December 7, 2010 at 10:03 am

Ventev SoundVibe Turns Tables into Big, Vibrating Speakers

Ventev SoundVibe, a small, speaker-like attachment for smartphones, laptops and MP3 players, makes a compelling argument: Why carry around a big set of portable speakers when you can turn any tabletop, conference room table, hotel nightstand, or other hard surface into one big vibrating, sound-generating mass?

The Ventev SoundVibe ($109 retail) makes almost no sound when you hold it in your hand. Place it on a hard surface, though, and the room fills with sound, as the below video demonstrates.

The device’s manual (.pdf) claims a frequency response of 100 Hz to 15 KHz, which is fairly decent considering its small size. Rather than a speaker, the SoundVibe uses a “vibrating core” that measuring 2.4 inches by 2.4 inches by 2 inches. In order to create a significant enough connection with the table, and due to the mass of that vibrating core, this device weighs a whopping 2.65 pounds.

By comparison, Sony’s iRDP-X50iP clock radio speaker for iPods and iPhones, which, like the Ventev SoundVibe, also lacks a battery and must be plugged in, weighs about four pounds. Several options weigh less than both of these systems, with the flimsiest (and worst-sounding) models weighing in at well under a pound.

So the big question is… how does this thing sound?

This concept of vibrating a table instead of a speaker diaphragm is by no means new. In 2002, the Olympia SoundBug, from the now-defunct Wave Industries, similarly vibrated tabletops — but it connected to tables using a suction cup, rather than sheer weight. Also, the SoundBug sounded horrible, which could be why Wave Industries went the way of the dodo.

I called Ventev to ask for a review unit, in order to find out whether the SoundVibe sounds any better, but was told I would have to register as a manufacturing partner on Tessco.com in order to get one. Assuming that bizarre product request process comes to fruition, I’ll update this post with a true listening test as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the following demonstration video from LetsTalk, which indicates that the SoundVibe at least sounds better than the SoundBug did, will have to suffice:

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Stay tuned for more on this one. If it works, it could be a big hit with music fans who listen to music on smartphones, as well as presentation-making businesspeople who like to travel compact — if not light.