It's an exciting time in the world of audio. The best wireless earbuds continue to deliver outstanding sound combined with brilliant ANC that does a great job tuning out ambient sounds, and there's endless variety in terms of design, sizes, fit, and so on. But the underlying technology is identical across all earbuds: they use similar dynamic drivers that are based on a voice coil that's activated by magnets.
That isn't the case with solid-state drivers. Earbuds that use these drivers — like the recently announced Creative Aurvana Ace and Ace 2 — leverage a piezo layer distributed across a silicon diaphragm to produce sound, and the result is increased impulse response, lighter design, more consistent sound, and no interference from other parts. Basically, solid-state drivers are aiming to transform audio, and xMEMS is leading the charge.
Creative is using drivers manufactured by xMEMS in the Aurvana Ace series, and there are other IEMs and DACs available in the market today that use the same design. But xMEMS is already looking ahead to next year with the introduction of Cypress, a driver that uses ultrasonic amplitude modulation to turn ultrasonic air pulses into sound. The result is 40x louder bass response over existing xMEMS designs, which sounds remarkable.
"Cypress comprises a modulator to generate an amplitude-modulated ultrasonic wave (carrier) that faithfully follows the amplitude of the intended audio signal; and a demodulator to synchronously demodulate the ultrasonic wave, transferring the acoustic energy down to the baseband, producing the intended audible sound as a result."
"The sound envelope of ultrasonic pulses is an exact acoustic copy of the source signal, meaning across all frequencies, Cypress is more faithful to the original recording than current speaker technologies. As a result of its superior resolution in the time domain, Cypress can more accurately reproduce today’s advanced sound formats, including high-resolution and spatial audio."
Another advantage of going this route is that it allows xMEMS to hit sound pressure levels (SPL) of over 140dB as low as 20Hz, a key metric as it comes close to what's possible with coil drivers. This makes the Cypress a good choice for ANC earbuds, and it is entirely likely we'll see a wave of earbuds debut with the tech next year. On that note, xMEMS mentions that mass production of the driver will kick off in late 2024, so it will be a year before we get any consumer hardware leveraging the new driver.
Until then, xMEMS is positioning the current-gen Cowell driver as the go-to solution, including the upcoming Aurvana Ace 2.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.