The Transparent Speaker by People People launched its Kickstarter campaign back in December and was quickly able to find funding for its funky glass speaker. People People is showing the Transparent Speaker this week at CES 2013, but weeks before the show I had a chance to check it out at a private demo in New York.
The Transparent Speaker's industrial glass-and-metal design makes it look different than any other home audio speaker I've seen. The glass panels make the entire cabinet heavy; I was worried about dropping it, even though I was assured the glass was strong enough to withstand a tumble.
There's a metal face plate on the front, with just simple controls for volume, bass and treble. It feels exceptionally solidly made, although I would have liked even small labels for the knobs -- at least just "volume." There's also a minijack input on the bottom right corner.
The frame of the Transparent Speaker is constructed with aluminum framing, with specially designed corner brackets told hold everything in place. The sample I looked at was a little beat up, but I expect that was more a function of the speaker being heavily transported for demos.
So it looks cool, but how do you actually play any music on it? Well, there are two minijack inputs (one back, one front), but it's mostly designed to be used with an AirPort Express, pushed into a slot in the back. That makes the Transparent Speaker AirPlay-friendly, although you do have to supply your own AirPort Express on top of the already-pricey projected price of $800.
Conceptually, People People says the slot on the back should be able to adapt to different kinds of wireless standards. Want Bluetooth? Pop a Bluetooth adapter in the back. It's an interesting idea, although I have a suspicious other adapters won't fit quite as nicely as the AirPort Express, which the Transparent Speaker was clearly designed for.