igbloo - No more tinny tunes - No more dodgy docks
IGBLOO IS A SUPER-HIGH-QUALITY BLUETOOTH MUSIC-STREAMING RECEIVER FOR YOUR NON-BLUETOOTH SOUND SYSTEM
You love igbloo, we love igbloo, and it turns out we're not alone.
We've been overwhelmed by the interest igbloo has stirred, from the world's media and some very big names asking for pre-release prototypes to play with, and eventually the real thing.
But we're honoured that BAFTA were so taken by igbloo they want to include one in the highly prestigious Gift Bags given to each of the A-List academy award nominees at the 2014 BAFTAs! Only one week after our Kickstarter launch!
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT IGBLOO
WHAT IS IGBLOO?
Igbloo connects to your non-Bluetooth hi-fi, allowing you to stream your music to your sound system from your phone, iPod, iPad, laptop, PC or any Bluetooth music device in glorious high quality.
Listening to your digital music in the real world, means either plugging your device into something or using Bluetooth.
If you plug into something, it means leaving your device behind, which is bad enough if it's your iPod, but worse still if it's your phone. The other alternative is a set of Bluetooth speakers, but they just don't tend to sound great.
We wanted something better, so we decided to build igbloo.
HOW DOES IGBLOO WORK?
Igbloo connects to your sound system's analogue or optical digital audio-inputs.
Pairing your phone, iPod or any Bluetooth device with igbloo is easy. Just press the button on top of igbloo to put it into pairing mode. And if your Bluetooth device supports it, then igbloo has NFC ( Near Field Communication ) for even easier pairing. Once you've paired your device for the first time, it never needs to be paired again.
That's it! You can now stream the music from your Bluetooth device through your hi-fi in super-high-quality.
SUPER HIGH QUALITY. REALLY?
Oh yes! We were very clear from the word go, igbloo had to be awesome. There are two major points where a device like igbloo could mess up the sound quality:
Problem Area 1: Bluetooth Transport
Most devices use the basic SBC Bluetooth music codec, which is absolutely fine if you're not that picky about how your music sounds. But if you want great quality, it's just not good enough. We spent a lot of time researching and discovered APT-X which dramatically improves the sound quality. Unfortunately most Apple devices don't support APT-X, but they do use a similar quality codec called AAC, so we included that as well!
Problem Area 2: Digital To Analogue Conversion (DAC)
When the music arrives at the Bluetooth receiver, it's a big string of zeros and ones, and needs to be turned back into music. This is a deceptively complicated task. We tested countless DACs, over many months and in the end decided to work with the world-renowned Wolfson DACs used in some of the highest quality audio devices on earth.
The resulting audio reproduction quality of the combination of refining these two factors has absolutely blown us away. It's crystal clear, rich, and retains a wonderfully full dynamic range.
WHY DID WE BUILD IGBLOO?
We originally wanted some way to play music at the office, and allow everyone a turn to play their own tunes. We bought a decent quality set of Bluetooth speakers, but the sound was just a bit too tinny and lifeless. So we bought a nice hi-fi and fitted a dock. The sound was great, but we found loads of problems. For example:
1) When the phone rang, someone had to run up to the hi-fi to turn it down, or had to find the remote, which was always on the desk of someone who'd just gone to the loo!
2) When you wanted to take your turn to play your music, you had to do the big handover, swapping your phone or iPod for the last person's, and then you've left your device behind, which is guaranteed to either ring, or become needed for some other reason!
3) In order to make it compatible with everyone's phone or iPod, we had to keep changing adapters.
It just didn't work. So we started looking at Bluetooth receivers we could plug into our hi-fi, but what we found was that none of them were good enough. As we started testing device after device, we found that most of them sounded pretty bad, but those that sounded good didn't have very good connectivity, so we couldn't take advantage of our digital optical in, or we had to use a splitter cable to split from the 3.5mm jack to our RCA Phono inputs. Those that had decent connectivity had poor Bluetooth connectivity, or kept dropping out.
And so started the obsession which has been igbloo.
WHAT'S GREAT ABOUT IGBLOO?
We've spent most of this year obsessed by igbloo, and making it the best Bluetooth audio receiver possible. We think the most important elements are the sound quality, having enough audio-connectivity options, ensuring it is easy to use, that it's reliable, and that it looks great.
Igbloo uses the APT-X and AAC codecs for incredible improvements in audio transport quality across the Bluetooth link, meaning the audio is cleaner, crisper and far higher quality than standard Bluetooth streamed music.
We're using the world-renowned Wolfson DACs (Digital To Analogue Conversion) used in some of the world's highest quality audio devices, which means the music is reproduced beautifully. This kind of technology is what sets audio devices apart.
Our line-level amplification is the result of months of iteration after iteration to create the cleanest sound we could with the fullest dynamic range.
And if your device has a digital optical in, then extremely unusually for a device like this, igbloo is fitted with digital optical out, giving you a 100% pure digital signal through to your sound system.
Igbloo comes with two analogue outputs (a 3.5mm jack, and a pair of RCA Phono connectors), as well as a digital optical out meaning it'll connect to almost any sound system.
Ease Of Use:
Pair your device to igbloo once, and from then onwards, igbloo will quietly wait, always ready to stream your music to your hi-fi.
Pairing is made simple, and even simpler if your Bluetooth device is NFC ( Near Field Communication ) enabled.
Even powering igbloo is easy, either from a wall socket, or from the included USB cable, which means you can power it directly from your PC, Laptop, or most recent TVs and sound systems.
We're used to building high tech systems such as critical safety tracking technology for the FIA World Rally Championship. But we don't rest on our laurels. The manufacturing processes, testing procedures, quality control, and component quality are all of prime importance to us. It is crucial to us that we maintain a great reputation, and that igbloo is known as the best device of it's kind available anywhere in the world.
We don't want something ugly next to our audio equipment any more than you do. We went through many variations of design, and even employed a product design agency at one point, but we ended up with lots of over-the-top designs, with flashy stripes and jazzy features.
In the end, we took igbloo back to basics, and decided to let the highest quality materials, and a pure, clean and elegant design do the talking. We decided that nothing could be in the design which wasn't required, making the design functional as well as beautiful.
The super-high-gloss finish looks great next to high-end audio equipment, and the rubberised, soft-touch base not only looks great, but also keeps it planted on shiny surfaces.
We absolutely love the design now, and while the form followed function, in this case, the name followed the form. As soon as we saw it, the name "igbloo" was born.
HOW DID WE CREATE IGBLOO?
It has been hard work building igbloo, but it's also been a lot of fun. We've learnt a lot along the way, and we think we've managed to apply some new ideas from our work in world motor sport, into the wonderfully complicated and intricate subject of audio reproduction.
We started off using off-the-shelf components to get an initial proof of concept working, and while it technically did the job, it just didn't sound any better than other devices on the market. So we soon realised (and were secretly all quite excited about it!) we were going to have to design everything from scratch.
We also realised we needed to be less subjective and put in place measurable ways of deciding if a new development was an improvement or a negative. So we started analysing the differences between the source and transmitted audio, which greatly helped us to evaluate different components and circuitry iterations.
We quickly reached a stage where we had a prototype working. We could connect, and stream music. But the disappointment then started as we realised it just wasn't any better quality than many of the devices we'd already tested, but we couldn't decide where the quality loss was.
Eventually we realised, quality loss was happening almost everywhere, and at every stage. So we evaluated Bluetooth codecs, DACs, and line-level amplification.
Over the course of a few months, we ended up with a first proper prototype, which was built on all of the technology and learnings we'd developed so far.
It was good, but just not good enough!
We felt it might still be possible to improve things further, so we started talking to Wolfson, and after testing their DACs (Digital to Analogue Converter) there was no looking back. Wolfson DACs lived up to their world-famous name in our eyes, and the quality of audio was raised to a whole new level.
But we still wanted that little bit more, and decided to include a digital optical path so that people who had systems with a digital optical input could take advantage of the pure digital signal.
The challenges weren't limited to the electronics. Once we'd decided on the igbloo design, we wanted to make sure it looked great in the flesh, that it felt nice to hold, and that it had a nice tactile quality to the button.
We're so delighted with the result, and we can't wait to hear from the Kickstarter community for your feedback.
This version of the prototype uses a simpler Bluetooth module, without NFC, and the lights and sequences will be much improved, but it has all the other goodies onboard.
and here it is in action (beautifully presented by the slightly over-excitable Chris! :):
Yes, he did say "it's time to chill"! :)
We absolutely love igbloo. But we’re also firm believers in listening to what others have to say, and with the help of the Kickstarter community, we can get valuable feedback before launch.
We also love music and believe devices like igbloo should be uncompromising in terms of reproduction quality. We believe in the perfect marriage of quality, functionality and style – and this is why we’ve decided to reach out to the fellow music lovers around the world.
With the support of the Kickstarter community, we're going to fund the initial high quality tooling, the circuitry manufacture and the initial product run.
In return, we're making sure that igbloo's Kickstarter backers will be the first people in the world to receive their igbloo.
PRODUCTION AND FULFILLMENT PLAN
When new tech comes out, we want it straight away. So we've carefully planned a slick production and fulfillment strategy to ensure the Kickstarter community gets their igbloos as fast as possible while still ensuring a very special level of quality.
This will be in two batches. The first to receive their igbloos will be the FIRST BATCH SPECIAL reward levels, shortly followed by the remainder of Kickstarter rewards, prior to igbloo being released to the wider market.
We intend to place the initial orders for tooling mid way through the kickstarter campaign, as soon as we have confidence we'll reach our target.
ABOUT THE TEAM
Lee is a senior technology engineer, with over 20 years experience of electronic design. In his work he’s keenly focused on innovation in design and functionality, and develops technologies for industries such as motorsport and automotive. When not sat in front of a circuit board he’s out hiking, taking pictures with his latest Canon SLR.
Simon’s background is in software development and design, and running several businesses focusing on innovative technology online services, product development, motorsport technology and intellectual property. In his personal life, Simon is passionate about music, which has led to the creation of igbloo, and holds the Guinness World Record for the longest drift / power-slide in a car.
Risks and challenges
We're very excited and optimistic about igbloo, but as with everything, there are risks that we have to take into consideration.
One such risk could be a delay via the manufacturers, however, we’re engineers and product designers so we already have existing relationships with the manufacturers involved in igbloo and we believe they are the best people for this project. We believe they will do a great job.
Similarly, we have to consider unforeseen challenges in the production phase. Again, we don't anticipate this as being an issue but we’re the type of guys and girls who look ahead so that we’re conscious of where potential delays could come about and we’ll be ready with an action plan if it does.
As we're perfectionists, there's also some chance of spec changes if we find that we can further improve the sound quality, but, hey, that's a good thing!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (32 days)