The amplification of an audio source doesn’t always require electronics. Sometimes all you need is a well designed wooden box with the right acoustic properties. Case in point the Timbre Amplifier for your iPhone. Timbre by designer by Tyler Pratt is locally crafted from black walnut wood and is available in two finishes. The wooden amplifier provides up to 20 decibels in audio increase with no cords, no batteries, no wire. It looks nice, is well designed and provides good function with little visual intrusion.
I’m going to give a hat tip to Indian Motorcycles for being smart enough to get Mike Wolfe from American Pickers to be in their series of YouTube videos promoting the new bikes. I’m going to give Indian a big F circled in Red, and underlined for doing such an awful job on the audio production of these clips. Seriously guys, buy a wind sock for your microphones if your shooting outside, and who told you it was a good idea to mix Mike Wolfe exclusively on the right, and Greg Brew exclusively on the left?
Indian has spent a lot of money producing a series of videos to promote the rebirth of the brand, and the bikes. They have developed a nice looking YouTube channel to hold all of this content which is integrated with a dedicated website. The Indian site has a killer look that draws on the company heritage. The videos themselves have a nice look to them as well especially the promotional videos that were obviously produced by Indian’s Agency of Record. So it blows me away, that they would get Mike Wolfe to participate in a series of storytelling/brand building videos with their lead designer; and then they would drop the ball on a very important detail like the audio. I know most people won’t care, or even notice, but the crew that signed off on this stuff should have. It’s their job to pay attention to the small details that complete the package.
Now I don’t want to come off as “That Guy” so… The title cards look great, the opening screens look great, nice job on animating the type, solid editing and camera work… the audio just makes it hard for me to watch these.
I hate wires. Specifically I hate coaxial cable, HDMI cords, speaker cables, and power cords. So, every time I find a wireless speaker system that promises to deliver superior sound quality and looks good too, I get a bit excited.
Wren Sound Systems Mike Giffin, (Former Harman International Senior VP) along with a team of other industry veterans worked with product design and brand innovation firm, Ashcraft Design out of LA to develop the Wren V5AP. The system works with iOS, and Android devices to deliver room filling audio via WiFi in a stylish refined package.
The Wren system is designed to reduce or eliminate resonance and coloration through a unique body design. Rosewood or bamboo veneers cover a half-inch laminated MDF board which sits on top of a 4mm low durometer silicone pad that stabilizes the chassis and absorbs cabinet vibration. The face is wrapped in a unique internal diamond-matrix grille designed to protect the drivers without distorting the sound.
Internally the speaker system uses an Intersil D2 50-watt DSP-controlled digital amplifier to power the wo long throw drivers with 4-layer voice coils and two widely spaced 19mm edge-driven soft dome tweeters. This allows you to play your music louder with less distortion.
The system has a great look with simple understated controls. It’s the kind of speaker system you don’t mind having out in a room because it looks so nice. At $399.00 it isn’t cheap, but it is on par with other systems like those from Bowers and Wilkens, and it’s far cheaper than Bang & Olufsen.
When you think of headphones, the phrase “sexy design” is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Thanks to Harman Kardon, that might change. This is one sexy looking pair of Bluetooth headphones. Sleek retro styled over the ear cans, made with supple leather, and brushed stainless steel. Seriously, these look great. The tech specs on them aren’t bad either. 40 hours of wirless playback, full spectrum sound with a dynamic range of 16Hz to 20kHz from a 40mm driver. Harman Kardon has always delivered great design, and solid audio quality. They are a bit spendy but these look like a winner to me.
CES started this week in Las Vegas. I wish I was there escaping the arctic blast that has engulfed the midwest since before Christmas but, alas I am not. None the less I can still keep up to date sort of with the flood of web posts and press releases coming from the show.
Yesterday Klipsch announced their latest speaker product due to release later this year, and I have to say I am excited. The Klipsch LightSpeaker is the first commercial version of something I posted about earlier this year on Facebook, and listed as one of my top ten design ideas of 2009. SoundBulb by designers Hoang M Nguyen, Poom Puttorngul & Anh Nguyen.
Klipsch has not said if they licensed the design and technology from Hoang M Nguyen, Poom Puttorngul & Anh Nguyen, and frankly it doesn’t really matter. Klipsch has a solid track record with producing top-notch speaker products and I’m sure this will sound great.
The all-new LightSpeaker is an audio speaker that requires no external wiring or power. The device is designed to fit into normal 5- to 6-inch recessed light fixture, which enables homeowners to easily retrofit these into their ceilings and walls. You simply screw LightSpeaker into a conventional fixture, dial-up the desired zone on the bundled remote, and listen to music. A full-range driver sits just behind the LED light, and it receives signals via a 2.4GHz base station that can be plugged into just about any source for streaming audio.
I am kind of surprised at the price point, 600 bucks for the base kit which includes 2 speakers, remote, and base station. For this kind of money these things better sound really solid with an extensive dynamic range. Beyond the base kit additional speakers can be purchased for 250 dollars each.
The bundled controller allows you to control up to two zones and two sources. You can also adjust lighting brightness and volume via the main base station or using the smaller remote. Each zone can easily support up to four LightSpeakers.
According to Klipsch the speakers are somewhat weather proof, meaning they can go outside as long as they are not exposed directly to moisture. (think in an overhang out of the wind and rain). So humidity shouldn’t affect the system.
What this system needs to complete it is a wireless sub-woofer that also houses the base station. It would also be nice if they had Dolby Surround Sound support and support for other WiFi base stations like my Apple Airport Express.
Now before I finish up here I want to say one thing about this that is bugging me. Why the hell did Klipsch make it look so fugly? I know you don’t see 99 percent of the light fixture, it is recessed. But still, why didn’t you borrow some aesthetics from Hoang M Nguyen, Poom Puttorngul & Anh Nguyen? I mean at least theirs looks good. I know, I’m being a snobby designer guy. Still it would have been nice to see something besides that ugly translucent plastic plate. And what were you thinking with the industrial design of the remote and base station? I mean seriously, even if the quality is rock solid, the design looks like cheap and rushed to market. If you are going to charge 600 dollars for a product, make it look good. Both Samsung and LG know how to do this. Take a lesson from them.
The Klipsch Press Release.
Klipsch to Illuminate Audio Industry with New LightSpeaker
Energy-saving product uniquely combines brilliant LED lighting and wireless ambient sound
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (January 5, 2010) – Klipsch, a leading global speaker manufacturer, is introducing what is possibly the most innovative design to hit the audio industry in recent years. Winner of a 2010 CES Innovations Award, the patented Klipsch® LightSpeaker® is the first product to combine efficient LED lighting and wireless ambient sound into a single unit that installs like a light bulb.
“Today’s consumers are overloaded with complex technologies, and the LightSpeaker is designed to enrich their lives without complication,” said Klipsch president Paul Jacobs. It offers brilliant light, reduces energy costs and creates a multi-room ambient music system in mere minutes. There’s no wiring, no retrofitting and no software to deal with.”
The LightSpeaker, which comes complete with a dimmable LED bulb and full-range speaker, fits 5- and 6-inch recessed light fixtures with a standard Edison socket. Upcoming accessories will allow the LightSpeaker to accommodate hanging light fixtures as well as floor and table lamps.
The speaker uses a 20 watt high-performance, low-distortion digital amplifier to deliver energy efficient sound. Furthermore, the LightSpeaker’s 2.5-inch wide dispersion driver uses digital signal processing to optimize high- and low-frequency output for a full spectrum of sound.
In order to deliver music wirelessly, the LightSpeaker relies on a standalone transmitter. A music source, such as a laptop, iPod or CD player, connects to the transmitter and it wirelessly sends the sound to the LightSpeaker. The transmitter’s 2.4GHz wireless technology accommodates up to eight LightSpeakers, equaling stereo sound in multiple rooms. You can connect two music sources to the transmitter, as well as establish two separate listening zones. The transmitter or remote will control the sources, zones, lighting levels and volume.
The LED bulb is rated for 40,000 hours of use and can last over 15 years. It also reduces daily lighting expenses by 80 percent, using 10 watts to produce light that’s bright enough to replace up to a 65 watt bulb. Unlike incandescent bulbs, the LightSpeaker LED bulb contains no mercury or halogen gases and produces almost no heat.
A bundled package, consisting of two LightSpeakers, a transmitter, radio frequency remote, mini jack to RCA plug cable, lenses and trim, retails for $599. Single LightSpeakers are also available for $249 each. Klipsch will begin selling the LightSpeaker on klipsch.com later this month, with broader distribution slated for March.
“A LightSpeaker package eventually pays for itself, through savings on professional installation, separate audio components and energy consumption,” concluded Jacobs. “Plus you can take it with you if you move.”
LightSpeakers are for background music and not intended to replace home theater speakers.
• 10W super bright LED provides a sharp crisp light that is easy on the eyes.
• LED outputs the light suitable to replace up to a 60W incandescent bulb
• Long Lasting LED is rated for over 25,000 to 40,000 hours of use (15 to 20 years average use)
• LED Light is fully dimmable and is controlled from either the remote or the light button on the transmitter
Receives a 2.4 GHz wireless stereo signal broadcast from the Transmitter and depending on the zone assigned to the speaker and the left or right audio channel selected, the receiver sends the correct signal to each LightSpeakers® on-board digital amplifier
Digital Amplifier & Switch Mode Power Supply
• The E26 standard Edison Screw allows the unit to attach to any standard light fixture socket.
• The high efficiency switch mode power supply delivers power to the LED and the digital amplifier without generating a lot of heat.
• 20W high performance low distortion digital amplifier provides energy efficient sound
• The on-board Digital Signal Processing delivers customized audio to each LightSpeaker® giving big speaker sound in a small speaker.
• 2.5″ high performance custom engineered woofer with Micro Cellulose Polymer treated cone material provides even coverage and smooth natural sounding audio reproduction
• Integrated high frequency disperser.
• Optional flange allows LightSpeaker® to fit into either 5″ (R30) or 6″ (R40) recessed lighting fixtures.
• Frosted Lens is acoustically transparent
• 2 sets of RCA or 3.5mm stereo jack line level audio inputs allows 2 separate sources to be used
• Wireless simultaneous transmission to two separate zones of loudspeakers
• Controls LED light in each zone independently
• Controls Audio level and source in each zone independently
• Simple front panel controls allow easy adjustment of the speakers’ sound
• Wireless transmitter can send audio to loudspeakers 50 to 100 feet in any direction depending on the environment
• RF remote allows control of sound 50 to100 feet away from transmitter depending on the environment.
• RF Remote allows selection of zone and source which allows you to adjust audio in each zone
• DC power supply for transmitter
5″ LightSpeaker® Specifications
Woofer 2.5″ Micro Cellulose
Light Brightness 10W LED
Wireless Reception 2.4 GHz proprietary signal
Frequency Response (+/- 3 dB) 90 Hz – 20 kHz
Amplifier Power 20W
Max SPL 93 dB SPL
LightSpeaker® depth (w/out Edison Screw) 5.3″ (135.3 mm)
LightSpeaker® diameter (without Flange) 5.1″ (130.0 mm)
LightSpeaker® diameter (with Flange) 7.2″ (182.8 mm)
Depth without socket – no lens 5.5″ (140.0 mm)
Depth with Socket – no lens 6.6″ (167.2 mm)
Depth without socket with lens 6.1″ (153.8 mm)
Depth with Socket with lens 7.1″ (181.0 mm)
OD of 6″ Flange 7.6″ (192.0 mm)
OD of 5″ Flange 6.7″ (171.2 mm)
Weight 2.51 lbs (1.14 kg)
Transmitter & Remote Specifications
Transmitter Sources 2
Discrete Transmitter Zones 2
Audio Transmission Frequency 2.4 GHz proprietary
RF Remote Transmission Freqeuency 908 Mhz
Audio Transmitter range (omni-directional) 50 to 100 feet depending on environment
RF Remote range (omni-directional) 50 to 100 feet depending on environment
AC Power 90 VAC to 240 VAC
Transmitter 5.9″ (151.0 mm) W x 7.0″ (177.0 mm) L x 2.4″ (60.0 mm) H
Remote: 2″ (52.0 mm) W x 5.1″ (130.0 mm) L x 1.2″ (30.0mm)