Audio transparency is a dangerous thing to desire in your system. It results in an unforgiving rendition of what you’re listening to, so every blemish in your set up and recording is laid bare.
Building on this premise, Transparent Speaker, a crowd-funded startup from Sweden, takes on a literal dimension. Two models of the speaker are housed in aluminium and glass, with components that can be replaced and upgraded.
Part of its sustainability initiative, these speakers are adopting the Scandinavian ethic of being minimalistic and long-lasting. And, hence, are not cheap.
The larger speaker, priced at $1,699 features two 3” full range drivers and a 6.5” subwoofer and can be wall mounted.
There are few controls on the speaker, which runs via Bluetooth and cable. Your music source can serve as your remote.
The Small Transparent Speaker, at $899, has just the two drivers, each delivering 15W. It’s much lighter, weighing 3.3kg and could be handy in a small room.
Both speakers can be paired with other speakers for multi-room capability, and it’s good that they are operable out of the box without requiring an app and constant upgrading and software patching.
Seen And Heard
As a speaker that loses itself visually to the background, the Transparents — big and small — are accommodating. But you may find it hard to lose yourself to the music produced through these stylish speakers.
They handle the music that is well processed and mixed together as a neat whole — pop, some rock and easy listening; essentially your radio fare. It’s ideal for background, unintrusive music that floats in the subconscious.
But bring in the heavy hitters and the Transparent speakers tend to lose definition. The deep electronic bass is lost, as are the crunch and grind of guitars and drums smashing hard.
The sound staging seems narrow, but it could be a factor of the large room these speakers are showcased and tested in.
For a brand that wants to be taken as a serious audio product, placing its speakers in Grafunkt’s large, furniture showroom at Funan already reduces it to a piece of furniture. The other place you can get it is in Takashimaya’s Men’s department, which doesn’t sound too promising as a sound room either.
Transparent Speakers are also available in more expensive materials — wood, stone and steel — which presumably will find their way here through local distributor anté.
It has been an ongoing argument that good speakers are generally boxes which spoil the look of a living room, but as sound has gone digital requiring less speaker cabling, the equipment has become more sleek and designed to complement the ambience. The shift towards looks rather than sound quality has become more pronounced given our mobile lifestyles. At least until 2020 and the arrival of COVID-19.
Cue more time at home and possibly greater appreciation of sound, unless you’re glued to your smart phone. In which case, you can throw the sound to your Bluetooth speaker(s).
That seems to be Transparent’s key directive, behind the needful claims of quality and responsible business; to be good looking enough that the sound could be deemed secondary.
Like the Emperor’s new clothes, you might just see through this one.