Why Sonos' new speaker tech is such a game-changer

Sonos just bought a revolutionary new kind of speaker tech, and it could shake up everything from soundbars to Bluetooth speakers

Sonos Five speaker next to much smaller Mayht model
(Image credit: Mayht)

Sonos just announced that it's acquired Mayht, a Dutch company that developed a new kind of speaker design that could be about to kickstart a new audio tech war.

Sonos has spent $100 million to acquire Mayht's staff and its technology, which is called 'HeartMotion', and the reason it would pay so much for this is fairly simple: HeartMotion enables the same speaker power in much, much smaller designs.

As an especially useful illustration, the image at the top of this post shows exactly the kind of size different we're talking about: Mayht says you can get the sound of the Sonos Five from a unit the size of a Sonos One.

And then, just to show off, the company says you can get the sound of a Sonos One from something the size of an Echo Dot.

Mayht says a home theatre subwoofer could have its volume reduced from 35 litres to just four litres, meaning it could be hidden just about anywhere.

It also says that it could offer deeper bass than something like a JBL Partybox 710, but in a frame 10 times smaller and weighing five times less. And that it could reduce power consumption by four times compared to a JBL Boombox, while also halving weight.

Finally, it says that it could deliver true bass (down to 30Hz) from a soundbar that's pretty mid-size – no subwoofer required. I've heard a soundbar from Devialet that delivers that kind of performance, but that required eight woofers that took up the majority of the unit… and that soundbar's huge as a result.

Mayht HeartMotion gif showing air displacement comparison

(Image credit: Mayht)

HeartMotion's trick is that it's a dual-membrane driver, with effectively two high-excursion (meaning they move further and displace more air) membranes on either side, pushing the sound in both directions at once. This means they're self-balancing, and so don't require the vibration-stopping build you need in powerful speakers otherwise. And at the same time, the design should be so efficient at shifting air that you can get lower bass within smaller enclosures – the GIF above is Mayht's comparison between a HeartMotion driver and a regular driver making the same level of sound.

Dialling things up for Sonos

“Mayht’s breakthrough in transducer technology will enable Sonos to take another leap forward in our product portfolio,” says Sonos' CEO, Patrick Spence. “This strategic acquisition gives us more incredible people, technology and intellectual property that will further distinguish the Sonos experience, enhance our competitive advantage, and accelerate our future roadmap.”

We've reached out to Sonos for further comment, but the immediate potential advantage is obvious: Sonos could massively step up the audio quality of its products in their current sizes. 

The Sonos One could become true competition to the best bookshelf speakers without becoming as big as them, while the Sonos Arc could add bass that makes the need for a subwoofer obsolete.

Sonos is already such a dominant player among the best wireless speakers, and with control of this new technology, it might have found a way to stay there even as the competition keeps hotting up.

Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.