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Where High tech stuff meets stone age technology in a refreshing wave of marketing and design

Sogeti Labs
September 16, 2013

We are all facing recently cost cutting programs, and we at Sogeti High Tech have gone through this too. No more Air France flights but from now on we have the privilege to fly Easyjet. Not mentioning the flashy distinctive orange colour of easyjet, as with all airlines, you have the now classic leaflet where you get special tips on new destinations, and splendid hotels, and of course the on flight shop. The one from easyjet is not in itself special, though very British at least for a French man. Last time while waiting for the plane to take-off,  I came across a new object in this leaflet to customize my Iphone. This is the object:


Obviously, you can choose the colour which for France would not be the first choice. Being an Iphone and audio fan, I was very interested by this thing which could be called: a passive amplifier stand for an Iphone. This does two things:
  • Help maintaining your iphone standing, though it is possible to do without on iphone 4 and above, but at your own risks
  • Amplify the sound emitted by the tiny loudspeakers built in the phone to provide an acceptable sound level and quality
Just put it on the stand, launch the music player, raise the volume and enjoy the music! For those of you (like me) who hate having earplugs (or earphones) in your ears to listen to your favourite music, this the stuff to buy (and if you are ready to forget about the stereo) since it is working on a totally passive principle, and from an engineering point of view, is both smartly and charmingly vintage . What is the principle used? Well, we have all done that but do not necessarily remember doing  it: joining your hands to help shouting louder, or making more noise with a given source (your vocal chords). And it works. It even works very well, amazingly well. From a physical point of view, sound is  a variation of air pressure moving in the atmosphere, so called a wave. No air , no sound ( just like in “”2001 space odyssey” by the way). Creating pressure variations in the air can be done in many different ways but not with the same efficiency. The loudspeakers of your smart phone as well as the one of your Hifi installation are an attempt to  create sound with very different levels. The volume (in dB) you get is depending on a number of factors among which you can find the loudspeaker’s ability to provoke air pressure variation. Try to grab some air and you will understand what I mean! Putting your hands around your mouth helps you improving the interaction between your vocal chords and the air. This tiny purple stand does the same. WE12AIt uses the horn principle that was used on phonographs, or today in high end hifi installation. With a well designed horn and the correct horn driver (loudspeaker), you can reach amazingly high sound level for a given electrical power in input. In the golden age of tube based amplifiers, where amplifier power output was limited to a few watts (compared to today solid state amplifiers providing hundreds of watts very easily) loudspeaker efficiency was a critical design point which is not the case today anymore. At that time, having an efficiency of 100 to 105 dB per watt was a minimum whereas today we have more 85 to 90 dB/w efficiency in today’s loudspeakers. Remember +3dB in efficiency  is equivalent to twice as much power released by the loudspeaker in the air: so 9 dB difference in efficiency  means the power emitted by the “old “loudspeakers  is more than 2X2X2, i.e. 8 times  the power of today’s loudspeakers for a given electrical input power). It’s much louder….  It was the golden age of companies such as Altec lansing, Western electric or klangfilm with enormous horn based installations for theatres. In this picture is a western electric WE12A with its compression driver showing both the complexity , beauty and size of horns used in theatres. MrTamaruToday, many high end addicts do have these equipments in their home, sometimes even the horn is built- in  their house. Here is a Japanese fan (Mr Tamaru) with the bass horns built in the ceiling, and the multi-cellular medium wooden horns giving a hint of the size of these high performance horns, not to talk about the sound level … Fine. We ‘ve got some very special hifi addicts, with some potential serious problems with their hearing abilities. But what is the link with our Iphone then? Well, the point is that horns do provide a far better coupling between the loudspeaker itself and the air, thus an increased efficiency, and a far better effortless amplification of the sound produced: clarity, definition, depth, detailed, dynamics in the sound are the most usual qualities associated with horns. Try a horn loudspeaker and you will be amazed by the quantity of details you just didn’t hear before. Your CDs are as new , you discover again your music. On the other side, the defects are even more obvious: large volume occupied, weight, aesthetics, price and prone to dust…. This is where this tiny purple stand is somehow miraculous. Stone age like technology married with latest design trends and colours to provide effortless, high quality and green amplification to improve/customize one of most desired high tech modern symbol in the world. What a strange mix. PS: Here are some more iphone stands where you can appreciate the variety of shapes used:

About the author

SogetiLabs gathers distinguished technology leaders from around the Sogeti world. It is an initiative explaining not how IT works, but what IT means for business.


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