Bass-bin boom

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Desktop disco

In recent years desktop speakers have changed from being lumps of grey plastic that emit a tinny crackle, into a smooth-sounding luxurious art form to adorn your tea-stained desk.

This striking pair from Altec Lansing don’t exactly shy away from view, standing proud, and capable of pumping out some hefty bass.

Altec Lansing

Concealed under the units, the subwoofers are designed to reverberate against the supporting surface

Darrin Caddes, VP of industrial design for Altec’s parent company, Plantronics, is excited by the design. “Our team focused on the drivers and subwoofer first. It’s sad, rather shocking really, how subs are treated in most audio systems. They’re often stowed on the ground, underneath the desk or behind a plant, and get kicked around and collect dust all day.

“We wanted to elevate the subwoofer and give it the proper respect it deserved, but in a way that was conscious of space and room décor.” The result is this 2.2 configuration – with ‘down-firing’ subwoofers.


Concealed under the units, the subwoofers aim at the floor, resulting in sound flooding out from the base of the units and reverberating against the supporting surface. The end result is a very rich, natural sound.

“We came up with the idea of a 2.2 in one of our team meetings and we literally sketched it out quickly on some napkins. We then flushed the idea out with our acoustics team and discovered that the concept had some real merit.”

The team worked with Rhino and Pro/E, in order to create the shape and mechanics, finalising glossy renderings using Bunkspeed.

Darrin explains that FEA forms a big part the quality standard, “Altec Lansing has been developing audio systems for more than 75 years, so we have very rigorous testing standards and requirements to ensure the audio performance meets (and often exceeds) our expectations,” adding that no product gets taken seriously, even as a mere concept, until Altec’s audio engineers have taken a look at it.

Finally you’ll have something to stand out amongst the empty coffee mugs, crisp packets and other junk strewn across your ‘ergonomic’ work desk.

Yes we can (hear you)

A big-name and a big crowd means you need some big sound, which is where JBL’s acoustic expertise steps in, helping the assembled two million people listen to President Obama at his recent inauguration.

The powerful, lightweight Vertec speaker set-ups are more commonly used for concert sound and live-performance venues, with a design approach intended to integrate rugged, road-worthy suspension hardware with new-generation lightweight loudspeaker components.

JBL Professional’s R&D group uses advance modelling and stress testing to achieve big results…

The functionality of acoustical physics and mechanical coupling hardware dictated the design approach, leading to some innovative hardware being developed, such as the integrated low/mid/high frequency radiating-surface acoustical element for the front baffle of the speaker.

Vice president of JBL’s Professional Tour Sound David Scheirman points out that the team used SolidWorks to create 3D colour-coded “what-if” design files, yet a standard AutoCAD platform was used on a per-part basis, and for virtual assembly of the digital version of the upcoming product.

3D rapid prototyping technology is also used extensively in JBL Professional’s R&D group with Stratasys’ Maxim used for large parts and Objet’s Eden for smaller parts. “It is a standard, frequent tool as part of JBL’s new product development process,” says David. “Visual prototypes were developed using rapid prototyping techniques. Then first working samples were assembled in small quantities to evaluate electrical and acoustical performance capabilities versus competitors’ products.”

Virtual prototypes also play a major role. “Finite Element Analysis techniques were used for evaluation of materials strength, among other things. This was especially useful for various comparisons involving choosing between one material over another.”

The end result is a big sound set-up constructed from Vertec units that can be hoisted into place, letting everyone hear the future.

Innovative desktop speakers from Altec Lansing and a colossal PA system from JBL