Audio

The Minimalist Design of the Beoplay M5

I have to admit I have always loved the look of B&O design work. Their products really do look and feel quite amazing, and yes the sound isn’t too shabby either. Is it worth the premium price you pay? Maybe. It depends on what you value, and what you think is affordable. It’s kind of like buying a Rolex or Tag vs a Timex or a Swatch. Both tell time, some just do it with more swagger, flair and a refined set of materials and craftsmanship. I say this because Bang and Olufsen have launched yet another wireless speaker that really does look stunning. It will set you back about 600 bucks plus tax, and if you are thinking about outfitting a number of rooms in your humble abode you’ll be rolling north of 2 grand by the time it is all said and done.

Designed by leading Danish industrial designer Cecilie Manz, the Beoplay M5 speaker is a small minimalist piece of audio gear pumping out 100 watts of power from its diminutive case. Housed inside the 7-inch tall speaker are 1 x 5′ woofer, 1 x 1.5′ midrange, and 3 x ¾’ tweeters with a frequency response of 37 – 22.000 Hz. Is it the biggest badest speaker on the block? No, but it is quite lovely to look at and jam-packed with all of the latest technology allowing you to stream music to any room in your house, or to every room at the same time.

Like all of the BeoPlay line up the M5 offers you the option to change out covers, and I’m sure they will be offering some bright bold color choices in the future. Frankly I’m really loving the monochrome versions that they are showing off across the entire line these days. The top is a machined aluminum disc that functions as the main physical control unit for each speaker. You adjust the volume by running your finger across the edge. Tapping the aluminum disc will activate Beoplay M5 to join other music experiences going on in your home or sync up with other units.

Beoplay M5 uses Bang & Olufsen’s “True360” to create spatial balance no matter where you are placed relative to the speaker. Three evenly distributed tweeters, a front facing mid-range driver and a powerful woofer that fires its energy down towards a carefully designed disperser, provide a uniform dispersion of well-balanced Bang & Olufsen Signature Sound all around the room.

Is it worth 600 bucks? I have no idea, I haven’t actually heard it or played around with it. I do know that if I had a few grand burning a hole in my pocket I’d be tempted to pick up a few of them for various rooms in my house.

Caruso is Not Just an Opera Singer.

Caruso-64Leave it to the Italians to come up with a Bluetooth speaker named after a famous opera star that looks like a piece of art. Caruso designed by New Black is a Bluetooth 4.0 enabled speaker that just screams “Look at me”. Clean, contemporary, fun, and unfortunately pricey. For your money though, you get a hand made wood cabinet and ceramic horn. Each piece is made to orderby Italian masters in Meolo (Venice) which also helps to explain the $2700.00 price tag. As Bluetooth speakers go the specs are pretty solid. Caruso has a frequency response rate of 50-19 khz, and pushes out 75 watts of blazing power to help make all the digital files stored on your phone or computer sound amazing. The cabinet comes in lacquered wood finishes in 6 different shades. The ceramic horn in 6 contrasting shades that you can mix and match with the wood to your hearts content. I simply love the look of it. Finally someone is making a speaker that doesn’t look like the cheap plastic crap you see everywhere these days. Plus it has enough power to fill your space and then some.

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SoundSnap Machine.

One of the biggest components to any video, or film is sound. We often take it for granted, because we are so lost in the visuals, but good sound design can make or break a piece. The video below is a perfect example of this. The video from  for SoM is an impressive mesh of audio that completely compliments the video. The second clip shows you how the audio was created which is equally impressive.

Aura.

The Harman Kardon Aura is a sleek, modern, wireless speaker system, that is in my opinion a show stopping design. The small footprint and lack of wires allow it to be placed anywhere in your home as long as you have a power outlet close by. Distinctive design, and robust audio make this little speaker a winner. I’ve been using the Aura for a couple of weeks, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s a serious contender in the wireless speaker game.

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The image of modern design.

In a crowded market it is imperative that your product stand out from the crowd. Over the years speaker designs have come and gone, but for the most part, speakers are, or look like a wooden box with a grill. In short, they aren’t that interesting to look at. The Aura with its dome shape, and transparent sound chamber, is a piece of industrial design that says “look at me”.

The Aura is built on a circular footprint with a diameter approximately 10 inches, and a height of about 12. The physical size makes it perfect for desktops, shells, or on the floor. One thing is certain, you won’t want to hide this fantastic piece of visual design.

Inside the clear plastic dome is a single ring of light that illuminates the center of the speaker. The light functions as a visual indicator for the volume level allowing the listener to a get a quick visual read on how loud things are going to get. Buttons are kept to a minimum, and like the original Soundsticks, volume control is a touch sensitive slider on the base of the speaker housing. Aside from that, the only other indicators, are power, WiFi, and Bluetooth lights discretely hidden on the base.

My one gripe is that these buttons give no real feedback when pressed. Just a few audio chimes to indicate the speaker is doing something. The only clue as to what is going on is, the connection button is green for WiFi, and blue for Bluetooth. The QuickStart guide tells you this, but not much else. For the most part the speaker is pretty straight forward.

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Connectivity

Harman Kardon sells the Aura as a wireless home speaker, but in addition to wireless connectivity, there are USB, Optical, and a Mini Stereo input ports. All of these are good, because if you wanted you could hard wire the speaker to your TV or another device and take full advantage of improved audio quality. Aura’s wireless connectivity is its main selling point though, and the primary reason I picked one up. Aura provides Wi-Fi connectivity through DLNA, AirPlay, and Bluetooth.

Pairing via Bluetooth was a snap. It took less than 10 seconds on both my iPhone and iPad. WiFi was another story all together. Using the Mac Mini, Bluetooth will often grab the signal before WiFi can establish a connection. iTunes has a tendency to fire up and attempt to connect and play even though it’s been set not to. And sometimes the WiFi and Bluetooth signals get confused and simply cut all audio feed to the speaker system. The frustrating part of this is, you want to stream via WiFi if you can. It’s a lossless way of sending the audio signal

Sound quality

Aside form the connectivity glitches, the audio quality is absolutely top notch, as it should be for a $400.00 speaker system. Once again Harman Kardon’s renowned excellence in producing high quality products shows. The sound that is delivered from such a small compact system is really pretty impressive. Because of the design, audio is rendered in an omni directional pattern, filling the space with an overall balance of audio.

This omni directional audio wave is achieved through six one and a half inch drivers that have been tuned to handle different frequency ranges for mid and high audio. In the base is a down facing 4.5 inch subwoofer that produces a deep warm bass tone that really fills out the sound quality. Audio levels are crisp, well separated, and full with no distortion even when the volume is cranked. What is really interesting is because of the design, the system sounds great no matter where it is. I have had it placed on the floor all the way up to an almost ceiling level height, and Aura just sounds great no matter where it is in the room.

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Bottom line, I simply can’t find fault the Aura’s sound output. It’s loud without being overbearing, it sounds good at all locations, the audio quality is rich and full, and it fills the space with rich high-fidelity sound.

So Harman Kardon has produced a pretty sweet little speaker system. Stunning looks and impressive audio quality make the device a winner in my book. If Apple can work out the connectivity issues with Harman Kardon, and if Harman puts together a more comprehensive product manual, Aura would be hard to beat.

The Bushmills x Grado Labs Headphones. Cans Made From Whiskey Barrels.

I like whiskey, music, and design. When you combine all three, it’s love. Grado is producing a line of headphones made from Bushmills whiskey barrels. The limited edition headphones are hand crafted, feature vented backs, leather headbands and ear cups.

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Designed by Elijah Wood & Zach Cowie, these aren’t light on tech specs. They feature dynamic operating transducers with a frequency response of 16hz to 26kHz spl at 1mW – 98dB nominal impedance – 32 ohms driver match – .05dB.

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Timbre. Minimal, Glass, Wood, Sound

Timbre is one of those things that seems to take speaker design to the next level. I don’t mean this from an acoustic standpoint, but definitely from a visual one. I say that because I haven’t heard these speakers so I can’t judge the sound. Designer Casey Lin chose the wood and glass materials not only for their acoustic properties, but for their visual properties as well.

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The desire was to remove all of the typical plastic components found in typical speaker systems and replace them with the refinement of wood and glass. The result is a beautiful piece of design with unique audio properties. The glass acoustic horns actually function as natural equalizers for the audio stream. All of the essential electronic parts are hidden inside the simple black walnut base, with the electronic ports on the back. On the face is a single knob for power and volume. The streamlined box is the speaker itself, containing the surface transducers that vibrate the wooden surface and transfer audio to the glass horns mounted on top. To adjust treble and bass, the listener simply rotates the glass vessel until the desired tone is reached.

Like I said, I have no idea how these sound, but they look magnificent.

Timbre Speaker from Casey Lin on Vimeo.

Resonance Visualized.

OK this is cool blend of art, science and music. Before you watch the videos  here is a warning from the creator of the video. If you are wearing headphones turn the volume down before playing the second un edited video so you don’t damage your hearing.

What we have below is an experiment that uses a tone generator to vibrate sand on a metal plate into distinct patterns created by the frequency of the audio. Say What? In other words Sound vibrates the plate and makes cool patterns.

“So this experiment is the Chladni plate experiment. I used a tone generator, a wave driver (speaker) and a metal plate attached to the speaker. First add sand to the plate then begin playing a tone. Certain frequencies vibrate the metal plate in such a way that it creates areas where there is no vibration. The sand “falls” into those areas, creating beautiful geometric patterns. As the frequency increases in pitch the patterns become more complex.”

Remember To Turn The Volume Down Before You Watch This.