War is about to break out over Wi-Fi, dear consumer, and you will be the ultimate benefactor! On Thursday, February 6, 2014, Beep, a startup led by Daniel Conrad and Shawn Lewis, former boy wonders at Google, announced their arrival on the scene. The two got to work on the skeleton of Beep a year and a half ago after they noticed that there was an unfulfilled niche in wireless broadcasting.
“There’s no good way today to play the Pandoras and Spotifys of the world on your home speakers,” Conrad told The L.A. Times. “You’ve got it on your phone, you’ve got it on your laptop, but you don’t have it on your home speakers.”
Up until recently, the dominant name in multiple-room wireless music streaming has been Sonos. Sonos, which sells its own speakers in a variety of sizes at various price points, more or less had the playing field pretty much all unto itself. A very nice toy indeed, but expensive if you like maximum-quality audiophile sound.
Conrad and Lewis had a different idea. Both the company and the product are called Beep. And though the product looks like a strikingly designed, oversized volume control, it’s really a way to stream digital music to speakers you already own. The two clever lads at Beep built their own gizmo to plug into any speaker or speakers with audio-in ports. That way, everything in speakers, old tech/new tech and the gamut of speakers, from cheapo-cheap models to high-end all became salvageable. As such, beyond doing some green thinking for you and allowing you to recycle old speakers that would most likely end up on a landfill otherwise, Beep simply yanks your music from the air wirelessly, connecting directly to your home Wi-Fi network.
It’s an ideal system every which way, provided you’ve got Wi-Fi and a router. Beeps let you be as grand as your wallet allows. You can put speakers in different places around your house, even your bathroom. Your music can follow you around, or roommates and visitors can listen to their own favorites at the same time.
There are two ways to get music. Pandora offers apps for iOS and Android that are Beep-ready. Beep has also developed its own system of iPhone and Android apps, which will play any of the music already stored on your phone. Remember: you’ll need one of these apps to control a Beep, since its dial only lets you perform basic tasks: adjusting the volume, pausing and skipping tracks. Sound quality is excellent. Beep says that more service partnerships are in the works. The company also hopes to eventually work with established speaker manufacturers to build Beep technology directly into their products.
Beep will be available in two colors: copper and dark grey. It’ll cost US$149 when the company starts shipping in late September it. Better yet, you can pre-order it for $99 now. As cool as saving $50 sounds, however, I would be cautious about investing in it until the company has signed up more music services beyond Pandora. For the moment, Sonos has set the bar for compatibility high because it connects to at least 23 streaming options, including Pandora, Aupeo, Rhapsody, Spotify, TuneIn and Beats Music. Right now Beep doesn’t even come close, although they say that by the fall more service partners will be joining them.
Unlike Bluetooth, Beep streams directly from music services, which means you can you can leave the house, or turn your phone off, and music will keep playing, and, since Beep connects directly to streaming services, a phone call will not interrupt your music. The free Beep App for iOS or Android gives Beep your Wi-Fi password. That way everything connects automatically to your network, while you can play as many as five or more musical choices simultaneously on most Wi-Fi networks. It all depends on the quality of your Wi-Fi router and network. You can also play the music files off your phone as the Beep App searches for and finds the MP3 and AAC music files on your phone.
On the negative side, Beep is exclusively connected to your Wi-Fi network. It’s not yet geared for connecting to your desktop or hard drive and does not connect to Bluetooth or Airplay devices. It will work at most offices, although, if you work for some corporate behemoth, the likelihood is that your corporate Wi-Fi network may be configured with security settings which block network communications. Most likely, if, say, you want to be the D.J. for your Christmas office party, you can set up something through your network administrator.