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A unique desktop speaker system for people who like nice things. Crafted from solid alder and stainless steel.
A unique desktop speaker system for people who like nice things. Crafted from solid alder and stainless steel.
375 backers pledged $64,536 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

Timbre: Redefining the Desktop Speaker project video thumbnail
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"Whoa! That's a speaker?!"

People often say this when they look at Timbre, and for good reason: Timbre is unlike any other desktop speaker they've ever seen.

What makes Timbre special?

Timbre was designed with an uncompromising emphasis on both form and function. But to optimize both in such a slim, sleek package, we had to harness a different way of creating sound. The result? Not only does Timbre sound great, but we think it also looks better than every other desktop speaker on the market.

Crystal-clear sound. 

Timbre packs a big sound in a small package. Using its innovative acoustic mechanism, it delivers sound that’s crisp, clear, and full-bodied. Sound emanates from the entire front face of the speaker, transforming your desktop into a lively and enveloping soundstage. 

Substantive beauty. 

Timbre’s classic beauty comes from its simple lines and quality materials. Crafted from solid alder and stainless steel, it’s designed to be as beautiful and lasting as a speaker can be.

Affordable quality.

At Running Farm Labs, we believe in lasting quality that doesn't break the bank. We've spent countless hours optimizing Timbre's design for clever manufacturing, because we sure as heck aren't going to skimp on materials or quality. To get the ball rolling on production, we'll need 100 or more pre-orders. We designed Timbre for a retail price point of $225, but it will be available on Kickstarter for $175. Limited quantities of $125 early bird specials are also available, so support us today!

Sustainably produced.

Alder is a fast-growing and abundant species, and is one of the most sustainable woods available. This makes it easy for us to promise to only use certified lumber. Because it helps us make sure that things are made well, and supports local enterprise, the major manufacturing steps -- wood routing, metal cutting, and speaker assembly -- will be done right here done in the USA.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 5" x 8" x 1.6"
  • Audio input: 3.5mm audio jack
  • Power Rating: 2 channels, 20W each
  • Frequency Response: 85 - 20 000Hz
  • Ships with a power supply and all required cables.

So how does it sound?

We think Timbre sounds fantastic! But don't take our word for it. We brought Timbre to the Stanford d.school and asked people to take a listen and tell us what they thought. Here's what they had to say:

How does it work?

If you made it this far down the page, you're probably interested in how Timbre works. Here's a photo to help give you a better idea:

The stainless steel sheet is driven by a voice coil and acts as both the diaphragm and suspension of the speaker. By reinforcing it in some areas and firmly clamping it in others, the frequency response and timbre (see what we did there?) can be tuned as desired.

The resulting system is compact, efficient, and ultra clean-looking. It also has a natural acoustic advantage: fantastic imaging.

In loudspeaker jargon, the baffle is the front face of a speaker where the driver cone is mounted. A tried-and-true rule in speaker design is that narrower baffles have better imaging because wave reflections and diffraction by the baffle are minimized.

Because the active area of the steel sheet is almost the full width of the speaker, Timbre is effectively "baffleless" in the horizontal listening plane. This results in fantastic imaging qualities and the creation of an immersive stereo soundstage. Add to this the fact that Timbre is a full-range, single-driver system without a crossover to introduce muddling in the midrange, and the difference becomes even more pronounced!

What stage of development is Timbre at?

Timbre began as an abstract vision roughly sketched on a piece of scrap paper. Our physical intuition and understanding of speakers and other resonating mechanical systems suggested that it should work, but to really answer that, we had to try it out. So we did! And it worked -- kinda. And so we changed a few things, and made another prototype. And did this over and over again.

We started out with roughly hewn blocks of plywood with hand-cut steel slapped onto it, and wires running to and from breadboards and amplifier circuits. We tested it by ear with our favorite music.

Now, our prototypes are assembled from CNC-routed hardwood, steel that's cut and sanded to fit, and with nicely soldered amplifier and filter boards inside. We test them with frequency sweeps, using a calibrated microphone for measurement, and confirm our results using a laser vibrometer.

We’ve moved through initial conception, rough and dirty prototyping, and rigorous testing and iterative development. We have made several final working prototypes from production materials, and are confident we are now optimized for manufacturing. The product we ship will look just like you see in the photos and videos on this page.

Now we’re ready to scale up manufacturing and need your help, Kickstarter.

  • We need to move from routing the alder ourselves to getting it done by a professional shop that can do it much faster and better. We’ve already talked to and acquired quotes from a few local shops that we would be happy to work with.
  • We need to integrate our filters and amplifier onto one board that is professionally etched and assembled. We have lined up numerous suppliers who can fabricate these custom electronics, from PCB manufacturing to component placement and soldering.
  • We also need to purchase a large volume of precision cut and bent stainless steel, as well as the various off-the-shelf components. We have lined up one or more suppliers for all these parts.

If we meet our funding target, we will do the final assembly ourselves, using the same methods we have perfected over the last few months -- it’s fast, simple, and we have fun doing it! That being said, if we do end up getting many more orders above our goal, we won’t be overwhelmed -- we’ll be excited! We’ll be able to afford the setup costs of using a custom assembly service to build Timbre. We have examined this option and are confident that we are prepared to make this leap to handle a much larger quantity of orders. 

So how about those rewards?

If you want to support our campaign, the sidebar on the right lists a few ways you can help out, whether or not you're ready for your very own Timbre. Details on some of the rewards are shown below.

  • For those of you with more exotic tastes, we're offering Timbre in a series of exotic hardwoods, pictured below. The exotic hardwood options are a Kickstarter exclusive and will not be offered in standard production.
  • We also have a few premium, specially selected wood options for a more affordable price than the ultra-exotics. Here are some samples:
  • If you can't take the plunge on Timbre quite yet, you can (and should!) still support us! We'll reward you with either a custom Running Farm Labs bottle opener, a T-shirt, or a print of Dave's photography!

Who are we, you ask?

Great question! We're Jon, Dave, and Buddy -- three mechanical engineering grad students at Stanford who like to make nice things. And we're also roommates. Our foray into the world of speakers began a mere two weeks after we moved into our apartment, when we turned our credenza into a 200W subwoofer. The rest, as they say, is history. We've got the determination, the drive, and the technical experience to see this project through to the end, but we can't do it without your support!

Is that all?

For more details and photos check out our Kickstarter bio, or our website at www.runningfarmlabs.com!

Risks and challenges

We've worked hard to minimize risks as we prepare to move from a fully working prototype to mass production. Timbre has already been optimized for manufacturing and all critical parts have one or more suppliers lined up. We've personally gone through manufacturing and assembly of the final design several times to ensure it makes sense in practice and not just on paper.

Of course, risk can't be eliminated entirely. We plan to respond to any unforeseen challenges by being honest and open with you, our supporters.
We'll work hard to ensure that Timbre is produced on schedule -- but we promise never to sacrifice quality to achieve this.

One challenge unique to Timbre is, well, timber -- wood is not often used in manufacturing nowadays because each piece of lumber is slightly different, and you can't just stamp or mold it. It requires craftsmanship and years of experience to really understand the nuances of solid wood. A deluge of orders far above what we expect could strain our primary supply of lumber, but we've lined up multiple other suppliers and woodworking firms in order to minimize this problem if it does arise.

Thanks for stopping by and reading about Timbre -- have a great day!

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FAQ

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    We'll be extremely grateful for your contribution and add you to our list of supporters!

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    A stainless steel, credit card-sized Running Farm Labs bottle opener! It's pretty cool.

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    12 backers
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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Your choice of an awesome Running Farm Labs T-shirt or a 12x18 print (of your choosing) of Dave Heinz's photography!

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    10 backers
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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    A Running Farm Labs T-shirt, a 12x18 print of Dave's photography, and a bottle opener!

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    6 backers
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  5. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    A pair of Timbre desktop speakers at an unbelievable price (all cables included).

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    Reward no longer available 10 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $175 or more About $175

    A pair of Timbre desktop speakers so you can start listening in style.

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    272 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    The premium hardwood package. A pair of Timbre desktop speakers crafted from one of the following premium hardwoods: birch, red oak, maple, walnut, cherry, or African mahogany.

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    24 backers
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    The exotic hardwood package. A pair of Timbre desktop speakers crafted from one of the following exotic hardwoods: teak, pau ferro, zebrawood, leopardwood, wenge, padauk, bubinga, or genuine mahogany.

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    7 backers
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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $2,000 or more About $2,000

    The maker package. Interested in how Timbre is made? Come meet the team and we'll supervise you in the making of your very own pair of Timbre desktop speakers from start to finish (out of the premium or exotic hardwood of your choice, of course)! Afterwards, we'll celebrate a successful day of construction with a delicious dinner in San Francisco. Also, every pair of speakers we ship will include a shout-out to you for being awesome and helping to make Timbre a reality (housing and transportation to the Bay Area not included).

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    Limited 1 backer
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Funding period

- (30 days)