Skip to main content

Turtle Beach's HyperSound Glass was the most jaw-dropping discovery at E3

Turtle Beach has patented a method of amplifying and directing audio using ultrasound, and I experienced it for the first time at their E3 2016 booth in Los Angeles.

I entered the meeting room expecting to see a physical prototype only, perhaps some PR speak, and maybe a slick concept video.

Little did I know, I was already experiencing HyperSound.

Going Ultrasonic

The square shaped room was filled with ambient wilderness audio, birds were tweeting, leaves rustling in a gentle breeze. I mindlessly presumed that they had a surround sound speakers set up in the booth, and didn't even think to check where the audio was coming from. The sound was crystal clear, and coming from every direction.

When Turtle Beach's representative told me that the only audio in the room was coming directly out of a glass panel in front of me, I was all kinds of stunned.

HyperSound Glass was as immersive as wearing surround sound headphones.

Turtle Beach's HyperSound Glass prototypes were humble in their presentation. They were essentially glass panels with a plastic frame connected to small HyperSound processing units sitting innocently on the table.

Considering these objects were practically fresh from the laboratory floor, it was easy to envisage how sleek the consumer version could look. Flat glass panels will be far easier to mount than traditional box-shaped speakers.

HyperSound Glass was as immersive as wearing surround sound headphones. The audio resonated so, so close to my ears, but still felt as though it had saturated the whole room. Regardless of how close I stood to HyperSound Glass unit, the audio remained directed and crisp – and the volume level was completely unaffected.

Simply put, HyperSound Glass felt thoroughly futuristic.

When I stepped out of the monitor's direct path, the volume decreased massively, but not completely. HyperSound is directed audio, and you only get the full effect if you're directly in front of the ultrasound beam.

It was a vivid experience, unlike anything I've had before when it comes to audio. It was as though I was wearing a 3D audio headset, only, without wearing a headset. Simply put, HyperSound Glass felt thoroughly futuristic.

The unit I got to hear was an incredibly rough prototype, and they told me it would be at least two years before they had something consumer viable. But even in its prototypical stage, HyperSound Glass was incredibly impressive. One writer sitting in the meeting quipped, "It sounds like there are birds in my head," listening to the countryside ambiance Turtle Beach had set out for the demo.

Judging by what I heard, I'm convinced HyperSound will be a really big deal.

How does it all work?

Traditional audio radiates from the source and immediately begins to degrade in the air. HyperSound is a little different. It's less about the origin of the sound, and more about the direction it's traveling in.

Think of ultrasound audio as the difference between a light bulb and a flash light.

One comparison Turtle Beach made was the difference between a light bulb and a flash light. Bulbs diffuse their light in every direction, like audio, but a flashlight directs a more powerful beam in a more focused channel. HyperSound is very similar.

HyperSound processors connected to the ultrasound emitting panel inject traditional audio onto the ultrasonic beam. Ultrasound is usually above the human audible range, but HyperSound piggybacks on top of the channels with its regular audio, and the effect is dramatic.

When the sound is transported via ultrasound, it creates audio within the beam, rather than at the source. Audio still escapes the beam, but it sounds muffled and quiet compared to when you're sitting directly in front. Turtle Beach create a stereo effect by splitting the HyperSound Glass panel into two channels down the middle, giving the impression of 3D audio.

Anywhere glass exists, Turtle Beach now has the capability to add audio into the mix.

According to Turtle Beach, utilizing HyperSound results in a higher frequency response, and also reduces the overall power consumption necessary to produce higher volume audio. It also means that you can have far smaller "speaker" panels, and still get loud and vivid audio from a device that has a far smaller physical footprint than a traditional wall-mounted speaker.

The glass that makes up HyperSound's prototype panels is layered, not unlike a smartphone screen. The glass incorporates a transparent film that interacts directly with HyperSound's electronic processing units. This is how the ultrasound beam is generated, creating the mind-boggling 3D-like sound I experienced.

Turtle Beach acknowledged that it usually takes people's brains a few seconds to work out exactly what is happening because it is so far removed from the way we're used to experiencing sound.

Ultrasonic potential

Is HyperSound truly better than traditional audio? I'm not sure if HyperSound Glass panels can replace conventional headphones or speakers – at least in the near-term – but with further development and iteration, the technology could quickly become ubiquitous.

HyperSound

The applications for HyperSound are endless. Imagine being able to watch YouTube clips in public without disturbing those around you. You could sit at your desk at work, having a personal rock concert, while your co-workers sit nearby, none the wiser. Applications for public advertising signage and audio healthcare is pretty huge too, putting into perspective just how big this technology could be for Turtle Beach as a company who are traditionally focussed on video game headsets.

Turtle Beach is also using similar technology in their HyperSound Clear speakers, which delivers directional audio to people with hearing loss. The idea there is that the user can share the same televisual experience without needing to crank up the volume to levels untenable for other viewers. Separate audio volumes in the same room for different needs.

Turtle Beach envisions a future where every piece of glass could incorporate this technology. From smartphones, car dashboards, and even business cards that speak your name to the recipient – although that last one is a little more space age than the other potential applications.

Anywhere glass exists, Turtle Beach now has the capability to add audio into the mix. HyperSound could potentially solve all sorts of issues that arise from unwanted audio in group scenarios and delivering audio where previously there could be none. The possibilities are exciting.

We'll be following Turtle Beach's HyperSound journey closely over the coming years, so stay tuned. Who knows? Maybe the Surface Phone 3 will come with HyperSound Glass.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

44 Comments
  • That's dOpe! How much is this going to set me back?
  • HyperSound Gorilla Glass on my PHONE please!!!!
  • Holy guacamole. That's awesome.
  • I'd say I'm as surprised and delighted as when I first read about HoloLens (I know, apples and humidifiers). And that they've thought of the aspect of aiding the disabled is a huge plus in my books.
  • Oh, and btw, how about this tech used in headphones?
  • Glass headphones might be a bit risky haha
  • Well, I was thinking of only the elements, not the whole thing. Which, granted, would be highly Harris hazardous =D
  • Ah, I'm not sure it actually *sounds* better than a proper surround headset, at least not yet. :)
  • Not if it's Gorilla Glass though.
  • this is superB gimme one
  • Woahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
  • It's funny imagining "glass" replacing speakers. Haha. I'm not 100% sold on the "directional" affect. They'll have to have 360° versions for those wanting saturation. This is sweet tho.
  • Uhm... The 360° version is called a speaker.
  • They don't need a 360° version, they just need to add kinect sensors so that users can be tracked and followed by the sound beam so it feels like they are experiencing 360° coverage.
  • They just have to rebrand kinect and they're good to go ;)
  • I remember a documentary on a guy who made this style of beam sound waves (the tech is probably different but the idea is the same). It was pretty cool. That was like 10 years ago. I'm glad this is finally affordable enough tech to get into the hands of the general population :).
  • Yeah, hypersound tech is a couple decades old. It was originally developed under DoD grants (you can make really nasty non-lethal weaponry with it). The big problem is that it's always produced sound that's intelligible, but still distorted enough that it's not a competitor to traditional loudspeakers where audio quality matters. If Turtle Beach have somehow solved that, then that's pretty exciting. I'll believe it, though, when they demo real audio content (like music or speech) and not just noises like birds chirping.
  • This is awesome. I would suggest checking violet3d.com until this becomes mainstream. These speakers generate surround sound anywhere in the room.
  • What's the frequency range, will you still need a sub?
  • What's the frequency range, will you still need a sub?
  • That wouldn't be annoying at all to the non-you, all they hear is the sub :D
  • actually i dont use a sub at home. i have good floor standing speakers that are capable of reproducing all frequencys and well balanced representation of how something is meant to sound. what i am trying to say is are these units capable of producing a balance sound? or do they need to be bundled with a sub like modern home cinema soundbars etc where the satelites only do the high and mid frequency range?
  • Cool, but wake me when it ships.
  • Search CNT speakers. Did a seminar on it. Really fascinating tech which can create transparent films of speakers. Really loud and efficient. Not directional too.
  • This sounds awesome! (no pun intended). I wonder what frequency range it has, in other words, can it do bass etc. Awesome nonetheless
  • Reminds me of the 12 year old ultrasound technology developed and used by the military, essentialy a device that created an ultrasound strawlike laserbeam through which normal sound was piped.  They tested it in a football stadium, aimed it at one person, only that person heard the sound, no one else did.  They tested it in retail stores on the ceiling pointing down at spots in front of TV's, whoever stood in front heard about that TV and no sound leakage.  Very interesting, I wonder how far its advanced in 12 years :)
  • 950xl speaker problem, solved!
  • This just introduced new problems. The physical properties of glass being so rigid would limit the range of frequencies you could experience to the higher range (trebel). Their marketing video also seems to confirm this as they claim specifically "improved sound clarity and speech inteligibility". It seems you'll still need a subwoofer to get that bass. If that is the case, the audio from a suplemental bass audio source would be impossible to ignore and would seem strange to anyone not hearing the high sounds emitting from the Hyper Sound glass speakers along with the bass. It would be like hearing somes super bass heavy vehicle parked right next to you but you couldn't make out the lyrics.
  • This would be cool in movie theaters in future.
  • You can experience this stuff already where they have it at "Build A Bear" workshops as well as inside the Call of Duty kiosks at Best Buy.  You don't hear anything until you walk in the path of the beam. I did some research on these guys and there are all sorts of companies looking at this .  McDonalds wants to allow you to port your own music to where you sit down (its beamed direct), one of the Detroit automakers is working with Standford on a car horn that "talks" to people when the car is near intersections and then there are some 7-11 type stores in Europe where while you are in line to check out they are feeding you in line an add for say Red Bull ( and the tests show something insane like a 300% sell through if the dude in line has this like subliminal message shot to his ears).  Major problem is Turtle Beach has their hands full with the head set market and really don't have the extra cash laying around to correctly market the stuff.  They need a monster licensing deal to get the engines going otherwise we're all going to wait 3-4 years for it to come around. 
  • They're talking to licensees. :)
  • Awesome!!
  • WoW
    And now we'll be hearing from the screen of our phones/tablets/PCs etc, instead of speakers
    This is really mind/jaw dropping
  • I remember a team demonstrating this like 10 years ago.
  • This reminds me of the Bose demo theaters in their outlet stores. You're in this theater-style room with huge audio and then they show you that all the sound is coming from these tiny, little speakers and all the big speakers are dummies. Or my Boston Acoustics flat panel digital speakers from the late '90s I got bundled with my Windows '98se Gateway 2000 during the height of Gateway. They're about 1" thick & less than 1' tall, but produce sound comparable to huge floor standing monsters (minus the bass). http://www.cnet.com/products/boston-acoustics-digital-ba7500-trade/specs I hope this technology arrives fast and is afordable. My father needs this now. His hearing is so bad. He turns his TV up to max. The whole apartment building can hear it.
  • Really cool, though it could be as much of an annoyance (talking ads everywhere) as a cool convenience. I think there was a Kickstarter that this made me think of, where it was laser-based audio that worked in a very narrow field, as this is supposedly capable of. Here's hoping they can get it into theaters before the consumer release.
  • Very cool Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • This sounds really really cool, but what about bass? My concern is that it cant create the wavelengths large enough to produce audible, seat rattling bass. This may currently be the case since they demoed it with nature sounds (which would lack any significant bass) rather than music or some sort of broadcast
  • That's what I was thinking. It's awesome tech. Blows my mind really. If you add a woofer separate everyone would hear it. It would still sound like surround sound though to the main listener since bass can't be tracked down to the source easily to the untrained ear.
  • I would bet that a larger in dimension or thicker glass panel by mass would yeild deeper tones much like a tweeter vs a woolfer. Pehaps if some sound is sent backwards and redirected through a tube would give the sub woofer effect. Amazing.
  • I dont think it works like that since the sound piggy backs on ultrasound waves, which would normally be pretty tight wavelengths in order to visualize the details babies inside a mothers stomach n such. Simply a larger screen on its own won't generate larger wavelengths (bass) like a traditional speaker would, they'd have to modify the ultrasound itself to produce larger wavelengths. Im not an expert on this, but im pretty sure the limitation is that of the ultrasound
  • Take my money!
  • Interesting tech but no. This application of sending targeted sound to some person in the room is just that, interesting tech. But not at all practical. On a phone, phablet or tablet?  Now we can talk.
  • On a phone definitely.