Chances are you've likely seen the Transparent Speaker by Stockholm's People People AB. The small startup of Nokia defectors has been making heavy use of guerilla marketing to gain exposure for its see-thru noiseybox since as far back as last year's CES. All in all, it's worked -- most recently, the speaker got a cameo in Will.i.am and Britney Spears' "Scream and Shout" music video. Despite all the exposure, however, you'd be hard-pressed to find one if you'd been interested in spending your hard-earned coin on the rig. Today that's set to change, as the people at People People have taken to Kickstarter in hopes of raising $120,000 to make the system a production reality. You'll find more details by joining us past the break.
People People AB's Transparent speakerSee all photos
As you might imagine, the company views this rig not only as a potent sound-pusher, but also as a highlight of industrial design. Comprised of a hefty metal frame housing six tempered glass panels (held together by one screw on each of its eight corners), the system nearly blends into any environment it's placed in. We've done our best to translate the feel with our in-person photos of the pre-production sample unit here, but we'd say it's something we weren't able to fully appreciate ourselves until it was in the same room with us. The front panel houses a duo full-range three-inch drivers, a 6.5-inch woofer (all custom tuned, aimed at delivering neutral, transparent output in terms of EQ) and a controller box, each of which are held in with butterfly screws. If you couldn't tell by now, all the parts can be easily removed and swapped out should you choose -- People People even notes that its contracted factories will be ready to handle repairs down the line. Our only concern is whether the screws will easily unfasten over time, but the company let us know it's paying attention to this for the final product.
We'd be remiss not to point out one thing: the controller in the unit we played with was merely for show. While the speakers pushed out gobs of volume, all of the power was pushed using an external amp and mixer stuffed in a messenger bag. Fret not, though, as the company assured us it'll be using tiny class-D digital amping that won't affect its current size, aiming to provide 80-100 peak RMS watts of power. The front of controller features bass, treble and volume knobs, a power toggle, LED indicator and a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, while the back features a secondary 3.5mm jack, a powered USB port (allowing for the hookup of Bluetooth-enabling dongles, for example) and a toaster slot for the current and previous generation of AirPort Express routers. You guessed it, this system is focused as an AirPlay speaker, first and foremost. As we're told, People People found that the Express provided a consistently smoother wireless connection to that the usual AirPlay chip that every certified AirPlay device uses (not to mention, it's likely a slick way of avoiding the whole certification process in the first place).
Sadly (given the state of the unit we got to play with briefly), we can't firmly speak to its sonic sensibilities, as it's still being fine-tuned. That said, we'd bet most folks will find the audio pleasing if the final product sounds at least as good as what we heard. In case you're wondering, the glass didn't seem to rattle or cause and hindrance to our jams at louder volumes in the hallways of our NYC office.
The Transparent Speaker is set to sell for about $800 (fully assembled, sans AirPort Express), but folks who take the risk to help fund the unit through Kickstarter will snag it for much less if all works out. For an unassembled production unit (you'll also have to source your own glass) you'll be looking at dropping at least $360, while raising that number to $460 puts you in place for one that's fully complete. All in all, there are 1,000 units up grabs -- excluding a handful of special versions in the thousands-of-dollars range. You know the drill if you want to find out more -- check out that source link below.
Ben Gilbert contributed to this post.