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The Cell speaker made by ex-HomePod designers will cost a whopping $1,500 and will ship in early 2021

The unique smart speaker made by Syng promises immersive spatial audio.

Syng Cell Alpha speaker

Syng's Cell Alpha smart speaker will cost $1,500, and you'll need three to really appreciate its spatial audio sound.

Image: Syng

Los Angeles-based audio hardware startup Syng is getting ready to take orders for its first product: The company is in the process of starting a presale campaign for Cell Alpha, a still-unannounced spatial audio speaker that is slated to ship in the first quarter of 2021. Syng is selling each Cell Alpha for $1,500, according to a presale page discovered by Protocol. The company is advising prospective customers that they will be able to get the most immersive sound with three or more Cell speakers. (Buyers of multiple speakers are set to receive a small discount.)

Syng didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Syng was co-founded by longtime Apple designer Christopher Stringer as well as key HomePod engineer Afrooz Family. Its staff includes more than a dozen former Apple engineers and designers, and Nest co-founder Matthew Rogers sits on the company's board. The company's existence was first revealed in May 2020, and Protocol first reported key details about Syng's technology last week.

Syng's first speaker, Cell Alpha, is quite literally a big bet on spatial audio:

  • Sizing it up. The Cell Alpha is a bit bigger than a basketball, measuring 11.8 inches in diameter, and close to 12 inches in height including a stand connector. It weighs nearly 13 pounds, and ships with a stand that brings the total height to 17 inches. Consumers will be able to buy a modular floor stand that extends to a height of up to 48 inches for an additional $170.
  • Making it boom. Each Cell Alpha packs two woofers, facing up- and downward, respectively. There are also three pairs of tweeters and mid-frequency drivers, arranged in a ring for 360-degree audio, and three microphones to measure the acoustics of the room and facilitate spatial sound. At least initially, it doesn't seem like the Cell Alpha is going to offer voice assistance.
  • Syncing it up. Multiple Cell Alphas in a room can be synced up for spatial audio, which can be used to emulate virtual speakers, making a set of three Cells sound like a 7.1 setup — something the company calls "triphonic" sound. The speakers are also supposed to allow consumers to rearrange audio objects in a 3D space, according to a patent application filed by the company. In addition, Cell speakers offer more conventional multiroom audio functionality.
  • Making it play. Syng is developing a dedicated "Syng Space" app for Cell Alpha speakers, but the speakers will also support AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect. There's even an HDMI ARC port for home theater needs.

Syng's spatial audio technology has been described as "revolutionary" and capable of producing sound that's "indistinguishable from reality." In a patent application, the company not only promised to enhance home theater sound, but also laid out a few more futuristic scenarios. For instance, the speakers could add "functional directional alerts or beacons for guidance" to a home, and even reproduce spatial audio for VR and AR wearables.

The $1,500 price tag will all but guarantee that these kinds of audio innovations are only available to a select few, but Cell Alpha may not be the company's only product for long. The Financial Times reported earlier this year that Syng was looking to license its technology to other companies, and Syng's patent application mentioned a number of other form factors, including a possible integration into lightbulb sockets.

A version of this article will appear in this week's Next Up newsletter. Sign up here to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

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