USound MEMS Microspeakers Now Available to the Audio Industry as Components, Development Platforms, and Reference Designs

December 17 2019, 00:45
Austrian microspeaker company USound is the most advanced MEMS Microspeakers initiative currently in the market. Since announcing a production partnership with STMicroelectronics in 2017, the world's first miniature piezoelectric MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) actuators for smart audio systems in portable devices have become a commercial reality. Targeting multiple possible applications from headsets to high-end speakers and completely new development ideas, USound has announced multiple reference solutions to push the technology forward.

With its offices in Graz, Vienna, Shanghai and Shenzhen, USound is focused on enabling innovative applications for MEMS speakers. The original aim for the patented micro-speaker technology was to replace commonly used balanced-armature and electrodynamic receivers for handsets with a small, lower power piezo-MEMS actuator. Since the original demonstrations, USound proved these extremely small and thin speakers could also enable wearable applications, Augmented-Reality/Virtual-Reality (AR/VR) headsets, or even be used to create arrays with dozens of transducers and replace ribbon drivers, among other possible applications and designs.

The company's MEMS micro-speakers are simpler to manufacture, more reliable, and more economical in high volumes, and USound is exploring all the options for the technology. The fast-growing audio company is now promoting high-performance silicon speakers and high-quality sound solutions based on MEMS technology, safeguarded by over 150 filed patents. 

Recently, USound has joined forces with global distributor and solution provider Seltech to distribute USound’s MEMS speakers in the company's vast global network. The common goal is "to turn upside down the international audio industry and bring the latest acoustic innovations to the market," they announced. An international solution provider since 1989, Seltech is well-known as a distributor in the field of acoustics, sensors and digital signal processing. Seltech operates in Europe (France / Germany) the United States (Raleigh / San Francisco), China (Nanjing / Shenzhen), as well as Hong Kong and Singapore. The company provides technical support and also develops mechanical assemblies and customized solutions.

In 2018, USound had already signed a multi-million dollar deal with 3Nod Acousticlink, a leading Chinese integrated solutions provider, to deliver an extensive amount of its piezoelectric loudspeakers for high-quality true wireless earbuds and multi-driver headphones. 

With their compact size, USound’s speakers are ideal for in-ear headphones design, but the many application possibilities for MEMS speakers are paving the way for more initiatives and USound is determined to prove that despite the small size, MEMS can also be used in big format solutions. With their special construction and design, USound’s speakers are able to generate fully immersive sound experiences, combining high-quality audio with countless design possibilities, exploring the components’ energy efficiency and design freedom. With their size of only 4.7 × 6.7 × 1.6 mm, USound's MEMS speakers enable application designs such as the Sound Strip or the Proteus speaker arrays, both of which are currently available in reference designs.
Proteus: 1.0 A fully-fledged speaker made from 80 microspeakers.
The Proteus concept is a design for a powerful speaker array based on USound’s Ganymede MEMS microspeakers. Originally created to explore the possibilities of arranging a large number of microspeakers in arrays, it is now a fully-fledged and working speaker, boasting clear and crisp audio. A Proteus can be built in a variant with 40 MEMS speakers, or a variant with 80 MEMS speakers. USound is currently enabling the speaker builder community to experiment with these MEMS speakers offering the Proteus 1.0 instructional manuals on their website. Speaker builders and DIY enthusiast can already buy the arrays and use the reference information to create their own designs. More information available here:
The Sound Strip. Basically the same idea as LED strips currently used for lighting, now adapted for a low-power, sound-generating  array of MEMS speakers.
This is the Proteus 2.0 concept speaker, combining USound MEMS speakers in a Sound Strip configuration to cover the mid- and high-frequencies, complemented with a separate low frequency cabinet.
The Sound Strip is probably one of USound’s most innovative proposals in terms of speakers. Basically, USound transferred the concept of LED light strips to acoustics, placing MEMS speakers onto a flex PCB for audio reproduction. The first prototype uses 20 MEMS speakers in parallel to produce high-quality audio while enabling creative designs such as the Proteus 2.0 (see photo). With the Sound Strip, USound is experimenting with new ways of designing smart speakers. The Proteus 2.0 design uses an array of 60 speakers — 3 Sound Strips, together with a woofer.

The compact form factor of USound's MEMS speakers also opens new possibilities for fashionable wearable designs. As a proof of concept is Fauna, a range of products currently available through a B2C website. Fauna audio glasses use widely common materials in the eyewear industry – they look like eyewear, they feel like eyewear, yet they have powerful audio modules integrated into the temples. Fauna designs can be used to listen to music and podcasts and can work to access the wearer’s voice assistant with the integrated microphones. Fauna also allows users to take and place phone calls. Fauna audio eyewear is currently available for pre-order and will hit the European market in Q1/2020, selling online and in stores in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
USound Fauna: Glasses with audio modules in the frames. Now available in multiple designs at
For developers, USound currently offers everything needed for testing and experimenting designs with MEMS drivers. Already available through Digikey, the Ananke 3.0 Evaluation Set enables the assessment of MEMS speakers and the development of in-ear MEMS speakers-based applications. Ananke is an evaluation kit made specifically to show what USound’s piezo MEMS speakers sound like and allows developers to test and experiment with digital signal chain prototyping, testing filters, delays, routing and GPIO functions - in combination with the SigmaStudio DSP environment. The Ananke kit includes the evaluation board, a pair of earphones with USound MEMS speakers, power supply and cables.
This is the Ananke 3.0 evaluation board for MEMS speakers and digital signal prototyping.
Meanwhile, USound is already working on the next generation of MEMS speakers seeking to reduce the size further and extend battery life even more. Throughout 2020, USound will be attending the most important trade-shows, starting with CES in Las Vegas and following with MWC in Barcelona short after, where the company will be demonstrated all the mentioned solutions and brand new developments. USound will also be joining forces with Seltech for the Las Vegas show. |
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