Always looking for the NXT application
It's been almost two years since I visited NXT head office in Kowloon to find out what the company was up to, and discovered there's a lot more to it than just those early flat-panel speakers.
And having kept in touch with developments out there over the intervening period, now seems a good time to do an 'up to speed' exercise and show you some of the latest NXT applications, and some just over the horizon.
There's an ever-growing number of products out there either using NXT technology, or indeed developed by NXT and licensed to manufacturers. The company held a meeting just before Christmas last year to show off some of its projects, and its booth at the biannual Hong Kong Electronics Fair is always packed with products and concepts from companies partnering with it.
While NXT's flat-panel speaker technology is particularly suited to making small speakers able to sound much bigger, it's also to be found in some more unusual products. The new £99 Mode DAB radio from Intempo, for example, not only has touchscreen control, but also used the entire front panel to the slimline unit as a pair of stereo speakers, in a demonstration of the ability of NXT technology to make almost any material into a speaker.
NXT's Balanced Mode Radiator technology, meanwhile, has appeared in Naim's Ovator S-600 floorstanding speaker, and will trickle down to smaller models, at least one of which is likely to be announced soon.
And the NXT/Naim connection extends to the Naim for Bentley sound system available as a factory-fit option for the new Bentley Continental GT, officially unveiled last week.
In fact, not only does the 198mph supercoupe use BMR drivers when supplied with the Naim for Bentley option, it also comes with them as part of its standard audio fitment, along with a new 8in touchscreen, digital TV, 15GB of music storage and a navigation system with Google Maps.
Another fascinating NXT development comes in the form of a protective sleeve concept for iPods. iPhones and iPads from German company STRAX, which has NXT speakers built-into the slimline case itself.
And just to prove that NXT isn't just a speaker design development company, it's recently announced an intention to move more into component and module design, kicking off with the acquisition of Audium amplifier chip technology.
It's used this to develop its DyadUSB amplifier module, a 15W per channel USB-powered amp matched to its BMR speakers, and mainly designed to be used in computer applications where an external power source is inconvenient or undesirable.
The DyadUSB module, which is supplied to manufacturers as a package with two 4cm square BMR drivers, is said to give hi-fi quality from compact, computer-powered speakers, thanks to the option of "on-chip digital filtering for acoustic voicing, bass enhancement, stereo widening as well as driver protection, and implementation of a Zobel network to accurately match the driver’s inductance to the amplifier’s output drive".
Meanwhile the amplifier is designed for minimal power consumption, thus reducing its impact on the computer's battery life: it's said to be up to 20x more efficient than competing designs. It uses power rail switching to operate on a low voltage most of the time, with a boost regulator to deliver more voltage to the output transistors for musical peaks.
There's already one speaker system on the way using the technology, from US company SoundScience Corp. The QSB uses two small cube speakers, plugged directly into the USB port, and complete with a built-in microphone for use with Skype and messenger programs.
The speakers, which will work with Windows and Mac platforms without any extra audio driver software, will sell for €99 – a pair is apparently on its way to us, so watch this space…