Here the sound is king. But what is the shape of sound? Each designer will answer this question resorting to technology and imagination.
These objects’ primary function is to reproduce sound and notes. They transmit that pure perceptive pleasure only music can convey. They can also be radios and combine musical beauty with words, therefore turning into information sources and faithful, dear friends.
Ron Arad and Francesco Pellisari
1999 – Nacsound
Freeing sound from power cables and stillness, two dreams come true thanks to a revolutionary loudspeaker. Nothing less could be expected by Arad and Pellisari, two freethinkers who refuse all preconceptions. A few years ago Arad had already revisited a music device in an unconventional way, creating a concrete record player. He is also the designer who freed bookcases from the slavery of the orthogonal grid, daring to design an unusual circular shape. The wireless loudspeaker is a solid wood wheel – specifically chosen for its acoustic features – that freely rolls on surfaces diffusing sound.
B&W Research Team
1997 – B&W
Sound cannot be squeezed into a box, compressed into a squared geometric shape. Once denied speakers design philosophy of the last decades, a question arises: what is the shape of sound? Bowers & Wilkins have tried to provide an answer with the revolutionary structure of the Nautilus. Their aim was to create a speaker producing next to no distortion, with a beautiful, original design. The reference to nature is clear as it is shaped and named after a shell, but it is also the result of the relationship between form and function. His futuristic-looking object reminds us of classic science fiction’s forms, in an impressive mix of past and future.
Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni
Radiofonografo stereofonico RR126/RR226
1965  – Brionvega Collection
The Castiglioni brothers designed this now classic sound system, revered by lovers of vinyl records, at a time when stereo and high fidelity were synonymous with extreme technological innovation. Conceived as a modular self-supporting object, it is composed of separable units set on an anodised aluminium central body and equipped with four multidirectional wheels rendering it highly mobile. The speakers can be united, separated, or hooked laterally according to desire. The piece is the result of a happy marriage between artisan inspiration and industrial production, in which the hand assembly and finishing are, as with the new contemporary version, part of the system’s distinctive uniqueness.
Change the Record
2012 – Tivoli Audio
Always full of surprises, British designer Paul Cocksedge created a loudspeaker for smartphones taking an iconic object from the past – the 12” vinyl LP – and recycling it to diffuse sound through its carefully calibrated shape alone, leaving no need for wires or electricity. After heating, the disc is gently pressed into a funnel and the smartphone positioned to increase the device’s volume. “Change the Record” is an aesthetically pure yet nostalgic way of re-using old vinyl records.
Photo by Mark Cocksedge
Tom De Vesto
Model One BT and PAL BT
2012 – Tivoli Audio
The progenitor of this object was the Model One, first-born of the family and the product of Henry Kloss and Tom De Vesto, founders of Tivoli Audio; PAL followed, the small in size second-born. Both table radios strike for being aesthetically minimal and essential: classical lines provide them with an old-fashioned flair, while at the same time preserving high quality performance. The happy marriage between design and sound quality have made them into worldwide bestsellers.
en&is design studio
Its shape resembles the horn of an old gramophone player. In Megaphone – a passive ceramic amplifier – theatrical presence, simplicity and beauty come together in a artistic handcrafted object. The amplifier, entirely in ceramic, rests on a thin wooden structure that gives it the impression of floating, while expanding and optimising the sound emitted. Designed for the iPhone range, it is ideal for listening to music without headphones, for audio conferencing or for talking on the phone freely moving around the room.
bs 50 Tribute
1953/2012 – Elipson
French speaker company Elipson has launched the bs 50 Tribute loudspeaker, which is actually a modern re-creation of their original bs 50 (Ball Staff 50 centimetre) designed by the engineer Léon in 1953, and used for the first Sound and light show at the Château de Chambord in France.
The speaker’s bass reflex enclosure stands on a brushed alloy tripod, and the swivelling “ear” allows the sound to be directed precisely as required. Using today’s latest high quality materials, Elipson preserved the acoustic qualities that were so unique to the bs 50.
Matali Crasset [art director Philippe Starck]
1996/98 – Lexon with Thomson Multimedia
A radio alarm clock that clearly states its purpose: to wake people up! The loudspeaker cone leans out towards the listener and evokes a larger-than-life bulge that amplifies its own primary function, detaching itself from the thin body of a parallelepiped containing the control panel. Matali Crasset, a student of Philippe Starck, developed this item over the years she spent at Thomson where, together with her mentor, she embraced unusual materials to produce multimedia objects challenging conventional forms.
Timothy Ferguson Hill
FH007 and FH009
2012 – Ferguson Hill
Timothy Hill, former aeronautical engineer, founded the company that produces this original audio system in 2003. His biography exemplifies the close relationship between acoustics, fluid dynamics and aerodynamics. Hill designed the FH00 series to enhance the sound output of desktop computers with an excellent quality. He foresaw that speakers for computers would have eventually replaced traditional HI-FI systems. The FH00 series speakers are made of transparent acrylic in order for them to be beautiful and at the same time versatile and unobtrusive.
2012 – Jawbone
The Big Jambox portable speaker relies on Bluetooth to stream music from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
The design is by Jawbone, the California-based company founded by two University of Stanford students which designs and manufactures top end audio devices. The perforated steel grille covers the top, back and front of the unit, while the underside features rubber discs to cut down on any distortion. The unit has only a few controls housed on top as volume up and down and a built-in microphone.
2009 – Prototype
Such a common object as a radio delivers an unusually powerful symbolic form, that of the crucifix. In doing so, designers Ewa Bochen and Maciej Jelski, since 2006 founding members of the Warsaw-based Kosmos Project, invite us to reflect not only on the impact media have on today’s society, but also on the loneliness that urges us to belong to a community, be it a community of radio listeners.
This item was manufactured with Polish woods and crafted by local artisans who used traditional techniques.
La Boite Concept
2012 – La Boite Concept – CC LAB
Inspired by the look of an old family desk, the LD130 is a reinvented 1900s writing desk fit for the 21st century.
The computer table is wedded to a self contained high-fidelity docking station designed for laptops and notebooks.
This system allows you to combine hi-fi, video and internet sources without compromising on sound quality. A vintage shape merges with visions of the future, a subtle yet deliberate visual contrast between a retro look and technological innovation. A completely innovative idea from La Boite Concept, the French electro-acoustic research company.
Léa Longis in collaboration with EPFL [Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne] +Ecal Lab [Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne], ENSCI-Les Ateliers
2009 – Prototype
This radio employs Grätzel solar collectors with their coloured and clear revolutionary panels. The shades of these thin panels are derived from vegetable dyeing and are inspired by the photosynthesis process in plants. Michael Grätzel, professor at the ECAL, one of the world’s most exclusive design schools, has devised – together with Léa Longis – an acoustic system that exploits the sun: LEDs are activated by solar energy and produce a “coloured sound” which penetrates space and infuses a sense of well-being.
Photo by Véronique Huyghe
2007 – KEF Audio
Ross Lovegrove’s speakers run counter to the majority of the acoustic world’s search for miniaturization and portability in mobile devices. His deeply organic, sensual design philosophy, in combination with technologically innovative materials and methods, is based on the molecular and fractal geometry of the biological world. This concept is also applied to KEF Muon speakers: realised as magnificent organic objects, the almost anatomical parts of a giant living Sound organism. Lovegrove sculpts sound in liquid metal, creating geometrically complex molded aluminium shapes. These acoustic totems are limited to an edition of just 100 pairs.
2012 – Nacsound
Francesco Pellisari called these speakers Geminos because it is proved that twin elements can provide a correct sound diffusion, but there are other reasons too. He has a twin brother, he is the father of twin girls and above all he knows that the secret of a perfect synergy lies in the substantial differences between a seemingly identical couple.
These spherical speakers are user-friendly and equipped with a touch control system: the volume can be regulated with a gentle stroke of a hand. The speakers seems to react to human warmth instead of being a mere technological object.
Francesco Pellisari and Elisabeth Frolet – Francesco Pellisari
Omni – Atun
These diffusers have been designed according to the acoustic image as perceived by the human brain rather than to sound waves. This area has been defined as “psychoacoustics” and omnidirectional technology perfectly embodies it. These speakers diffuse spherical sound waves that reach every point in the surrounding space and stimulate the listener’s senses. For this reason, the speakers have a spherical basis and are made of ceramic or glass, two materials that guarantee a perfect sound transmission. They are designed to hang from the ceiling and symbolize the power of sound in a given environment.
2011 – NewTec
This low-energy fluorescent circular lamp diffuses both subdued light and sound waves. An extremely wide frequency band enables quality acoustic transmissions. Originating from the same diffusion source, sound and light phenomena integrate one another and come across as a unique sensory dyad.
The result is a hybrid and versatile object which can occupy any position in space, from a tabletop to a floor, from a wall to being used as a pendant light.
Øivind Alexander Slaatto
2012 – B&O Play di Bang & Olufsen
The minimalist Beoplay A9 speaker looks like a satellite dish mounted on wooden legs or a strange percussion instrument, but is in fact the perfect combination of design and technology which has always epitomised Bang & Olufsen, the Danish company founded in 1925 by Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen. The system features a digital amplifier, allowing you to listen to music wirelessly (via AirPlay, DLNA and USB). Instead of having buttons or a control panel, you turn up the volume or turn off the speaker by sliding your hand over it in circular movements.
2012 – Parrot
Zikmu Solo is the new single unit speaker designed by
Philippe Starck for the French company Parrot. With an elegant and dynamic shape and equipped with a state-of-the-art hi-fi stereo wireless diffuser, it provides a perfectly balanced sound.Highly innovative, it also supports connection with compatible routers and allows you to stream your music from a smartphone.
Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
1964/1998 – Brionvega Collection
This classic of Sixties Italian design by Zanuso and Sapper best explains their dualistic concept of objects: open and closed, active or resting. It is in fact a simple parallelepiped with rounded corners, the sum of two half cubes joined by a hinge that allows access to the unit’s interior mechanism. When opened, the controls are in plain view, but once closed the radio becomes a smooth bodied sculptural object. Each protrusion vanishes, the antenna closes in on itself, the dials are protected from impact and dust, while the shiny plastic emphasises the form’s continuity. The designers return to their “clamshell” concept of objects in other masterpieces like the Grillo telephone, a precursor of today’s folding mobile phone.