Its unique design makes use of prism refraction and a special coating called “Half Mirror”
A good gauge of whether a new iteration of a tech product has made grand leaps forward not only boils down to increased processing power or new features — it’s the design.
Think about all the laptops you have bought over the years. The laptops you see in ’90s sitcoms are bulky, blocky and could have been substitutes for dumbbells; the ones today pack more punch than five of those antiques combined, yet look a whole lot more sleek and stylish.
Now, China-based consumer MNC Meizu (currently valued at US$3.3 billion) is going all out to break new ground in tech design. Its artisan Gravity Wireless Speaker — which looks like the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey” — is all about infusing Zen philosophy to inform its style while delivering a luscious aural experience.
Uh … Zen? But why?
To grasp the meaning behind the design decisions, you must understand who Gravity Wireless Speaker’s designer Kosho Tsuboi is.
In 2004, Tsuboi, then 24 years old, graduated from the Environmental Design Department of Tama Art University, which afterwards he lived in a Zen Temple as a trainee.
In 2007, he established Hironao Tsuboi Design, producing works such as Arflex OMEGA, iida LIGHT POOL, and 100% Sakurasaku glass. His style is described as “flexible interpretations of the subjective environment and multilateral approaches.”
For Meizu’s speaker, this philosophy translates into what is known as the “Missing Design” look –otherwise known as minimalism. The idea is consumer products are seen as a blight on the natural environment. But since we can’t do without them, we should find ways to simplify its presence to “achieve harmony with its surroundings.”
The Gravity Wireless Speaker accomplishes this by first using a prism as the base. Essentially, it creates the illusion of levitation. In addition, by placing the another prism on top, a heads-up display is created with the help of a optical reflection formula.
But would not the prism reflect the black surface of the speaker as well? It certainly look rather unsightly. To overcome this, Meizu has manufactured a membrane-like coating called the “Half Mirror”. What it does is it removes the background the behind the displayed text, thereby “accentuating the clarity of the text”.
“Gravity is not only a speaker but [also] a piece of art. At first glance, when you first see Gravity, you don’t even know it is a speaker, it is just a slim black box floating above a surface. We want to reduce the boundary and existence of an object, and to blur the edges of the object, which helps the object fit in with the environment,” says Meizu, in an email correspondence with e27.
“The smart use of Prism helps reduce the outlines of the screen, letters and symbols. As a result, music information seems to be floating in the middle of air,” it adds.
A stylish product is just a fancy paperweight if it can’t perform.
Meizu partnered with digital audio solutions Dirac to optimise the Gravity Wireless Speaker. Just 1.25 inches, it features a long stroke & symmetry magnetic circuit, delivering a vigorous low frequency output. The amplifier is also made out of the state of the art 5-series chip from Texas instrument, and incorporates the Dirac HD sound, which it claims will deliver a “purer and cleaner” sound.
To connect to your music player or smartphone, you can connect via Bluetooth, or WiFi using the Gravity app. There is also an AUX-in port option.
The only feature that does not exactly gell with its Zen mantra is the lack of a battery option — which means unsightly power adapters and wires.
The wireless speakers market is fairly huge. There is a whole sea of big name companies such as Creative, Harman Kardon, Bose, Sonos, pushing out such products. Even companies not exactly famed for audio, such as Xiaomi, are diving into this sector. It’s really not that hard to manufacture decent audio equipment.
However, Meizu believes with its ample experience in making MP3 players (since 2003), gives it an edge in at least the lower end audio market. Although it is targetting the both the Western and Asian market, China will be an easier goal for now. Meizu has over 2,000 stores in the Mainland and also has an e-commerce store on Tmall (Alibaba) and JD.
The speaker is currently being crowdfunded on Indiegogo, and the reception is hot. Since the campaign’s official launch last Monday, it has hit more than US$70,000 which is more than 70 per cent of its goal, with 24 days on the clock.
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