Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

New Headphones Generate Sound With Carbon Nanotubes

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the is-my-poster-talking-to-me dept.

Music 102

MTorrice writes "A new type of headphone heats up carbon nanotubes to crank out tunes. The tiny speaker doesn't rely on moving parts and instead produces sound through the thermoacoustic effect. When an alternating current passes through the nanotubes, the material heats and cools the air around it; as the air warms, it expands, and as it cools, it contracts. This expansion and contraction creates sound waves. The new nanotube speaker could be manufactured at low cost in the same facilities used to make computer chips, the researchers say." And it exists in the real world: "The Tsinghua researchers integrated these thermoacoustic chips into a pair of earbud headphones and connected them to a computer to play music from videos and sound files. They’ve used the headphones to play music for about a year without significant signs of wear, Yang says. According to him, this is the first thermoacoustic device to be integrated with commercial electronics and used to play music."

cancel ×

102 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Yo Dawg (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996475)

I heard you like tubes, so I put acoustic nano tubes in your series of tubes, so you can hear the tubes while you tube!

Re:Yo Dawg (1)

WillgasM (1646719) | about a year ago | (#44996635)

Stand back Xzibit, this is Dre's turf.

Yes, but... (5, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | about a year ago | (#44996489)

..what do they sound like?

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996519)

..what do they sound like?

8-bit whale calls I bet...

I need some now!!!

Re:Yes, but... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996521)

They're thermoacoustic, so I'd guess they have a nice warm sound.

Re:Yes, but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996695)

Mod parent to +5 funny! :)

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009999)

score

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996553)

I imagine a breeze would kill the bass.

Re:Yes, but... (2)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#44996559)

Well, assuming they get the R&D effort to refine them, presumably whatever you like, at the appropriate price point.
A fixable issue methinks, if the basic technology works, as it seems to.

Could be nice way of sidestepping the Chinese and their "rare earth" near-monopoly.

(Although my old electrostatic speakers do that too, and sound fantastic. Not sure the voltages involved would scale to ear buds powered by mobile devices, tho')

Re:Yes, but... (3, Informative)

PaulBu (473180) | about a year ago | (#44996601)

Could be nice way of sidestepping the Chinese and their "rare earth" near-monopoly.

Judging from the author's names and affiliation, I quite doubt that it was their main motivation... :)

Yang Wei *, Xiaoyang Lin , Kaili Jiang *, Peng Liu , Qunqing Li , and Shoushan Fan
Department of Physics and Tsinghua-Foxconn Nanotechnology Research Center, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, P. R. China

But, it's still VERY COOL!

Paul B.

Re:Yes, but... (2)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#44996691)

Good point :) Ah well, the law of unintended consequences...

Wonder how cool a thing that works by heat and cooling would be to wear in your ear, tho?

Probably not a problem (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about a year ago | (#44999455)

If it'd use any power that would be uncomfortable to your ears because of heat, it would eat a phone battery in a few hours, probably less.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

mellon (7048) | about a year ago | (#44996673)

Hm, sounds like a cheap route to shock therapy!

Re:Yes, but... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44996947)

Nah, you can get that for free on YouTube. [youtube.com]

Re:Yes, but... (4, Interesting)

jd (1658) | about a year ago | (#44996729)

It depends. Sound quality doesn't scale, generally, which is why standard speaker systems have vast arrays of speakers that operate over very narrow ranges. The sound quality using cones and magnets has gone as far as it can, short of moving to superconducting electromagnets.

There were some speakers demo'd on Tomorrow's World, way back when, which consisted of an electrode in a spherical wire mesh. The spark, pulsed at the right frequency, could generate sound. It was extremely high quality, far far higher than the Tesla Coil speakers you see on YouTube. But nothing ever came of the idea. Still not entirely sure why, but I suspect large amounts of ozone and the power you'd need to cross the gap they were using would make such a device uneconomic.

The nanotube idea is interesting, but I have a real concern that technology these days isn't about quality but quantity. Notice how the summary emphasizes the production of the system, but also observe how DVD lifespans are pathetic, hard drives have much shorter MTBF than earlier generations, MP3s largely replaced lossless codecs, digital cameras have a fraction of the effective pixel count of film, etc. Nobody wants high-end. They want crap that's tolerable and affordable. (Which also explains why Windows is a "success" and Linux has never made it to the desktop -- yet is the only serious OS in the few luxury/demanding markets left.)

It could be that nanotubes will prove to be capable of high-end sound, REAL hi-fi sound, but let's face facts. Even if it was, even given that the technology exists for 11.1 sound with an upper operating limit of 384 KHz at 24 bits, when was the last time you saw a CD with music recorded at that level? People want more tracks per piece of physical medium and would probably settle for 16 KHz at 16 bits resolution if it gave them a few more bonus tracks. There are audiophiles out there. I know. I'm one of them. Although, sometimes I think I'm the only one left. That depresses me, but you have to wonder. Purported audiophiles who can't tell what gives good sound and what doesn't clearly aren't audiophiles at all, they're blingophiles.

Re:Yes, but... (3, Interesting)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44997001)

You might be thinking of plasma tweeters. Back in the late 70s/early 80s. 10K1980$ a pair. Just tweets.

They had a gas flame that was made to generate sound with an electric field. Note: Typical electrostatics already have membranes that weigh less then the air they're moving.

Your dog _might_ be able to distinguish between plasma and normal electrostatics. Not that electrostatics are exactly cheap or small.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

twoears (1514043) | about a year ago | (#44998827)

You might be thinking of plasma tweeters. Back in the late 70s/early 80s. 10K1980$ a pair. Just tweets.

They had a gas flame that was made to generate sound with an electric field.

[snip]

You may be thinking of Hill Type 1 Plasmatronics that were $10k a pair back in the late 70s. The tweeters were both amazing and possibly hazardous to your health due to the ozone emitted into the room. The sound from the other drivers in the speakers couldn't keep up with the tweeters, though, especially the woofers. And unfortunately the tube amps built in to drive them were horribly unreliable, and each speaker had a helium tank you would have to get filled once in a while. Not to mention cosmetics that made them look like cobbled together lab equipment, not something you would put in your living room.

Note: Typical electrostatics already have membranes that weigh less then the air they're moving.

Your dog _might_ be able to distinguish between plasma and normal electrostatics. Not that electrostatics are exactly cheap or small.

Electrostatics that do real bass are by necessity large due to dipole cancellation. I own and sell Sound Lab electrostatics, which are some of the largest and most expensive of their type. While I will admit that a full range plasma speaker could potentially outperform an electrostatic, almost no full range plasma speakers have ever been built. In 1992 a French company showed a prototype full range cold air plasma speaker at the Consumer Electronics Show, but it never saw the light of day and the company went out of business. Nelson Pass of Threshold and Pass Labs had a full range plasma speaker but had to dismantle it due to the large amounts of ozone produced.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#45007663)

I specifically remember they were only tweets and they required a natural gas line to each speaker. Don't remember the brand or model.

With the plasma generated by flame they shouldn't have made much ozone.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#45007799)

Just want to add they were pretty. Not cobbled together.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44997249)

The spark, pulsed at the right frequency, could generate sound. It was extremely high quality, far far higher than the Tesla Coil speakers you see on YouTube.

The trick to higher quality is to always have an arc there, so you don't get the harsh sound of the arc forming and instead just get the expansion and contraction of the arc from variation in power. This is easily done with a solid state Tesla coil, although one of the main reasons you don't see it is it requires ~100% duty cycle, while the large arcs are typically generated on very low duty cycle. I've done it with mine, but it means getting a couple inches of arc instead of a couple feet, and the latter is mostly what displays and an audience want, not high fidelity tweeters.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44998433)

High end audio is pretty much dead. Convenience and utility outweighs quality. The typical current source material for audio recordings demand very little. People really never understood high-end audio, not even the high-end geeks with money did. They need shiny objects to assert their egos. No audio-salon would present equipment by its aural qualities alone. Could not work. People are visual in nature. Add to this the "music industry" who evidently has had zero, or negative-, interest in increasing and marketing better source material.
If there ever was a perfect audio-reproducing device that did not look the part it would remain unsold.
Sound does not have a "look" just as good tasting food and wine. The vocabulary does not even have words to describe the nerve sensations. Measurements was a method of describing audio equipment, and it failed. Good numbers did not equate good sound.
The methods used were developed very early in history and had some relevance at some time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Who today gives a shit about numbers of merit? The science behind them was incomplete and misunderstood by sales people.
Thus developed a complete lack of confidence in "better" equipment.
Today wireless telecommunications networks needs low noise, and intermodulation distortion in PASSIVE devices is not uncommon. You can "easily" measure passive intermodulation distortion, you just need a bucket of money to buy the test equipment and strong arms to carry it around. Intermods 150 dB down can be a problem. Some equipment can measure down to ~ -170dBc.
Some would argue that the human perception can be trained in recognizing sound to the point picking out obscure sound effects. People messing with audio cables/wires/interconnects has been laughed at, mainly because the shitty equipment used to measure whats "wrong" with the pieces were incapable of showing anything, and the amused people did not trust their perception, if they ever had any.
Maybe these people are not so crazy after all, even though the relevance of their fine skills can be argued away as impractical, for most.
If passive intermods can be measured quite easily in RF maybe this also applies to hearing perception?
I hold no hope that the vast majority of people and some "industry" would suddenly become motivated to consume/produce radically improved source material. Gimmicks that can be described with three words or a grunt, and that blinks, will sell.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44999047)

Bwahaha.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

Shirley Marquez (1753714) | about a year ago | (#45005591)

What is really dead is upper-middle range audio. The kind that Bose pretends to be but mostly isn't. The kind of stuff you'd have bought at Tweeter or in the Magnolia section of Best Buy, or at a local independent shop if you are lucky enough to still have one. What few products remain are home theater rigs that are all about more more more instead of better.

High end audio isn't dead. Up at the really expensive end of the curve people are still buying. The shops that specialize in that gear also have more affordable options where you would have a total system cost in the $2000 - $5000 range, but few people know to look for them.

The high end content is also lacking. DVD-Audio and SACD are dead formats. Download services like HDTracks exist but have a limited selection of music - and sadly, when they have new music it's usually only 24/44.1 instead of using higher sample rates. (I presume that means the stuff is being recorded, mixed, and mastered at 44.1 - a sad state of affairs.) A handful of Blu-Ray releases have high resolution audio but it's rare.

Re:Yes, but... (2)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about a year ago | (#44999515)

Also, to add to the other person already talking about electrostats, magnetic speaker development isn't dead by far. You don't need rare earth magnets for "living room size" speakers and you also don't need cones. In the past, experiments have been done with using flat carbon fiber honey combed round "plates" that were attached with a very light and solid construction to the voice coil of a speaker. Those took out a lot of the distortion and deformation you typically get with a classical cone speaker. Development in what is used as a "membrane" and active feedback control using a DSP to counteract the distortion the speaker itself generates can create extremely good sounding "conventional" speaker systems. Price has so far been prohibitive for this sort of system to reach even the audiophile part of the market, let alone main stream, but science hasn't stopped.

With the DIY manufacturing technology now becoming available to hacker spaces, I think we will see a lot more of this sort of technology out in the field at a price point that will be affordable to anyone that would alternatively spend good money on high quality speaker systems.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

baka_toroi (1194359) | about a year ago | (#45002131)

(Which also explains why Windows is a "success" and Linux has never made it to the desktop -- yet is the only serious OS in the few luxury/demanding markets left.)

But Linux (on the desktop) is a fucking piece of shit. Windows 2000 is far better than the latest Mint, Ubuntu or Fedora crap, let alone Windows 7.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

cundare (1141279) | about a year ago | (#45005693)

You're thinking of the Plasmatronics product line, which, I believe, debuted in the late 1970s. Heard a pair once in NYC way back when & the high-end was pretty remarkable. Suitable mainly for tweeters & supertweeters. They don't use an extraordinary amount of electricity and produce only a tiny amount of ozone. But they require a supply of halogen gas, which I recall makes an annoying hissing noise.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44997863)

Could be nice way of sidestepping the Chinese and their "rare earth" near-monopoly.

Rare earths used in Earbuds? Who knew?!

They also said they used them for a year with no sign of wear.
Just like every other pair of earbuds.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

Shirley Marquez (1753714) | about a year ago | (#45005667)

It is possible to blow out a pair of earbuds by cranking the volume up too high, but usually they will sound awful because of increasing distortion well before the danger point. Most earbud failures are mechanical problems - breaks in the cable or connections coming loose. Presumably this new technology will be neither more nor less prone to those problems than existing earbuds are.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44996687)

What do they look like?

Probably like Princess Vespa's.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44996889)

..what do they sound like?

Like earbuds. Not exactly high fidelity, but what earbud is? I'm wondering how well they handle high frequencies, though, which magnetic buds do easily. Thermoacoustic seems like it would be quite a bit slower than electromechanical.

I wonder what manufacturing costs are compared to magnetic earbuds?

Interesting concept, though, whether or not it's really practical.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44997037)

My Shure earbuds sound quite good. Better than most "studio quality" earphones.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

Shirley Marquez (1753714) | about a year ago | (#45005823)

There are plenty of high fidelity earbuds available. Etymotic pioneered the category; now you can also buy products from Shure, Ultimate Ears, Bowers & Wilkins, Sennheiser, Klipsch, Westone, JH Audio and more. Even Grado makes some now. Bring money; most of these will cost you over $100, in some cases well over - the most expensive JH Audio and Shure models sell for $1000 or so. To be clear, these are IN-ear products; if you're looking at the kind that just kind of sit in the ear rather than having a firm seal, they're pretty much all terrible.

Re:Yes, but... (4, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#44997467)

I'm willing to bet they have very similar performance to Electrostatic speakers. Very low distortion, acting like a dipole radiator so you have to spend a lot of time positioning them to get them to sound right, very good dampening due to low driver weight. I'd suspect these things have near perfect dampening since all they're moving is a magnetic field and air.

There are a lot of downsides though, and I think they'd all apply here as well. Most notably, terrible bass response. And the number 1 problem in sound reproduction is and has always been bass. This is basically yet another new and inovative way to reproduce high frequencies. We have hundreds... yay...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrostatic_loudspeaker#Disadvantages [wikipedia.org]

Re:Yes, but... (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about a year ago | (#45000103)

acting like a dipole radiator so you have to spend a lot of time positioning them to get them to sound right,

Wouldn't they be monopole radiators nearly by definition? If they work by making the air expand and contract, I fail to see what part would be the other pole. And wouldn't a monopole be better in the low frequencies than a dipole?

Re:Yes, but... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#45002227)

I don't think so. Monopole speakers are kind of... fake. If you're increasing pressure in one direction it decreases in the other. The difference in a "monopole" is that the pressure is decreased inside an enclosure. The majority of speakers are monopole. I suspect they could mount these in such a way that they'd be mono-poles, but they still wouldn't have very good bass response unless that's a hell of a magnetic field.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about a year ago | (#45011465)

But these are not like normal speakers. They actually have an expanding and contracting part (the air that warms and cools), in contrast to normal speakers. When the air expands, there is nowhere where the pressure decreases, only places where the pressure increases, isn't there?

Now, judging from the rest of the thread, they have other problems, particularly dissipation of thermal energy (who would have thought that a device that works by heating air could have such a problem), so it doesn't seem like they will have much utility as headphones, at least.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

someone1234 (830754) | about a year ago | (#44999117)

The sizzle you hear is the burning hair in your ear.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year ago | (#45000177)

Who cares, they've found a way to make even more expensive headphones!

Re:Yes, but... (1)

sh00z (206503) | about a year ago | (#45001117)

..what do they sound like?

Yeah. How real is it? Not a single mention of frequency response or S/N ratio in TFA. It could sound like an Edison wax cylinder for all we know.

DX (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about a year ago | (#44996543)

Ultin I can buy replacement headphones using this technology on DealExtreme for $2 shipped, it's a novelty at best.

Volume (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about a year ago | (#44996579)

How loud could it get?

Re:Volume (3, Funny)

stigmato (843667) | about a year ago | (#44996597)

These ones go up to eleven.

Re:Volume (1)

jd (1658) | about a year ago | (#44996747)

Eleven?! Eleven was in style when Spinal Tap were around. My sound system goes up to 13, except on fridays.

Re:Volume (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44996927)

yeah, but 11 is the max you can go if you value warmth sound. 13 is just crap. Trust be I've been an audiophile for 40 years!!!!!1!

Re:Volume (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about a year ago | (#44997015)

You need Monster(tm) cables to go beyond 11 without sacrificing quality.

Re:Volume (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year ago | (#45001783)

pshaw, these are going to be "Beats by Dre" with low-oxygen Monster cables.

Re:Volume (1)

IICV (652597) | about a year ago | (#44998185)

Since it's made out of carbon nanotubes, there's also none blacker [nasa.gov] .

Durable but not portable? (1)

TheRon6 (929989) | about a year ago | (#44996591)

The only benefit to this technology that the article mentions is that it "can greatly improve the device robustness and durability" and says nothing of the sound quality. It made me assume this would be used for MP3 player earbuds rather than headphones but then the article mentions "the speakers consume relatively high levels of power, because of their low efficiency of converting electrical energy into sound." Sounds like this has no practical commercial application at the moment.

Re:Durable but not portable? (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#44996633)

Like anything else made out of wonder materials.

Moving Parts (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996621)

Electrons move... bitch —Aaron Paul

Re:Moving Parts (1)

d'baba (1134261) | about a year ago | (#44996703)

No, no! It's the holes that move.

Re: Moving Parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44999205)

Electrons move... bitch â"Aaron Paul

Probably... --Schroedinger's Cat

one superpower (1)

WillgasM (1646719) | about a year ago | (#44996627)

If you're ever given the opportunity to wish for a single superpower: don't think, just blurt out "CARBON NANOTUBES".

Umm... (2)

CCarrot (1562079) | about a year ago | (#44996641)

FTA

Unfortunately, the devices struggled to dissipate the heat created while generating sounds,

Careful not to crank the music on your new nanopodz(tm) too loud, or you'll literally fry your eardrums...

OTOH, talk about a hot beat :o)

Re:Umm... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44996945)

So everyone will sound like BIlly West?

Re:Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44997361)

As long as a supermodel eats me [youtube.com] , I'm okay with it.

Re: Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44999225)

How did they know the device struggled, did they figure out how to deploy nanopathy?

Re: Umm... (1)

CCarrot (1562079) | about a year ago | (#45003043)

How did they know the device struggled, did they figure out how to deploy nanopathy?

Maybe they have a talented nanowhisperer on the payroll?

Re:Umm... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about a year ago | (#45011815)

Careful not to crank the music on your new nanopodz(tm) too loud, or you'll literally fry your eardrums...

No, you "literally" won't fry your eardrums, because frying by definition requires oil or fat and if it's not already there in significant quantities, it's not frying :-P

Post Again When Practical (2)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year ago | (#44996657)

The researchers noted that "unfortunately" the nanotube speakers use much higher amounts of power to drive them.

Rare Earth? (1)

Tim12s (209786) | about a year ago | (#44996671)

No need for rare earths now? Maybe we dont have to mine for that shyte anymore considering the refining process.

Re:Rare Earth? (1)

Dialecticus (1433989) | about a year ago | (#44996797)

Exactly, because the only thing anyone uses lanthanides for is headphones.

...Wait, what?

Real Men Use Plasma (4, Funny)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#44996697)

Forget little dinky nano-tubes in your ears, a real man would put plasma arcs in their headphones. Like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyVTvtgm11o [youtube.com]

A solution in search of a problem (3, Insightful)

Puls4r (724907) | about a year ago | (#44996727)

I wasn't aware that our current headphones had any problems that would be addressed with nanotubes. We have small phones that fit in the ear, big phones that look stupid on peopel, and everything in between. In all my years of using earbuds, it's always the cord that fails. Not the buds themselves. Now if they can fix THAT problem, that'd be worth something.

Re:A solution in search of a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996771)

In all my years of using earbuds, it's always the cord that fails. Not the buds themselves. Now if they can fix THAT problem, that'd be worth something.

http://www.jays.se/a-jays

Had 'em for a year and a half now. Abuse the hell out of 'em. Zero problems. YMMV.

Re:A solution in search of a problem (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | about a year ago | (#44996851)

For people who spend a tremendous amount of time listening to music on the their phone, the power those little speakers draw starts to add up. If these use any less power without sacrificing quality, it could be a big deal. Of course the article does not actually mention anything like that so if it's not the case, then yeah your right - it's kinda pointless. They talk about increased durability, but I have eight year old earbuds that sound as good as new and most people lose a set more than once a year anyway. And yeah, there's the cord problem you cite. Past all of that, bone conduction is probably the future anyway.

Re:A solution in search of a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44997585)

According to the article they use more not less power. So yeah at this stage fairly pointless.

Re:A solution in search of a problem (3, Informative)

bloodhawk (813939) | about a year ago | (#44997601)

Sadly they actually require more power not less. So you are left with durability advantage, "sounds" like they would have a very small niche market if they ever make them commercially available.

Re:A solution in search of a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996875)

Buy headphones with a detachable cord. When the cord breaks, buy a new one and plug it in.

Distortion and linearity (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about a year ago | (#44996903)

Dynamic drivers, as are normally used in headphones and speakers, still have problems in that regard. We can build amps, DACs, and so on that are essentially better than our hearing. Their frequency response, noise level, and THD are so low that they are completely inaudible, you can swap them out in a blind test and nobody can tell.

Then you hit the playback device and that all goes to hell.

You are hard pressed to find something that is both economical and has a flat FR and low distortion. Ideally you want it flat to less than 1dB and THD under 1% at all volume levels, and even less could be useful (we don't have real good data on when things stop being audible, just that at those levels it is audible in almost all cases).

So, better technology could allow for better specs in this area. That is what we'd be after. To try and get drivers that are affordable, and are accurate to beyond the limits of hearing. We'd like to have an audio system that truly had no sound of its own, that reproduced whatever it was given perfectly, as far as our ears can tell.

Re:A solution in search of a problem (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | about a year ago | (#44996957)

If you pony up for the shiny earbuds (aka "IEMs") the cord is usually replaceable. For those in the $10-$20 earbud crowd, sorry but you are out of luck.

Re:A solution in search of a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44997033)

As someone who has ponied up for some IEMs (the Shure SE425, although there's a large range to fit different listening preferences) I like the feeling of walking around with a portable live symphony orchestra.

Re:A solution in search of a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44997471)

Most IEMs, even a lot of fairly pricey ones, don't seem to have replaceable cables.

Re:A solution in search of a problem (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | about a year ago | (#45009625)

Oh AC?

Shure, UE and Westone (the major brands in this space) all offer models with replaceable cables. If you bought expensive IEMs and they didn't, well next time shop a little more carefully.

Wall of Sound (1)

Dialecticus (1433989) | about a year ago | (#44996773)

I can think of an application. Imagine a room where every wall was covered in this stuff. With a sufficiently complex controller, it wouldn't be 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound anymore, it would be infinity point one surround sound. Of course this would require a whole new means of encoding audio that stores each sound element separately with its own location vector. A problem for movies, but entirely feasible for games.

You 7ail it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996779)

fanat1c kno3n

Toxic carbon nanotubes vs. nice-sounding jamz (1)

davsi (2522764) | about a year ago | (#44996907)

I guess it isn't known whether carbon nanotubes are toxic: "These results suggest that carbon nanotubes are potentially toxic to humans and that strict industrial hygiene measures should to be taken to limit exposure during their manipulation." (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0041008X0500013X)

Re:Toxic carbon nanotubes vs. nice-sounding jamz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44997073)

I try to avoid carbon all together - nasty stuff.

Re:Toxic carbon nanotubes vs. nice-sounding jamz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44998881)

Same as asbestos: if you're breathing it, someone has done it wrong.

without significant wear (1)

jamesh (87723) | about a year ago | (#44996975)

Any headphones i've ever had have suffered cable problems long before the buds themselves have started to show any signs of wearing out.

Re:without significant wear (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44997103)

For me it's the padding on the ear pieces that goes out first. The actual sound generating components never fail. Ultimately the new technique will have the same problems as current techniques: they'll be uncomfortable and either make your ears sweat or feel like there's something stuck in your ears. I'll gladly settle for poor sound quality if only it were comfortable.

benefit? (1)

thewolfkin (2790519) | about a year ago | (#44997083)

so why are these better?

Recycling and the enviorment? (1)

allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) | about a year ago | (#44997265)

I really am uncertain on the disposal methods of nanotube based devices / materials? I know that if they get into the water, they can screw things up. Has there been a advancement in disposal I'm unaware of? And if not, would this company be responsible for the damage they could cause. At least, in theory?

Tsinghua University (3, Informative)

Guppy (12314) | about a year ago | (#44997299)

The Tsinghua researchers...

My first thought upon reading the summary was, "Which Tsinghua University"? In this case it's the one in Mainland China, but there's a fascinating backstory behind my initial confusion regarding the history of Tsinghua University [wikipedia.org] .

Following the defeat of the Boxer Rebellion [wikipedia.org] (1899 - 1901), the China was made to pay an enormous sum in reparations to the great powers -- Russia, Germany, France, Britain, Japan, and the US. While the American share of the reparations was relatively minor (about 7% of the total) it still represented an excessive amount. American Secretary of State John Hay -- serving in the administration of Teddy Roosevelt -- arranged for about a third of the funds to be used for to set up scholarships, as well as a new school in Beijing which served to prepare students for overseas study in the US. It was this institution that eventually became Tsinghua University, one of the most prestigious learning institutions in China.

There's more to the history however. Following the Chinese Civil War, the defeated Nationalists retreated to Taiwan. A large portion of the Tsinghua staff fled with them and founded a new Tsinghua University in Taiwan (or perhaps they merely re-located the original to Taiwan, depending on your point of view). This other Tsinghua went on to become one of the top Universities in Taiwan as well.

Re:Tsinghua University (1)

aiht (1017790) | about a year ago | (#44998605)

Thanks, Guppy. That is a fascinating story. The world's quite an interesting place, if you only take the time to look.

Compressed crap (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about a year ago | (#44997577)

Most people listen to MP3 files through crappy buds. I listen to mp3's myself in the car (where quality doesn't really matter), but back at home, it's either vinyl, tape, or FLAC (or 320 MP3 at least). While taking walks, I listen to tapes using a 25-year old Walkman with Porta-Pro headphones (https://www.koss.com/en/products/headphones/on-ear-headphones/PortaPro__Porta_Pro_On_Ear_Headphone), themselves about 20 years old.

Besides, most of modern *music/noise* is compressed to hell to sound louder, like we don't have a volume knob on our sound systems,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war [wikipedia.org]

I prefer the Koss KSC-35 (1)

Chirs (87576) | about a year ago | (#44998929)

Same driver as the PortaPro, but they don't hurt my ears like the PortaPros do after a while. (This may just be a fit thing, I have a large head.)

The downside is, they look kind of odd...

Re:Compressed crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44998959)

Err, both vinyl and tape need hefty amounts of compression and EQ to not sound like total crap...

...tell me more, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44998319)

My ears are burning!

Sound technology cannot be improved (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44998733)

Like the title says, your ears have a limit to what they can take it, and besides i havent seen a single soundcard that has improved a thing since the soundblaster pci 512 which i still use.

I went out and bought one of each of the newest hi-tech cards that was out last year (asus, creative and one other), they stink they were lousy, the music was so bright my ears bled,

so i still use my 1999 sound setup because it sounds good and makes my head rattle which is enough for me

*1999 Soundblaster PCI 512
*1990 Realistic Integrated Amplifier
*Panasonic HTF-600 headphones

thanks to kxproject my aging soundcard is still in the game for a few more years.

Re:Sound technology cannot be improved (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44998981)

No big surprise, that old SB has a -3dB point of 14kHz...

I kind of expected this (1)

shikaisi (1816846) | about a year ago | (#44999143)

Please wake me up when someone discovers a thing that carbon nanotubes can't do.

Re:I kind of expected this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45000001)

They can't get me laid.

No nanotubes on my skull thanks (1)

mattr (78516) | about a year ago | (#44999181)

Personally I would rather keep cheap Chinese knockoff headphones full of nanotubes away from my brain. How do you know the pounding of a bass beat is not actually injecting nanotubes through the fabric and eventually migrating them with vibration into your brain? Even if there is "no chance of danger" (as if anyone has actually packaged nanotubes in an energetic, electromagnetically pumped environment near the human body) I would just not feel like it is something safe to have around. Imagine someone came up with an anti-smog filter for your nostrils that works based on "nano-packaged asbestos fibers" which have "no chance of being ingested"? If nano isn't critical and in a highly safety engineered package far from me (or at least something biologically created that I have a chance of breaking down), I don't want it.

Re:No nanotubes on my skull thanks (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#44999921)

If nano isn't critical and in a highly safety engineered package far from me (or at least something biologically created that I have a chance of breaking down), I don't want it.

Better not go anywhere near any roads, then. Or anywhere at all, probably.

I know, we'll just call them picotubes. Problem solved!

in winter ... (1)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | about a year ago | (#44999545)

crank the volume to the max to get heated earphones? ;)

Coupla things (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year ago | (#45000807)

The Tsinghua researchers integrated these thermoacoustic chips into a pair of earbud headphones and connected them to a computer to play music from videos and sound files. They've used the headphones to play music for about a year without significant signs of wear

Unless it's a really unique computer, I doubt it generates copious amounts of ear wax nor occasionally goes out in rain showers sans umbrella.

More to the point: I've never had earphone speakers fail; it's always the wires that break. Solve *that* far weaker link, researchers.

Moving parts (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year ago | (#45001761)

Doesn't this have the same amount of moving parts as any speaker? The only movement is the vibrations that are created as sound. Am I missing something?

skip the air-gap part (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#45004031)

This started out as pure satire, but now I'm beginning to wonder if it could be done. Consider: it's relatively easy to produce extremely accurate analog electronic waveforms. The disasters strike while trying to convert (nanotubes, rare-earth magnets, cones, electrostatics, or whatever) into a clean pressure wave in air. And all that just to drive a bunch of scilia in the inner ear, which are probably beat to shit from a lifetime of rock concerts, motorcycles, and angry spouses. So let's get going on a direct electrical connection to the otic nerves! No need for conversion into/out of air at all!

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>