New material means better speakers

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A development in speaker materials will lead to clearer sound and less distortion, acoustics experts say, although they can’t state with certainty that the average listener will hear a difference.

Panasonic will manufacture speakers that include bamboo opals, which are hard, microscopic silica deposits that are found on plant leaves. The material’s hardness and rigidity improves the clarity and increases the frequency range of speakers, the company says. Three audio experts confirm that hard, light materials are ideal for speaker cones to transmit a range of frequencies correctly and without distortion.

However, average listeners might not be able to hear the difference, says Pantelis Vassilakis, who is the chairman of the audio arts and acoustics department at Columbia College Chicago.

“In theory, it will make a difference to a trained listener, assuming they’re listening to signals that require this fidelity,” he says. A recording of the Ramones doesn’t contain enough variations in frequency to demonstrate the speakers’ capability, but a classical orchestral recording does, he explains.