Backstage: StyleFi Music Sphere, revealed

Back a few weeks ago, we mentioned that Oregon Scientific was preparing a major music initiative called StyleFi, a collection of new audio accessories with sleek designs. One of those designs is iPod-bound, and not yet publicly revealed, but there’s something you might want to take a look at in the meanwhile.

It’s called Music Sphere. To underscore the point for speed readers, this is not Oregon Scientific’s iPod product, hence the lack of iPod-specific functionality – and our placement of it on Backstage instead of the main iLounge site. But the ideas and design cues incorporated within it are pretty interesting nonetheless.

Click on Read More below for a ton of pictures and information, including an explanation of how those two balls work together in your home.
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The basic idea is this: you get two globes, one big and very classic iMac-like, and one small and lightbulb-like. You plug any audio device of your choice into the little globe – actually, up to three devices can be connected simultaneously – and then put the big globe (with three speakers inside) somewhere else. As in, 100 feet or more somewhere else. pic

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There’s a control panel on the speaker with a collection of eight buttons, including power, volume up and down, muting, and audio input selection. Flipping between the three inputs changes the color of the Sphere’s LCD face from blue to red to green, as below.

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There’s an analog clock in the center of the screen, which you can set using the clock button on the control panel, and there’s a half circle worth of volume bars that run across the screen’s top. Pressing the volume buttons will increase or decrease the number of bars, and with them, the volume. (Surprise.)

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Of course, the audio inputs can be used for anything you desire – an iPod shuffle or anything else with a headphone jack, really – and you’ll need to adjust the device’s volume to a decent level at the start. From there, the Sphere’s built-in amplifier will handle the rest of your volume controls. But you’ll need a separate remote, such as a Griffin AirClick or ABT iJet, to change tracks. If this doesn’t make sense using an iPod as an example, consider how it might work with an iTunes-equipped computer – plug your computer into the small globe, start a playlist going, and listen to music in your bedroom, bathroom, or your backyard. Or all three, with multiple Spheres.

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Then there’s the mounting hardware. With the included white bracket and screw kit, you can wall mount a Sphere in the corner of a room – or on the wall of an art gallery, etc. – or you can just use it as a tabletop listening station. Though each Sphere has left and right separated audio (from three total speakers, with relatively rich bass), Oregon Scientific says that Spheres can easily be networked together in pairs, and it’s wisely looking into adding a remote control to the equation, too.

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In its current form, the system is partially portable. Six large cells or a wall adapter power the speaker, so you can take it outdoors. However, the smaller transmitter requires wall power, and there’s no audio input on the globe, so this is a porch or patio solution, not a beach speaker.

You can learn more about the Music Sphere at the company’s official StyleFi site. We’re still waiting to hear confirmation on final pricing – currently whispered at $249.99, which would be on the “you’re paying for the looks” pricey side given comparable wireless options – but we’re thinking the design will appeal most strongly to older, sophisticated people who are looking for novel ways to pipe music into the corners of their homes. What do you think?

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