Apple reveals new audio system designed for thin devices

“On August 14, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple titled ‘Long-Throw Acoustic Transducer,'” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple.

“Apple’s invention generally relates to the field of audio speakers that use a moving magnetic piston as the sound producing element. The invention will be able to produce more vibrant audio for music and alerts with vibrations for future iDevices,” Purcher reports. “Apple notes that their invention may be advantageous for acoustic transducers that are used in ‘thin’ devices where the height of the acoustic transducer must be small to fit within the device.”

Purcher reports, “Theoretically that could mean that this was designed for the iPhone 6 and/or other future iDevices like the iPad mini and beyond. As far as the iPhone goes, we’ll know if this was used or not the minute that iFixit does their teardown of the iPhone 6 in September.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Arline M.” for the heads up.]

13 Comments

    1. Moreover, a “moving magnetic piston” loosely describes every single cone-style speaker driver on the planet. The USPTO continues to grant new loose patents for old ideas, and it has to stop.

      1. 1) This is an application for a patent. It hasn’t been granted.

        2) The application isn’t for a “moving magnetic piston”. Read the whole multipage application, complete with pictures.

        3) Can you link to an existing speaker that uses this system?

        1. All diaphragm speakers are driven by a electromagnet “piston”. But as Paul says, they are almost always mounted on a sealed suspension. There have been exceptions, where the diaphragm is just a big plate that moves in free air. Those tended to be heavy drivers that required more power and could never render high frequencies properly. The key to frequency response is that the diaphragm moves air with a relatively short throw and large surface area and the minimal possible inertia and friction. Paul is absolutely right that reducing the surface area and putting the diaphragm into a cylinder where friction comes into play would be a nightmare. Such a design could never consistently achieve proper frequency response without overcoming the constantly variable friction problem. This patent application should be laughed out of the office because no one will never have a working prototype to demonstrate the viability of this stupid concept. I wish more people looked at the science involved rather than immediately assuming that Apple always gets it right. If this is some Beats engineer’s great new idea, then Cook just threw away $3 billion for a brain trust less capable than the Three Stooges.

          1. Mike, first you complain that “a “moving magnetic piston” loosely describes every single cone-style speaker driver on the planet.” and ” The USPTO continues to grant new loose patents for old ideas, and it has to stop.”

            I point out that this patent is much more detailed than that, and different from other speakers and moreover the USPTO hasn’t granted a patent for this, it’s just an application.

            When asked if you can link to a speaker that uses this system, you don’t even answer the question.

            You then refer to Paul, “Paul is absolutely right that reducing the surface area and putting the diaphragm into a cylinder where friction comes into play would be a nightmare.”

            But which is it? Is it a nightmare that nobody has done, and thus this patent is unique, or is it something people are doing? Has it occurred to you that maybe Apple has resolved the issue of friction? Even if they haven’t that’s entirely irrelevant to filing this patent application.

            “This patent application should be laughed out of the office because no one will never have a working prototype to demonstrate the viability of this stupid concept.”

            Not being an IP lawyer, maybe you’re unaware that a prototype isn’t needed to file a patent application. But apparently, you’re now claiming that while this patent application “describes every single cone-style speaker driver on the planet”, no one could every build one.

            ” I wish more people looked at the science involved rather than immediately assuming that Apple always gets it right.”

            The only person making an assumption here is you. All we’re seeing is that Apple applied for a patent, and the full description of that patent. You’re making assumptions of the viability, validity, and outcome of the patent application.

            “If this is some Beats engineer’s great new idea, then Cook just threw away $3 billion for a brain trust less capable than the Three Stooges.”

            Are you really suggesting that Apple spent $3 Billion for an idea of a speaker system that hasn’t even been prototyped and won’t work…before it was even patented?

            You’re joining the “patent system is broken” circle jerk without the most basic understanding of how it works. I’m not suggesting it doesn’t have its problems, but can you offer one valid reason why this patent application shouldn’t be approved?

            Specifically, as I mentioned before, can you link to speaker system like this?

        1. Most, not all, speaker drivers use a magnetic coil to move a rigid diaphragm. That diaphragm, typically a cone, is almost always suspended by a ring, typically rubber, that allows linear movement. Replace the suspension such that a piston slides up and down in a sleeve and you have either:
          A) a dynamic sliding surface that requires both super tight manufacturing tolerances and constant lubrication, or
          B) a high-friction piece of junk that sounds worse than any existing cone speaker.

          Apple really should stop losing its focus and just partner with speaker experts that have decades of experience in REAL acoustic engineering, as opposed to fad marketing. A partnership with Grado or B&W or Sennheiser would impress me infinitely more than seeing an Apple-Beats headphone with magnetic pistons.

          1. Apple looks forward at technology and knows no limits to thinking creatively unlike those speaker experts you mention. The fact that you think this is impossible is your opinion. Having used Apple products since 1980 they have made many things once thought impossible very possible and for the masses. I would not bet against them at this point.

          2. You mean the same way they partnered with carriers and phone manufacturers to develop something new and wonderful like the iPhone?

            The fact that they are doing stuff like this apart from existing industry allows them to step outside of the existing paradigms and away from the people who say it can’t be done and allows them to create something new that’s never been done before.

  1. The last design is the one Apple is focusing on as it was designed for very thin devices. This is Apple’s design and they’ll use it. Apple’s iPhone needs a better speaker and this could fit the bill, hopefully.

  2. I agree about the partnerships. For as much as I can observe, Samsung and Google seem to try their hands (and cash) and everything from rockets to boats to phones. To me, Google seems unfocused, just spending wads of cash to play with whatever suits the mood that day. I think Apple would do well to partner with Polk Audio myself. Grado and B&W are to home speakers what Carver was to amps. Apple doesn’t need more EXPENSIVE stuff, they need top shell research and design that is affordable. Hence my preference to tap the minds of Matthew Polk’s shop. They know headphones too. My 2 cents.

  3. I’m guessing this is a miniature sub-woofer and there would still be a high frequency range more typical speaker.

    I have an ElectroVoice SB122 subwoofer that (according to specs I’ve read) has up to a 4 inch displacement of the cone. I wouldn’t think a cone suspension system could move that far. It may have something similar to this structure and use a come instead of the flat blocks at the end. I haven’t seen any diagrams of what’s in it, so this is just conjecture.

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