Meet the Aether Cone, your significant other in speaker form.
The brains of Apple, Google, Nokia and even NASA have combined to produce a ‘thinking’ speaker, which claims to know what you want to listen to even before you do. A bit like coming into the kitchen and seeing a bacon sandwich, even before you’ve opened the fridge and eyed up the packet. It all sounds a bit too good to be true, but is it?
Lookswise, there’s no denying that the Cone has been expertly crafted. Subtle yet eye-catching, while still managing to avoid the usual contemporary pretentiousness. Its conical style bears resemblance to an old gramophone cone - a nice touch to a incredibly modern product. And its specs aren’t bad either. Although it boasts a 3-inch subwoofer with a deep, crisp bass, smooth, mild treble and eight hours of battery life, it weighs just a little more than a hardcover book, meaning you can easily carry it from the kitchen to the dining room when dinner is ready. Its classic minimalistic look contains just three basic parts: an on/off switch, two small copper-plated volume buttons and a blown up version of the iPod click wheel to navigate through music.
Both a physical speaker and a piece of software, the cones rare beauty isn’t even its main attraction. The Miss World of the Speaker-verse, what’s inside the Cone is just as good as its exterior. Recording all your musical interactions, it adds each bit of data to your own personal algorithm for future reference. For example, when you skip a song, Cone takes note, and makes a reminder not to play that song again. The same goes with volume: if you turn it up, Cone remembers. In fact, it even records your location. Attached to your home wifi, the Cone will be able to recall which music you like depending on which room of your house you’re in. So if you like listening to the morning news as you eat your breakfast in the kitchen, but prefer Buble in your bath at night, the Cone will adapt to your way of doing things: A personal musical schedule. If only there was a way to train your real life partner to do the same.
Initially using Cone is like a first-date conversation: it gets to know you by finding out your feelings on different topics. Before the well-known interests and routine of your married life begins, Cone has to work out what you like. Just tap the centre button and simply say the name of the song you want to listen to, and if cone understands what you’re saying then an LED green light will snake around in a circle as it searches, and pulse as your song begins playing. (Admit it, we all love a little bit of cool LED lighting.) For the times when Cone doesn’t understand you it will show a red light - a cue for you to try again. And thats where the issues come in...
As with most relationships, everyone has their faults. While some leave their dirty clothes all over the floor and others put the empty milk carton back in the fridge.. Cone’s pitfall is its voice recognition and ‘Rdio’ streaming. Still somewhat spotty, the Cone is perfectly fine with short names and titles like ‘The Strokes’ and ‘Last Night’, but the more vowel-heavy and lengthy terms get, the more Cone struggles to understand you. Therefore, particular pieces of classical music are difficult to request, as are abbreviated band and song names. The app does however provide a way around this, allowing you to manually select songs to play rather than asking out loud. There’s also an interesting ‘recall’ function, which means that if the Cone plays a song you like but have never heard of, you can go back on the app and check what its called or ‘star it’ as a favourite.
The other potential deal-breaker is Cone’s choice of streaming services, which uses just Rdio for music (which requires a $10 a month subscription) and Stitcher for radio and podcasts. Its incompatibility with more popular services like Spotify is a major downfall, however Cone’s team are apparently working on this. And while you wait, there are already other alternatives such as Airplay, which allows you to stream anything from your iOS or OS X devices through the speaker, from which your preferences will still be recorded. As you can see, the compatibility issues also stretch to the infamous Apple/Android battle. You will therefore need need either an iPhone with iOS 7.1 or a Mavericks-enabled Mac in order to use the device.
Overall, if you’re an Apple user that wants a speaker which offers much more than just projecting an itunes playlist, then the Cone could be your perfect match.
Shipping begins next week (23rd June) for $399.