding a solution to this dilemma as low cost methods of storing and amplifying audio information has both improved and allowed for miniaturization of associated components. Digital software has forced the down costing of music and video software preserving information so well that even hardcore audiophiles are now excepting today's digital standards as superior to the sacred analog tape and vinyl of yesterday. The loudspeaker however has remained the same with the folded box attempting to be downsized while custom and mobile solutions still rely on the basic unfolded baffle designs (walls, doors, trunk etc.) as the main goal of the enclosure is to provide for a means of making the speaker a product in itself not that of an embedded product.

One only has to look at the extreme disparities that still exist in loudspeaker marketing and the associated pricing. While the true purpose of the loudspeaker remains generic, the ability to convey intelligence in the audio form through the air, the quest for the reproduction of music accurately has produced loudspeakers costing in excess of one million dollars in current times. Television from its' inception has had costs driven down by demand and this has remained the same for all generations of this medium including HDTV while associated electronic hardware now available has a very good cost/performance ratio as well.

Loudspeakers do not follow this trend, as there are low cost computer speakers in the sub ten-dollar range having physical limitations very much similar to that of the million-dollar system mentioned above. There are limitations defined by existing technologies for loudspeaker design that requires brute force and complicated deliverance techniques to provide good sound quality. It is professed by the industry that ones' listening environment is the real problem not their loudspeaker products. The result is a new industry attempting to defeat the acoustics of the room creating ambiguity where this is not the real problem since everyone has to use their room when listening. The ongoing cycle is one of frustration severely limiting the industries market potential and focusing quality audio as a luxury only available to the patient, rich and spouse supportive.

INTRODUCTION OF QUALITY SOUND TO A BROADER MARKET

The problems associated with the existing methods of enclosing loudspeaker drivers have become severely acute with the introduction of the flat panel television and miniature speaker requirements for the multimedia revolution. The manufacturers of large televisions both direct view and rear projection televisions have had large internal volumes to produce general full range sound with multiple drivers. The high-end has never known size or cost boundaries so how does the industry approach the quality speaker market while reducing size, lowering cost and maintaining reliability? How does the industry approach all audio markets with a generic technology platform that allows for each application to meet the demands of the 21st century using the existing low cost supply of dynamic drivers developed in the 20th century? A drastic change in the technology approach is needed to go forward for a clear understanding of the dynamics that the industry marketing vehicles are capable of achieving in the broad audio market. Quality sound should be an inherent part of all loudspeaker applications not as it is executed today.

It is obvious that the methods of sound reproduction employed at present have met serious challenges for natural sound reproduction in a normal acoustic environment. As mentioned above loudspeakers can be purchased in price ranges from below ten to over a million dollars for reproduction of the same sound source. The low cost system is marketed as high quality for its' purpose with the high-cost system having the requirement of making it sound more realistic. Approaching realism is not perfection and even with extremely high-cost loudspeakers the goal of perfect sound reproduction in any environment is not met. Typically the associated components and the required operating environment for such an extremely expensive loudspeaker are also of high cost while the components associated with the lower cost speakers are of complimentary lower cost. The listening room must be specially prepared if it is desired to maximize the investment in high-end component hardware. Why does the disparity exist between the costs of associated components and just what is gained through the use of the expensive gear? People want good sound, but even armed with a big budget few would venture into maximizing the sound quality using existing high-end approaches.

EMBEDDED ACOUSTIC TRANSMISSION LINE™

The Achilles heel for thorough, economical and objective audio reproduction is the loudspeaker and the root of the problems lies in the enclosure used to house the simple inexpensive driver. As we are demonstrating with EATL technology we are able to satisfy the requirements for full range high fidelity sound using a very small ordinary driver in a very small enclosure. This accomplishment is also met for low frequencies using the same ETLtechnology in an alternate configuration. The enclosures are not large or of special materials yet the sound reproduction is of high caliber and it reduces the need for expensive associated components.

It can be seen by the improved sound offered through the use of the EATL technology that the many idiosyncratic remedies required to obtain quality sound are not necessary for the mass application. The deep enclosures typically employed for reduction of internal standing waves is not necessary. The fact is that EATL allows for the relatively small enclosure and uses the small size to benefit the drivers' performance in ways never even considered. The use of this special enclosure allows a single three-inch driver to serve as the woofer, midrange and tweeter with near perfect pistonic accuracy. It allows for close immediate monitoring of the sound only inches from the driver with sound similar to a headphone even at high levels. The sound quality is also enhanced for low volume listening while dispersion approaches omni-directional characteristics. Accurate dispersion equates to greater observed travel of the sound source within the listening space and better off axis listening.

The ability to reduce the enclosure volume while improving the clarity and depth of the sound opens up new applications for embedded and custom applications. There is inherently less mechanical vibration. In custom home sound installations the concern of sound bleeding into adjacent rooms through walls is greatly reduced. Speaker placement in mobile installations such as auto, boat, or plane requires more flexibility while maintaining the sound quality. The EATL allows for use in these close quarters where listening may be done with the ear near the loudspeaker while maintaining the sound level and quality at a greater distance even off of the main listening axis of the loudspeaker drivers. The amplification associated with mainstream sound reproduction will have enhanced sound quality as the improved loading characteristics of the EATL loudspeaker reduce the need for specialized or high power amplifier circuits.

DIGITAL AGE COMPATABILITY

What does compatibility entail for the fast evolving digital multimedia age. The requirements for the loudspeaker in the digital age must meet the standards imposed on the rest of the chain. The first is for the speaker to provide accurate sound information under the same conditions as the electronics may be used. It must present a quality objective, which is observable by all listeners under a varying array of acoustical conditions while being relatively small, reliable, cost effective and capable of universal adaptation through large scale manufacturing techniques. It must be a generic part of efforts to make the ultimate speaker yet have cost-quality effective goals being made and met each time for affordable products.

While there are artful technologies abound no speaker company has generic non-electronic technology that is effective at all marketing platforms with the exception of EATL™. One of the most successful speaker companies ever, is making broad claims about their technologies yet the penetration is limited to a small segment of the consumer and commercial markets. There is no general acceptance of their technologies to enhance the reproduction of sound yet they are one of the largest in this industry. Their focus has been on marketing and simplicity and a broad market platform. Their technology and its' derivatives are not even recognized in the high-end community while EATL has its' beginnings there with future applications presently being addressed for the mass market.

There are many other speaker manufacturers all of which enjoy a very small share of the speaker market. One percent of the loudspeaker market is dedicated to the high-end while technical efforts of larger mainstream manufacturers are totally ignored by the audiophile community, those seeking sound purity. This ambiguity hinges on the lack of alternatives for the flawed loudspeaker enclosure, something totally ignored by the current engineering community. The improvements offered by EATL lower the hardware requirements for high quality cost effective sound reproduction to a simple speaker in a box, the same level of simplicity and cost effectiveness offered by its' associated digital encoded software and amplifier. We are basically seeking to create a new threshold for an objective quality standard for sound reproduced through loudspeakers.


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