February 19, 2010
| by Julie Jacobson
It’s a light! It’s a speaker! It’s a light speaker!
Although “LightSpeaker” is the registered trademark of Klipsch, several other vendors fit the bill.
During the recent Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) in Amsterdam, a few European companies and at least one American manufacturer demonstrated high-quality speakers that double as light fixtures.
Those products, as well as the European version of LightSpeaker, are described in the slide show.
Speaker Lights: That Was Then
The concept isn’t new.
One of the best “real” implementations so far has been Soundolier’s Duo wireless speaker lamp, introduced in early 2007. It’s still on the market for $300 plus a $100 wireless transmitter.
Triad introduced the clever InWall Silver/4 Omni Sconce way back in 2008 –- well ahead of its time. Even before LED lighting was hip, Triad had the idea of embedding these powerful little bulbs into “sconce speakers.”
Yamaha demonstrated in 2008 the handsome YST001 floor-standing home theater light speakers, but the lamps were just for mood lighting and it appears the $1,250 speakers never made it to market.
Other than that, the light-speaker movement has mostly been taken up by low-quality outdoor products, desktop gadgets and concept pieces. And they’re not meant to be a serious source of light.
For example, Audiovox introduced at CES 2010 the Acoustic Research Outdoor Living collection – $100ish lanterns with wireless speakers and a lamp socket.
Mercato’s had a clever design with its MS00003 Solar Light Speakers—they fit on your fence posts—but the $70/pair devices are discontinued.
Lifestyle Entertainment Group offers LiteSounds wireless speakers ($309 for two speaker lights and two matching lights) with low-voltage pathway lighting built in. And others make similar products, as well as pedestal light speakers.
There are countless cheesy light speakers, some powered via USB, that double as desk lamps or funky mood lights – like the colorful $55 Diamond Tower light speaker, the $26 Light Tube Speaker (discontinued) and the $15 “exquisite” LED lamp light speaker.
Finally, we found a wonderful concept called SoundBulb, designed for a competition by brothers Anh and Hoang Nguyen (but not completed in time to actually compete, Anh Nguyen tells Electronic House sister publication CE Pro).
The screw-in bulb – which contains LED lighting and a wireless 8-Ohm speaker – gets its audio from any Bluetooth source and is controllable via any Bluetooth device such as an iPhone.
The concept first came to “light” in early 2009, but it has not been productized. So we wondered: Why is there an Onkyo logo on the products in Anh Nguyen’s portfolio?
“The brand Onkyo was thrown on to give the product a more realistic feeling,” Anh tells us. “There are no connections.”
Today’s Light Speakers
Thanks to the proliferation of low-cost, low-heat LED lights, manufacturers can design products that put light and sound into a compact enclosure.
At ISE last month, we saw several products that combined lighting and audio in elegant form factors that we have not seen previously. Speaker lights could be a strong trend in the coming years, and ISE 2010 will be known as the event that kicked it off.
Check out the slideshow of 5 awesome light/speakers from ISE 2010.
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.