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Sake-Soaked Wood Cone Speakers Featured In New JVC Desktop Audio System Print E-mail
Friday, 24 September 2004
Dried squid and Japanese rice wine have brought success to a 20-year effort to form a speaker from a sheet of wood.

Consumer electronics manufacturer JVC is currently offerering a desktop audio system that includes speakers made from sheets of birch to take advantage of the material’s desirable sonic qualities. The innovation was 20 years in the making because forming the wood sheets into a speaker cone proved daunting – they would crack or split when stamped. The solution turned out to be sake – Japanese rice wine.
A JVC audio engineer in Japan hit upon the sake solution while enjoying dried squid at a restaurant. He asked if anything special was done to make the dried squid so chewy. It was soaked in sake, he was told. Inspired, the JVC team tried the same technique with the wood sheets. It worked – after soaking in sake, the sheets could be pressed into speaker cones without splitting.

The solid wood cones are featured in JVC’s new EX-A1, an elegantly designed desktop music system. The wood provides an ideal combination of high sound propagation speed and high internal loss, allowing the speaker to naturally reproduce a wide frequency range according to JVC. With conventional paper cones, sound spreads at the same speed in all directions, causing unnatural resonant points with limited frequency response. Wood cones produce few resonant points because of the grain, so frequency response is improved and sound quality is significantly enhanced. JVC engineers tried several types of wood, but they felt birch proved to have the best acoustic properties.

Soaking the birch sheets in sake makes them malleable enough to be stamped without cracking. The sheet is then infused with thermosetting resin, followed by other proprietary processes that further enhance durability. As a result, the speakers will consistently deliver accurate sound reproduction over years of frequent use.

The speaker enclosure itself is constructed of solid cherry wood for enhanced sound and elegant appearance. Power is provided by a Hybrid Digital Feedback Amplifier with two feedback loops to minimize distortion. Noise is further reduced by JVC’s “Twin Arc Panel” design, placing both the amplifier and switching power module in separate aluminum cabinets, physically separating them from the audio circuit to prevent interference.

The EX-A1 handles nearly every popular digital format, including DVD-Video, high-resolution DVD-Audio, DVD-R/-RW, CD, SVCD/VCD, CD-R/RW, MP3 and JPEG, plus there is a built-in FM/AM tuner. The unit includes Dolby Digital and DTS decoders, a high output 192kHz/24-bit audio D/A converter, and screw-type speaker terminals for the best possible connection. Composite, S-Video and component video outputs guarantee compatibility with nearly any television monitor currently in use, and a subwoofer output makes it easy to add an outboard subwoofer for rich bass. Power output is rated at 30 watts per channel minimum.

The main unit, with a footprint no larger than a laptop computer’s, is encased in aluminum with a black information display in the front panel’s center. The cherry speaker cabinets are meticulously constructed and beautifully finished, with a floating cloth grille that can be removed to show off the wood drivers.

The EX-A1 is currently available at a nationally advertised value of $550.00.

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