Three years ago, the design team at Finnish company Unmonday scanned the portable speaker market for a model that could play on multiple channels and still look svelte on a mantel. They came up empty.
Decent-looking portable speakers have proliferated since then. Besides the Jambox and its followers of candy-hued gadgets, we now have the UE Boom, which is designed to be a long-lasting instrument instead of throwaway consumer electronic junk. We also have the sophisticated Aether Cone, an intelligent gadget that learns your musical preferences, just like the Nest Thermostat learns about your temperature needs.
During those three years, the Unmonday team experimented. They came up with a product they called, stirringly, the Model 4.3. Unlike the bulk of the portable speakers available, its main feature is an big gestural UI: To operate the Model 4.3, you rotate the hexagonal speaker onto its side. (There’s a three-axis motion sensor inside.) Rotate the 4.3, and it syncs with a computer speaker in the house. Turn it again, and it then syncs up to television speakers, and gives you surround sound. Tip the device onto its head to make it go silent.
“We wanted to design a speaker without any buttons,” says Saku Sysiö, the team’s industrial designer. “The less buttons in total, the more effortless the speaker is to use.” (The Unmonday team caved; a power button exists.) The trend we’re seeing more of lately is perhaps thanks to the fact that touch screens have made buttons old hat. Or maybe gestures just feel more fitting for a product that’s already wireless.
The Unmonday designers were keen on making the Model 4.3 an heirloom-caliber product. Translation: no plastic, no tinny acoustics. The shell is handmade vitro porcelain, so it has an organic, earthenware feel to it. Which is optimal for letting Wi-Fi signals in and out, Sysiö tells Co.Design. “It’s more rigid than, for example, wood, and can therefore be thinner, allowing more space inside the case for better sound quality,” Sysiö says. That material, combined with the amplifying gramophone shape, creates stellar sound.
To hammer home the point that the Model 4.3 isn’t just another disposable gadget, Unmonday is selling a supple leather carrying case for it.
Perhaps the most defining feature of the Unmonday Model 4.3 is the cash you’ll spend: both the speaker and its crossover leather bag cost a small fortune, with the Model 4.3 priced at €699.00 (about $960), more than six times the cost of a Jambox. Buy it here. The leather case will go for €249.00 ($340).