The new Sonos Sub Mini is a small subwoofer with surprisingly big sound. To find out more about the inspiration and research behind the design, Softer Volumes spoke to Dae-Hoo Kim, Senior Industrial Designer at Sonos.
Sub Mini has such a compact size yet produces the kind of full-toned low frequencies you could expect from a much larger subwoofer. Was this the most challenging part of the design brief?
We design all Sonos products with the context in mind, and with an understanding of the space and how the product supports that. With Sub Mini, our brief was to design a more compact subwoofer that could provide the right sized sound for small and medium sized spaces, without sacrificing sound quality. At Sonos, our design approach is purposeful, rather than solely focused on aesthetics. The design and form factor should support the function and purpose of the product — something we call “form relevance.” Finding the optimal point between size and premium sound was our biggest challenge and required a lot of prototyping and testing. In the early concepting stage, it was important to expand our ideas as much as possible to observe and derive insights into the process, rather than drawing conclusions immediately. After exploring the form factors of various sized models with engineers, we found the optimal point through simulation and testing, and introduced the minimal cylindrical Sub Mini design.
Being a departure from the typical box-shaped subwoofer design, what inspired the cylindrical form of Sub Mini?
Sub Mini is a product that is used in conjunction with a Sonos soundbar or speaker. It is a product that will inevitably be placed in a variety of ways within the home, which challenged us to find a design that worked in harmony with diverse aesthetics and spaces. We also wanted to design a product that didn’t take up too much attention in the space, so listeners could focus on their music and video content. Sub Mini breaks away from conventional boxy subwoofers in the market with an approachable cylindrical design that blends seamlessly into the aesthetics of the home. Plus, Sub Mini’s matte finish adds calmness to the design.
We did not simply rely on our intuition, but also conducted research. We made rough paper models or foam models and tried to verify the ideas. There were a variety of soft ones, hard ones, and even cube-type designs. We went to customers and let them respond to where the product fit within their space. We got some very interesting feedback from this process. Cube-type products are mainly limited to placement next to TV credenza or tucked against the wall, whereas this rounder form factor allowed people to think about placing it in different places. Specifically, we chose the cylinder form because it was very neutral and suited various home aesthetics. We also sought inspiration from other objects of this size in the home such as plant pots, tea tables and other interior accessories.
Which speakers in the existing Sonos range is the Sub Mini designed to pair with best, and what are the main benefits for the listener?
Sub Mini pairs perfectly with Beam or Ray for a more immersive home theater setup, or One, One SL, or a SYMFONISK speaker for more depth and clarity for your music experience. Listeners can easily set up their Sub Mini and wirelessly connect to their Sonos S2 soundbar or plug-in speaker for seamless pairing.
The introduction of Sub Mini rounds out Sonos’ home theater portfolio, which delivers a range of product experiences and price points that make it easy for listeners to create their perfect setup and enhance their sound at home.
How did your past design experience help guide your approach to Sub Mini?
I have designed numerous home appliance products in the past, as well as speakers. As a lead designer with experience designing many products, you realise in the beginning that you want each product to be the main character like a ‘prima donna’. But if we look around us, there are too many products, and all those products want to stand out. However, the user should be the main character of the space, and the products should play a supporting role. These thoughts influenced my own design philosophy by ensuring products exist harmoniously within the spaces they’re intended for and feature the right design for the use case. This is in line with Sonos’ design philosophy — calm, purposeful design. Not many brands condone this simple, minimalist design. In that regard, we are very grateful to be able to design what we believe is right.
In regards to the listening experience, tell us about your favourite track to play on a Sub Mini system.
The Sonos Sub Mini is perfect for my listening experience, as I like to enjoy good-quality sound in a small space. I listen to rhythmical music, especially when I do the dishes in the kitchen! Music with a deep bass brings more energy. I also love K-pop, and one of them is an artist named Jay Park. My favorite tracks are All I Wanna Do, Yacht, Me like Yuh and JOAH.
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