Which place do you think about when I say that: it’s where you speak your request out, music is just turned on and somehow, songs are based on your mood? A superior restaurant that has an orchestra? An interactive service on the radio? No. It’s your home and I’m talking about Aether Cone, an intelligent speaker which can play music based on your request.
Aether is a startup in San Francisco. Members of this team are from Apple, Google, Nokia, and even NASA. Their promised goal is “to make thinking things – beautifully crafted products that use powerful technology and simple, natural controls to make everyday moments nicer.” And they really mean their words with their first product, an intelligent and simple-to-use bookshelf speaker, Aether Cone.
What is Aether Cone?
Read Aether’s goal again and you can guess what this cone-shaped speaker is. Yes, it’s a thinking music player, which know and play songs that you want to listen to. It has streaming service of Rdio for music and Stitcher radio and podcasts and more partners in the future. This is not another music player that plays songs automatically based on tag you select. The most important point of Aether Cone is that it has ability to know where, when you listen to music and which song matches your mood. In theory, this speaker listens to you and learns your habits to help you select which song to listen easier.
This speaker is not a kind of radio that you’ve seen for a long time before. Aether tried to shorten configuration steps like wireless network, song selection or even the way you control the speaker. Just you, Cone and music. One another special point is the algorithm it uses to monitor your listening habits.
Before making this speaker, Aether visited many homes to see how people arranged their audio systems. And the result was that most people connected old, disused laptops to modern Bluetooth speakers to play music or they didn’t turn them on for a long time because of laziness and just let their expensive sound systems gather dust. That’s the reason why they don’t want to make an old type audio component like Google did with Chromecast.
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Aether Cone: Design
Aether Cone is just beautiful. It’s simple but not cheap, eye-catching but not obtrusive. The design is unique and not similar to any bookshelf speaker that I’ve seen before. It looks like a stone made of metal which appeared in many Sci-Fi movie. The design comes from the future, I mean that.
The speakers have a 3-inch subwoofer and eight hours of battery life. Its weight is about 2.9 pounds and its dimensions are 6×6.3×6.3 inches. It’s light and small, you can carry it in one hand and put it anywhere you want in your room. On the back, the speaker is capped in a smoother copper veneer which makes it look more superior.
Aether tried to reduce as many details as possible. Aether Cone has only three basic parts: the on/off switch, two tiny copper-plated volume buttons on the top of the speaker and the wide circular face. Its face is the most interesting part. You can control the speaker by giving the outer rim a spin or more simpler, you can directly ask Cone to play any song or artist while pressing the central button outlined with a needle-thin LED on its face.
How to use
It’s easy but there are two things you need to know to use this speaker smoothly. The first part is the speaker. Aether Cone is wrapped in a cardboard container that looks nice to me. After unboxing it, it is almost ready to play and you just have to turn it on, connect it to your WiFi network and link up the app (only available on iOS).
After turning Cone on, you have to give its circular face a turn to the right and it will play randomly. All I needed to do to come to the next song was just turn it to the right. When you twist the speaker to the left, it will replay whatever you were listening to. Twist it more and it will play something else entirely.
And now we come to the most interesting part of Aether Cone: voice control. As you know, Cone is not just a radio. When you want it to play a specific song, you need to press the button at the center of its face, wait to hear a chime accompanied by blue light (from button’s LED), and say the name of the song. Then, Cone will process your request for a minute, and if a green light pulses, it’s successful. Opposite, a red light means that it’s failed and you have to try again.
One more point, you can also stream anything from your iOS or OS X devices to the speaker using AirPlay. For sure, Cone is still learning your habits when you stream to it from your phone or Mac.
Now we come to the second part you need to know about Aether Cone: the app. Because of lacking UI, Cone needs the app to let user see what song it’s playing currently and control it from afar (including volume and play/pause). You can also create a playlist on your Rdio profile using this app. In case Cone can’t understand your voice, you’re able to access and to search any song or playlist on Rdio. The app also can recall the list of songs Cone has recently played.
Although Aether tried to make innovation with software and hardware, they didn’t forget that they were making a speaker. With dual tweeters and a woofer inside, Aether Cone’s shape is well-suited to projecting sound. It has the ability to fill rooms with high-quality audio. The bass impressive and doesn’t get bass boom at high volume. The treble is smooth and mild. And the flat bottom with rubber pad helps Cone not move around when the bass is on.
However, one minus point of Cone is that 6-inch diameter front face doesn’t have much room for stereo separation. But in my opinion, its sound quality is still good even when compared to larger speakers.
The Bottom-line: This is not the best bookshelf speaker which you can buy with $400. However, if you want to have a new listening experience, you should try it.
Right now, we can’t compare Aether Cone to any bookshelf speakers in the market because it’s in a totally new category. But let me tell you one thing that it’s really interesting when listening to music with this speaker. In my case, I feel like I’m owning high technology stuff that comes from the future. Sometimes, it was like a good friend when playing exactly what I wanted to listen to after I said my mood out. However, I think that Aether should find a more popular audio streaming service like Spotify because there are not many people have an account on Rdio and it’s uncomfortable to re-create a playlist.
Cone is not cheap but it’s not too expensive, too. It’s also unique so I can’t say that this speaker is worth trying or not but if you want to have a new listening experience, maybe you’ll like it. I hope that my review about Cone can help you make the right decision.