Assessment: Teenage Engineering OD-11 | WIRED

Teenage Engineering’s OD-11 speaker has been caught in “coming quickly” limbo for a pair years now. After showing on the previous two Client Digital Reveals, blowing a Summer season 2013 launch date, and happening pre-order final fall, this white block of almost-vaporware lastly materialized on the MoMa Design Retailer in New York final week. And when you will not should be a Scandinavian audiophile to take pleasure in this Swedish speaker, you’ll need a sufficiently padded checking account.

First, some historical past. Stig Carlsson is not a family identify right here within the U.S., however a era of Hello-Fi-oriented Swedes grew up shopping for and listening to his audio system. Working for Sonab, the audio engineer designed some outstanding (and actually bizarre trying) audio system in the course of the ’60s and ’70s. Some have been formed like cannons; others had curved tweeter arrays and unusual woofer configurations. These designs have been all knowledgeable by the audio engineer’s (nonetheless controversial) philosophy, which mainly quantities to this: Loud audio system ought to be made and tuned for real-world listening rooms, not some completely dampened anechoic surroundings. Carlsson known as this ortho acoustics, and crafted his audio system to spew sound in all instructions, purposefully bouncing it off couches, partitions, ceilings, and different modern-day furnishings.

Moderately than capturing sound straight up, each the woofer and the tweeter are angled at about 45-degrees.

Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

In 1974, Sonab launched what ended up being the smallest of Carlsson’s up-firing, omni-directional audio system. It was known as the OD-11. It had one woofer and one tweeter, each of which have been recessed angled at about 45-degrees towards one nook. The speaker may positioned on the ground, mounted to a wall, or used on a bookshelf. Folks completely beloved it, and tens of hundreds have been bought in Sweden alone between 1974 and 1978.

When Teenage Engineering, the Stockholm-based collective behind one of many coolest synthesizers you should purchase, determined to make a speaker extra suited to streaming music, the OD-11 immediately got here to thoughts. Working with the Stig Carlsson Basis (who owns the rights to his designs), they proceeded to provide the previous “Carlsson Dice” a contemporary overhaul.

Whereas it seems largely the identical from the skin, this new model comes with just a few notable inner reworkings. There’s an built-in 100-watt analog Class-D amplifier, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4 LE, a brand new U-shaped bass reflex duct (for added low-end efficiency), in addition to a wholly new method of interacting with, and enjoying music by means of, the speaker.

Setting all the things up could not be simpler. You plug the OD-11 into an outlet, flip a toggle swap on the underside to one in every of three positions, discover the speaker in your Wi-Fi community, and join. All of this may be achieved with both the free Orthoplay iOS app or an internet browser-based model. It took me a couple of minute.+++inset-left

The Orthoplay app interface is easy and intuitive. It is also free for iOS.

Teenage Engineering

So does this re-engineered icon nonetheless dwell as much as the excessive commonplace its ancestor set? You guess your Swedish meatballs, it does. Like the unique, the brand new OD-11 is splendidly open sounding. As long as you comply with Teenage Engineering’s recommendation and place the speaker in order that its woofer and tweeter are identified to towards the middle of the room (there’s an LED dot that can assist you), the little man spits out persistently uncolored and pleasantly expansive sound no matter the place you sit within the room. Truly, let me qualify that: As long as you stream or play high-quality music to the OD-11, you may get nice outcomes. It is truly fairly unforgiving to low-res music. A lot of that’s as a result of it does not have the overly exaggerated bass that loads of different wi-fi audio system have, which may masks poor recordings and overly compressed digital recordsdata.

I auditioned two albums I have been listening to semi-obsessively to on headphones, desktop nearfield audio system, and my dwelling theater system to see how the mono OD-11 setup fared. To get a way of its dynamic vary, first I queued up the Swans’ To Be Sort. Fortunately, Michael Gira’s persistent barks and howls remained as menacing as ever, and the album’s oscillating waves of noise and percussive chaos by no means managed to distort the small speaker no matter how a lot I cranked the quantity. It clearly wasn’t the identical as listening to the album sitting completely between a pair of tower audio system, however for a tiny, unobtrusive dice you stick within the nook or on a shelf, the OD-11 crammed the room admirably.

Ditto on the fuzzed-out, synth-y weirdness that’s Tobacco’s Ultima II Therapeutic massage. Even with out an over-abundance of bass, the low-end chew of songs like “Beast Sting” and “Self Tanner” maintained their groovy influence. In actual fact, I feel I’ll have even most popular listening to the album’s warped synths and closely processed vocals on the OD-11, which managed to open up its ceaselessly claustrophobic really feel.

If the sound is simply too vanilla to your style, you give the bass and treble a lift instantly from the Orthoplay app.

Teenage Engineering

Other than its correct, room-filling sound, there’s are different highlights too. Teenage Engineering’s Orthoplay iOS app is effectively designed, intuitive, and straightforward to make use of. You’ll be able to rapidly enhance each the treble and bass by means of the app in addition to swap from streaming Spotify to your iTunes library in seconds with the app. The browser-based Orthoplay even permits you to drag and drop songs instantly from Soundcloud to create your individual customized playlists.

Alas, you do finally uncover some pretty large limitations. Regardless of being outfitted with Bluetooth, there isn’t any solution to truly stream music utilizing it. Apparently, it is there solely to speak with a {hardware} distant you must purchase individually for $99 (which I didn’t check). This appears unusual to me. Then there’s the shortage of precise streaming companies with built-in performance. Sure, Spotify is fairly large, but it surely’s not prefer it’s the one widespread music service on the market. Granted, you will get round this limitation with some companies (like Beats Music) just by utilizing AirPlay, and Teenage Engineering says it can finally add extra, but it surely’s nonetheless a little bit of let down for one thing that calls itself a Cloud speaker.

Talking of AirPlay, that basically is the one possibility you must stream. I did not discover this notably annoying, however that is largely as a result of it at all times appears to work for me. Colleagues of mine, nonetheless, have not been as fortunate with Apple’s wi-fi streaming protocol. And it is positively price noting that components like community sign energy, interference, and the bodily placement of your gear can have a huge effect on efficiency.

For me, the largest disadvantage is undoubtedly the OD-11’s value. At $899, it is practically twice what many would contemplate paying for a elaborate premium wi-fi speaker. You get a $100 low cost in the event you purchase two OD-11s, however I am nonetheless undecided who would pay $1,699 for 2 small audio system, even when they do sound good. It is also a bit of disappointing when you think about that a part of what made the unique OD-11s so widespread was their affordability. In 1978, a pair value 1,300 Krona. That is about $190 immediately, or $713 with inflation, nonetheless lower than what one prices proper now. I am positive it took loads of engineering kung fu and irritating trial to error to modernize these audio system, but it surely’s only a disgrace so many individuals will not get to listen to the tip results of that labor. It’s pretty sounding.

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