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Near Field Audio Technology Overview

by May 30, 2013
Near Field Audio Technology

Near Field Audio Technology

Occasionally, we come across a technology that, frankly, we've never heard of and don't immediately recognize how it works. Someone comes out with a new Class A amp, we know it will be heavy, inefficient, and run very, very hot. It'll probably be expensive too. Someone comes out with a new speaker, we can pretty much look at the driver topology and placement, cabinet, and weight and know what to expect. Someone comes out with a new "high-speed" cable and we know that only the price tag and consumer expectations will make it sound better than every other cable.

But, every once in a while, we just have to scratch our heads, man up, and do a Google search. That happened with Near Field Audio technology.

There are a few products on the market sporting Near Field Audio technology - one from Voxx (formally AudioVox) and one from ifrogz (disappointingly not shaped at all like a frog). These two products basically look and operate exactly the same. They are platforms upon which you set your smartphone or portable media player (no wires needed). When you do, the box "magically" (this is their word, not ours) picks up the sound from the phone or player and amplifies it through its internal speakers. The devices are battery powered though they can be connected to the wall, are portable, and work with most phones or players (with a few caveats).

And that is where it gets interesting.

As far as we can tell the Near Field Audio technology works by induction. The one requirement that both of the above devices have is that your phone or player have an external speaker. We're thinking they work much like a guitar pickup works to sense the vibrations in the string, sends that information to an amplifier, and then sends it out to the speaker. The NFA devices do the same but they are sensing the EM field created by your phone and using that as the signal to be amplified. So, while your phone's speaker is still in use (much like the guitar string is still making a noise), the speaker within the device is loud enough that it doesn't really make much of a difference.


The technology is fairly new and the applications are strikingly similar right now. But we like where this is heading. With docks requiring specific cables or connectors, AirPlay and streaming requiring a network, and Bluetooth requiring pairing, this is a true universal solution. NFC (Near Field Communications) is similar but it is only in use in certain phones and, again, requires some sort of pairing. The thing that is so interesting about NFA is that it is manufacturer agnostic. And, unless manufacturers start shielding their phones in order to block it (extremely unlikely as it will increase weight and cost), it is likely to stay that way.

If NFA speakers interest you, make sure you look through the reviews and manuals to ensure that your phone or tablet is compatible. Right now, the technology is in its infancy so sound quality has taken a backseat to novelty. We can't wait to see if something like this can catch on enough so that we'll be dropping our phones on a plate at our friend's home to share our tunes without having to pair it.

Is this something you can see yourself using?  Share your thoughts on our forum.


About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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