Creative's partnership with solid-state speaker startup xMEMS signals new direction for hi-fi TWS earbuds ↺
Creative Technology has just announced a partnership with California-based startup xMEMS Labs, a pioneer in solid-state microspeaker design, with the goal of incorporating its cutting-edge technology in Creative’s true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds. If successful, this could mark a relatively rare departure from conventional drivers in consumer audio devices.
xMEMS’ technology, based on micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), is radically different from traditional voice-coil drivers, which feature fixed magnets and a diaphragm glued to a moving coil which is driven electromagnetically. The xMEMS drivers, on the other hand, are essentially monolithic, all-silicon structures (fabricated similar to semiconductor chips, rather than assembled) that utilize the piezoelectric effect to create vibrations in a silicon membrane.
xMEMS Labs claims that its modules are the world’s first solid-state full-range MEMS speaker, and has already integrated them in some hearing aid devices. Their extraordinary physical characteristics should also provide unique benefits in TWS earphones:
- Higher clarity and accuracy in sound throughout the audible spectrum, due to low mass and high stiffness of the silicon membrane
- High spatial accuracy and separation – important for 3D audio applications
- Ultra-compact drivers with inherent shock- and water/dust-resistance
- Lower power consumption than traditional drivers
- Manufacturing consistency leading to lesser variability in sound signature
- “Active ambient control” with xMEMS’ DynamicVent feature (opens/closes a vent in the module to regulate ambient noise-isolation and ear pressure relief, and support ANC)
Demo listening tests with xMEMS’ own prototype earbuds do support some of these performance claims, but also suggest a dependance on the overall earbud design. Creative is obviously open to embracing new technologies, having introduced bone-conduction headphones in its lineup earlier this year. However, whether this collaboration produces a new generation of successful hi-fidelity devices or simply some exotic novelty tech remains to be seen.