Technology

Braun Audio Returns with the LE1 Reimagined by Precipice Design

Anyone that knows me, knows I am a huge fan of the industrial design work that Deiter rams did for Braun. His influence and the work he did for Braun can still be felt today on so many product lines by other companies like Apple. 

Braun has been absent from the audio world for more than two decades, but original stereo systems from the 50s, 60s, and 70s are still in demand. Not because they offer a superior audio experience, but because of the design and visual aesthetic they present.

The hottest Braun stereo collectible is probably the SK5 “Snow White’s Coffin” record player and radio. It is sublimely minimal in its execution with white powder-coated steel sandwiched between wooden side panels under a plexiglass case. The design was a radical departure for stereo gear when this was introduced in the 1950s. 

Snow White’s Coffin

One of my personal favorites from the Braun stereo family has always been the Braun Audio 1 from 1962. To me, it feels timeless. You can feel where it came from (the SK5) and understand the visual direction Rams was taking Braun over the next decade. 

1965 Braun Audio 1

In addition to the Audio 1, Braun introduced a set of minimalist speakers in 1959, the LE1. The LE1 is so simple in its design form. White rectangular slabs suspended on chrome tubular legs with a perforated black metal grill. The form is almost sculptural in quality and an even more radical departure from stereo systems of the day. You have to remember, in 1959 most stereo systems looked like a large wooden piece of furniture that would blend in with what was in your living room. The LE1 stands out. It’s meant to be seen as well as heard. 

The LE1 from 1959

The LE1 was the first electrostatic speaker available on the German market, the LE 1 provided a new housing for internal electronics produced by English engineering company Quad, then trading as Acoustical Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The LE 1’s electronics were based on the Quad ESL-57, producing a distinctively detailed sound that still stands up well against the standards of contemporary hi-fi systems today. At the time of its introduction, the speaker was technically and aesthetically ground-breaking. Within the Braun audio program of the late ‘50s, the LE 1 was intended to accompany the first Braun component Hi-Fi system, the Braun Studio 2. 

The 2019 LE01 Series

For the first time in 28 years, Braun is back in the audio business. Well sort of. Braun Audio is returning with a reinvention of the aforementioned LE speakers from 1959. A perfect reintroduction to the heritage of Braun Audio, the new LE Series focuses on the purity of design, purity of performance and the purity of sound Braun was known for in the past.

These beautifully minimalist speakers have been re-imagined by Precipice Design. The London-based design company developed all consumer and trade touchpoints including brand and product narratives, packaging, photography, iconography, digital assets (website, and mobile app), video content, and point of sale concepts, print catalogs, and advertising, helping to re-establish Braun in the premium audio sector.

When you look at the complete set of design materials that Precipice created for Braun you are immediately aware of the heritage of vintage Braun while positioning them squarely in the modern market place. The imagery that is used across all touchpoints echoes the minimalist aesthetic that Braun became known for, not simply in the products they produced but in the owner’s manuals, advertising, and packaging that was produced during their heyday.

As I looked at the new website that Precipice produced I was struck by how it so closely mirrored many of the Braun printed items I’ve seen from the 1960s an70s. The minimal color pallet, sparse layout, concise messaging. The same look and feel are carried over to the mobile app, and on to the packaging. With the packaging focusing on the purity of sound while focusing on the brand’s heritage. Only key information about the product shown on the packaging. The uncomplicated packaging is typical of Braun and reflects the aesthetics of the classic speaker through dark tones and a graphic of the speaker itself.

The speakers themselves are an homage to the original LE1 updated to reflect today’s taste and improved technologies. Where the original 1959 speaker would probably prove to be too large in today’s home environment, Precipice’s vision shows how the LE1 can be reimagined to fit more discreetly into one’s home.

The new speaker brings the same vision Ram’s had in 1959. A minimalist slab in white with a black grill floating above a chrome stand. The speaker is angled slightly backward, and the controls are almost invisible. Precipice also introduces a solid black version of the speaker and two additional sizes, all of which use the same visual language. 

Floor stands have been designed as well, but I have to say I don’t think they work as well. They seem rather chunky except where they have been extended and used with the smallest of the speakers.

There is no word on availability yet. I’m betting these will be available this fall for the Christmas shopping season. The product was introduced around the first of September this year so you would think they would be ready for sale by mid-November at the latest. Pricing will range from $1200.00 for the largest of the 3 down to $380.00 for the smallest.

I don’t need these, but I wouldn’t mind having them. Full information and specs are available on the Braun Audio website.

Paper Machines

Anyone from Hallmark that might be reading this, raise your hand if you remember “T-Ink” from 2004 and the products Hallmark produced for less than a year with the technology? T-Ink had so much potential and it simply withered and died on the vine. The T-Ink project was one of the first things I worked on when I returned to Hallmark. It was such a cool product, and could have been huge if they could have figured out how to market it better. Fast forward to 2017 and check out Papier Machine from French Designers Marion Pinaffo and Raphaël Pluvinage.

Papier Machine is a set of 13 paper-made electronic toys. Each piece of paper can be cut and folded and assembled into the final toy. Another intriguing component of Papier Machine is that while there are instructions that come with the kit, the steps are not clear cut. According to Pinaffo and Pluvinage they still want users to interpret the instructions themselves, opening up the pathway to more possibilities, especially for kids.

 

Like T-Ink, the printed paper is equipped with reactive, conductive, and thermosensitive inks, which actually complete the electronic circuits and allow the toys to function. The toys are designed for kids of all ages and don’t require any special tools, skills or training. The designers want Papier MAchine to be all about fun, and exploration.  The 13 toys can create multiple projects that include Switches, a Gyroscope, Playing Track, Writing Track, Tilt Switch, Humidity Sensor, Wind Sensor, Mass Sensor, Power Reverser, Photoresistor, and Color Sensor. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Bang Bang The BeoLab 50

No matter what you might think of the audio quality or the price point, you have to admit Bang & Olufsen make some beautiful audio gear. The BeoLab 50 is no exception Combining innovative design and state-of-the-art technology, the BeoLab 50 continues the brand’s mission of creating “the future of sound.” This floor speaker system stands out from some of the newer offerings B&O has made in the last few years pulling from an older aesthetic while still looking forward. The cylindrical rounded shape ensures that the speaker fades into any modern interior. The look of the oak and aluminum certainly tower sets it apart from recent B&O designs while still connecting it to other styles in the lineup. The BeoLab 50 features a silver semi-matte body with wood lamellas on one side and a black fabric on the other. It is futuristic and yet has a slightly retro feel that blends into any period.

The high-end loudspeaker features seven dedicated amplifiers that have a combined power of 2,100 watts. With three 4’’ midrange drivers and three 10’’ woofer drivers and an Acoustic Lens at the top. All of which is designed to make sure the BeoLab 50 provides an incredible sound experience. In typical fashion, B&O has incorporated seamless controls that allow the user to connect the speaker to other devices in the home easily. The BeoLab 50 also features wired and wireless inputs as well as the Active Room Compensation option which applies custom filters to compensate for sound reflections in different areas of a room.

 

No word on price, but I can guarantee you these won’t come cheap. You might have to decide between that small compact economy car you need for your daily commute, or a set of speakers to help you unwind at the end of the day. If you get a chance, check out the website. Once again B&O has put together a nice microsite with full page video, parallax effects and just enough information to hook you and make you want to come back when this officially launches.

 

Absolutely Engaging. “Save Every Breath, The Dunkirk VR Experience.”

If you haven’t seen the movie “Dunkirk” yet I highly recommend it. If you haven’t engaged with some of the marketing materials for it, I highly recommend that too. Especially the WebVR experience that was created to promote the film. the website is an immersive VR experience that requires two people to play. You can engage with someone you know, or join anyone from around the world. When you join, you become one of the allied soldiers at Dunkirk surrounded by the enemy. In order to survive, you have to work with the other player, just like you would have if you had been there in 1940. The site and VR components were created by Warner Brothers in conjunction with Google Zoo and the Chrome VR Teams to make this work. It’s a really great example of how Google VR and Immersive experiences can be used as a marketing and promotional vehicle. And not just for movies. I could see this being applied to so much more.

I Cut the Cord

About a month ago I decided to cut the TV package off of my Google Fiber account. I simply couldn’t justify paying for all the channels I never watched. Like all TV services, Google is forced to buy network packages, so everyone ends up getting a flood of channels they’ll never watch. In my case, it was all of the Spanish language channels, a ton of sports programming and religious networks, children’s programming, and home shopping networks. When I took a look at the channel line up, out of hundreds of channels that were being offered there were probably 15 to 20 that I wanted, and 6 of those were available over the air for free with an HD antenna. So I did some math added up the cost of services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, DirectTV Now and figure I could save close to 100 bucks a month if I dropped the Google TV package and went 100 percent streaming.

Now, before anyone jumps on the Google Fiber bashing bandwagon, let’s get something straight this is the same situation for any cable and internet service provider because the networks have them hamstrung. The same thing applies to Rectum, I mean Spectrum (formerly Time Warner), Cox, SureWest, ATT, DirectTV, Dish, and on and on. They all have to buy the big network packages and offer more than any customer ever really needs. There simply is no ala carte TV solution available for consumers, which sucks. Given the opportunity, I would buy each channel I watch for a set price and be done with it. Unfortunately, that isn’t coming anytime soon from what I can tell.

Here I am about 4 weeks in, and I don’t think I’ll go back. I don’t have a DVR, although there are plenty of options available. I have access to the content I want to watch. I’m actually watching less TV and engaging more with content like TED Talks on my Apple TV. Since I never watched anything beyond the national news in real time I don’t feel like I am missing any programming that I am interested in, and thanks to my Smart TV from Sony I have Netflix and Amazon built in with both offering 4K content that looks great. My only gripe is networks like CBS are trying to force me to install their app and then pay for individual shows which means I am forced to watch programs like 60 Minutes, and CBS Sunday morning on my Computer or iPad through the CBS News websites, and I’m OK with that.

Over the last year Pay TV has continued to decline as streaming services continue to produce original content, and offer up programming available from other networks. I don’t see this trend ending which is going to force the major networks and cable providers to rethink their strategy. They are going to have to figure out a new model because I’m not the only one cutting the cord and moving on.

Out of all the channels shown below, the highlighted ones are those that we watched, and some of those were few and far between. 5 of them are available for free over the air in HD. 220+ channels and we were watching 15 of them.

The Infinity Wall

Over the last few years, I have seen a ton of projection mapping projects for everything from commercial product launches to venue openings and trade show keynotes.  Most of the time they have glitzy over the top projects that have a very specific theme or story line. I think the reason I am so impressed with the example below is because it is a hypnotic blend of simplicity, monochrome hues, and mesmerizing shapes.

In an empty lot on the outskirts of the city of Doha a 54,000 square foot tent was erected for a private event. In front of the tent stands a 360 foot wide by 30 foot tall fabric-covered wall.  On to it digital projectors,  projection-mapped 3D animations onto the it, giving the illusion of a large-scale kinetic modern art installation floating in the desert.

With less than three weeks lead time Megavision Arts, and top Qatari event producer and designer Fahad Signature tasked produced the 3D projection-mapping effect in order to mystify, entertain and engage the 1200 guests as they arrived at the event site.

With support from BARTKRESA Design and Creative Technologies, Megavision Arts Creative Director David Corwin and producer Amber Bollinger quickly assembled a team of artists, designers, technicians, and programmers to complete the project. With only one face-to-face meeting between Corwin and Art Director Vincent Rogozyk, the entire team assembled in Doha five days before the event. A fully-equipped design and animation studio was temporarily configured in a meeting room at the St. Regis Hotel in Doha, and they managed to produce this spectacular piece.

Based on the clients’ request for a 3D projection mapping that would be “very modern, artistic and magical” Corwin and Rogozyk began playing with abstract concepts that were evocative of Fahad Signature’s designs for the event, which included elements such as curvilinear wood furniture and sculptural wooden columns. Polish artists and animators Maciej Bałauszko and Michał Czubak were added to the team and began expounding upon the sketches, turning the rough curvilinear biomorphic and geometric ideas into polished animations. Four basic scenes of abstract 3D kinetic animations were programmed to loop, morph and transition from one design to the next over the course of just under 3 minutes. The animations included Optical Waves, Piano Tiles, Ribbon Architecture and the Involuted Helix.

Eighteen double-stacked Panasonic DZ21K projectors converged and were blended using a Dataton Watchout media server to create one large seamless image. They illuminated the Infinity Wall with over 300,000 lumens of light. The animation files consisted of 14,148,000 pixels per frame, which equates to over 21 BILLION pixels per minute being pushed through the system.

As guests pulled off the highway onto a freshly graded and paved driveway, to their surprise and delight they encountered a fantastic undulating phantasm looming on the horizon. As they continued towards the projected mirage, a custom score with synchronized sound design elements enhanced the illusion even more.

Google Got Nominated For An Oscar

Google introduced their 360 Spotlight Stories a little over a year ago and they have been gaining steady traction since. If you haven’t checked out the VR tech you can see all of the videos on YouTube here, and if you have a VR headset that is connected to the internet I suggest giving it a view that way as well. The films themselves are really well done with compelling stories and solid animation to match, and while this has the opportunity to be a huge marketing tool for any number of industries it really shines as an entertainment vehicle. Case in point the video below that has been nominated for an Oscar at this year’s Acadamy Awards. Yes, Google is in the running for an Oscar for the animated short “Pearl”. The five and a half minute animated short tells the story of a girl and her father as they travel the country in their car chasing dreams and bonding over

The five and a half minute animated short tells the story of a girl and her father as they travel the country in their car chasing dreams and bonding over song, life, and the open road. To get the full experience of the short film you need to actually pan around the environment. You can get the full impact of the story by simply watching, but the experience is far greater when you actually dive into what Google offers here, which is an immersive experience that extends the story.

Google has only released a handful of these short films, all of which are available on their YouTube channel. I think that is a testament to a couple of things. How long it takes to produce quality content, and how complex crafting this kind of immersive environment can be. I’m pretty excited to see how far this can be pushed, and I’m really looking forward to Google releasing a full development kit for this. The potential is huge on so many levels.