Apple Patent Describes Future Laptops with Surround Sound

Apple is investigating a new method of combining audio transducers with multiple laptop speakers to both improve audio quality as well as enable several variations of surround sound in future MacBooks and other portable devices, according to a new Apple patent discussed by PatentlyApple Thursday.

Apple Surround Sound MacBook Patent

Apple’s patent illustrating a possible surround sound configuration on a future laptop, via Patently Apple.

MacBook Pro speakers have never ranked as the absolute best in the laptop audio quality category but often beat speakers on PC laptops of similar thickness. Since overall sound quality generally decreases with the size of the speaker, the small speakers that must fit inside the slim enclosures of the various MacBook laptops often don’t have a fair fight with high-end speakers in PC laptops that are twice as thick.

Space constraints, while impacting overall audio quality, have a much more noticeable effect on mid and low frequencies, such as those produced by subwoofers. Apple’s solution to this problem, as outlined in their patent application, is to connect audio transducers, devices that transmit their audio output by vibrating other objects, to the top or bottom panel of a device, syncing it up with the output of other speakers.

As described by the patent: “In operation, the audio transducer typically receives electrical signals from the processor and translates those electrical signals into vibrations, which in turn may be perceived as audible sound.”

The transducer will handle the low, and possibly even mid, frequencies while the remaining “tweeter” speakers handle high frequencies. Apple’s patent envisions “3.1” and “4.1” surround configurations using this method.

In a “cover your bases” approach, Apple even detailed how this technology could be integrated into home theater chairs, although we’re sure the folks over at ButtKicker aren’t impressed. 

While the rest of us wait to see if and how Apple makes use of this patent, MacBook users who can’t wait to get better sound from their laptops can always check out products like Twelve South’s BassJump, which adds a separate plug-in low frequency speaker to round out your Mac’s audio.