About Stephen

Technology Product Innovator

Why I like the Sonos PLAY:1… (part 2 – adding stereo and bass)

In my earlier blog article I commented on the first rate fit and finish of the new Sonos PLAY:1.  This time I want to share some of my experiences combining different Sonos pieces – I wanted to configure different systems for more functionality and performance compared with typical usage of the Sonos products.  What I found was that the products were surprisingly configurable.  This aspect of Sonos system capability is admirable and probably not accidental – I think it a result of their considering all the possibilities and testing them exhaustively.


In this article I will share my experiences setting up a Sonos 2.1 system (pair of speakers plus a subwoofer) including some less-than-obvious configurations combining Sonos and non-Sonos equipment.  Continue reading

What Killed Apple’s AirPlay?

By Stephen Shenefield

The Apple team has succeeded over the years because they continue to offer a premium user experience – what many call “easy to use” – but which really extends to all aspects of working with the company and its products.  Apple products are easy to buy, and relatively easy to set up and use.

Apple’s AirPlay is a networked (usually Wi-Fi-based) streaming audio system that allows the owner to choose music from iTunes (PC or Mac) or an iOS device (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch) and play it on a compatible Apple-certified AirPlay audio product.  In the case of Apple’s own Apple TV, it is possible to play videos as well, or photos, from a modern Mac or iOS device.

Apples’ AirPlay for many people has been a disappointment because it simply doesn’t Continue reading

If the highest note on a guitar is below 1000 Hz, why do you need a tweeter?

From the Boston Acoustics Blog Archives (circa 2011, updated 2013)

If you pick up an acoustic guitar (depending on the design of the neck) and play the top E-string on the top fret, you are playing B, at about 988 Hz. Some electrics even go a couple notes higher. A quick look at speaker specs will show a transition to the littlest driver, the tweeter, somewhere around 2,500 to 3,500 Hz, and the tweeter specializes in the highest frequency range, up to 20,000 Hz or higher.

Of course you would point out that a piccolo goes even higher than the guitar. How high? The top note on Continue reading

Why I like the Sonos PLAY:1 (part 1)

Sonos products are heavily reviewed so I won’t comment on the usual things like sound and set-up, even though these are well-done and fully in line with the Sonos experience.

Slam dancing to Sonos Play:1

Slam dancing to Sonos PLAY:1

What really strikes me about the PLAY:1 is the attention to fit and finish, especially the subtle design details that – I suspect – many people would take for granted. For instance, Continue reading

Passive loudspeakers – why do they still exist?

A walk around last week’s135th Audio Engineering Society Convention at the Javits Center New York reminded me again of how passive (non-self-amplified) speakers seem like antiques, despite their continued dominance in high end home audio. Studio monitor speakers are pretty much all self-amplified “active” designs.

At a basic level, amplified sound consists of electrical amplification, to make the electrical signal “bigger,” and speaker transducers, to turn that signal into sound waves. The first step is purely electrical; the second is electrical and mechanical. There is no law that says these must be together or separate, so why does it matter? Continue reading

Juggling Remotes (or How to Really Piss Off Your Family)

From the Boston Acoustics Blog Archives (circa 2011)

OK, I have to admit, as a product designer I try many products out, including my competitor’s products. Because I try these products – like home theater gear – in my real life (a.k.a. my real living room), I am not the only test subject. So imagine what happens when I leave my wife and two kids with a new system, with a new remote, and no me to keep it running. TROUBLE! I get calls, usually when I am boarding an airplane or walking into a meeting: Continue reading

The new Boston Acoustics TVee One – just released!

I am very proud of the new Boston Acoustics TVee One “speaker base.” I was heavily involved in the specifying and development of this product. The $349.99 TVee One functions like a soundbar, fits under the TV stand, and requires no separate subwoofer. In planning the product a year ago, we looked carefully at the competition, which at the time included just ZVOX, the patriarch of the soundbase category, and Bose, who had just entered the market with a very simple product (perfect for the masses). Bose’s product sells like hotcakes and has “legitimized” the market in a way that no other brand can. I am sure ZVOX is both flattered and terrified!

Anyway, the Boston Acoustics TVee One is built wider and sturdier than the Bose Continue reading

What does a product manager do?

What does a product manager do?

The product manager gathers data – about the competition, market conditions, current product performance, etc. – and uses these to construct a product vision and strategy that support the company’s overall goals. This strategy leads to a product roadmap, and in turn individual product definitions.

The product manager works within the company’s financial targets and develops an expected return on investment. Included in this analysis is Continue reading