Sony shows prototype next-gen speakers

Sony has developed next-gen prototype speakers based on the same technology in its Sountina that hang from a ceiling or come with an audio system in the base.

Sony's prototype Kanade speaker on show in Tokyo.

Sony's prototype Kanade speaker on show in Tokyo.

Sony has developed next-generation prototype speakers that hang from a ceiling or come with an entire home audio system built-into the base, utilising the same technology in its distinctive Sountina .

The two working prototypes were unveiled Wednesday at a Sony event in Tokyo held for electronics retailers and its dealers. Like the Sountina, they emit sound from long, glass tubes, said Nobukazu Suzuki, an acoustic system engineer in Sony's audio business group and developer of the speakers.

Also like the recently-launched Sountina, the glass tube in the prototypes is energized by small drive devices that couple with the tube and vibrate vertically. Waves travel up through the tube and are dispersed in a 360 degree spread horizontally from the tube. What all this means is that sound spreads out from the tube in a uniform manner and can be heard equally well from any position around it.

The hanging speaker, dubbed "Hibiki," looks like a stylish light and is envisaged as something that could be positioned over a table or in a room where it could hang without looking like a speaker, said Suzuki.

The second prototype, named "Kanade," is an upright speaker not dissimilar to the Sountina only smaller and not as imposing. Just under the speaker a digital audio player is integrated into the device so the unit can function as an all-in-one audio system with nothing but a power cable required.

Technology development of both devices is complete, so the biggest hurdle standing between them and the store shelf is a marketing decision. That's something that Sony hasn't yet taken so there's no word on when or if they might ever become products.

Sony's NSA-PF1 Sountina, which was unveiled in May, went on sale in Japan in June at the premium price of ¥1 million (US$9,295). It's also becoming available in major markets around the world.

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Martyn Williams

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