Beam sound

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A transducer can be made to project a narrow beam of ultrasound that is powerful enough, (100 to 110 dBSPL) to change the speed of sound in the air that it passes through. The ultrasound is modulated– it consists of an audible signal mixed with an ultrasonic frequency. The air within the beam behaves in a nonlinear way and demodulates the ultrasound, resulting in sound that is audible only along the path of the beam, or that appears to radiate from any surface that the beam strikes. The practical effect of this technology is that a beam of sound can be projected over a long distance to be heard only in a small, well-defined area. A listener outside the beam hears nothing. This effect cannot be achieved with conventional loudspeakers, because sound at audible frequencies cannot be focused into such a narrow beam.

There are some criticisms of this approach. Anyone or anything that disrupts the path of the beam will disturb the dispersion of the signal, and there are limitations, both to the frequency response and to the dispersion pattern of such devices.

This technology was originally developed by the US (and Russian) Navy for underwater sonar in the mid-1960s, and was briefly investigated by Japanese researchers in the early 1980s, but these efforts were abandoned due to extremely poor sound quality (high distortion) and substantial system cost. These problems went unsolved until a paper published by Dr. F. Joseph Pompei of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998 (105th AES Conv, Preprint 4853, 1998) fully described a working device that reduced audible distortion essentially to that of a traditional loudspeaker.

The technology, termed the Audio Spotlight, was first made commercially available in 2000 by Holosonics, a company founded by Dr. Pompei. There are currently two devices available on the market that use ultrasound to create an audible “beam” of sound: the Audio Spotlight and Hypersonic Sound

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horn speaker is a speaker that uses a horn to get more sound (volume) from the driving loudspeaker. The horn itself does not amplify anything, but rather improves the coupling between the speaker driver (typically made of paper or, more recently, more exotic materials such as titanium) and the air (which has a very low density). Simply put, air is very light and speaker cones are relatively very heavy, so horns trick the speaker cone into believing it is very large in surface area, and very light (more like air).

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