March 3, 2014 at 3:43 pm

3 Ways Speakers Are Finally Evolving

Your speakers are probably dumb, in the sense that a telephone was considered dumb compared to a smartphone. All most speakers do is turn electricity into sound, as they have for well over a hundred years now. While they’re the most important contributor to sound quality (along with headphones), they haven’t had any features at all, but that is set to change.

Here are three ways our music speaker are finally evolving, after all these years:

Many speakers from Argon, Bang & Olufsen, Pioneer, Revo, and Yamaha can play music directly from Spotify Connect.

They’re Connected

The days of connecting speakers merely to an amplifier are coming to an end. These days, more and more speakers are connected to the internet, with its embarrassment of musical riches — on-demand streams, internet radio, and downloads stored in music lockers — with a smartphone, computer, or tablet handling the controls.

Whether it’s Apple AirPlay, Sonos, Casatunes, Rocki,  Bluetooth, DLNA, game consoles, Spotify Connect, or any of the other methods listed here, your speakers can play nearly anything on the internet… and if they can’t, well, they should.

hidden radio 2 sensorThey’re Interactive

Following up a tremendously successful Kickstarter launch, Hidden Radio Design is back with another wireless speaker — the Hidden Radio 2, which now supports up to two speakers, and features the same cool, pop-up design.

There’s a lot to like about Hidden Radio 2, but probably our favorite is that it’s a remote control, which is great, because smartphones sometimes get in the way of our apps.

By tapping the “intelligent capacitive touch sensor”  (pictured to the right) on top of the Hidden Radio 2, you can play/pause, skip to the next track, hang up a phone call to return to your music (because the speaker also works as a speakerphone), or tweak the volume. This is better than a traditional speaker because you don’t have to walk over to the stereo, and it’s better than a smartphone, because it doesn’t make you jump through a bunch of menus just to skip to the next song. (Maybe the Hidden Radio 3 will include heart and ban buttons.)

They’re Visual

Wait,are speakers basically becoming computers? They’re connected to the internet, they have their own input controls, and as it turns out, some of them are evolving the ability to display information as well.

The JBL Pulse (pictured) includes a stunning music visualizer on its chassis, with lights that react to the music, and it sounds good, too. Then there’s the Qualcomm-backed AllJoyn protocol, which will soon enable any compatible speakers to display the currently-playing song.

Putting these trends together, it shouldn’t be too much longer until you can get internet-connected speakers with a full range of touch controls, song titles, visualizers, and who knows what else, obviating one of our reasons for staring at our phones.

Stay tuned for more digital music news, reviews, and analysis.