A conical intelligent speaker could cut through the choice-overload of online music services, with startup Aether promising simplicity without giving up choice with its new Cone streamer. Shaped, as the name suggests, like a soft-edged cone, the wireless speaker gets online via WiFi a/b/g/n (2.4/5GHz) and streams from a number of unspecified online music services, mixing together content from internet radio, on-demand, and podcasts.
Control is boiled down to a single multi-function button in the center of the speaker grille, and a rotating ring around its edge. Turning the dial starts playback, with a subsequent turn changing the source; tapping the center pauses playback.
However, it's also possible to make a specific request, by holding down the center button and using speech-recognition. Initial setup is via either an iOS 7 device like an iPhone or iPad, or a Mac running OS X 10.9 Mavericks, but after that the Cone runs independently, though it can stream music via AirPlay from a compatible device.
Inside the casing - which will be offered in black and coper, or white and silver, is an 8-hour battery, a 3-inch woofer, and dual tweeters. They're powered by a digital I2S 2.1 channel 20W amplifier.
Although there are plenty of ways to get streaming audio around the home - Sonos being a good example - not to mention many AirPlay speakers, Cone seemingly tries to do something different. Rather than expecting listeners to put in the effort to build a playlist, it generates that itself, based on what it knows about the preferences of the user.
Aether says there'll be more than 20m tracks that Cone can access at launch, though the company is yet to confirm which sources it's actually inked deals with.
Aether expects Cone to begin shipping in early summer, priced at $399. Black/Copper will be offered initially, with white/silver following on later in 2014.