Balmuda, the Tokyo-based appliance brand best known for its steam-powered toaster that promises “the ultimate aroma and texture” for your morning slice, has combined all its knowledge of heat and water and has come up with.. … a glowing Bluetooth speaker.
Such credentials wouldn’t normally get us excited to test it with a view to adding it to our best Bluetooth speaker buying guide. And then there’s the price: $399 (that’s about £329 or AU$599) – hardly a bargain.
Thing is, we’re intrigued… After all, if a supposedly licensed toaster from (if not officially announced) the XBox Series S is possible, then why not get a decent Bluetooth speaker from a company more accustomed to making breakfast equipment?
And while McIntosh still makes one of the most beautiful Bluetooth speakers I’ve ever seen, Balmuda the Speaker (for that’s what it’s called – the company’s catalog also includes Balmuda the Lantern, Balmuda the Kettle, and of course Balmuda the Toaster) does a appeal to the same top hi-fi aesthetic. It’s the kind of thing that makes us think “Ooh, are those tube amps?”
They’re not – those three tubes contain LEDs that can be set to ‘Beat’, ‘Ambient’ or ‘Candle’ modes, but Balmuda assures us that the lights are precisely synchronized at a rate of 0.004 seconds.
And Balmuda’s founder and CEO, General Terao, spent his formative years in a rock band, so it was a natural ambition to want to design a loudspeaker that can replicate the thrilling sensation of live music, culminating in the launch of the speaker in October 2022.
Opinion: Despite being a hugely successful steam-powered toaster, Balmuda the Speaker seems a little hot
Lo and behold, the Apple HomePod 2 is fresh off the production lines, with smart Siri speech, multi-room audio and stunning spatial audio sound quality (albeit with less impact than the original Apple HomePod) and it will only cost you $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’s able to challenge winning flagship speakers from audio greats at the level , even better.
The product received attention and praise, winning Esquire’s 2022 Gadget Award for “Best Bluetooth Speaker”. But could this, like the admittedly beautiful Nothing Ear Stick earbuds, be a matter 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 to hear it…
Until such an opportunity arises, our guide to the best wireless speakers has plenty of excellent alternatives from names like Sonos, Bowers & Wilkins, Naim, Sony and Marshall…