Yokoyama:We set out to design the sound system as a straightforward, all-in-one product. What we had in mind for the dock speaker was something that could be used as easily as putting a drink into a cup holder. This inevitably called to mind the styling of a commuter mug.
Our first concern was about how large it would seem. We wanted to keep it no taller than a 500 ml bottle, but the lack of standards in vehicle cup holders made this difficult. Our engineers took the initiative and measured the diameter and depth of cup holders in their own cars and cars at dealer showrooms. We probably collected data for 300 models of cars. Knowing this, the size of the internal components, and the cubic volume needed for good sound quality helped us determine the size and shape.
Meanwhile, we were also busy exploring structural possibilities. The Sound Mug is a 1.1 channel speaker with the woofer on bottom and tweeter on top. In between, a "diffuser" produces a 360° soundstage. We thought that accentuating these elements would clarify how sound is produced. Toward this end, I suggested leaving the diffuser exposed and even adopting vivid colors for it. It's a reversal of the usual approach, where designers try to conceal required mechanical details by hiding them behind mesh or coloring them black.
Together, these layered components form a neat capsule. Vehicle cabins tend to look quite practical and streamlined, and to match this interior design, we had to eliminate any excessive protrusions or indentations.
Yokoyama:Vehicle cabins are a crossroads of many technologies. Here, a variety of needs are intertwined in complex ways-the need for durability, usability, safety when driving, and so on. In-vehicle equipment must therefore meet strict engineering standards unlike those required of home audio products.
Thanks to engineers familiar with these standards, the Sound Mug cleared the formidable hurdles involved. For example, surfaces are fully UV-coated. Even the diffuser is UV-coated, which might be considered overkill. But because cabins are exposed to direct sunlight over extended periods and constant vibration in motion, careful protective measures are needed to prevent fading and other damage.
The same strict standards apply to car audio controls and user interfaces. That's why the knob has a grippy, rubbery texture, and we narrowed down the controls to the essentials-power and volume. It's easy to use by touch, so you can keep your eyes on the road. A shuttle dial mechanism is used for volume control. That's because it would be dangerous to turn a dial repeatedly when driving, but what facilitates operation in your car also makes the Sound Mug easier to use at home.
The audio quality is impressive for a device that looks this simple and compact; you would never guess it from the appearance or price. But to hint at the unit's performance and the technology it packs, we chose metallic finishes. Many coats are applied. After a silver base coat, the colors are applied, followed by a clear coat and finally, a UV coating. You can tell the difference in the depth of the colors. This pure luxuriousness is what you would expect from designers united by a desire to make good products.