When designing a new outdoor audio system for Snap One, the last thing we wanted was to imitate another product. We wanted the system to address problems the outdoor audio world didn't even know it had. Current outdoor systems are big and bulky. Installation is time intensive and intrusive, requiring multiple wires and trenches–especially if you include lighting. In the end, you're left with an expensive, rigid system that likely has spotty sound coverage.
Exploring ways to improve the current method, we entertained the mad scientist-like solution of combining speakers and lights onto one wire. This idea would eliminate the hassle of multiple wires and the digging of multiple trenches, saving installers time and money but would require running AC & DC energy over the same wire. Ultimately, we took our cue from Ghostbusters, and crossed the streams of audio signal and power through a single wire using our patented Ace Technologies.
One of the biggest advantages of the Radiance system is its ability to be easily retrofitted to existing outdoor wiring. To reflect this idea of ease and convenience, the speakers were designed to be subtle and adaptable. We created a simple, modular speaker unit with a universal twist-lock connector. With a quick twist, each unit can be a speaker, a light, or a speaker/light combination. This versatility would allow installers access to untapped revenue along with the means of offering unprecedented flexibility to their clients. Four different types of mounts allow the units to be hung, hard mounted or staked, furthering their usability in any environment.
Unwilling to settle for functionality alone, Radiance also needed to sound great and look good. We designed the speakers to have 360 degree sound coverage as well as a significantly smaller footprint than competing systems. To round it out, we gave it a beautifully clean aesthetic. It's designed to recess into any environment with it's understated looks without resorting to cheesy solutions like speakers that look like rocks or plants, which never look right.
The system is designed to be paired with the subwoofer to enhance bass response. We created the simple shape that mimics the look of the main unit and can be used on a patio, or buried most of the way in the ground for a lower profile look.
Snap One came to us looking for "a speaker with lights for outdoors" because several of their competitors had released them in previous years and Snap wanted a product to compete. We weren't happy with creating just another speaker. We wanted to create a system that would work well not only for the people enjoying the speakers and lights in their outdoor spaces, but for the people installing the systems too.
After researching the needs of installers, a key takeaway we found was that they are often spending way more of their time in the planning/quoting phase with clients than they are in the actual installation phase. And, of course, there are always the last minute "just a little change here" demands from the clients. Any profit made by installers has the potential to get eaten up by the planning phase. To address this, we needed a system that was easy to specify and also had flexibility. This would solve a lot of problems for the installers.
In the design concept phase we decided that a modular system with maximum flexibility would be the driving design goal for the project. We strove for speakers and lights that could use a common base that would also complete wire connections when the unit was plugged in. This would cut down on the need for stripping wires and clamp style wiring terminals that can corrode in an outdoor environment. With a system like this, when a speaker is plugged into a base it would play the wired music source. When a light is plugged in to that same base, it would power the LED light.
As we worked to make this possible, we realized that the DC power for the LED light, and the AC signal for the speaker had to run over the same line into the barrel plug in the base. To achieve this, we created ACE Technology, an entirely new signal filtering technology which would allow for the system to do all of this over regular two conductor wire. This means that there would be no new system that installers had to learn. They could use the same tools that they were already using for running outdoor lights or speakers. In addition, an existing lighting system could be retrofit with a new ACE system for speakers and lights without the need to run a new wire underground.
Now that we had an electrical system that was dead simple to install and offered tons of flexibility, we needed to create the modular physical system to match. After many iterations, we settled on a solid die cast zinc bayonet locking system that takes just seconds to install the lights or speakers into the base. In addition, the speakers also have the same bayonet lock built into the top of the housing, so installers can add a light to the top of any speaker with the easy twist lock. Lastly, each light can be an up firing architectural light, a path lighting down light, or both. The selection is made with a toggle switch on the underside of the light.
Visually, we wanted the system to have a clean and simple aesthetic so it could blend in to any outdoor environment. The cylindrical form of the housing reflects the function of the 360° speaker. We also designed several different mounts that could accept both lights and speakers allowing them to work on walls, under eaves, pergolas, or in the ground. The accompanying subwoofer to the system aesthetically matches the cylindrical style of the main speakers to give it a familial feel. The sub can sit inconspicuously on a deck with its understated look, or can be mostly buried in the ground for a more discreet installation. Any outdoor space can quickly and easily be turned into a very custom soundscape. This clean, custom look gives a stark contrast to the common competitive products that are shaped like rocks or planters and have a very "cheesy" vibe to them. The system also needed to be designed with the outdoors in mind, so everything is built to withstand landscape equipment as well as water intrusion. IP66 ratings were achieved on every part of the system.
Creating a truly innovative project is always a fun and frustrating experience. With new methods of using a product come all kinds of interesting problems that are both challenging and exciting to solve. The Radiance Speaker system for Snap One was no different. Our team's multidisciplinary nature was ideal for creating this product as it required input and collaboration from all sides. The result was a product system that helps installers and gives great sound and lighting to the end users in one beautiful package.