I had the opportunity to listen to an unusual new speaker, designed to expand the sound field to provide a three-dimensional audio experience. The Yarra 3DX speaker was developed by a San Diego company, Comhear, based on technology that originated at the University of California at San Diego.
The speaker, or more precisely a speaker bar, has two unusual attributes. It’s designed to direct sound in several specific directions at the same time, as well as to provide a wide sound field that dynamically positions sound from one side of the room to the other.
This combination allows several people to sit in front of a TV and each experience the same perfect surround sound experience. That makes this a significant advance over most surround sound systems and soundbars, where the ideal position is often just a single seat in the center of the room.
I sat in front of the speaker, and heard a breadth and depth of sound that was startlingly realistic. I looked to the right and left to make sure there weren’t hidden speakers there. If there was a hidden curtain draped across the front of the room, I’d swear there were speakers from one side of the room to the other.
The speaker system consists of two parts. There’s a small conventional-looking subwoofer, the size of a small shoebox, that sits out of the way on the floor, and the soundbar that contains the magic. Unlike other soundbars that have a left, a right and center speaker, this sound bar has an array of small speakers sitting in a straight line, each isolated from one another. Yet the sound bar was much smaller than most, less than 2 feet. It was small enough to sit on a bookshelf, on the top of or on the base of a TV or computer monitor.
The technology utilizes software and electronics to create the three-dimensional effect, and, through the use of an app. the locations of the sound field can be adjusted.
The company calls the technology that focuses and directs the sound MyBeam . They explained that it’s even possible to direct the sound to one person in a room without disturbing another,
Comhear is working on a variety of other applications for this technology, including a smaller array, not much bigger than a Jambox, for use as a speakerphone that helps identify the person speaking, as well as in kiosks to discreetly communicate.
I’ve experienced surround sound in speakers and headphones, listened in theaters and sound studios, but this may have been the most impressive demonstration of doing something entirely magical with sound. And it’s timing couldn’t be better with the emerging field of virtual reality.
The company is currently running a Kickstarter campaign where you can pledge $329 in exchange for a system, including a sound bar and subwoofer. That represents a 45% discount. Delivery is expected in March.