Balmuda, the Tokyo-based appliance brand best-known for its steam-driven toaster promising “the ultimate aroma and texture” for your morning slice, has taken all of its heat-meets-water know-how and popped up with… a glowing Bluetooth speaker.
Such credentials wouldn’t normally have us eager to test it with a view to adding it to our best Bluetooth speakers buying guide. And then there’s the price: $399 (which is around £329 or AU$599) – hardly a bargain buy.
The thing is, we’re intrigued… After all, if a toaster allegedly licensed by (if not officially announced) the XBox Series S is possible, why not a decent Bluetooth speaker from a company more used to fashioning breakfast appliances?
And although McIntosh still makes one of the most gorgeous-looking Bluetooth speakers I’ve ever laid eyes on, Balmuda the Speaker (for that is its name – the company’s catalog also includes Balmuda the Lantern, Balmuda the Kettle, and of course Balmuda the Toaster) calls upon the same peak hi-fi aesthetic. It’s the kind of thing that makes us go “Ooh, are those valve amps?”
They’re not – those three tubes house LEDs which can be set to ‘Beat’, ‘Ambient’ or ‘Candle’ modes, but Balmuda does assure us that the lights are precisely synchronized at a speed of 0.004 seconds.
And Balmuda’s founder and CEO, Gen Terao, spent his formative years in a rock band, so wanting to design a speaker that can emulate the thrilling sensation of live music was a natural ambition, culminating in the launch of the speaker in October 2022.
Opinion: despite a hugely successful steam-driven toaster, Balmuda the Speaker seems a little hot
Look, the Apple HomePod 2 is hot off production lines, boasting Siri voice smarts, multi-room audio and stunning spatial audio sound quality (albeit with less bass clout than the original Apple HomePod) and that will set you back a mere $299 / £299 / AU$479. So, Balmuda’s pricing strategy here is bold – and that’s putting it mildly.
Yes, we’d love to hear Balmuda the Speaker’s “unique” upward-firing 77mm driver and “3D Sound Driver” (promising detailed, omnidirectional sound) and if it is able to challenge winning flagship speakers from audio greats at the level, even better.
The product has been garnering attention and praise, winning Esquire’s 2022 Gadget Award for “Best Bluetooth speaker”. But, like the admittedly beautiful Nothing Ear Stick earbuds, might this be a case of prioritizing style over substance – a speaker destined for the polished places only the hypebeast (and hypebae) elite frequent? Hard to say unless we hear it. But we must confess, we do want to hear it…
Until such an opportunity presents itself, our best wireless speakers guide has plenty of excellent alternatives from names such as Sonos, Bowers & Wilkins, Naim, Sony and Marshall…