Thin is In

The quest for new speaker technologies has resulted in some novel approaches to the reproduction of sound, as witnessed by products announced in the last few years by NXT and 1 . . . Ltd. (See previous story.) Some of Stereophile's readers may also recall that, back in May 1996, American Technology Corp. shook things up in the audio world by announcing what the company described as its "breakthough" new technology, the much-debated HyperSonic Sound (HSS). This was followed up in February 1997, when ATC announced the introduction of its Stratified Field Technology SFT, which company literature touted as "a significant improvement over conventional loudspeakers."

Last week, ATC indicated that it is ready to go public with SFT when it announced that it is now delivering samples of its second-generation version of the system. ATC's Con Brosnan explains: "We are currently delivering SFT engineering samples to a number of global consumer audio companies which have high interest in our SFT thin-panel speaker technology. ATC has spent the past year refining the manufacturing processes for SFT . . . production of commercial SFT transducers will begin as soon as our SFT licensees complete their evaluations and industrial design."

Without a signed non-disclosure agreement, the company is a little shy about divulging the specific details of how their system works, but does claim that the "nonmagnetic, high-fidelity, thin speakers" can be built into a wide variety of commercial and consumer products, including home-theater systems, hi-fi stereos, computers, and custom audio installations. ATC literature says that the second-generation product "allows control over audio dispersion, creating the ideal sweet spot while taking a minimum amount of space and eliminating secondary, indirect distortion inherent with traditional magnetic speakers."

Brosnan further states that "Our SFT technology enables a new, modern generation of products defined by a new paradigm in industrial design while delivering great sound quality to fulfill the promises inspired by these designs. Consumers are bored with conventional box speakers and the limitations they put on the entire industrial design of products. Too many consumer-electronics companies are trapped in the vicious cycle of lower and lower prices because they cannot differentiate their 'boxes.' ATC's SFT technology can be flat, shaped, and even curved 360° to create an omnidirectional speaker. The finishes can be produced in unlimited textures and colors and can even be made semitransparent through the heart of the product. Our technology offers a high quality-to-cost ratio that enables OEMs, for the first time, to bring quality sound to the mass market."

Elwood G. Norris, chief technology officer for ATC, explains that "SFT speakers are lighter than and have less than 10% of the vibration of conventional speakers, and because they use no magnets, they can be molded directly into televisions and computer monitors without causing distorted images. Many audio products that currently use conventional loudspeakers can benefit from SFT."