Backed Or Whacked: The Shape Of Sounds To Come

Editor’s note: Ross Rubin is principal analyst at Reticle Research and blogs at Techspressive. Each column will look at crowdfunded products that have either met or missed their funding goals. Follow him on Twitter @rossrubin.

Whether you rocked your New Year’s Eve Gangnam Style, fed your Bieber fever, or just took in a traditional Auld Lang Syne, there was an opportunity to get that music out of your smartphone and share it with the rest of the party. And as long as that party wasn’t larger than, say, a half-dozen people, any number of the more than dozen Bluetooth speakers on the market could help you with that task.

Indeed, despite being a poor vehicle through which to demonstrate audio quality, Kickstarter did its part in 2012 to fund a few such products. These included the stylish Hidden Radio in January, which raised nearly $1 million; Carbon Audio’s silicone-encased, tablet-gripping Zooka in March; and the weather-resistant Turtle Shell from Outdoor Tech in  October. With 2013 barely underway, though, three more Bluetooth speakers have set out not only to amplify tunes but crowdfunding’s unceasing cry for financial support.

BW-boombotixBacked: Boombot Rex. What happens when you take a bunch of hip San Francisco product designers and put them into a neon-lit studio from which they can call their tattoo-covered bros? Boombotix, a startuptopia where the world is nothing but tasty surfin’, solderin’ and spearphonin’. The hexagonal Boombox Rex has a similar perforated exterior to the Turtle Shell and is also ruggedized. But while some of the feedback on that earlier weather-resistant project have found its audio quality lacking, the Rex aims to achieve a rich sound by integrating two 36 mm drivers and a small woofer within its frame.

Deep bass requires deep pockets. The more than 1,100 backers eager to encourage the mostly healthy-living, product-development equivalent of The Real World — and perhaps pick up one of the $80 powerhouses — have contributed more than three times the compaign’s $27,000 goal. And that’s with about six days left in the campaign. The Rex is due in March; that is, assuming the team can tear itself away from the lives you wish you had.

BW-mojoBacked: CoverPlay MojoThe rectangular CoverPlay Mojo may not have as creative a shape as the Rex, but it squarely beats it in at least one dimension: thickness. The 7 mm speaker is such a natural accessory for svelte tablets that CoverPlay has designed a case that can hold both as a $30 accessory. Offering something like it as a stretch goal would have been a nice bonus for the campaign, but the Mojo held on to its own mojo by a margin nearly as slim as the speaker itself, reaching its $30,000 funding goal with less than a grand to spare. Instead, the company introduced a mid-priced reward tier in its last 10 days ($95 as opposed to the $105 previously offered), which helped it get over the edge. Austin Powers may have been able to claim his mojo in less than two hours, but backers are slated to get their Mojos in March.

BW-xylobeatsWhacked: XyloBeats. The last time someone offered something as cute, wooden, and capable of remote audio as the cylindrical Xylobeats was at the end of Terry Fator’s arm at The Mirage. The small “eco-friendly” XyloBeats are roughly as tall as their diameter and are available in six wood finishes. The top end of the rewards included a set of all six for $160.

But the campaign is in its final days with less than 20 percent of its goal reached. It’s difficult to see where the XyloBeats campaign went wrong. The goal was not outlandish at $10,000, and the reward prices were downright cheap – not only by Kickstarter standards but even in comparison to the overall market for Bluetooth speakers. People may have been turned off by needing to add a second unit to achieve stereo, but that was also true for the pricier and more powerful wooden 1Q that raised nearly $200,000 last summer.