December 18, 2009
| by Arlen Schweiger
Two big trends continue to alter the A/V landscape in our homes: super-thin flat-panel TVs and hidden audio. Now the decor-friendly demands are being taken a step further by Emo Labs, whose invisible loudspeaker technology hits you directly from a TV or computer monitor screen.
While traditional “hidden” speaker solutions like in-wall and in-ceiling models blend well with home environments, Emo Labs’ Edge Motion technology is truly “heard but not seen.”
“There’s definitely a wow factor,” says the Waltham, Mass.-based company CEO Jason Carlson. “You can tell people how it works and let them listen to it, but they don’t seem to fully comprehend it until they touch the TV while it’s working.”
Sound is produced by the vibrations of a clear, ultrathin membrane that covers the screen. Demonstrations are particularly effective, because although you can’t see the membrane—it’s just .02 inch thick—you can feel some minor vibrations, Carlson says.
Veteran acoustic engineer Lewis Athanas developed the technology, and Emo Labs has been working on its implementation since forming in 2005. Essentially, Piezo actuators located along edges of a screen move to the left and right, which in turn forces the transparent membrane to move forward and backward. The vibrations are enough to move air to create sound. Stereo sound, too, because the center of the membrane’s midsection is clamped, dividing the panel into discrete left and right channels.
If you’re considering a flat-panel TV or decent-size computer monitor for the bedroom, home office or other secondary room, the benefits of Edge Motion are attractive. You don’t have to bother attaching an A/V receiver and external speakers, or deal with the wiring mess that a 2.1-channel PC speaker system leaves.
And Edge Motion promises to be an improvement over most built-in TV speakers for a couple of reasons. First, the size of the membrane area producing sound dwarfs that of traditional built-in speaker drivers. This yields more extended frequency response on both the high and low ends, Carlson says. Second, the sound comes directly from the screen, which represents where sound should seem like it’s coming from.
Carlson says the company is working with brand-name manufacturers to bring displays that include Edge Motion to market as early as next year. He estimates about a 10 percent price bump on such TVs and monitors—a worthwhile $30 to $60 investment for hassle-free audio.
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.