Christopher Stringer, an ex-Apple designer who worked on everything from the HomePod to the original iPhone during his 22 year-stint at the company, has unveiled his new startup’s debut speaker. It’s called the Cell Alpha, a futuristic Death Star-shaped connected speaker with an emphasis on spatial audio. It costs $1,799, or $1,969 if you want the model with a floorstanding base.
The Cell Alpha has woofers on its top and bottom arranged into a “force-balanced” configuration. These are paired with three mid-range drivers that are distributed around its equator, where they’re presumably joined by a small thermal exhaust port — the Cell Alpha’s only known weakness. Jokes aside, Stringer’s company Syng claims this three-driver configuration (dubbed “The Triphone”) is able to project sound with “pinpoint accuracy” around a room.
Syng is making big claims about the spatial audio capabilities of the Cell Alpha. It’s styling it as the world’s first “Triphonic” speaker, because it offers spatial audio capabilities beyond the stereo audio that’s long been the traditional standard. In practical terms it’s supposed to allow the speaker to fill an entire room with surround sound audio, creating the impression that specific sounds or instruments are coming from distinct areas of the room. There are three microphones built into the speaker’s stand to measure the geometry of the space it’s in, similar to the HomePod, which helps it create the impression of surround sound using just a single speaker.
While Syng says one speaker is capable of offering surround sound, anyone with $5,397 to spend can pair three Cell Alpha speakers together in a single room to get “the fullest expression of Triphonic audio.” According to a report from the Financial Times, Syng hopes to generate revenue from licensing out its audio technology in addition to selling hardware.
In terms of connectivity, Syng says the Cell Alpha supports AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect over Wi-Fi. Physical connectivity is handled by a pair of USB-C ports, and Syng also says it’s planning on releasing a USB-C to HDMI cable to let the Cell Alpha connect to TVs (it can also output sound from a TV using AirPlay). A companion Syng Space app is available for setup and playback control.
Syng currently has around 50 employees according to Wired, and is reported to have raised $15 million in funding. The FT’s report last year said these employees include ex-Apple designers and engineers, as well as former Nest, Ring, Nike, and Facebook employees. Others have reportedly joined from the audio companies Harman and Bowers & Wilkins.
The Cell Alpha is available to purchase now from Syng’s website. As of this writing, shipping is expected in six to eight weeks.