The Brane X portable speaker packs a heck of a punch in a small package • TechCrunch

The Brane X portable speaker packs a heck of a punch in a small package • TechCrunch

The Brane X portable speaker packs a heck of a punch in a small package • TechCrunch

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You probably haven’t heard of Brane Audio yet, but trust me: you will. One of my highlights at CES in Las Vegas today was hearing the company’s first loudspeaker, the Brane X, side-by-side with other well-known loudspeaker brands. The company founder has a background in high-precision magnetism and, after leaving his former company, decided to apply that expertise to another area where magnets are important: loudspeakers.


The company’s first product is the $700 Brane X, which opens for preorders soon. The big innovation is the company’s Repel-Attract Driver (RAD). It uses a combination of moving and stationary magnets to create a force equal and opposite to the force caused by large changes in air pressure in a loudspeaker enclosure. The result is the ability to move a lot of air (and therefore hit a lot of bass), in a small package that the company claims consumes 10% of the power of a conventional technology subwoofer.

“We have developed a new way of making audio. Specifically, we have a new subwoofer. This uses a technology we call “repel attract driver” or RAD. It uses magnetic forces to cancel out the air pressure forces inherent in creating low subwoofer notes. Using traditional technology, there’s even a law – Hoffman’s Law – that says, can’t have deep bass, efficient speaker and let it be compact. As you reduce the size of a subwoofer, the atmospheric pressure increases more and more and you consume more and more power”, explains Joe Pinkerton, co-founder and CEO of Brane Audio, in an interview. with TechCrunch. “Through canceling this pressure force with a magnetic force, it remains in its container. That is to say, it suffices to overcome one’s own inertia. It’s a factor of about 100 times more efficient in the subwoofer range. This allows us to make it one-tenth the size and draw one-tenth the power.

Brane Audio showed off its speaker alongside the Sonos Move, blowing it out of the water. Image Credit: TechCrunch / Haje Kamps

You’ve already done the math, dear reader: smaller, lighter and less power-hungry, that equals some great technology for portable speakers. And that’s exactly what the company has built into the Brane X. It packs an 8-inch subwoofer into a portable speaker that can run on battery power for 12 hours. It’s got all the other bells and whistles you’d expect from a high-end portable speaker, too: it’s got Alexa, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and can run Spotify. Along with the aforementioned bass-pump, it packs a pair of tweeters and a pair of mid-range speakers, so it retains its stereo sound playback power. The speaker is IP 5x rated, meaning it’s more rainproof than your BBQ or pool party.

In the suite where the tech was demoed, I found myself checking behind the sofa to see if the company had hidden any extra speakers: a huge amount of bass, plus an eerily immersive soundscape from from a box the size of a small toaster was a distinctly strange experience. . I couldn’t locate the other speakers, and the team assured me that yes, everything really came from their little box.

The Brane X portable speaker packs a heck of a punch in a small package • TechCrunch

Brane Audio’s subwoofer uses an FPGA to balance its magnet exactly where it’s needed. Image credit: TechCrunch / Haje Kamps

Pinkerton started Active Power, an energy company in the early 1990s that created massive 15,000 pound magnetic bearing flywheels for energy storage. The precision required to use a combination of static and dynamic magnets to keep these flywheels perfectly balanced using an axial magnetic bearing required the development of an extremely precise feedback loop. Shortly after taking the company public in 2000, he started a Clean Energy Labs to start looking for other opportunities. One of the technologies the company considered was to use graphene to create more efficient switches.

“As we were switching it at 5,000 times per second. We were like, ‘wow, that’s a lot of noise for its size,’ and it was just a chip-level device,” Pinkerton laughs. From there, he wondered what would happen if they tried to make noise on aim. “We spun off Brane Audio from Clean Energy Labs in 2015, and we just said ‘hey, let’s make this membrane speaker. We worked on this for and we worked on this for several years and we were going to launch something in 2020. Then COVID hit and the factory closed.

From there, it was back to the drawing board — but Pinkerton wasn’t ready to let the technology rest just yet.

“Our experience is something a normal sound engineer wouldn’t even know existed. It took us years to figure out how to perfect the technology,” says Pinkerton, outlining the path to a final loudspeaker. and throwable.

The speaker is large for a portable speaker; it’s more of a small boombox than the kind of speaker you can just lob into your carry-on for a trip abroad. Seems to be best for a speaker that you take with you on a road trip, whether you’re moving from room to room in the house, or going to bed outside for a party at home. pool.

“It’s a preview of the Brane X. We’re doing a full launch at South by Southwest in Austin in mid-March,” Pinkerton concludes, and suggests the company has speakers with its technology in more form factors. small and with more modest prices on the drawing board.

Learn more about CES 2023 on TechCrunch


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