Why we built PADAM; yet another WiFi speaker
The reasons why we quit our jobs and challenged our families to go without income, all to bring a new Wi-Fi speaker to an already crowded audio market.
As we draw closer to the starting line: bringing to the public our new venture; now is a good time to reflect back and tell you how this came about and why we poured so much energy in this project since 2016.
Paris Audio conference and terrace
Two years ago, Jake, my co-founder, and I met up for the largest audio geek convention called AES (Audio Engineering Society). We were both back in France from our adventures abroad: Jake was back after six years as an expat in Shenzhen, China. I was back after spending eleven years in the US, and the last eight in the Silicon Valley.
After a few technical papers and interesting industry meetings, we escaped and sat down at a typical little terrace in Rue Montorgueil (pictured below). We started a typical afternoon drink and chat about changing the world.
This is where we first discussed the idea that later became our speaker: PADAM.
The insight was simple, Music and Audio can have a huge impact on your everyday routines, but the everyday use case is just so poorly served.
Everyday experiences are better with Audio
For the morning, you could either buy a shit (excuse my French) 20$ waterproof radio for the shower (sound quality? user experience?) or use a nomad Bluetooth speaker you’ve dedicated to your bathroom, or kitchen. I personally never fell in love with Bluetooth . Too often, it’s either low on power, or I am not sure it is still paired with my phone. Or is it with my wife’s phone? Blinking blue, fast or slow ? Is it working? Hit play; damn still playing through my phone’ speaker! Trying to pair it again and again; when I am just waking up is not something I am willing to endure. I give up.
Another typical experience would be : coming home. You may relax in your living room, where you have a great fixed audio setup, or a Wi-Fi speaker: Sonos, anyone? I own one my self and I do love it. BUT after eight hours staring at my computer screen, and a couple more at my phone, Sonos’ cool proposition : control your music wirelessly in every room just means another moment messing with my phone! So, to relax in the evening, I need to unlock my phone one more time, be committed enough to not click on one of the notifications from my mail app or Facebook, open my favorite music app, navigate to radio stations or playlists, and then finally enjoy.
An antidote to complexity
With all the possibilities that tech has brought to audio, listening can be complicated. Enjoying our favorite content isn’t as straightforward as it should be.
We noticed the industry blindly focused on replicating what Sonos had pioneered with very little differentiation: the Wi-Fi speaker as a “multiroom” experience.
Most importantly to us, Wi-Fi allows your speaker to connect directly to your content sources now mostly in the cloud. This means that your phone is just a remote control. You can even bypass it all together. We think this is huge. This will make the access to content more straightforward.
Music everywhere in your home sounds awesome. But instantly accessing music every time you want it is even cooler.
We set out to define a much simpler User Interface for the Wi-Fi speaker that would deliver a delightful experience every time you used it. One twist of a dial. Instantaneous access to all your favorite content. And… PADAM !
Insiders from the industry
We knew a lot about the Audio industry.
Jake has been passionate about audio and software since childhood. He has made those two passions his career for the past 15 years. He was responsible for developments of speakers for brands like Pure, B&O, Klipsch, House of Marley, etc.
For six years, I worked at Apple on the acoustics team responsible for the original iPhone. Prior to that I worked at Bose. Most recently, Jake and I both worked at Tymphany where we met.
What is Tymphany by the way? It is a leading audio OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) in Asia: that develops and builds hardware systems and transducers for some of the most respected brands in the industry (B&O, B&W, Bose, Marshall, Naim, Beats, Google, Amazon, and many more).
True to ourselves, and to You
Back on the Parisian terrace, we decided to explore this opportunity further. We committed to not fall into the trap of being experts and forgetting the user. We promised ourselves to remain true to our mission: simple and useful.
We will build an honest and authentic product to inspire people to add more music to their everyday.
We set out to talk to as many people as possible about their daily routines. It turns out we were not the only ones who had difficulties adding music to our everyday!
First, we learned that many were frustrated with the experience enabled through their smartphone. (battery draining, waterproofness, etc). Many had upgraded from their weak phone audio to a Bluetooth speaker since Bluetooth is universal and should be easy to use. But it didn’t take long for users to express frustrations around pairing, sharing, maintaining a connection, sound quality, etc.
Next, we focused on what people were listening.
We found that most people spend the majority of time listening to the same few radio stations, playlists, or podcast channels.
I fit into this category. I listen to a constantly growing “myfaves” playlist always on shuffle. I have my favorite radio stations and a couple podcast channels. These should always be accessible to me instantly.
Other users may need to hear a specific artist or track at an exact time. For them, the PADAM mobile app is the right tool. Like any other Wi-Fi speaker, you can use the app to control our speaker. PADAM even includes Bluetooth if the music you want is stored on your device (or your streaming service is not allowed to integrate with other devices).
The big jump
We worked nights and weekends for seven months while maintaining our day jobs. We bought development kits, soldered them, developed software, defined and debated over which key features should stay, and which should go. We agonized over countless details and after these seven months, the team and the product was finally taking shape. We managed to build our first functional prototype in February 2017.
The team coming together is what sealed the deal. (Bastien, Greg, Victor, Matt are superstars and we will dedicate a post to them soon. For now, see our team page : forward-labs.com/team)
Time to go full time. Our company was registered on March 13th; 2017.
Just the beginning…
As it turns out, the past seven months was the easy part. We continued to test and simplify the product. Saying NO to good features and ideas was not easy. The hardest thing really.
We continued to iterate and finally locked the design that is now PADAM. The simplest speaker to add audio to your every day experiences.
- No phone required
- No screen
- A familiar interface to access your favorites or discover new music
- Battery power and waterproof for versatility
A full year after incorporation, two years after coming together around the idea of improving everyday experiences with sound, we are ready to introduce PADAM. We are ready to show you what we’ve been up to. We will start a preorder campaign on Kickstarter in May. We hope to count you in! Yes. I mean YOU!
If you enjoyed reading this post, then please share it. If you love audio and want more of it in your life, then follow us. Signup on our landing page getpadam.com to receive early discounts and news on our Kickstarter.