Case Study – Bowers and Wilkons Speakers:
Most people assume that the majority of the work goes into designing the inverted cone “diaphragms” on the front of a speaker. However, with high end speakers, like Bowers & Wilkins for instance, the biggest cost is the casing. If we took a speaker like the Diamond 802, the curved outer shell is made of 20 layers of beech and multiple coats of lacquer, and it takes days of polishing.
That curved, layered beech is extremely strong, and this is important for sound distribution. The idea is to make it stiff so that it has no resonance and does not act as its own drive unit. When the diaphragm vibrates, the back-and-forth motion creates sound waves in front of it – but also behind it. Basically, if the casing vibrated significantly too, it would add additional sound to the mix, causing the music to be out of sync.
Another noticeable design is the Nautilus (below), the kind of inverted “horn” behind some of the drive units are not there for aesthetic purposes. These dampen and channel unwanted sound away from the listener.
Bowers and Wilkons have also developed drive units which deliver the upper frequencies (higher pitch) parts of an audio signal. Anyone making a speaker wants the diaphragm or dome to be as stiff as possible – but also super light. This is so that when it moves back and forward it can push air around with very little energy expended and without warping under the pressure exerted on it in the process.
The list of engineering features is ever expanding. From larger diaphragms made with what is described as “an aerospace material” to surfaces carefully dimpled so that air passes over them more smoothly.
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