I don’t know why we’re so fascinated by tiny speakers, but it seems to be an obsession about more than convenience. Maybe it’s just the impossibility that’s so intriguing, that massive amounts of physical sound can emit from something so small.
But just when I’d thought I’d grown immune to the whole small speaker thing—every Walmart surround sound system now comes with satellite speakers, after all—RCA master’s student Hannes Harms created this remarkable, uber-thin speaker concept, the Flat Boombox. It’s basically a single sheet of 0.5mm stainless steel, precision carved through acid etching, then fitted with the latest in skinny speaker technology.
"I believe that this component allows a pure reduction of material and form instead of styling the housing around these components," Harms tells Co.Design. Whereas most audio technology is distinguished through its housing—from beautiful cherry wood acoustic structures to cheap plastic casing—the Flat Boombox almost mocks this tradition through sparse design. It’s hard to imagine the speaker as anything less.
Strangely enough, the speaker would actually ship as a straight sheet of metal. It’s then up to the user to bend its frame into place. That’s just the sort of idea that’s intoxicating on paper—imagine the tiny packaging this could ship in—but a bit nervewracking to users. If you were to pay $150 for anything, would you want to bend it into place yourself?
That point aside, I wonder who will be the first manufacturer to knock off Harms’s idea in another product. Look at that panel; it’s the perfect size, shape, and structure to fit on the back of a laptop monitor, or maybe even as a layer beneath the keyboard. Because as enticing as small speakers have become in the gadgets of today, a flat speaker could sneak into many of these products just as easily. Now, if only it could sound as good as those old, big speakers of yesterday, we’d really have something.