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Piezoelectric MEMS Headphone May Reign Supreme in the Future

It gives voice-coil headphones a run for their money.

xMEMS was a seemingly dormant company, though recently ended it ended its slumber with a possibly ground-breaking consumer headphone. 

Current dynamic drivers (read as speakers) had been around for more than a decade, invented and patented in 1989 by Oliver Lodge under the name "voice coils". While these devices helped billions experience sound with high fidelity in many devices ranging from televisions to headphones they have certain problems and shortcomings. The problem with these devices is that they don't deliver consistent performance and their dynamic range is lacking in depth. 

A factory-assembled headphone, for example, may have different frequency responses in each bud, lacking in lower frequencies on one end or having unwanted spikes on the other. They had been unreliable in this aspect, sadly. 

Another feat is the limited dynamic range. If you've seen a big tv or a home theater audio system or even a car, one thing should have caught your attention: there are multiple drivers with different sizes on each of them. Because the frequency response of a voice coil driver is affected by its diameter. smaller voice coils have better frequency responsiveness but cannot deliver sounds that are on the lower end at high volumes. Big coils can deliver greater volumes but high-end information suffers.

Piezoelectric MEMS Headphone May Reign Supreme in the Future
Source: xMEMS

On July 7, xMEMS introduced its new design Montara, the world's first monolithic true-MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) drivers. It has a better dynamic range than traditional voice coils and offers a higher fidelity output. Another important thing to note is its low THD (total harmonic distortion.

SEE ALSO: ENGINEERS DEVELOP PIEZOELECTRIC MATERIAL 3D PRINTING METHOD

Another significant feature of the headphones is its power consumption. The device runs on 42µW power, which is a fraction of what voice-coil headphones. This will mean a significant increase in battery life.  Dimitrios Damianos Tech and Market analyst at Yole said "The replacement of traditional voice coil speakers and balanced armatures with a complete semiconductor component provides a scalable design that claims significantly lower power and latency, while xMEMS' fabless model ensures high volume repeatability. Technology advancements like these could improve the quality and adoption of in-ear personal audio devices."

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