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A different tune

The Node Hylixa delivers out-of-this-world sound from a compact speaker

With its glass and nylon-fused, egg-shaped head perched atop its slender body, Node’s Hylixa looks, well, otherworldly, as if recovered from an extraterrestrial crash site. It’s an analogy that isn’t lightyears away from the truth, given it was developed using technology never applied to a speaker before by two industrial designers new to the industry. “There’s nothing on the market like it,” explains Ashley May, its co-creator.


Previously, May and fellow director David Evans spent eight years running a product design consultancy in London, and it’s there they hit upon the idea of using a manufacturing process known as laser sintering – generally reserved for Formula One parts – to create a compact sound system.


The painstaking, 45-hour process involves a laser fusing glass and nylon particles together, one 0.2mm layer at a time, to “grow” a rounded cabinet, which mimics the performance of a human mouth, dispersing sound evenly around a room. The result is voices on even simple tracks almost hang in front of the listener, like a holographic picture.


“It’s not about what you’re hearing but what you’re not,” May says. “There’s no colourisation of sound because there’s none of the panel resonance you’d traditionally get from a flat panel box. But there’s also a certain sort of magic to it you can’t measure or explain.”


May’s most significant advantage, he thinks, was being able to start the project with a blank sheet of paper. It meant not only were the pair able to experiment with different production methods but to create something aesthetically unique. “It wasn’t a conscious decision for the Hylixa to look like it’s from another planet,” May jokes. “But we wanted it to be a statement when it wasn’t playing music – a piece of acoustic sculpture.”


But why go to so much effort to invade a finicky industry, with so many established rivals? “We thought we could make something better,” May concludes. “Yes, we may be outsiders, but the proof is in the listening.”


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