A pair of ex-Googlers have launched Beep, a beautiful WiFi-equipped dial that lets you stream music to any speaker with a line-in port. The device will launch this Fall with Pandora integration.
Multi-room streaming systems like Sonos have made listening to music easier than ever, but many of the setups are costly and come bundled with their own speakers. Beep wants to take your unconnected speakers and connect them to the cloud.
The hardware design – a minimalist volume dial with lights – manages to look both subtle and stunning. It uses USB power and connects to speakers via 3.5mm optical or analog audio out. The device will retail for $149, but you can pre-order it for a limited time at $99. Multiple Beeps can be grouped together through the mobile app.
The Beep team looks well set to master both hardware and software. CEO and co-founder Daniel Conrad worked on the Nexus One at Google, while co-founder Shawn Lewis worked on Google’s platform team.
While Beep is launching first as a device, the startup is aiming to establish itself as a streaming audio platform. It’s working with speaker manufacturers to include Beep WiFi modules in their products.
Pandora’s a good start for Beep, but it will need to integrate with other services like Rdio and Spotify to keep up with the competition. Conrad said in an interview that the company’s goal is to “integrate with everybody over time,” but it announced the Pandora partnership first because it’s already working.
Beep is taking a different approach to the wireless audio space by trying to do one thing extremely well. The startup is focused on solving connectivity without having to build a master app or figure out how to make good speakers. To look at it one way, Beep is taking a Googley approach with its open platform, while Sonos’s strategy is closer to Apple’s high-control ethos.
You won’t always need the Beep dial – the next set of speakers you buy will probably be connected ones. It does, however, serve as a great transitional product to help you get the most out of that nice sound system you bought before streaming audio took off.
At $99, Beep is almost an impulse buy if you don’t already have a multi-room setup. Waiting over 6 months for it is a drag, but hopefully the startup will add some more music services in the meantime.