We were also shown the actual speaker mechanism
used within the S4 and S4i, and while it was far smaller than even a raisin, engineers somehow managed to implement a dual magnet design for the added kick on the low-end. During the briefing, we were introduced to a pair of to-be announced products that the company let us talk about early
. The first is the new black-and-white Image S4i, which is the first set of iPhone remote-equipped earbuds that Apple has sold in white aside from its own. We're told that these will be out early next year for $99, and based on the immense amount of color mockups
we witnessed in the design lab, we're all but certain that more variations are on the way. The second is an iPhone-friendly version of the high-end X10 (dubbed the X10i, naturally), which will ship in early 2010 for $349.
We also inquired about Klipsch's stance on wireless, and the answers we received were certainly interesting. We mentioned our underwhelming reaction
to Kleer's new W-1 wireless kit, and the staff tended to agree that existing wireless options simply weren't elegant enough to be considered a part of "a great user experience." From what we could gather, the team isn't interested in shipping a set of cord-free 'buds if a dongle (or two) are involved; they weren't shy in longing for Apple and the Bluetooth SIG to both put a greater focus on wireless technologies for audio, but until something completely outside of their control happens, it's probably tethered or bust.
Klipsch has certainly carved out a good chunk of market share in the segment, but it has no illusions of guaranteed success. Our camera was allowed to snoop around
within some fairly classified pages detailing
design ideas, comparisons with rivaling companies (Ultimate Ears, anyone?) and sketches of the next best thing(s). Speaking of changes, we were informed that a fourth set of ear tips may soon be joining the three that currently exist
, with an "extra-small" version on the horizon to satisfy those with atypically small canal entrances.
If you're curious as to how exactly these things get created and tested, we've got plenty to share. We asked how exactly a speaker (or headphone) went from a far-out idea
in someone's head to a shipping product, and essentially, there's a six step process
that any given pipe dream
is forced to wade through. For starters, a product is molded and defined; then, a project team is assembled to align demands with acoustics, shape, color, cost, etc. so that a compromise can be accomplished. Following that, a manufacturer is tentatively chosen, the development is initiated, the product is verified and a launch is given the green light. We were told that the process typically takes between 8 and 12 months, though some fast-tracked wares have been shot through in 6 months -- though, such a speedy (and pricey) turnaround generally requires an engineer or two to live in China so that design samples can be inspected, tweaked and okayed on the spot.