xMEMS Launches Montara Monolithic Piezo-MEMS Speaker

July 7 2020, 10:00
Following a year of private demonstrations of its novel MEMS speaker design, xMEMS Labs is now coming out of stealth mode with is first piezo-MEMS speaker. Montara is the name for what the company claims to be "the world’s first true MEMS speaker," using a monolithic process that eliminates calibration and driver matching, and is SMT-ready. Montara also offers full-bandwidth (20Hz-20kHz), and is fully water, dust and shock resistant. This product will target the $10B microspeaker market for fast-growth category of true wireless earbuds and in-ear personal audio devices.

According to xMEMS Labs, upcoming waterproof true wireless earbuds will be the core target market for the new Montara devices. Using the high-precision and highly consistent, monolithic semiconductor process, the company will target direct replacement of highly variable voice-coil dynamic drivers and one or more balanced armature drivers typically used in the category. These will be followed by an evolution of the design for smartphone speakers, while future xMEMS designs will also target home audio and automotive loudspeakers.

With more than 70 patents filed and 10 granted, the xMEMS team responsible for the Montara design has successfully designed and shipped billions of devices into consumer electronics, working for companies including TDK, Invensense and Knowles, among others. With headquarters currently in Santa Clara, CA and a branch office in ZhuBei, Taiwan, xMEMS intends to pursue an ambitious roadmap for MEMS speaker solutions, benefiting from the high performance and small form factor of pure silicon (piezo MEMS) solutions.

"With on-the-go media consumption on the rise such as subscription music, podcasts, video, audiobooks and mobile gaming, consumers are increasingly demanding enhanced audio quality and extended listen times between charges. Our revolutionary Montara product is a game changer for delivering a new combination of audio fidelity, size, energy consumption and uniformity, not possible with traditional voice coil or hybrid MEMS approaches,” says Joseph Jiang, xMEMS co-founder and CEO.

xMEMS already performed multiple performance measurements and comparative analysis of its first true MEMS speaker, which have demonstrated the design is an ideal solution for sealed earbuds and headsets, showing that the devices are louder across the full frequency range, have excellent high tone, good bass, wide dynamic range, and extremely low THD. The standard Montara model tested uses 6-cells and is able to deliver an SPL up to 113 dB (measured with an IEC60318-4 coupler). More important, the semiconductor processes that are used in the devices, allow high consistency membrane movements, which is crucial to apply active compensation to achieve the improved THD results.

This is in direct contrast with factory-assembled, highly-variable voice-coil drivers that are difficult to match and frequently show big differences between left and right channels on shipping products. In comparison with balanced armature devices, the Montara MEMS speakers are smaller in size, have a very low profile (1mm thickness), allow for more flexible placement in compact earbuds, are SMT-ready, allow direct or side-firing implementations, and can be lighter in weight when replacing multiple BA devices. 

But probably one of the strongest arguments for manufacturers of high-volume products and brands who target premium segments, is the speaker-to-speaker uniformity and repeatability. Montara implements the entire speaker (actuator and diaphragm/membrane) in silicon, reducing package height and eliminating driver matching and calibration due to inherent variability in membrane assembly. The Montara design is also the world’s first IP-57 rated microspeaker enabling water and dust-resistant earbuds without special protective mesh or coverings.

The first Montara devices are sampling to manufacturers now, with mass production orders expected in the first quarter of 2021. Evaluation kits are available under agreement. Montara will offer two LGA package options: Standard (6.05 x 8.4 x 0.985mm) and Side-Firing (Phi 6.1mm; 6.05 x 1.0 x 8.4mm).
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