As the company that owns the largest database of audio recognition information and music metadata, Emeryville, California-based Gracenote powers the search and organization of nearly every consumer-facing digital music platform—iTunes, Amazon, Google, Spotify. It stands to reason that Gracenote president Stephen White monitors the streaming music business closely, but he's also an audiophile in his personal life—and his new favorite device is Beep.
Developed by former Google employees, Beep is a Wi-Fi controller that plugs into a speaker and, using the accompanying iOS or Android app, streams music directly from streaming services, or from your computer or phone hard drives.
"It's kind of like Sonos, but what's cool about it is it's this very inexpensive device that can plug into a 1/8-inch jack, a normal headphone jack, or a regular stereo setup," says White. "I'm a big fan of the Sonos concept, but not the price point."
As the leading brand in wireless speakers, Sonos is a closed system that requires purchase of the speakers themselves, starting at $199 each and going way up with size and power. Beep, on the other hand, uses your home Wi-Fi network to make any speaker wireless—and is available for pre-order now at $99 apiece (units will ship later this year). Users also interact with the device itself, as with a stereo system—it has a large, tactile volume dial and touch pause function.
For now, Beep is partnered only with Pandora, but other partnership announcements are expected soon. Multiple Beeps can be connected to speakers throughout a home, and synched together—or not, if people in different rooms have different tastes. But the big selling point, says White, is Beep's affordability, flexibility, and ease of use—which will be important as widespread use of streaming music services move more and more into the home.
"It's very well designed, it's a beautiful device, very simple interface," says White. "Volume up, volume down, that's it."