Secret Bass

The real reason Sony’s new mini speakers are so powerful

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Sony’s petite SRS-ZX1 computer speakers produce outsize bass for their dimensions (7.5 by 3.1 by 7 inches). But the company’s press release had us stumped. It said that the speakers amplify low tones by directing sound along a Möbius strip, a flat strip twisted 180 degrees and joined at the ends. One problem: A Möbius strip is a two-dimensional closed loop. How would sound get in or out?

So we tore the speakers open to investigate. Instead of a Möbius strip, each speaker has a long C-shaped duct in the back that provides a larger space for low tones to resonate. The end of the duct is flared like a trumpet bell and seamlessly joins the speaker’s front face (behind the black grille) to minimize bass-distorting turbulence.

That smooth surface reminded someone at Sony of an obscure mathematical construct that’s related to a Möbius strip and, in a corporate game of Telephone, the information got twisted into describing the ducts themselves as having a “unique mobius-band shape.” Although the underlying concepts got muddled in the marketing, the impressive bass proves that Sony’s engineers were thinking clearly all along.