Lightbulb with integrated wireless speaker

Hammacher Schlemmer's "Audio Light Bulb" is a $300 pair of speakers that you screw into your light-socket (it has a set of white LEDs that provide light equivalent to a 60 Watt incandescent). It draws power from the light-socket, and uses a radio receiver to reproduce sound from your home stereo (you plug a matching transmitter into the audio output on your stereo or computer).

It's a pretty interesting (albeit pricey) way of getting sound into lots of places in your home, though I don't know what it sounds like, and I'm not enough of an audio geek to know whether ceilings are good places to put your speakers. The catalog page doesn't say what frequency it runs on, but I'd guess 2.4GHz, which might clobber your baby monitor or WiFi.

This is the wireless, illuminated speaker that installs as easily as a light bulb. It fits unobtrusively within a recessed can light receptacle, replacing a standard light bulb, for discreet audio and lighting. Providing crisp audio, the full-range, 10-watt speaker receives interference-free wireless audio signals from up to 50' away from its transmitter...
The Audio Light Bulb. (via Cribcandy)


    1. If I had $800 to spend on music, I’d just pay a good musician to follow me around for a week.

    2. indeed. not much under $800 a pair is worth listening to. =)

      I hope that’s a typo for $8,000, because otherwise you can’t even afford the Pear Anjou cables you need for bare-minimum danceability. And yes, audiophobes, you DO need high quality wires for wireless speakers. Not that YOU could probably tell the difference.

  1. I’m not sure about the audio portion but can tell you that putting LEDs into a recessed can in your ceiling isn’t going to be good for them long term. The heat from your room goes right up into the can lights and damages the electronics involved in the drivers. It’s happened to many a compact fluorescent, which are not as heat sensitive as LEDs. If you use these, expect a color shift in about a year if they work at all.

  2. Certainly a tad expensive for speakers that, I would imagine, are probably only good enough for background music. Seems a retrograde step to use true “wireless” when the electrical wiring is already there and could be used, presumably, as the data carrier, as per. some existing systems. An opportunity missed there perhaps, although maybe the technology could possibly bump the price up even further.

    1. If the audio signal is in a digital format, I don’t think it should matter whether you are using wired or wireless transmission – bits are bits any way you send them ($500 Monster Cables ethernet cables notwithstanding), as long as the signal isn’t so utterly degraded as to be unrecoverable at the receiving end. So the decision would be one of cost and simplicity.

      If the audio signal is in analog form, it would have to be wireless – the amount of noise on home power cabling would be terrible (at least in my house, where the lights dim perceptibly when I use the toaster oven. I even get an clear “pop” from my speakers when the toaster pops, and my amp otherwise has quite nice clear sound).

      1. anytime audio signals are going through an audio cable they are in analog format. they can be digital before and converted to analog to travel through a cable, and digitized on the other end. but they pass through audio cables as fluctuations in voltage of the AC current. you cant send digital info like that.
        also the pops you are referring to are probably power dips/surges effecting your power amp.

      2. If, as the BB article states, these speakers receive radio signals, then they’ll serve degraded sound.

        If they’re actually receiving a digital transmission, then it’s possible that you’ll hear your un-degraded music in all its 10-Watt glory.

        1. “but they pass through audio cables as fluctuations in voltage of the AC current. you cant send digital info like that.”

          You do realize that digital data sent along copper ethernet cables is transmitted in the form of fluctuations in voltage, right? And that wireless ethernet uses digital data transmitted in the form of fluctuations in radio frequency signals? And that streaming audio in any form of digital encoding can be transmitted by either of those methods?

          So, yes, you can transmit either analog audio, or digitally encoded audio, over either household powerlines, or radio transmissions.

  3. …but seriously, there’s a great practical joke waiting to be played here.

    FRIEND: This LSD you gave me isn’t having any effect at all.
    YOU: Really? I can already taste purple and smell the pattern on my shirt. Oh well, let me turn on the lights.

  4. i would imagine they would have terrible bass response since they obviously have extremely small woofers and lots of bass frequencies would be absorbed by the ceiling. then high frequency content would likely be super prone to flutter problems since at no point (unless you are looking straight up) are you getting directional frequencies right into your ear. everything would be hitting your ears after early reflection points. it would probably just sound like you are at baja fresh.
    they sound like they belong in a moldy old sharper image catalog.

  5. The transmitter base station is also an iPod dock, so the usefulness factor just went up severalfold. I can’t imagine that audio fidelity is high, I can imagine that the inventor was.

  6. It’s a neat idea though – you can have good speakers for the main sound, and use these to get surround sound without running cables all over the place.

    You could put one in the bathroom or the kitchen – then you can take a bathroom break or grab a snack, and just by switching on the light you needn’t miss what’s happening in the movie everyone is watching…

    Personally, I’d prefer it if there was a little cable-pull switch built in for the lights – that way you can turn on the light switch on the wall to run the speaker, but not waste power turning on the lights in broad daylight

  7. Don’t look at it as a $300 pair of speakers, look at it as a pair of $30 speakers and the lack of a $270 (or more) invoice for snaking new wiring through the walls and ceilings.

    1. Or $270 for the privilege to snake a signal wirelessly through that “air” at your humble abode.

  8. From a hi-fi standpoint this would be crap.
    From a media centre standpoint it would probably just muddy up the spatial image (the “sweet spot” or focus point of the audio) because they wouldn’t be firing in the correct plane.

    For background sound/ambience this would be great.
    Depending on sound output I would also see this as being an interesting solution for shops and other companies requiring low output public address systems as these speakers are simple to install with a minimum of hassle.

    But for quality audio I wold recommend a decent pair of stereo speakers rather than this. Heck, even spending the same amount, $600, on a pair would give you MUCH better audio quality.

    As for the cable joke/trolling above, blind tests have shown a wire coathanger to perform as well as MonsterCables…

  9. Also might make a very unobtrusive microphone — isn’t this just consumer-repurposed spy tech? Now available at the online CIA store — everywhere!

    1. Dude, any incandescent light bulb makes a useable microphone if you’re willing to go to those kinds of lengths.

      But remember the $5 wrench principle…

    2. isn’t this just consumer-repurposed spy tech? Now available at the online CIA store — everywhere!

      What a great point. And come to think of it, why DOESN’T the CIA have an online store for its obsolete spy stuff? I want a bowtie camera and a pen that turns into a microfiche reader, dammit!

  10. I can imagine some fairly specialized uses for this – if you have some reason to need quick unobtrusive setup.

    Basically, though, if you’re doing audio in your home, you might as well buy some actual speakers.

  11. I spent a nice night in a house that speakers in the ceiling and a zone control master system. It was pretty cool. Not for cranking high fidelity stuff but for an overall ambiance it was great.

  12. ok, so tightly packed speakers into lights plugged into a 60Hz AC power source combined with a high frequency signal receiver. I can’t imagine the signal isolation here is great, and as a result everything you hear might be oscillating at 60Hz.

    I think I would only plug these into one of those audio grade gold plated electrical outlets and leave the whole mess in a trash can. Or better yet, back on the shelf in the store hoping to god no one buys these.

  13. The catalog page doesn’t say what frequency it runs on, but I’d guess 2.4GHz, which might clobber your baby monitor or WiFi.

    Or your neighbor’s WiFi.

    Be careful about cluttering your home with wireless devices! What may seem like a world of the future for you is usually a world of disconnections and wasted money for those nearby.

  14. I have an idea for floodlights that shine out of a woofer. Anyone want to venture capital on that idea?

  15. I notice no one has said anything about the unit’s other function – producing light.

    The catalog claims it has “LEDs that provide bright light similar to a 60-watt light bulb.” But I notice that they don’t specify the actual lumen output. That’s almost always a dead giveaway that the incandescent equivalence is exaggerated. So it was in the early days of compact fluorescents, and so it is today with LED retrofits.

    Quite a few cheap LED retrofit “bulbs” that claim 40- to 60-watt equivalence barely manage to equal the actual lumen output of a 25 watt incandescent. And, contrary to what folks expect of LEDs, often they’re less efficient at producing light than a decent compact fluorescent. Also, their output usually fades with time (if they don’t fail completely in the first 6 months).

    I’m willing to be proven wrong, but my suspicion is that we have here a gadget that is going to sound like a pair of mid line plastic computer speakers, and might produce one-third as much light as the bulb it replaces. And it costs $600 for a pair, which could buy a fairly respectable pair of small powered speakers (Genelec 6010 for example). Color me skeptical.

  16. I’m sorry but having music pipe in from overhead next to the lights is a little to close to being at work in a grocery store… No thanks I’ll pass on being reminded of that..

  17. I associate lights and speakers with a low hum. I hope this isn’t the case with this system.

  18. With a few changes, I could see a lot of use for this in historic churches for high-intelligibility amplification of speech.
    In a big reverberant space, you want to excite the reverberant field as little as possible with the amplified speech. At one extreme you can have big horns that are highly directive above 500Hz or line arrays, but that kind of visual intrusion is usually frowned upon in historic buildings. At the other extreme you can use lots of small loudspeakers that are distributed so that every audience member has one or more speakers that are physically close. This can also be a problem with visual aesthetics, and is generally a big problem with expense of wiring a historic structure (where they don’t want surface materials to be disturbed).
    I’ve seen several such buildings where the existing chandeliers were perfectly placed for a minimum-overlap distributed sound system, and already included a downward-aimed Par64 lamp.
    What I would want to see is digital transmission over power-line networking, and 3000K colour temperature. I could then filter against interference at the electrical circuit panel.

Comments are closed.