In the past, design-centric audiophiles often had to look to costly high-end brands for home audio systems that could blend in with their décor, while commercial businesses had to sacrifice ceiling or wall space to accommodate audio components. But thanks to the technologies that are available today, both have access to a multitude of midrange and entry-level systems and speakers that are either handsome or hidden in plain sight. In just the last few years, for example, several leading brands — including Sony Life Space UX and Philips Lighting — and startups unveiled LED light bulbs that fit standard sockets and integrate tiny Bluetooth-connected speakers. Sony Life Space UX also developed a table lamp that doubles as a portable speaker. The newest concept to tap into design-oriented audio market, Nova, debuted just this week.
Developed by Soundwall, Nova is wall art that conceals a flat-panel speaker and LED lighting to set the perfect mood, whether in a home, café or retail shop. Here’s a quick summary: Customers can choose from a library of more than 150 available artworks or submit his or her own high-resolution image and select a matte, glossy or medium finish. The artwork is then printed on a 24-inch-square or 24-by-36-inch (additional larger sizes are available for custom images) aluminum substrate using an advanced dye-sublimation process.
The resulting 3-inch-deep flat panel, which uses Distributed Mode Loudspeaker (DML) technology for omnidirectional sound, can then connect with any Bluetooth or WiFi-enabled device for streaming music and sound. Users can also touch the aluminum art on the sides or bottom to control lighting ambience, volume and audio playback. Those who prefer to hardwire-connect devices can do so using a standard 1/8-inch auxiliary cable. And pickier audiophiles who love powerful bass can plug in a subwoofer of his or her choosing via an RCA analog output located in the back.
If there was one flaw to point out in Nova’s design, I would have to say it’s the 6-foot-long electrical cord that’s used to power the speaker. Soundwall suggests relocating the power outlet to behind the Soundwall piece to avoid exposing the cord, however. At press time, Soundwall says that pricing for Nova starts at $900.