The world of technology seems to be one of the few places where, more often than not, people tend to think that smaller is better. It is safe to say there is a general miniaturization in technology that has been an ongoing trend for decades. But does this apply to speakers as well? What is the smallest speaker in the world, and is it any good?
We look at some of the smallest Bluetooth speakers available today and dip a little into tiny speakers designed to augment some of our daily technologies.
The Smallest Speakers Ever Designed?
The smallest speakers in the world is designed using MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) technology. The measure mere milimetres and is primarily used in mobile phones, earbuds, and tables. These spekaers are almost exclusively designed for specialized purposes, like medical equipment, highly sensitive communication equipment or consumer electronics.
These tiny speakers rely on different principles than conventional speakers. Traditional speakers use electromagnetic coils to create sound waves, but alternative methods, such as piezoelectric materials, are often used at micro scales. These materials can generate sound waves when an electric current is applied, making them ideal for extremely small-scale applications.
Here are some of the smallest of MEMS speakers:
- xMEMS Labs’ Silicon Chip Speakers: This is the world’s first all-silicon micro-speaker. This technology replaces conventional coil and magnet actuation with a piezo MEMS actuator and uses silicone instead of paper or plastic for the speaker diaphragm. By doing this, you can create a highly responsive speaker with excellent sound quality.
- USound’s MEMS Speakers: USound specializes in designing MEMS speakers for various applications, including headphones, audio glasses, VR and augmented reality glasses, and hearing aids. Their speakers are notable for their IPX8 water resistance, making them suitable for use in wet conditions. Additionally, they offer low mechanical vibrations, reduced electromagnetic fields, and low part-to-part variability.
- xMEMS’ Montara and Cowell Microspeakers: xMEMS has developed Montara and Cowell, ultra-small form factor full-range drivers. Montara is a monolithic MEMS micro-speaker with a slim 1mm profile, offering superior frequency response consistency. Cowell, the world’s smallest monolithic MEMS microspeaker, measures just 3.2mm x 1.15mm. It provides high audio performance, particularly in high-frequency ranges, making it suitable for TWS earbuds and hearing aid designs.
Here’s how some of the actual MEMs speaker models compare in size:
The Smallest Commercially Available Bluetooth Speakers
A quick browse through Amazon.com will pop up a sizable selection of mini Bluetooth speakers, attempting to differentiate themselves from others mainly by their size, or lack thereof. A large portion of them are, in fact, not great for listening to music, regardless of the benefits that come with their small size, simply because of the implications of such a small form factor on essential aspects like volume and sound quality.
However, a few of these mini Bluetooth speakers produce a sound that will elevate your listening experience from simply using the speakers on your phone.
The Best Mini Bluetooth Speaker
EWA A106 Pro Portable Bluetooth Speaker is the most widely sold mini Bluetooth speaker. We reviewed the EWA recently and were surprised by its performance for the ultra-small form factor. This is the best mini Bluetooth speaker you can buy
- Dimensions: Φ1.89 x 1.54 inches high
- Weight: 6.2 oz
The Smallest Bluetooth Speaker
The small MOMOHO Bluetooth speaker comes in two sizes, a “mini” and an even smaller”tiny.” If portability is your single most important driver, then here is a speaker that can truly fit into your trouser pocket with some coins, and you won’t even know it. Another quirky feature is that you can use the speaker as a remote control to take photos on your phone!
- Dimensions: Φ1.4 x 0.9 inches high
- Weight: 0.74 oz
Best Sounding Mini Speaker
While slightly larger than its peers, the Bobtot Portable Bluetooth Speaker is the best-sounding mini Bluetooth speaker and arguably the most stylish. It produces stereo sound, or so they claim and has a 15-hour battery life. The Bobtot has a built-in microphone so that you can take calls.
- Dimensions: Φ2.55 x 2.15 inches high
- Weight: 7.2 oz
What to Consider When Buying a Very Small Speaker
- Size vs. Portability: If you are looking to buy a mini speaker, chances are that portability is at the top of your list of requirements. There are trade-offs, some of which we will discuss later, but you must consider precisely how portable you need the speaker to be. There is a difference between a speaker that can fit into your trouser pocket and one that will fit into the side pocket of your backpack. While a mini speaker may be highly portable, a small Bluetooth speaker will often deliver much better sound in exchange for a marginal increase in size.
- Battery Life: Small speaker, small battery. A small speaker don’t use as much power as their larger counterparts, but at the same time, they house batteries with a much lower capacity. Do not expect a lot of hours of playtime from a mini speaker with a battery.
- Connectivity: Most small Bluetooth speakers have limited space for additional features and connectivity options. Bluetooth connectivity is all but a given nowadays, but Wi-Fi capabilities and other connection options may be very limited due to a lack of space.
- Durability: Some very robust mini Bluetooth speakers are available on the market. Some of the MEMS speakers mentioned above even sport IPX8 waterproof ratings. The speakers themselves, with their smaller and thinner casings, will not be as robust. It would be best if you handled them with care.
What Are Some of The Pros and Cons of Mini Speakers?
- Portability and ease of use.
- Aesthetics and space-saving designs.
- Ideal for personal listening experiences.
- Limited volume and sound quality.
- Shorter battery life compared to larger models.
- Potential durability concerns.
The Relationship Between Speaker Size and Performance
There are two areas, arguably two of the most important, where mini speakers are constrained, and both are because of the same design challenge.
Volume: There’s no escaping from the fact that a small speaker cannot be as loud as a large Bluetooth speaker. The size of the drivers in a speaker is the primary contributor to the volume, and the mere fact that these are “mini speakers” means they cannot house large drivers and can never be very loud. This means the application for your speaker is limited as well. Small speakers will lose some of their functionality in loud or outdoor environments.
Sound Quality: Same here. Sound quality has as much to do with the size of the driver. Lower bass sounds almost wholly rely on large drivers that can move big volumes of air, and small speakers can’t do this. This leads to a sound profile that often lacks depth and richness. Innovations like passive radiators and advanced digital signal processing enhance small speakers’ bass response and overall sound clarity. Still, even then, you cannot reproduce the sound quality of even the most basic medium portable Bluetooth speaker.
Despite their limitations, small speakers have made remarkable strides in sound quality thanks to technological improvements. They are increasingly capable of delivering a balanced and pleasant audio experience, albeit within the constraints imposed by their compact size. The ongoing advancements in miniaturization and acoustic engineering are pushing us toward a future where small speakers do not necessarily have to compromise significantly on sound quality or volume. It will be fascinating to see how this design field changes over the next decade.
Frequently Asked Questions
How small are the smallest speakers in the world?
The smallest speakers can be as tiny as a grain of sand, measuring just a few millimeters across. These microscale speakers utilize advanced technologies like MEMS and piezoelectric materials to produce sound.
Can tiny speakers produce good quality sound?
While small speakers face challenges in delivering rich bass and high volume, advancements in digital signal processing and design improvements have significantly enhanced their sound quality, making them quite effective for their size.
Are the smallest speakers commercially available?
Most ultra-small speakers, especially microscale ones, are designed for specialized applications like medical devices and are not generally available in consumer markets. However, commercially available small speakers continuously improve in size and performance.
Do you know about a mini or micro speaker we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments.