If you’ve ever tried to stream music wirelessly to multiple speakers in your home at the same time through Bluetooth or even something like Apple’s wireless audio and video streaming technology AirPlay, you might have noticed that the tunes coming out don’t actually sound very good. Because of the unpredictability of wireless streaming, multiple speakers will play the same section of a song at different times, creating sound that is jarring at best and cacophonous at worst.
Created by two ex-Google engineers, Beep is an audio adapter that will not only let you stream music wirelessly to any speaker in your house, but will sync that music perfectly between multiple rooms, all at a fraction of the cost of other systems, and with an aesthetic any design lover will appreciate.
The Beep is a copper knob that looks as if it was just pried off the spaceship control panel of a race of sun-worshipping aliens. To control Beep, you can either press the knob to turn it on or off, or turn it to adjust the volume. It’s good design: Beep doesn’t sacrifice clean lines and compelling form in favor of trying to cram a lot of controls for superfluous functionality into the mix. In fact, if you’re not using your Beep, it could be mistaken for a metal sculpture.
But Beep isn’t just an attractive object. Beep tackles a very complicated problem in the home audio space: how do you stream and synchronize high-quality audio over Wi-Fi?
Given the popularity of Apple’s AirPlay, which ships built into every iPhone, iPad, and Apple router sold, that might seem like a solved problem, but not so. As Beep–the name of both the company and product–tells my colleagues over at Co.Labs, Wi-Fi loses packets of data all the time, and latency delays can vary wildly between multiple devices connected to the same router. That’s the reason that AirPlay can’t synchronize multiple speakers playing in different rooms, and why companies that do specialize in such solutions are so expensive: a Sonos component that does roughly the same thing that Beep does costs $349.99. Comparatively, the Beep is a steal at just $99 each.
There is a drawback, though. Although cheaper than competing solutions, playing music synchronized between multiple rooms requires that developers integrate Beep’s technology into their apps. So far, that means that if you want to stream music to your Beep, you’re limited to using the official Beep app or streaming from Pandora, the only music subscription service that has jumped on board, although the company hopes Spotify and Rdio will be soon to follow.
In the black and clunky home audio space, design sophistication costs even more than great sound. It’s nice to see Beep come along and try to prove that music-lovers can have both without breaking the bank. Read more about Beep here.