Not in the sweetspot of these sweet looking speakers? Then you can't hear anything
When is a speaker not a speaker? If you play music through a directional speaker, but there’s no-one in the sweet spot to hear it, does it make a sound? CES wasn’t the place we expected to be asking ourselves existential questions about audio technology, but the intriguing Hypersound demo at the Turtle Beach stand certainly got us scratching our heads.
The company demoed the technology at last year’s show, but it was more a development prototype than finished product. That has changed this year, with multiple models on show ahead of an exepcted 2015 launch. We sat down in front of each to get some background on the technology, and to see whether it could be replacing a traditional PC speaker or home cinema setup and time soon.
If a torch produces a concentrated beam of light, Hypersound does something similar with audio. It uses a thin film to generate an ultrasonic beam of sound, which limits it to a specific location. When you enter the beam’s radius you hear the sound, but step out of it and you can’t hear a thing. Admittedly, the crowded CES show floor isn’t the best place to decide whether it’s possible to hear Hypersound when you aren’t in its sweet spot, but the clarity when moving from outside that spot to within it was astounding. It’s akin to putting a pair of headphones on; until you’re in the right place you can’t hear any noise, but once you’re in it the sound is clear and precise.
The Hypersound speakers set up as a stereo pair either side of a gaming monitor look a little like mesh fence panels or the grille from the front end of a car. Whether you think that’s a good thing will depend on your personal tastes, but we think they look brilliantly futuristic. There was clear stereo separation between the two speakers, but we could continue a conversation at normal levels as only one of us could actually hear any sound coming from them.
Moving into the living room setup, two speakers on either side of a TV produced recognisable surround sound. Unlike a computer desk, however, the large speaker panels (each one about the size of a page of A4 paper) stick out like a sore thumb, and will require mounting around your TV to get the full effect.
We won’t be trading in our traditional speakers just yet, as until we hear them in isolation we can’t vouch for Hypersound’s audio quality, but if the company launched a stereo pair for PC gamers tomorrow, we would snap them up and install them at work right away – if only to play games and listen to music without having to pull on a pair of headphones, without annoying the rest of the office.
Turtle Beach was also showing products you’ll be able to buy sooner, rather than later, including a new range of PC gaming accessories including laser and optical mice, cloth mousemats and mechanical gaming keyboards. The Impact 700 keyboard is the highlight, with Cherry brown mechanical switches, per-key LED backlighting, USB and audio ports and full anti-ghosting for the most demanding of players.
We’ll be taking a look at the new peripheral range as soon as we get back to the UK, and will be keeping our fingers crossed that Hypersound arrives in a form customers will actually be able to buy later this year too.