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A new level of audio clarity with xMEMS speakers

In ipXchange’s next interview from CES 2024, Guy chats with Mike Housholder from xMEMS about a revolutionary new approach to sound generation for the most compact devices: silicon MEMS speaker technology.

These chips operate in direct contrast to the traditional magnetic coil technology that has been used for nearly 150 years. xMEMS is the first company to produce this sort of design for the mass market for high-fidelity audio output across the full audio frequency range using semiconductor technology. Among other things, this enables fully MEMS-based active noise cancellation where previously only voice coil speakers were able to produce the low-frequency sound required for such a task.

MEMS speaker technology comes with several benefits over the traditional electromagnetic solution: as Mike explains, solid-state technology is more reliable, robust, uniform, and easier to scale than traditional speaker technology. This means less testing and calibration for manufacturers, as well as fewer returns or defects.

For the consumer, MEMS technology enables a faster response for clearer, higher fidelity audio, in addition to increased robustness and better efficiency for longer battery life. This makes xMEMS’ solution great for the personal audio market, which includes earbuds, headphones/headsets, hearing assistance devices, and more.

Mike then explains three key benefits of using MEMS technology in audio applications:

Firstly, the response time of xMEMS’ speakers is 150x faster than a traditional coil speaker. This means that many aspects of your favourite song, for example, are masked by the slow response of older technology. xMEMS provides a level of sonic detail that will impress not just the audiophiles testing its technology.

The silicon membrane of xMEMS’ technology is also 95x more rigid than the traditional paper or plastic membranes of electromagnetic speaker technology. When driven hard, non-linearities will muddy the sound of traditional speakers. This effect is eliminated by MEMS technology for a more consistent response across loud and quiet output levels.

Finally, phase matching – time synchronisation – is much easier when using silicon technology. This is simply due to the uniformity of the devices and easier precision control through other electronics. Until now, the time-domain benefits of speaker technology have been rarely discussed as this level of synchronisation was difficult to achieve.

Learn more about xMEMS’ solid-state speakers by following the link to the board page below, where you can also apply to evaluate this technology for use in a commercial project, such as the example shown from Creative Labs.

Keep designing!

Enjoyed this interview? Check out ipXchange’s other encounters with MEMS-based components:

Shrink your end products and cut background noise with highly directional MEMS microphones

MEMS microphones with a difference: Soundskrit’s highly directional devices omit unwanted noise

Timing with silicon: Why MEMS timing outcompetes quartz on performance AND availability

xMEMS Solid-State MEMS Microspeakers & Driver ICs

Looking for a smaller, more robust alternative to traditional voice coil speaker technology, with higher fidelity audio than ever before?

Apply for the development board now
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