Intro(ducing): the FS-X
Our first product, the FS-1, was a portable USB desktop stereo solution for laptops/pc’s and the desktop, that used no batteries or external power. We received the WhatHiFi best budget desktop speaker award for the FS-1 and this encouraged us to seek further innovation. We saw that there was a need for HiFi sound, but in a more compact form and one that would work, wirelessly or cabled, with all the newer mobile devices, and would also match them in terms of battery performance. So, our mission with the FS-X was to get powerful distortion-free HiFi sound and phenomenal battery playtime into a tiny wireless speaker, and still make it affordable!
What our experience in wireless audio has taught us is that getting a speaker to be wireless is relatively simple, getting good sound is more challenging. The difference between good quality sound and bad quality sound is in the detail. Good sound lets you hear everything the artist recorded while inferior quality sound often masks it. Good sound means a richer, more pleasurable listening experience. Good sound means more enjoyment with less effort.
100 dB of pure clean sound
With FS-X you get a 100 dB of pure clean sound. Unlike other speakers FS-X goes right up to a 100% volume without distortion.
360˚ wrap-around sound
The FS-X gives you rich, accurate, clean, detailed sound. But we know that you want your music to fill a room too. Conventional Bluetooth speakers can’t do this, they’re not versatile enough. With the FS-X you can go from really soft to full volume with no distortion. And when you want to share your sound, you can play it party mode to get great 360˚ total wraparound sound, wherever you are in the room. The controls on the back of the FS-X are inset, so it can be played placed flat on its back in an upright position. Clean, detailed sound adds to the enjoyment you get not just from music, but from movies, videos, games, and even radio.
FS-X as audio monitor
FS-X is very light and portable. It's audio characteristics make it ideal as a portable audio monitor, whether you're playing or singing, or writing music.
Supports true stereo
You can use it as a standalone speaker or as an audio monitor, but every FS-X has a stereo chip embedded, so you can use 2 FS-Xs together and they’ll work as true stereo Left and Right speakers.
Sound tests & measurements
We have submitted pre-production units of the FS-X for sound tests and measurements. These have been carried out by an external acoustics lab (Deben Acoustics) and have been extremely successful.
ITU-R (International Telecommunications Union) is widely used in HiFi specifications. This standard is adopted by renowned bodies such as the BBC and Dolby Laboratories. Note that the ITU-R 468 number represents loudness without distortion.
These graphs are a measure of the excellent directivity characteristics of this speaker, (in technical terms, speaker driver measured both -on and -off axis). Directivity is the way a speakers frequency response changes at different off axis angles. The directivity characteristics dominate what we hear, and it's the speaker's radiation pattern that sets it apart. Conventional speakers will tend to show a drop off in response -off axis, most noticeably at higher frequencies.
Notice the consistency in the two graphs shown above.
We've received a lot of requests to put up a video showing a comparison between the FS-X and another well known Bluetooth speaker.
This video is a comparison of the FS-X and the Jawbone Jambox, playing the same music files from an iPhone 5 via Bluetooth.
We hope you agree listening to FS-X is exciting and rewarding, but obviously only WITH FS-X can you experience this. So please make sure when you listen to these files you do so through either a good speaker set up or a good pair of headphones.
We hope you enjoy listening and that this helps give you a better appreciation of the audio quality of the FS-X.
We’ve done our best to give you a representative selection of music genres.
Want to know what experts and reviewers think of the FS-X?
Here’s what they had to say:
"This little portable speaker is impressive...smooth, clear and punchy, there was always volume to spare...it seemed to be producing a rabbit from a hat." - Hi-Fi World
"The little Frankenspiel FS-X measured well in all areas - it is well engineered" - Hi-Fi World
"The FS-X speaker has potential for smaller sound systems both in personal monitoring and for use in conjunction with a small subwoofer to create a full-range system comprising multiple speakers that can be aimed as appropriate." - Paul White - Editor in Chief, Sound On Sound magazine.
"Last night's gig was excellent - the FS-X worked brilliantly as a personal monitor for the lead singer/acoustic guitarist and the other band members all wanted one too!" - Robert Aitchison - Exploraudio
"The little Frankenspiel FS-X speaker I've been playing with for the past week or two is just as amazing a device as were the first products I tried from this brand, if not more so." - Andrew Everard - Andreweverard.com
"Not only does the Frankenspiel FS-X speaker offer 100 dB it also is capable of being turned up to 100% volume without any distortion taking place and it measures just 8.3 x 8.3 x 9 cm in size." - Julian Horsey -Geekygadgets.com
Want to know what bloggers think of the FS-X?
Here’s what they had to say:
"The UK based Frankenspiel are no strangers to coming up with cool speakers, but the latest one is quite impressive offering a 100 dB of audio pleasure that even when at full volume there is no distortion." - techmash.co.uk
"However this is no ugly monster, it is a highly stylised and extremely portable 100dB Bluetooth speaker, boasting 50 hours of playtime." - total-ltd.co.uk/blog
User review & reactions
The FS-X is a great outdoor speaker, with a 50 hour battery life, it was built to last. So Dave took it to Shoreditch in London to see what people had to say about it.
We gave an FS-X to à very small group of music fans to let them play with it for a few days and hopefully get their reactions on video.
A typical Bluetooth speaker generally runs from 6 to 8 hours on a charge that takes 2 to 3 hours. The FS-X gives you an astonishing 50 hours of playtime from a 50 minute fastcharge. The fact that we can get a massive increase in battery life is down to the use of our revolutionary low power amp technology (more on this below). The battery we installed is the same as the ones being used in the new generation smartphones. So, from a battery point of view the FS-X is hassle-free.
Connectivity - works with any device
Bluetooth technology has advanced in the last two years and we have overcome the earlier difficulties of streaming HiFi audio quality. Instead of the normal analog Bluetooth implementation where there is always some loss of audio quality we decided to go for a pure digital implementation of the whole audio path, which gives us the control we need.
We also wanted to make the FS-X as versatile as possible so we added a high quality 3.5mm line-in.
One button, easy to use
The FS-X is easy to use. There’s only one button for power on-off and pairing. All other functions - mute, change volume and track - are on your device, which you can use as a remote control for the FS-X. You can also use the FS-X as a speakerphone by selecting the option on your device.
First we were thinking of implementing a mini USB port for charging the FS-X. But after taking on board comments from backers, we've reviewed this, and have decided to specify a micro USB port.
What's in the box
- 1 FS-X
- 1 micro USB charging cable
- 1 3.5mm line-in cable
FS-X is available in white, grey, black and in a Special Edition champagne gold.
Special Edition champagne gold
Exclusively for the KickStarter campaign we are offering a Special Edition in champagne gold. Check out the pledge rewards:
THE PAIR - EARLY BIRD SPECIAL EDITION - CHAMPAGNE GOLD (to get 2 units), THE PAIR - EARLY BIRD SPECIAL - COLOUR MIX (to get 1 unit) or THE PAIR (to get 1 or 2 units).
The UK has a justifiably proud heritage in HiFi excellence. We set great store by preserving this legacy of audio know how, working very closely with our component suppliers to marry tried and tested acoustic principles to very advanced micro electronic and DSP solutions. This means whatever the design aim, our speakers can be extremely compact and portable, while at the same time delivering the required power and performance and still be affordable. The idea is to bring HiFi sound up to date for the mobile world, where small is beautiful and mobility is the key.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN:
Our priorities were the type of driver and amp we were going to use to achieve the audio characteristics we wanted.
It has taken time to get where we wanted to go. Preliminary design was based on a BMR 46 driver and the low power amp which we were familiar with from the FS-1 project. However, during development and testing of the driver system we decided to boost the bass response by specifying a high-excursion version of the driver. This was successfully tested in late 2012, and is very stable. Likewise with the low power amp circuit. This has been stable since late 2012.
What enables us to bypass the traditional speaker model and get a full, rich sound in a small package are two revolutionary technologies developed in the UK.
Low power amp system
To get the max power peaks, particularly for the bass, and the long battery life we use a revolutionary new low power amp system. The amp circuit stores power and can get the power to the driver instantaneously, exactly when it needs it.
Balance Mode Radiator (BMR) driver
Rather than using tweeter, midrange and woofer drivers, we use a single high excursion BMR driver which uses the power of the amp to produce astounding sound quality, and at the same time is very compact, allowing us to reduce size. BMR is fast becoming the driver of choice for high quality audio (Bentley use it in their new Continental). BMR actually puts out a lot more energy per square meter than all other conventional speaker drivers and produces a far superior sound. It plays bass, mid-range and treble with great power, accuracy and clarity, all without distortion.
The combination of these two technologies produces a compact and powerful sound system.
Early designs for the FS-X cabinet were based around variants of the FS-1 but soon we saw that it was too big and too heavy, and assembly costs were high. So we introduced a new design which was smaller and lighter, and could be assembled more rationally while continuing to guarantee reliability.
By July 2013 the main cabinet mould and the sub assembly moulds were ready, and we began testing. We have run successful pre-production test shots to prove out the plastic and all that remains to be done are some small improvements to minor plastic sub assemblies.
The FS-X is classic cube design, linear, elegant and sophisticated. At the same time, it’s compact, light and small enought to hold in the palm of your hand.
The basic cube shape is dictated by the need to provide the BMR driver with the maximum cubic air capacity to produce the required bass effects (which is moving air) so in the end we went for a classic cube design.
Wireless and Stereo Link
All the initial development on the wireless link was done around a mono Bluetooth 4.0 digital board but our supplier now has a full stereo Bluetooth 4.0 chip available. This has been successfully tested and, apart from minor modifications to the electronics PCB, is a drop-in replacement for the previous mono chip.
Our firmware for setting up stereo left/right link is not fully finalised. What we can say is that our firmware will handle this, during pairing where on a technical level, one speaker will be master and one will be slave i.e. Left and Right. Note: stereo link is wireless.
Using low power amp technology means a massive increase in battery life. But the 50 hours of playtime are also thanks to the 3400mAh Li-iOn rechargeable battery, which we recently installed replacing the previous 2800mAh.
This involves no noticeable change to other parts of the design, and provided we can guarantee the minimum volumes, so if we reach our project goal, we have no problem with supply.
The pre-production units submitted for independent tests were fitted with an earlier version of the User Interface. This works, but is not optimized. For example, when all systems are working well (Bluetooth paired, battery charged etc) the LED burns red, which is clearly counter-intuitive. LED colors will be the same but will be used in a different, more intuitive, sequence (so, in the case above, instead of burning Red, the LED will burn Blue).
There are some revisions to be made to the User Interface software for the single button controls and the automatic operation of the 3.5mm line-in. This functionality works currently but is not optimised for full intuitive operation.
Final Production Timeline
We’ve got this far, by putting a lot of our own time and resources into this project The production planning phase is advanced, e.g. moulds are production ready (see pic).
Pre-production test shots have been carried out from the moulds, and assembly flow simulations carried out. Electronic boards are designed and tested and production-ready.
Once we reach our project goal, the timeline to production is short. The main work remaining consists of CE & FCC certification and revisions to the User Interface software for the single button controls and the automatic operation of the 3.5mm line-in. This functionality works currently but is not optimised for full intuitive operation.
The main determinant of the time to delivery is procuring parts and components. We have already a manufacturing partner set up; he needs the reassurance of pre-selling at least 1000 units to commence production.
We are allowing one month for procurement of components. This has been included in our calculations. During this time, the remaining revisions to User Interface software and certification would be carried out in parallel.
This is the basis for the 3 months to shipping (from reaching the project goal).
In terms of reward fulfilment we have our plans in place to bulk ship to US/Canada, UK/Europe logistics partners. For other territories we will ship from our Hong Kong logistics partner, and thereafter, ship rapidly and cost effectively to our backers.
Y cable, external in-line control, fastcharger & soft neoprene carrycase
Currently we are designing a Y cable, external in-line control, fastcharger and a soft neoprene carrycase for the FS-X.
Our design would allow you to choose to use any kind of 3rd party Y cable (this also applies to the 3.5mm analog cable which is included with every FS-X), however since quality and specifications vary we can’t guarantee that any and every cable will work together with our external in-line control. We don't want to force people to buy our stuff, what we mean is that we can guarantee that our product will work together.
External in-line control
In designing this external in-line control device we’ve had to take care that it integrates with the existing electronic circuits and that their operation doesn’t:
- reduce any functionality
- introduce any distortion in the audio path.
The in-line control includes a microphone (on/mute), audio (on/mute) and volume control (up/down). The in-line controls are attached to a short black cable.
This makes the already versatile FS-X even more versatile still, adding the microphone it becomes a true speakerphone, as well as of course being able to externally mute and control the volume of the FS-X.
Soft neoprene carrycase
The soft neoprene carrycase is designed exclusively for the FS-X and will be available in the colour black. It holds one FS-X and has a rubberised Frankenspiel logo symbol on the top and the logo text (also rubberised) on the front (bottom right corner). At the back of the case (at the same height as the zip) there will be a loop to attach a carabiner (for ease of carrying).
The fast charger will be designed to be used together with the micro USB charging cable supplied with the FS-X and will be available in the colour black. The plug pins configuration will match that of the country of the pledger. We’ve decided to spec the fastcharger at 4.2A (2x 2.1A) supporting simultaneous charge. Both ports will be on the same side of the fastcharger.
- The pictures of the carrycase and fastcharger, included in this update, are design images.
- As you can see the carrycase is sporting a non zip look. Note that the carrycase WILL have a zip, but right now we’re still finalising the colour and style of the zip. The same goes for the colour of the elastic band of the pouch (for carrying the 3.5mm line-in cable and the micro USB charging cable).
- Currently we don’t have a design drawing of the Y cable.
- As soon as the carrycase, fastcharger and Y cable protypes have been made, we will put up images for you to see.
Add-on prices in GBP:
1. Y cable: £5
2. External in-line control £5
3. FS-X soft neoprene carrycase: £10
4. Fastcharger: £15
Add-on prices in USD:
1. Y cable: $8
2. External in-line control $8
3. FS-X soft neoprene carrycase: $16
4. Fastcharger: $22
How you can help
We have the technology and know-how to compete with big established brands and we want to get this great speaker out to those of you who care about good sound! But we can’t compete with the leaders in terms of distribution and marketing.
We really believe in our product and the people who’ve seen it really believe in it too. We know it has a future and only with your help we can get the FS-X into production.
When our project goal has been reached we intend to use the funds as follows:
£24k: first production run
£6k: User Interface software finalisation
£6k: CE & FCC Certification.
1st Stretch Goal (water- and dust- resistance). Reached!
We have reached our stretch goal target of £46.000!
As for now the FS-X has at least equivalence to IPX-1 for both water and dust, and is shockproof under normal use. We are currently looking at ways to make the FS-X more water- and dust- resistant.
If at the end of the project we still exceed £46.000 in pledged funds, we will add extra water- and dust- protection to at least IPX4, and hopefully IPX5!
Subject to reaching the stretch goal, anyone who pledged for one or two speakers will get this for free!
To be clear: we will make sure that FS-X is water- and dust- resistant so it can be used in the bathroom and outside (on the beach, in the park, on a camping site, etc.), but not waterproof i.e. not for use in or under water.
For more information please take a look at Update #8 & #11 (you can find the Updates at the top of the page).
2nd Stretch Goal (expansion of gift choices for reaching 2nd stretch goal & boost to max SPL). Reached!
We have reached our stretch goal target of £66.000!
We’re going to implement a boost to max SPL (loudness), as always, we will do this without adding distortion.
We’ve received a lot of comments about the options of the second stretch goal.
We listened to you and as a result we've expanded the range of choice available under the second stretch goal.
Subject to reaching the stretch goal:
- Backers who pledged for 1 FS-X will be able to choose 1 of the following 2 options:
1. 1 free external in-line control
2. Add £5 ($8) to your current pledge amount to get 1 soft neoprene carrycase
- Backers who pledged for 2 FS-Xs will be able to choose 1 of the following 4 options:
1. 2 free external in-line controls (to also be able to use 2 FS-Xs separately)
2. 1 free external in-line control + 1 free soft neoprene carrycase
3. 1 Y cable + 1 soft neoprene carrycase
4. 1 free soft neoprene carrycase + add £5 ($8) to your current pledge amount to get a 2nd soft neoprene carrycase.
Note: What does “add £5 ($8) to your current pledge amount” mean? This has to do with the fact that the carrycase has a higher value than the Y cable & external inline control. So for backers of the pair who want a soft neoprene carrycase for both of their FS-Xs we’re offering the possibility to add an extra £5 ($8) to their current pledge to get a 2nd carrycase (this means they get 50% off their second carrycase). And because we’re offering this option for pair backers we’re doing the same for the single FS-X backers as this only fair. If they add an extra £5 ($8) to their current pledge they also can get a carrycase (with 50% off).
3rd Stretch Goal (support for future Frankenspiel subwoofer)
For more information about this stretch goal please see Update #21.
Awards & Reviews of our previous product: the FS-1
"The Frankenspiels rewrite the book on budget desktop speakers." - What Hi*Fi
"With a smooth mid range, crisp vocals and a general feeling that the little fellas are in complete control of the sound, these are the perfect speakers for the desktop – or as a set of portable speakers" - Wirefresh
Risks and challenges
What remains to do is some work on the minor plastic sub assemblies.
We have submitted pre-production units for audio tests, they have been extremely successful.
Risk assessment: very low.
We have submitted mono Bluetooth units for independent tests.
They have been successful.
Risk assessment: very low.
The pre-production units with 2800mAh Li-iOn battery have been submitted for independent tests, they have been extremely successful. Currently we're still testing the 3400mAh Li-iOn battery which we plan to use provided we meet our goal.
Risk assessment: very low.
The main work remaining consists of revisions to the User Interface software for the single button controls, the button LED sequence and the automatic operation of the 3.5mm line-in.
The pre-production units submitted for independent tests were fitted with an earlier version of the User Interface, this works, but is not optimised. For example, when all systems are working well (Bluetooth paired, battery charged etc) the LED burns red, which is clearly counter-intuitive. LED colors are the same but will be used in a different, more intuitive, sequence. So, instead of burning red, the LED will burn blue.
Risk assessment: low.
Final Production Timing:
The main determinant of the time to delivery is procuring parts and components. If we can pre-sell at least 1000 units our production partner can commence production.
Risk assessment: low to very low.
We have included one month for procurement of components in our calculations. During this time, the remaining software work and certification would be carried out in parallel.
This is the basis for the 3 months to shipping (from reaching the project goal).
Risk assessment: very low.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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