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Piezo Speakers Unveiled: The Future of High-End Audio

Introduction

The pursuit of audio excellence has long been a passion for audiophiles and music enthusiasts. When it comes to achieving superior sound quality, the term “high-end speaker” is often synonymous with the epitome of audio performance. These speakers are designed to deliver an audio experience that transcends the ordinary, offering unparalleled clarity, detail, and immersion. But can a piezo speaker, like the Dragonfly™ by Flora, rise to the challenge and earn its place among high-end audio solutions? Let’s explore.

What Defines a High-End Speaker?

Before we explore the Dragonfly™ in detail, it’s crucial to define the characteristics that distinguish high-end speakers. These speakers are celebrated for their meticulous craftsmanship and advanced engineering. They boast exceptional drivers, top-tier components, advanced materials, meticulously crafted crossovers, and finely tuned enclosures. In some cases, high-end loudspeakers incorporate multiple drivers, each catering to a specific frequency range, including bass, midrange, and treble.

High-end speakers are renowned for their capacity to faithfully reproduce sound with unparalleled precision and fidelity. They shine in various critical aspects:

  • Precision: High-end speakers must faithfully reproduce audio from the music soundtrack with minimal distortion. Achieving this demands a speaker with a flat frequency response, typically spanning from 20 to 20 kHz.
  • Clarity and Nuance: High-end speakers excel in articulation, capturing the finest subtleties in the audio source. Even the most delicate sounds, such as whispers or gentle guitar plucks, are conveyed with remarkable clarity.
  • Dynamic Range: These speakers boast an extensive dynamic range, effortlessly handling both soft, subtle passages and thunderous crescendos. This wide dynamic capability allows listeners to immerse themselves in the full emotional spectrum of the music. Achieving such a dynamic range often requires a speaker with high power (wattage) to fill the entire room with sound.
  • Bass Authority: High-end speakers deliver deep, controlled, and powerful bass. They extend the bass frequency range down to 20-30 Hz, providing a visceral dimension to the music. This usually necessitates the inclusion of a large-diameter driver.
  • High-Frequency Excellence: Treble performance in high-end speakers is characterized by crispness and brilliance. Even the most delicate harmonics are faithfully reproduced, with high-frequency response extending to at least 20 kHz.
  • Expansive Soundstage: High-end speakers create a broad and precise soundstage, immersing listeners in a three-dimensional auditory experience. This effect enhances the sense of space and directionality in the music. Achieving a captivating soundstage often requires a speaker with a substantial size and power output.
  • Some of the world’s most renowned audio companies have made significant contributions to the high-end audio industry. Brands like Bowers & Wilkins, KEF, Bang & Olufsen, Audio Pro, Fyne Audio, Elac, and MartinLogan have consistently pushed the boundaries of what’s achievable in audio reproduction.

Piezo Speakers in the High-End Realm

Piezo speakers harness the phenomenon of piezoelectricity, where piezo materials generate mechanical vibrations in response to an electrical charge. While conventional piezo speakers have found utility as tweeters, their application in high-end speakers has been limited. These speakers typically struggle to achieve high sound pressure levels and exhibit a limited frequency response, often plateauing around 400 Hz. Additionally, their frequency response curves tend to deviate from flatness with multiple peaks and dips.

Nonetheless, the realm of piezo speaker technology has witnessed significant evolution, giving rise to innovations like the Dragonfly by Flora. Unlike traditional piezo speakers, the Dragonfly represents a groundbreaking advancement. It can be effortlessly affixed to surfaces, transforming them into flat panel speakers. This innovation seamlessly merges the precision and power of piezo technology with a design and engineering philosophy tailored for high-end audio. But the ultimate question remains: how does the Dragonfly measure up against the criteria that define high-end speakers?

  • Accuracy: Piezo speakers typically exhibit frequency response curves that deviate from flatness, often tilting upwards at higher frequencies. Additionally, they may display numerous dips and peaks due to their complex dynamic behavior. However, Flora has demonstrated that meticulous engineering and optimization can yield a near-flat frequency response curve. Through digital equalization and/or filtering, the curve can be made as flat as that of electrodynamic speakers within the range of 60 to 20 kHz.
  • Clarity and Details: Piezo speakers, including the Dragonfly™, are celebrated for their exceptional clarity. Their direct conversion of electrical signals into mechanical vibrations ensures precise sound reproduction. Every note, instrument, and vocal is conveyed with exceptional fidelity, firmly establishing the Dragonfly™ as a formidable contender in the realm of high-end audio.
  • Dynamic Performance: Leveraging multilayer piezo actuator technology, the Dragonfly™ packs substantial power into a single speaker. Moreover, power scalability is achievable by increasing the number of Dragonfly™ units employed on a panel. Larger panels further enhance sound pressure level output. With these implementations, Dragonfly™ piezo speakers excel in faithfully reproducing both delicate melodies and thunderous crescendos, all while maintaining clarity and detail without distortion.
  • Bass Quality: Historically, piezo speakers faced constraints in bass reproduction. However, the Dragonfly has ingeniously tackled this challenge by incorporating innovative designs and materials, resulting in a bass response that complements its high-frequency precision. Its bass response can extend down to 60 Hz, with theoretical potential for further extension. However, practical limitations, including increased costs and distinct bass characteristics, make it advisable to pair the Dragonfly with a conventional electrodynamic subwoofer to achieve a complete high-end speaker system.

  • Soundstage: Similar to electrostatic or quasi-ribbon speakers, a well-engineered piezo speaker like the Dragonfly, when affixed to a substantial panel, can deliver an immersive soundstage. Its ability to create a captivating listening experience with precise spatial cues contributes to its high-end audio appeal.

  • High-Frequency Excellence: Piezo speakers are renowned for their high-frequency performance. The Dragonfly excels in this regard, with a treble range characterized by crispness and detail, capturing audio subtleties that might elude other speakers. Notably, its high-frequency response extends well beyond the 20 kHz limit of human hearing, providing a wider sonic spectrum for enthusiasts.

Dragonfly™ High-End Speaker System Demo

To showcase the capabilities of the Dragonfly™, we constructed a high-end speaker system with the Dragonfly at its heart. Here’s how we brought this audio innovation to life:

Building the Setup:

We initiated our demonstration by attaching three Dragonfly units onto a 2′ x 5′ one-inch-thick extruded Polystyrene board, which was thoughtfully painted for an aesthetic touch. Two boards were built to create a stereo system. 

The Dragonfly™ units were driven by a custom class D audio amplifierSound input was channeled into both the Dragonfly units and a Velodyne 10” subwoofer, strategically integrated into the setup.

To ensure harmonious performance, the subwoofer’s cut-off frequency was meticulously set to 150 Hz. We fine-tuned the Dragonfly™ units to achieve a rolled-off frequency response at 150 Hz, eliminating the need for a traditional crossover.

In this configuration, the Dragonfly™ effectively assumed the roles of a woofer, midrange, and tweeter driver typically found in high-end electrodynamic speakers.

Reference Point:

To offer a benchmark for comparison, we introduced a pair of Focal Cobalt 815 floor-standing speakers into the setup. These Focal speakers are known for their exceptional accuracy, high-frequency extension, and expansive, deep soundstage.  

Performance Comparison:

The Dragonfly™ excelled in delivering exquisite details and remarkable clarity, particularly in the high-frequency range. The Dragonfly™ also exhibited superior directivity, ensuring consistent sound quality at varying listening angles. It also sounds more diffusive, which helps create a deeper soundstage. 

While the Focal speakers excelled in loudness at maximum volume, the Dragonfly™ effortlessly filled a typical living room with a rich, immersive soundscape. Overall, both systems offer outstanding audio performance, characterized by exceptional imaging, transparency, and smoothness.

Advantages of the Dragonfly:

Beyond its outstanding audio performance, the Dragonfly™ presented unique advantages.

Its slim form factor makes it wall-mountable, effectively doubling as a piece of wall art.

Remarkably lighter than conventional speakers, the Dragonfly™ reduces the load on your setup.

It consumes significantly less power, allowing for a more compact amplifier without compromising performance.

Notably, the Dragonfly™ achieves high-end audio quality without the hefty price tag often associated with traditional high-end speakers. This cost-efficiency positions it as an attractive choice for audiophiles seeking exceptional audio experiences without breaking the bank.

Expanding Horizons:

High-end audio isn’t confined to the realms of listening rooms; it finds practical applications across various industries.

The Dragonfly™ is making its mark in diverse sectors, including television, smartphones, automotive sound systems, medical devices, and aerospace, among others.

With its disruptive potential, the Dragonfly™ is poised to challenge the established norms of the audio industry, breathing new life into a field that has remained largely unchanged for decades.

The Dragonfly™’s versatility, performance, and affordability are paving the way for a revolution in high-end audio, promising immersive sound experiences that can be enjoyed by enthusiasts and professionals alike.

Conclusion

In the relentless quest for high-end audio, the Dragonfly™ by Flora stands as a formidable contender, ready to redefine the standards of acoustic excellence. With its unwavering transparency, impeccable clarity, immersive soundstage, and trailblazing engineering, the Dragonfly™ effortlessly embodies the quintessential traits that characterize high-end speakers. However, what truly sets it apart is its pioneering approach to affordability.

The Dragonfly™ challenges the preconceived notion that exceptional audio experiences must be accompanied by exorbitant price tags. Its cost-efficient design and uncompromising performance open the doors to a new era in high-end audio accessibility.

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