There are so many wireless speakers on the market, we barely get out of bed these days unless a speaker offers something truly revolutionary. Such was the case last January, when a small startup introduced the Helium, a beautiful Bluetooth speaker set in a bamboo box that ditches wasteful rechargeable batteries for ultra-fast charging supercapacitors. Unfortunately, the Helium also tops out at $550. Now, Blueshift has offered up a smaller, more affordable addition to its product line, aptly named the Hydrogen, which premiered today on Crowd Supply.
Supercapacitors are expensive — like 10 to 15 times rechargeable batteries expensive — but they allow Blueshift’s speakers to do some very cool things, including coralling a full charge in about 5 minutes. They also offer a ridiculously long lifespan of up to a half a million charges, which is around 500 times what a lithium ion battery can do. And of course, supercapacitors aren’t loaded with chemicals, keeping them inline with Blueshift’s sustainable philosophy.
Sustainable is a big deal in Portland, OR, where Blueshift makes its home ( it’s also where DT’s headquarters are located.) That’s why the Hydrogen, like its larger predecessor, uses an environmentally-friendly bamboo cabinet for its chassis. Bamboo also sounds good, and happens to look pretty awesome too, giving each speaker its own unique aesthetic, and blending in nicely with both modern, and classical decors.
The Hydrogen is a compact speaker, measuring 9 x 8 x 4-inches, and weighing four pounds. Inside its ported bamboo cabinet rests a single Fountech FE85 3-inch driver, which is powered by a Class-D amplifier to reach a claimed 100Hz-20kHz frequency response. While the speaker charges in minutes, it does have a more limited battery range than the Helium’s 6 hours, lasting around 3-4 hours per charge. That’s fine if you’re sticking around power sources, considering its lightning fast charge speed, but not great if you’re off the grid. As one might guess from the company name, the speaker connects to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth.
As for the sound, we were able to spend a short time with the Hydrogen, and walked away fairly impressed. It offers a clear, smooth sound signature focused roundly on the midrange, and it gets loud enough to keep the party going for a moderate crowd, inside or out. Pricing for the Hydrogen will begin at $300 for those who get in early on Crowd Supply, rising to $330 as orders stack up. The speaker is expected to have a retail price of $400 when it hits the open market. If successful, the first Crowd Supply orders are expected to ship to backers in January 2015.
For those looking for a bigger sound, Blueshift has other options in the works as well. The company is still a growing operation, so the Helium is on pre-order as it ramps up production, available in a dual driver design for $550, and mono for $440, with new features including on-board volume control, and stereo pairing of two of the speakers. Blueshift is also working on a wall-powered subwoofer that pairs with its regular speakers called the Iron, a $240 preamp that allows users to run a turntable, or even a guitar through its speakers, and 5 audiophile-grade sets of limited edition wireless stereo speakers called Argon, which will run you a cool $3,500.
If you’re interested in checking out any of Blueshift’s new projects, you can back them now on Crowd Supply, or check out more about the brand on its website.