Compact widgets turn tables into loudspeakers

Vibration speakers can convert windows, floors, and car roofs into loudspeakers. A range of the fist-sized devices are on display at CeBIT.

OrigAudio's $45 battery-powered Epishock comes in a padded lunchbox for convenient transportation. It can play music for six to eight hours on one charge.
OrigAudio's $45 battery-powered Epishock comes in a padded lunchbox for convenient transportation. It can play music for six to eight hours on one charge. Stephen Shankland/CNET
Cowin's Nanobeat has 10 watts of power and a Bluetooth network to connect to a music source.
Cowin's Nanobeat has 10 watts of power and a Bluetooth network to connect to a music source. Stephen Shankland/CNET

HANOVER, Germany--For those who want to take their music with them, a more convenient option than lugging loudspeakers is now available: fist-sized, battery-powered devices called vibration speakers.

These chunky widgets transform a table, floor, car roof, or even window into a large speaker. One one end is a tweeter for playing higher-frequency pitches, and on the other a driver that moves the surface to which it's attached, converting it into a giant woofer.

The devices were thumping loudly on the CeBIT tech show floor here as manufacturers tried to drum up customers, distributors, retailers, and business partners.

"People put them on top of cars for tailgating in the United States," said Jason Lucash, director of business development for OrigAudio, a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company showing its models off at the show.

His company's 5-watt Epishock costs $45 and has enough battery power to play music for six to eight hours, Lucash said. A standard audio jack connects it to a smartphone or other music source. It's got a frequency response of 50Hz to 18kHz -- not bad, but don't expect that performance to carry over if you're attaching it to a chintzy plastic folding table.

Vu-lion's compact 3-watt vibration speakers have a ring around the middle that controls volume.
Vu-lion's compact 3-watt vibration speakers have a ring around the middle that controls volume. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Another company showing them was Vu-lion, whose smaller 3-watt UL-U100 comes with a Bluetooth connection for wireless music transmission, said Kiki Chen, an overseas sales representative for the Shenzhen, China-based company. They cost $20 each in quantities of 1,000.

Thumping loudly with a higher 10-watt power was Cowin's Nanobeat, which costs 60 euros ($78) for a Bluetooth model and 50 euros ($65) for a model that plays music stored on a microSD card. For those short on flat surfaces, Cowin also has a model attached to a window with a suction cup.

Cowin's vibration speaker attaches to a window with a suction cup.
Cowin's vibration speaker attaches to a window with a suction cup. Stephen Shankland/CNET
About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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