Good sound takes space, or at least I thought it did. Then, LG Display Automotive gave me a preview at CES 2023 of a new kind of audio driver that’s so thin it can turn just about anything into a relatively powerful speaker.
An audio solution with a thin driver looks more like something you’d copy from a notepad than a device that can emit a sound. However, the thin copper cable coiled at one end is a gift.
Measuring just 12cm x 6cm x 0.3mm thick (and weighing 12g), the player is designed to be behind monitors or to be mounted just about anywhere.
How does something so thin generate sound? It starts vibrating. Think of it like the voice coil in the center of a traditional loudspeaker. Instead of a thin diaphragm cone such as a diaphragm, the thin actuator uses whatever is incorporated in the schematic diagram. It vibrates at different frequencies, and the material around it vibrates like a diaphragm, acting as a sound amplifier.
There are clear benefits to this approach. Typical 4K TV speakers suffer because they use small voice coils and diaphragm cones that struggle to produce big sound. The thin player can use the entire monitor screen to amplify the sound. The players can also easily fit into a car’s headrest, delivering sound directly to the back of your head and ears.
This is how LG explained the technology to me, but I wasn’t convinced until I heard it myself.
LG reps drove me to a specially equipped test vehicle (I can’t tell you what make or model). Inside the cabin, LG Display Automotive has hidden 12 thin drivers and three subwoofers standard for 12.3, Dolby 3D sound. The only indication that the engines were there were little green stickers dotted around the interior to indicate their locations.
I sat in the driver’s seat, closed the door, and from outside, an LG screen representative turned on the music. The sound was all around me, coming from the doors and the frame around them and the dashboard and center console. I can touch the fabric and feel the vibrations. The big bass was given off by the old-school speakers, but all the highs and mids from the drivers were bright, clear, and very rich.
Don’t expect to see (or hear) these svelte drivers in the cars of 2023. Unlike its parent LG Electronics, LG Display makes the technology for other companies (including parent LG). LG Display Automotive representatives told me they’re already in talks with automakers about how and when to introduce this audio technology to their cars.
It’s also likely that the thinner players will end up behind future 4K and 8K TVs, and some of the thinner, more flexible displays that LG Display is developing for future cars.
If all goes well, we could try a super slim player audio in the near future.
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