Bluetooth speakers are already among the most hardworking devices you can buy, with many offering fantastic sound, rugged designs, and even the ability to charge your phone on the go – but the latest portable speaker from Swedish audio company Transparent takes the form factor one step further.
The Transparent Light Speaker looks just like an old-fashioned outdoor lantern that flickers to simulate the look of real flames.
A directional knob allows you to adjust the lighting effect, which ranges from "the subtle burn of coals or a flickering candlelight", right up to a bright white reading light – this knob also lets you adjust the volume of the speaker.
The 'flames' are even designed to follow your music, with color variations and flickers finely tuned to give off the cosy atmosphere you get from a real flame.
Made from aluminum and glass with a detachable carrying handle, the new portable speaker comes with an IPX2 rating, which Transparent says means you can use it indoors and out – although we'd note that most truly waterproof speakers boast an IPX6 rating or higher, so while an IPX2 rating should be enough to protect the speaker from light rain, we wouldn't take the Light Speaker to the beach.
A 10-hour battery life rivals top Bluetooth speakers like the Sonos Roam – though there are models out there that offer a far longer playback time, such as the UE Hyperboom, which can last for 24 hours.
As for the audio performance? Transparent says the new wireless speaker delivers an omnidirectional sound with rich bass and crisp details. With a 5W power output, the speaker contains a 2.5-inch full range driver and a passive three-inch radiator – and two Light Speakers can be paired for stereo sound if you want a more immersive listening experience.
Available to buy now from the company's website (opens in new tab), the Transparent Light Speaker will set you back $370 / £290 – that works out to around AU$490, though Australian pricing is still to be confirmed.
Analysis: what's the deal with multitasking wireless speakers?
The Transparent Light Speaker is just one example of a portable speaker that has more than one function – and it seems to be a growing trend in the world of home and personal audio.
We're seeing increasing number of speakers with innovative designs that allow them to double up as home furnishings, and even pieces of actual furniture.
Even audio giants like Sonos and Sony have expanded their lineups to include such speakers, with the former expanding its collaboration with IKEA to create a musical picture frame, and the latter creating its own retro-style light speaker.
Combining light and sound seems to be a particularly popular design, with the Sonos IKEA Symfonisk Lamp Speaker being another example. It makes sense, when you consider that lamps and small portable speakers tend to occupy the same spaces (bedside tables and bookshelves, for instance).
There's also a compelling environmental argument for combining different devices into one; after all, if we only need to buy one product that can do the job of two, we're halving the waste involved in producing, delivering, and using an electronic device.
Transparent has further bolstered the eco credentials of its Light Speaker by creating a modular design with long-lasting materials that can be repaired or upgraded over time – something other brands like Bang & Olufsen is doing with the Beosound Level, which could last decades thanks to its modular design.
Extending the lifetime of products is a great way to save natural resources and prevent waste that's difficult to recycle – electronic waste is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the world (opens in new tab), so it's definitely a worthy cause for companies to get behind.
Transparent has also announced a collaboration with KEEP (opens in new tab) (Keep Electrical and Electronic Products), allowing you to track the entire life cycle of the Light Speaker, from production to repair, reuse, or recycling.
Of course, a rather niche product like the Transparent Light Speaker isn't likely to turn the tide on a rapidly growing electronics market that encourages us to buy new devices every single year, but it's certainly a good start.
- Read our guide to the best wireless speakers you can buy today