PA1 Bluetooth speaker banks on being music to crowd's ears
By Paul Ridden
December 11, 2013
Battery-powered Bluetooth speakers are great for those who like to share their sounds with friends while out and about, but can't always satisfy when streaming music in the kitchen or living room. If your wireless audio needs lean more towards semi-permanent placement than portability, you may find that upmarket looks, room-filling output and quality audio tend to go hand in hand with a rather large price tag. This is something that the folks from the Studio Proper design house in Melbourne, Australia are looking to address with the PA1 wall-mounted Bluetooth speaker.
Work on the PA1 began at the beginning of this year, with the aim of creating stylish, sonically-rich wireless speakers that didn't come with a high-end price tag. "We were looking to design a speaker that could best compliment our existing range of products, which predominantly means our wall accessories," the company's Melita Yuen tells Gizmag. "We looked at incorporating a battery pack in the conceptual phase, but opted against it due to the restrictions it would have on overall sound performance."
After tweaking and testing six prototypes, the wall-outlet-powered pre-production PA1 features Bluetooth 2.1 wireless technology that supports HSP, HFP, A2DP, AVRCP, ACC, PBAP, SPP and OPP profiles. A power switch in the machined T9 aluminum outer housing is also used to pair with Bluetooth-capable source devices, and the speaker "remembers" the last five paired devices. It's also capable of pairing up with another PA1 for wireless stereo audio from a single source.
Though streaming limitations of Bluetooth are unlikely to cause high fidelity merriment among audiophiles, other wireless options would have added significantly to the price of the PA1.
"Wi-Fi options were thoroughly researched and compared to Bluetooth modules – including Wi-Fi meant higher retail costs for customers, as well as triple the development time – we believed we could leverage a great sound system through the development of Bluetooth speaker with dual stereo pairing," says Yuen.
That sound comes courtesy of two 3-inch, 20 W "deep bass" aluminum cone drivers with a frequency response from 102 Hz and 85 dB SPL, and a 2-inch high pass 10 W tweeter (frequency response from 1.8 kHz) centered above. The overall system frequency response is reported as 102 Hz to 20 kHz. On either side of a status LED positioned below the main drivers are manual volume controls. Unfortunately, since Studio Proper is currently in the final round of PCB testing, we're unable to confirm the final configuration of amp or amps.
Describing the audio signature, Yuen says that a digital signal processor "has been used to allow us to integrate the findings from our rounds of cross-over network testing, which has resulted in us swaying a bias bass character to one of the major drivers, and to the other, a mid range bias. This in combination with the tweeter, provides us with the most optimized sound architecture that we could fit into a housing of PA1's size."
Each 8.7 x 8.7 x 3.2 in (220 x 220 x 82 mm), 3.2 lb (1.46 kg) unit is fronted by a black or white interchangeable polyester cover, and comes with a braided power cable. In response to feedback, the designers have moved the power port slightly further back in the housing so that those who wish to do so can permanently hide the cable in a wall. The PA1 is attached to the wall using a Studio Proper Wallee X-Lock mount.
To get its PA1 into the hands of wireless music lovers, Studio Proper has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Though the expected retail price is US$250, at the time of writing, early bird units are still available for $150 each. A pledge of $240 or more will put you down for a pair of PA1 speakers. If all goes well, the first PA1 speakers will start shipping to backers from April next year.
Have a look at the campaign pitch video below.