UA1 is the debut product of Finnish loudspeaker company Uploud Audio which I founded with Lassi Laitinen. We wanted to bring the gospel of high end audio to the people who normally don't buy high end audio. Design and quality conscious urban couples were the core of our target group; they've had hard time finding products to fullfil their conflicting needs. By making real hifi loudspeakers seamless part of home decor we were able to solve complex equation of audio aspirations, living room coziness and marital harmony.
Uploud Audio UA1 is a compact 2-way speaker which is ideal for small to medium sized urban living rooms and public spaces. It can be wall-mounted in four orientations or placed on desktop or shelf. Even ceiling mounting is an option for the die-hard home cinema enthusiast. Wall mounting is the easiest imaginable: only one screw is needed and the speaker always finds its balance.
UA1 is mass customizable with Speakerwear, which is fabric cover tailor-made for it. Speakerwear hides all techy parts and makes the speaker a lot cozier. If your home decor changes, you can always get a matching colour for your speakers. Current portfolio is 16 colours including both trendy and classic tones.
Technology is matching in its simplicity. All sound propagates from a single point, no reflex ports or other secondary sound sources are used. Only one capacitor and one inductor are used in the crossover. When combined with coaxial speaker driver, this first order filtering creates en exceptionally phase coherent, precise and easy-to-listen sound.
Enclosure of UA1 is designed with form follows function mantra in mind. Lack of parallel walls inside the box eliminates internal resonances. This combined with loads of damping material produces smooth and uncolored midrange. Wedge shaped enclosure also helps in smoothing out the rear reflection when wall mounted.
I've suffered from green thumb for almost a decade now. Gardening in various forms has been important and effective counterbalance for hectic work life. I wanted to make My master thesis from this field.
I've been interested in hydroponic and aeroponic growing techniques for long time. They are great advances from soil based gardening and are really helpful in indoor gardens where space is a scarce resource. I had a brilliant opportunity to apply My previous know-how from this field in a project briefed by Tregren. They wanted a vertical hydroponic system that would be scalable, easy to maintain and produces staggering growing results.
Vertie project focused on finding appropriate product architecture and functional division between components. In the current marketplace there were very few vertical systems that would work in normal household setting. Handful of working greenhouse solutions existed but they needed some serious "domestication." Balancing waterproofness, modularity and aesthetic matters was a very challenging puzzle indeed. In lack of predecessor designs, I had to do lot more from scratch than in normal incremental design projects.
Vertie consists of a few different modules: plant holder, water storage, water distribution and lighting being the main ones. Water is pumped into a distribution module which spreads it into a thin water stream. Gravity then pulls water back down through numerous angled growth modules which hold plant pots in place. Plant pots are watered from below which eventually attracts roots to follow the stream.
Lighting is provided by LED lamps which have two pivot points. Changing light direction and intensity can guide the plants to grow in desired way. Vertie can be also used without lamps for example in balconies and well lit spaces.
Plant pots are held in place with proprietary spike mechanism. It utilizes the holes which are in the bottom of every single salad and herb pot available in supermarkets. This method allows using plant pots ranging from tiny 40mm salad pot up to a massive 160mm pots used with decorative greens.
Extensive prototyping and testing was conducted to validate watering method and growth results. The shown protoype pictures are from a test period arranged in garden department of Stockmann general store. Even this relatively early version ran smoothly for over a year with minimal maintenance.
Vertie is protected with international patents and will be also available as a freestanding version. The product is currently going through design finalization and production planning stages.
Levitation IV is a high-end turntable concept which is stripped bare from all techy "fetish elements" often plaguing these devices. At the same time it is a homage to some of the most innovative technologies in the turntable market. Some of the best vinyl spinners made today use a very different driving force in various functionalities: pressurized air.
Levitation IV goes all the way with this approach, both visually and functionally. The platter is driven, centered and levitated by steady air flow. No need for bearings, suspensions or lubrication there. As the drive mechanism is essentially a turbine, different playback speeds are achieved by simply letting more air to the engine. The record is clamped by reversing the airflow momentarily which causes suction. The linear tracking tonearm floats smoothly on air-bearing glide rail. Different functionalities are controlled by a network of calibrated flow regulator valves. The turntable is completely free of on-board electronics.
With Levitation IV concept I wanted to demonstrate that high-end performance is compatible with effortless, light and inviting aesthetics. Hence the rail of the tonearm is flipped below the plinth to keep things nice and simple. To complement this design, the tonearm has laminated foil conductors instead of traditional wires. Record speed switch is likewise hidden under the plinth, highlighting the selected number.
Visually Levitation IV is a dialogue of flat opaque surfaces and solid transparent volumes. Glass plinth with printed graphics underneath gives a very light and airy feel to the turntable. Instead of top surface, the shadows and graphic elements appear on the bottom of the volume which produces an illusion of floating.
In a product category where massive builds and visible mechanisms are the norm, Levitation IV is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Simo floor lamp is a re-interpretation of traditional Finnish "luminaire" which precedes even candles in some parts of the country. Burning thin slices of wood ("päre") on a stick was one of the very few ways of banishing the darkness in the old times.
In Simo the short-lived combustion is replaced by an almost infinitely shining array of LEDs. Electricity is kept hidden as much as possible: there are no bulbs, wires, or buttons visible. LEDs are laminated in between the layers of plywood veneers. For height adjustment, simply slide the LED stick up and down the copper rods. Simo can also be turned horizontally up to 270 degrees.
The structural rods double as conductors delivering the power to the diodes. To turn on the lamp, simply tap the rod gently: a capacitive dimmer switch is activated. Pedestal also houses the 24 volt DC power supply.
Whiteboard Trolley was designed to complement the Flipmode product range manufactured by Finnish office furniture manufacturer Coolsome Ltd. It is used for storing and moving around up to eight magnetic double-sided whiteboards.
The trolley allows users to ideate freely in various meeting rooms and have always their physical tools available. While clouds and digital tools are ubiquitous nowadays, there are some occasions in which good ol´ markers, post-its and magnets are indispensable.
Whiteboards are placed between metal rod spacers in the trolley. They prevent the writings getting smudged and magnets moving. The center of gravity is kept very low to make moving the cart around as smooth as possible.
This product is manufactured in Salo, Finland. The materials used are durable bent steel tubes and rods which are welded together in high-precision jigs. The trolley is chromium coated to blend seamlessly among other office furniture. The Italian design castors by OGTM complement the style perfectly.
Sgreen was a project commissioned by Martela Oy which is biggest contract furniture manufacturer in Finland. This project was the pinnacle of my bachelor studies in University of Arts and Design Helsinki. It was done in PDP course (product development project) between 2008-2009. The annual class is arranged in Otaniemi campus at Design Factory which is interdisciplinary creative hub. I was the project manager of nine person student team which included members from design, agro-biology, economics and engineering backgrounds.
The brief we got from Martela was very challenging and way ahead of the curve compared to the competitors. We were asked to build a living space divider which would sustain living plants without traditional soil based growing. The system also had to include lamps to ensure well-being and growth of plants even during the darkest months. In consumer market hydroponic and aeroponic solutions were in total infancy back in those days. This meant we had very few existing products against which to compare our creations.
The key lessons learned from this project were on the meta level. Working in teams is familiar for industrial designers from day one but being a project manager was completely new for Me. The experience wasn't entirely positive and at times I felt like pushing the whole team uphill. Level of people's motivation can vary a great deal in student projects and there is very little the project manager can do if team members don't deliver. This experience taught Me a great deal of leadership, patience and understanding of group dynamics.
Our final design wasn't too bad but it could have improved a great deal if we just had gotten few weeks more time. We were struggling for a long time with two concepts that were if not crappy then not particularly great either. Then all of a sudden I got a rush of inspiration when the stars aligned and gods of creativity were smiling. I pretty much drew the final concept in one go. Right before we were supposed to start developing final prototypes we started from a clean slate with the new concept.
The finalized Sgreen consisted of vertical "totem poles" with holes on both sides. Below each hole there was a place for hydroponic growing basket filled with volcanic rock pebbles. The system becomes stable when a few poles are joined together which automatically starts forming an arc shape out of them. Pivoting luminaires can be placed between each pole into the snapping connector pieces.
Each growing tower had a five liter water reservoir in the bottom. The system had two water pipelines running between the towers. One was for lifting water up to the topmost plant pots. The other pipeline connected the water reservoirs together. The water levels of individual towers were automatically balanced with hydrostatic pressure.
Although the Sgreen concept wasn't adopted by Martela for production, it became clear that we were onto something with it. In the coming years the marketplace of hydroponics was flooded with almost similar concepts with only slightly more refined product architecture. There was also sheer bad luck with the timing as the great depression really started kicking in right when the project finished.
This little gizmo is a bio-impedance measurement device for smart injection needles. They are novel way of improving safety and accuracy of epidural anesthesia and taking biopsy samples. I did this project as a Summer job for Injeq when I was young and pretty master student.
During the project I participated in user-study in academic hospital and observed field-testing of early prototypes in laboratory. Based on this data, I developed a portfolio of concepts for guiding the design of ergonomics, interface layouts and overall form factor. Multiple manufacturing methods and structural options were also explored.
Due to confidentiality restrictions, I can only exhibit this one concept out of larger set of designs. In this concept, the interface is characterized by haptic buttons which are necessary as the operator has rubber gloves on at all times. Gyro aligns layout depending on the handedness of the user. USB-port is used for charging and data extraction.
Matryoshka, babushka, nesting doll. The classical beloved kitsch souvenir goes by many names. With the Mabu concept I wanted to emphasize the layers by stripping matryoshka from decorations and to play with expectations.
Everybody knows that under each layer of matryoshka there is a new layer. What it looks like, that's the unknown. Mabu shows all layers at once but still holds a surprise. Subtractive colour theory is beautifully demonstrated with red, green and blue layers of Mabu. Dark colorless glass is in fact red which is simply filtered through the outer layers.
Designing packages is something I never considered as My calling, but our paths have crossed several times. After the initial struggle of working with completely different materials and manufacturing methods, I gradually learned to like the art of cuts and creases. One could say I have a slight tendency to over-engineer cardboard. Judge for yourself.
The cases shown here are a mish-mash of packages from recent years.
1. Uploud Audio UA1 package
I designed an upgrade for the support structure inside the package of UA1 loudspeaker. Original version made by a Finnish packaging company was less than satisfactory to say the least. My version was very ambitious but delivered way above expectations.
2. Flipmode package re-design
While being an inhouse designer at Coolsome Ltd. I did a complete overhaul for the package of Flipmode wall panel system. The product is rather large and weighs a whopping 35 kilos per unit. This meant tremendous requirements for durability when up to 11 products are stacked per pallet. The design is due to launch in Q1-2/2018.
3. Plywood box for Lumia phones
This was one of my last projects as a student in Aalto University, done in experimental package design course. Only brief presented by Nokia was that I had to use heat-bendable UPM Grada plywood as the main material. I decided to use the packaging as a camera obscura and turn the smartphone into luminance meter, darkroom light source and exposure timer. Because obviously.
Spintone was My competition entry to Plootu Fennica 2014 which searches and promotes the most innovative sheet metal designs. The concept received a honorary mention in the Designer Series.
This loudspeaker operates fundamentally differently compared to traditional box speakers. Spintone works just like it looks like it would: it has horizontal dispersion of 360 degrees for optimal sound. Ordinary speakers has sweet spot of roughly 30-40 degrees.
Spintone is a 3-way loudspeaker. Bass frequencies up to 300 Hz are covered by Scanspeak Revelator subwoofer in the bottom of the enclosure. This placement eliminates much of the "floor dip" which troubles many compact floor speakers in upper bass region. Midrange and treble are handled by a coaxial driver by SEAS. Acoustic lens reflects high pitch sounds and makes them go horizontally instead of hitting the ceiling. Midrange is housed in a resistance enclosure, which leaks opposite phase sound in a controlled manner. This causes partial cancellation of midrange sound going towards the floor. It also harmonizes the dispersion patterns of midrange and tweeter drivers.
The resulting sound is well balanced regardless of where you listen to it. Spintone speakers are best placed in relatively long spaces where they can provide music for both more focused listening as well as for casual background playback. This way you can actually walk through the "holographic" soundstage created by the speakers: on the other side the left-right axis is simply reversed. Omnidirectional sound can be characterized as airy, natural, big and it "sounds like it's coming from nowhere."
When it comes to manufacturing, Spintone is nothing short of ambitious. It utilizes CNC-controlled water jet cutting for the blanks. The curved shape is achieved by CNC metal spinning process which presses the blanks into finalized forms. The perforated openings are done in automated lathe + milling combo station. Enclosure is a compound structure made in two layers which separates air volumes and eliminates vibrations.
Böja is swedish and means "to bend". The other "j" is there because we Northern Finns like double consonants.
Böjja is a competition entry from 2015. I have always liked the plants growing near coastlines and was inspired by bulrush / cattail (typha latifolia). They change with seasons and indicate weather patterns accurately. This swaying motion was what I attempted to capture in this garden luminaire.
The stem of the luminaire is a very thin black composite tube. Actual light emitter is circular array of LEDs pointed downwards in a tight beam. The grooved tip made of machined aluminium acts as a large heatsink for LEDs and catches the wind to create motion.
When in operation, Böjja luminaire itself is only barely visible. It much rather draws the focus to the target it illuminates. It is a timeless choice eg. for flowerbeds or near garden pathways.
Horn is an age old way of amplifying sound without electricity. On very basic terms it focuses sound energy into certain direction and provides better coupling to the air for the sound source. To function correctly any horn loudspeaker design needs meticulous simulations and calculations. After all, it's just pure physics in action.
Funnel is a horn loudspeaker concept I did mostly just for fun. I wanted to take the very symbol of sound reproduction and turn it into a speaker. Funnel balances two very different loudspeaker working principles: dipole radiation pattern and horn loading. The loudspeaker emits sound also backwards due to open rear side. The horn functionality provides strong presence of music performance while the rear reflections give additional airiness to the sound.
Despite being very bold shape, the large horn doesn't look heavy and intimidating because it's not hooked on a large speaker box. The Funnel rests on a home-decor friendly version of a PA tripod. Brass and cork detailing are both timeless and at the moment very fashionable finishing touches.
This speaker is best used with relatively high crossover point of 200-250 Hz in order to avoid heavy equalizing and keeping cone excursion in reasonable limits.
UA2 is flexible bass solution designed to complement Uploud Audio UA1. Home cinemas and music systems in larger spaces are typical situations in which additional boom and oomph are welcome addition for UA1 speakers.
Key idea of UA2 was to leave the floor intact. Big part of the UA1's appeal is that it doesn't have practically any spatial footprint. I wanted to design a bass speaker that would seamlessly continue the style of UA1 and allow multiple placement options. I was well aware that one size wouldn't provide the capacity for all needs. That's why UA2 allows scaling from one unit basic system to megalomaniac setup with four bass modules. And it's not just a subwoofer. I wanted the UA1 + UA2 combo to form the whole wall speaker portfolio of Uploud Audio.
UA2 has a built in passive crossover which does low-pass for subwoofer drivers. It also provides a dedicated speaker level output for UA1 speaker which has a fixed high-pass filtering. This way the two speakers actually form a big 3-way passive loudspeaker. You can even hook two UA2s in series to double the power handling and further improve sound quality. And there is only one cable going to the whole speaker combo.
The crossover is easy to bypass which allows the user to have his/her own DSP and amplification for both UA1 and UA2. This is a natural choice for home cinemas which nowadays are based on highly configurable AV-receivers. In LFE mode the UA2 handles bass from the whole speaker setup as opposed to the individual channel in passive mode.
UA2 gets its kick from two 6,5 inch subwoofer drivers made by Norwegian high-end manufacturer SEAS. These may sound small for a subwoofer but wait until you hear them. These little guys allow massive cone excursions and take in more power than your neighbor is okay with.
As a recap, here's the complete list of possible UA2+UA1 configurations.
- 2.1 traditional stereo setup, active filtering
- 2.1 soundbar stereo, active filtering
- 2.2 passive three-way, vertical layout
- 2.2 active three-way, vertical layout
- 2.4 passive threeway, vertical layout
- 2.4 active threeway, vertical layout
- 4.1 in LFE mode, LR+sub soundbar layout
- 4.1 in LFE mode, traditional layout
- 5.2 in LFE mode (or 7.2 etc.), LCR + subs soundbar layout
- 5.2 in LFE mode (or 7.2 etc.), C+subs soundbar layout
- 5.2 in LFE mode (or 7.2 etc.), vertical layout
- 5.4 in LFE mode (or 7.4 etc.), vertical layout
- Last but not least, for those of you who are completely hifi crazed: You can build a friggin' Double Bass Array with UA2s.
UA2 will be launched when design is fully finished and production funding matters are sorted out.
Oppirahat was my first attempt of doing a very serious high-end speaker. A tailor-made one all for my own needs. I wanted to create an active loudspeaker which would sound crystal clear even at low levels and have radically different form factor. The project was done during Autumn 2009.
Oppirahat is a Finnish expression for the costs of initiation to a profession or other aspiration. Given that I had rather little experience on speaker design, the components I used were an order of magnitude too fancy. The ceramic drivers by Accuton sound fantastic but require very skillful cross-over design and acoustic measurement in order to reap the maximum rewards. The amplification and signal processing was done with Hypex AS2.100 DSP plate amp which is an amazing piece of hardware. At least when it works.
The enclosure design was done with cost-no-object principle. I wanted to give My fancy high-end drivers the best possible conditions to work in. Box design is a vented 16 liter enclosure with a down-firing port. It has diffraction optimized curvature on the facade and abundant diffuser shapes for breaking echoes inside the box.
Enclosure is laminated from CNC-cut layers of 21mm birch plywood, 42 of them per speaker to be exact. This method gave Me a total freedom of design but came at a cost. The initially good idea of assembling the layers with glued-in wooden rods quickly backfired as the plywood started to shrink in the dry indoor air. Small gaps emerged between layers as the rods prevented even shrinking of the stack. It took ridiculous amount of time and filler paste to seal these gaps. Sanding and polishing the boxes also took many more hours than I dare to count.
All in all, the project was successful in its goals. It sounded almost as good as I wanted except for the bass which didn't quite have the punch I was after. I imagined these to be My long time companions for the years to come. This of course couldn't be further from the truth. As I really got sucked into the topic, new projects and purchases would soon replace these speakers...
What does an audio entrepreneur do for living? Although My title was Lead Designer, most of daily chores were anything but design. My key responsibilities were in the field of tangible matters and sales projects.
The most time consuming part of running a business is doing the sales. Our products are not cheap which means one needs to go the extra mile to close the deals. We put great deal of effort in personalized sales and marketing material, tailored for each customer or event. We regard our customers as individuals and do our best to find the very best solutions to his/her/their specific needs.
Being the designer of the product it was really insightful to also do the final assembly and testing. Every decision done in CAD program had its consequences and they indeed materialized on the factory floor. Being in charge of the whole chain gives uniquely holistic approach for product design. This also meant I had pretty good idea of what I was selling to our customers. I also did bulk of our B2B installations which meant I got to know how our products performed in real life situations and what our customers did with them.
Running a young company means that customers don't automatically find you, it is you who has to go to them. This means spending countless hours in trade shows, sales events and on the field in customers' places. Fluent sales pitch is not something that you either have or don't have, it is something that gets better with practice. And I can say I got pretty good at that stuff after few thousand repetitions. Running a road show also gives a routine of hauling massive piles of stuff from one place to another and building exhibition booths in no time.
Another big chunk of work in Uploud Audio was doing graphics for sales and marketing materials, packaging, business cards and what not. Massaging piles of RAW-images and brochures was something that I disliked at first but learned to enjoy to some extent once I got the hang of it.
The most important learning however is the entrepreneur's mentality. I will probably carry it until My grave. Understanding that the customer is one's employer produces fundamental difference in how you interact, what you demand from yourself and how much you appreciate the the hard earned money. And they don't teach that in schools.
AV-receivers have relied exclusively on the traditional form factor of rack mounted equipment. This standard width has since started to live life of its own audio although consumer audio is nowadays very rarely mounted in racks. After the era of multi box hifi setups and with proliferation of compact audio systems the customers have good reasons to ask whether the AV-receiver format is still relevant or not.
Current televisions are quite large already and are getting bigger all the time. They occupy ample amounts of wall surface which is hard to utilize in any way. Piggyback AV-receiver makes use of this dead space by hooking itself in the backside of a TV. The device can be used for wall-mounting the TV or it can be hung on a freestanding TV as well. The device is attached to the standard VESA 400 x 400 mm mounting pattern found in all large TVs. Piggyback AV-receiver is ideally suited for households without TV stands or AV furniture.
All the interconnect cabling is hidden behind large TV screen. Flat and wide format makes cabling easier as all connectors are in one row. Amplifier also features AC outlet for routing power for the TV with a shorter cable run. Especially when speaker cabling is installed inside the walls, Piggyback does its share in building extremely nice and tidy setup.
The receiver is able to drive 7.1 multi channel speaker system or provide multiple channels of amplification and filtering for a pair of high-end speakers.
This project was a facelift commission and collaboration with Hifimaailma magazine in 2010. The brief was to simply come up with a design that tames the brutal PA components into something that you can actually use in a well decorated living room.
Not too many decades ago, large loudspeakers were commonplace in middle class homes. Speakers used to look like part of the furniture both out of necessity and due to different role of music in people's lives. Advancements in speaker and amplifier technology shrunk enclosure sizes in the coming decades. But the laws of physics haven't changed. Big speaker is inherently more sensitive than its smaller counterpart. To achieve the same volume the little speaker has shout from the bottom of its lungs while for the big one that is barely a warm-up.
The starting point of Project 100 was a DIY loudspeaker kit designed by Samu Saurama, chief editor of Hifimaailma. We wanted to demonstrate that big isn't necessarily same as butt ugly. I dug inspiration from the past decades: from old Braun designs to Hermann Miller's mid century modern furniture.
Perhaps the most striking part of the design is the very large bent plywood profile enveloping the speaker. Special tooling and work methods were improvised on the fly as the massive lamination was conveived. This huge plywood piece was biggest in volume that had ever been done in the workshop of My alma mater.
The front baffle was divided in two segments to lighten the masses visually. Black paint and natural birch complement each other nicely. The baffle is actually in two layers: they sandwich the bass driver between them for more elegant look. Bent tube legs elevate the speaker and makes it look more effortless and more faithful to the era. A little altitude was necessary also because I wanted to conceal the bass reflex ports. Not the least because their diameter was an impressive 150mm each.
Insides of the speaker consist of CNC machined support structures which are glued into an interlocking matrix. They are necessary as the side panels are very large compared to ordinary speakers and hence prone to resonate.
Loudspeaker drivers were from Italian manufacturer Eighteen Sound. They are technically PA gear but when properly applied they surpass many hifi drivers in performance. 15 inch woofer handles bass and midrange. 1 inch compression tweeter sits in the bottom of very large constant directivity horn. The speaker was designed to work both in passive and active configuration. We designed an easy retrofit for Hypex AS2.100 module in case the user needs built in amplification and room correction.
What it sounds like? Project 100 had the sickest dynamics I had ever heard in a normal living room. Especially the drums sounded like... well, real drums. No matter how much I pushed these, My ears were always surrendering way before the speakers even broke a sweat. Being a very big speaker, the directivity is more pronounced. This makes immersing oneself to the music easier as the listener gets more of the recording and less of the spatial echoes.
Boomstack is a study of how sheet metal could be used in the field of high-end home audio. It won an honorary mention in Plootu Fennica 2014 design contest.
This subwoofer concept is designed with scalability in mind. Different room sizes eat up different amounts of bass. A system that is sufficient in small basement cinema can run out of punch when placed in a large loft apartment. Boomstack units can be simply piled on each other until wanted capacity is met. These passive subwoofers can be connected in both series and parallel for flexible impedance management.
Enclosure is made from laser cut and tensioned aluminium sheet metal. When bent into spiral, the otherwise floppy material becomes very stiff. Curved walls reinforce top and bottom plates while taking up minimal amount of internal volume. Depending on application, the spiral enclosure can utilized both for sealed box and transmission line operating principles.
I am not a big fan of traditional tower speakers but in a sudden flash of inspiration I wanted to make an extremely minimalistic interpretation of the topic. The electro-acoustic concept is very simple, just one coaxial driver (2-way, point source) placed in a vented down-firing enclosure.
The catch here is in the leg design. Or lack thereof.
Usually hifi speakers sport all sorts of bells and whistles in their pedestals. Monolith is quite the opposite. Simply by stretching facade and rear plate onto the ground I was able to eliminate traditional legs altogether. By jacking up the enclosure there suddenly is sufficient space for cable terminals and large bass reflex port in the speaker bottom.
Less is more. More or less.