With a 30-day Kickstarter campaign, audio entrepreneur Tom DeVesto, founder and CEO of Como Audio, unveiled on Tuesday the SpeakEasy multi-room music system. It is his company’s first product with built-in Google Assistant.
In explaining the thinking behind his third time using this launch method in the company’s two-year history, DeVesto told press at the introduction that using Kickstarter is effective in leveraging the social community Como has been able to build over those years. “They’ve trusted us to deliver, and I have twice exceeded their expectations,” he said…This shortcuts the old way and brings products directly to consumers,” he explained as the sales tally, viewable on a screen, mounted upwards from zero in real time during the launch event. Kickstarter pricing started at $199 for the walnut-finish version for the first 48 hours (purchases were limited to two models per customer) and is incrementally increasing; delivery of the product is slated for November, at which time the product will be priced at its full suggested retail ticket of $349, with an optional add-on stereo speaker available for $120.
In making his case for introducing a new voice-assistant model into an already crowded category, DeVesto emphasized that his differentiation was that “our products are designed specifically to play music; that’s our first and last principle. We make them in beautiful woods and lacquers. And they’re simple to use and transportable. It matters to us how we sound when you’re listening to your favorite music.”
SpeakEasy is just over nine inches high and five inches deep and wide, has a rear port that can double as a handle, and is similar in design to other Como products, with knobs to control volume, Bluetooth 4.2 and play/pause functions – but the Google Assistant functionality expands control to hands-free for music playing, alarm-setting, and other functions including control of a thermostat and lighting. Besides the optional add-on speaker, there is also a battery pack available. The unit also has a clock display on its face whose brightness is automatically adjusted; the display exists so that listeners don’t need to issue a voice command to learn what time it is. The unit also has four LEDs mounted on top that flash to alert the command-issuer that the Assistant is processing his or her directive. Como is also making multi-room streaming from SpeakEasy possible on other of its products, with the availability of an optional Chromecast for Audio dongle that would attach to the earlier models.
SpeakEasy works with a free Google Home app for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows and Chromebook. It features two top-mounted microphones to pick up voice commands and, explained DeVesto, “as soon as it hears ‘OK, Google’ ahead of a command, it will mute the music automatically” so it can hear the rest of the request. It also features a solid half-inch-thick MDF cabinet, a 30-watt amplifier, a three-quarter-inch dome tweeter, a three-inch custom dual voice-coil woofer, and custom DSP equalization. Besides the furniture-grade walnut finish available at the early stages of Kickstarter, the SpeakEasy will be available in hickory, and piano-gloss white or black.
DeVesto added that while existing Como products are for sale on Amazon, SpeakEasy, when it finally reaches full-blown retail sale status, won’t be, at least for the present. “We’ll be selling through resellers who are not hooked into Amazon…if we can get on Amazon, we will.”