This new portable Light speaker is from Swedish tech brand Transparent, a company that may be small but has grand ambitions. Established in 2011, the Stockholm-based brand found early fame with its signature Transparent speaker, a striking piece of industrial design that lays its internal workings bare thanks to meticulous industrial design.

As well as making a nod to Franco Albini’s 1940 Radio in Cristallo (recently reissued by Cassina), the family of speakers aimed to demystify the hidden complexity of modern electronics. 

Light speaker by Transparent

Glass and aluminium components of portable speaker and light by Transparent

Now the company is launching its second major product, the Light speaker, following a long period of development, crowdfunding, and prototyping. ‘We’ve been wanting to make a smaller form factor product for a while,’ says Per Brickstad, Transparent’s chief designer. ‘With something this small, there’s no practical reason to make it see-through, as with our larger speakers. Instead, the design was inspired by lanterns.’

Formed from glass and aluminium, the new speaker does indeed bear a striking resemblance to a traditional lantern, with a perforated housing, borosilicate glass ‘jar’ and hoop-shaped carrying handle.

Portable speaker lamp on grey fabric

By incorporating a variable-strength LED into the base of the ‘jar’, the design becomes a wireless speaker with a dual purpose – a portable light capable of soft illumination all the way up to strong torchlight. From the outset, the company has engaged with potential customers and backers through crowdfunding. The first 400 subscribers to the Light concept were all asked for detailed feedback. ‘They said they wanted the light to be stronger,’ says Martin Willers, Transparent’s CEO, ‘so there was a significant functional improvement made during the development.’

The result is a speaker with personality. ‘We worked a lot on the quality of the light,’ Brickstad continues. ‘It can go from a glowing ember or coal-like appearance, through to naked flames and candlelight, then up to warm white like an old-school light bulb, and finally to a functional bright light. We have developed an acoustic principle that uses the light as passive element of the speaker system, so the light physically vibrates with the sound. This really contributes to the musical experience as the speaker “sings” the music, which makes it much more of a multisensory experience – you can see the music in front of your eyes.’ 

Detail of portable speaker and light

One of the other key challenges was to create a small electronics device that could be repaired and renewed. ‘It’s a big challenge to create an upgradeable design,’ Brickstad says. At the moment, the Light is made from 60 per cent recycled aluminium.

‘It’s a constant process to improve the grade of recycled material for each element,’ the designer continues. ‘We put a lot of hours into exploring the supply chains and the quality of recycled materials. Our ultimate vision is to not take anything up from the ground in our products.’ 

Portable speaker and light glowing, with wine glasses in background

Willers reiterates the company’s vision. ‘Our main goal as product designers is to make products that last for a long time,’ he says. This required careful detailing. For example, the glass is threaded at each end, like a jam jar, but the manufacturing tolerances had to be far more precise.

‘We were told many times that we should just glue it together. It would have been simpler, cheaper and faster. But we were stubborn,’ says Brickstad. ‘That kind of struggle is what makes it worthwhile for us to make electronic devices.’ 

Transparent speaker and smaller portable speaker light
The new Light speaker (right) shown alongside the original Transparent speaker

The sound quality is enhanced by the form factor. The glass jar contains half a litre of acoustic volume, which helps the distribution of sound. ‘It’s a product that adds real value – the omnidirectional sound – as well as excellent performance,’ says Brickstad. ‘There’s a balance between the acoustic chamber and the driver.’ With weather-resistance built in, along with ten hours of battery life, Bluetooth and the ability to pair two Light speakers together, Transparent has created a friendly but functional object that transcends novelty value.

‘We wanted to make a product for social situations – it should be a bit like being around a campfire, something that acts like a living flame,’ says Brickstad. ‘We believe in creating some level of magic from technology. Ultimately we want to be the first circular tech brand.’ §