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Hidden Radio, The Chic Mini Stereo, Gets A Clever Update

The intuitive twist-top Hidden Radio is now even more intuitive–and has better sound.

A while back, we wrote about the Hidden Radio, a wildly popular, Kickstarter-funded speaker that turns on with a twist. The speaker’s designers–John Van Den Nieuwenhuizen and Vitor Santa Maria–are back with another Kickstarter for a new rendition of the device. Ostensibly, it’s the same gadget. Pull back the curtain, though, and you’ll find new acoustics and some smart, invisible details woven into the UI.

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First, the sound: when Hidden Radio debuted two years ago, the portable speaker market was in its infancy. Now they’re everywhere, in every color, for any setting–which means consumers started to get choosy. Faced with an increasingly competitive market and comments from Kickstarter buyers about less-than-stellar sound quality, Van Den Nieuwenhuizen and Santa Maria decided to get an edge over the competition by building their own speakers (Hidden Radio 1.0 had off-the-shelf speakers). “We tried with the speakers out there, and we just couldn’t get to the sound level [above 90 decibels] we really wanted,” Van Den Nieuwenhuizen tells Co.Design. “We said, ‘Instead of going and getting speakers off the shelf, let’s go grab a team and put it together to build a Bluetooth speakers.'” The result is a combination of larger and small speakers, built in tandem. This prevents the bass from overpowering the music, they say, but also avoids the tinny sound common in small speakers.

Another invisible addition is to the user interface. It’s simple: the thermos-like cap–which you twist to not only turn on the speaker, but also to adjust the volume–now comes with a capacitive screen on top, so that a tap of the finger can play and pause the music.


Last: One phone can now play through multiple Hidden Radios. The designers made that change at the behest of their Kickstarter backers and fans. (Designers say it all the time: the crowdfunding model is a goldmine of user insights. Now, here’s some proof.) To have multiple players, Hidden Radio needed a major software boost, which is where Van Den Nieuwenhuizen says most of the new Kickstarter funds will go. That software will also be able to read the pitch of the music, and therefore know which speakers to direct sound to in order to optimize the acoustics. Van Den Nieuwenhuizen explains it more poetically: “It’s like an orchestra,” he says. “The conductor has a bass saxophone, and directs that to hit the low end, and then the alto sax to hit the higher one.”

The Hidden Radio 2 will cost $199. Early backers can get one here.

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About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.

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