LAS VEGAS--Wireless audio at CES 2013 has been almost entirely dominated by the idea of streaming music directly from your smartphone, usually via Bluetooth.
Teenage Engineering's newly announced OD-11 is taking a different approach, which it calls the Cloud Speaker. The cubelike speaker actually borrows its design from Swedish audio engineer Stig Carlsson, whose original OD-11 in 1974 featured the same angled tweeter and woofer that directs sound out the the top of the speaker, rather than a more traditional front-facing design. The idea is to throw the sound into a room, without a defined sweet spot that standard positioning creates.
The OD-11 is controlled by the neat pucklike Ortho remote, which can be spun to adjust the volume or pressed to skip tracks. It has a magnetic bottom, so it can be attached to a fridge or even to the speaker cabinet. The remote communicates via low-power Bluetooth 4.0, and Teenage Engineering says it can last for up to two years on a single battery.
The speaker itself has just a few basic controls along the very bottom edge. There's a power button the front, while the side has both volume controls and a minijack input. On the bottom of the speaker, there's a switch to control whether the speaker acts as a left or right channel (the OD-11 can wirelessly sync with four units), as well as an optical audio input.
The OD-11 has a striking, minimalist design, but details on how the "Cloud Speaker" will access your music are still fuzzy at the moment. Teenage Engineering Head of Software David Möllerstedt mentioned hypothetical support of Amazon Cloud Player or Spotify, as well as the ability for multiple people to add songs to a playlist, but none of the specifics are settled yet. The goal is that the OD-11 will pull your music straight from the cloud using its built-in Wi-Fi connection, rather than relying on Bluetooth, which can degrade audio quality.
Teenage Engineering says each OD-11 will cost $800 and is scheduled to be released in the summer. That's a steep price, especially with the well-established (and well-reviewed) Sonos Play:5 offering similar functionality, although with a less novel aesthetic look.