It feels like a new music app launches every week, but there are surprisingly few innovative hardware options that put them to work. Happily, soon a new player will be in the mix—literally.
Meet Beep, a project by two former members of Google's Android team. Beep wants to give your home stereo system the Chromecast treatment, turning old speakers into smart, streaming music-savvy speakers. And while it's not dirt cheap, at $150 it's one of the most affordable options around for anyone who wants to blend hi-fi and Wi-Fi.
Like A Chromecast, But For Speakers
Beep—the name of both the company and its product—looks like a retro volume controller of some kind, but it's a whole lot smarter than that. Much the way a Chromecast plugs into (almost) any TV, the Beep plugs right into any speakers with RCA jacks or aux or optical inputs.
That means it'll work just as well on a cheapo set of bookshelf speakers as on your old-school home hi-fi system. And that's awesome. You control Beep through an app that both indexes your local music collection and lets you "cast" anything playing on Pandora. For now, Pandora is the only streaming partner in its roster, but it's hard to imagine that Spotify, Rdio, Beats and the like won't be next in line come launch time.
Unlike most of the competition, Beep isn't about selling proprietary hardware systems. Sonos, for example, offers an amazing modular smart home speaker system and support for nearly every streaming music app known to man, but its speakers price quite a few folks out of taking the plunge.
Similarly, Apple's AirPlay only plays nice with AirPlay-friendly speakers, which usually aren't cheap. The beauty of Beep is the beauty of the $35 Chromecast—just plug in a gizmo and breathe new life into your existing hardware. The Beep acts as a wireless receiver as well as a volume dial and controller, and you can tap it to instantly resume whatever you were listening to last.
Take My Money
The device takes a lot of cues from Google's Chromecast, and multiple users can even take turns playing living room DJ. Like the Sonos system, Beeps work well in teams. If you have one Beep in the living room and one in the bedroom, you can sync them up to play the same tunes or queue up different sonic experiences in different rooms, all via the Beep app.
The Beep will go on sale for $150 later this fall in two colors: gunmetal and copper. If you're already stoked about the prospect of making your old speakers smart, you can pre-order in advance and save $50.