Monday, March 4, 2013

Review & Disassembly of the Beats by Dre Pill



WhiteBoard Critique of the "Beats 

by Dre Pill"


Beats by Dre Pill Speakers: http://www.beatsbydre.com/speakers/pill-2.0/black/900-00089-01.html?cid=PS_google_beats%20by%20dre%20pill_Evergreen__us_na&mkwid=sJm4E4gDm|dc_pcrid_35656970097_pkw_beats%20by%20dre%20pill_pmt_e&migMedium=paid-search&migSource=google&migContent=s&migCampaign=Pill+Exact&migTerm=beats%20by%20dre%20pill&matchtype=e
Beats by Dre has taken the headphone market by storm.  Celebrities, the Olympic team, and the average Joe on the bus, can be caught wearing a set of their stylish headphones.  However, Beats makes more than just headphones.  The Beats Pill is the extension of the head phone collection that brings the rest of the room in on the music experience.

The Beats Pill is a compact speaker for listening to music and answering calls.  One can connect to the Pill either wirelessly, with Bluetooth, or through the supplied 3.5 mm head phone jack.
Beats by Dre Pill disassemblied
A breakdown of all the parts.


Speaker components
The three buttons on the round face are connected to two separate circuit boards that are fastened to a molded part.


Beats by Dre Pill components
Beats by Dre Pill components
The prominent Beats button in the front is backlit, illuminating the "b" icon with four small LEDs mounted to the circuit board.Beats by Dre Pill
Speaker circuit board
Because of the rounded shape, it was necessary to extend the power button with a molded cruciform that also holds the spring to reach the tact switch on the circuit board.  There are two 2100mAh lithium batteries that are split across the housing to provide balance and power to the product.  The Pill provides about 6 hours of great sounding music anywhere.  
 
Speaker circuit board

speaker circuit board
The Micro USB has an additional perpendicular mounted circuit board.  It has LEDs that are channeled through a molded acrylic part; also known as light piping.  This is a clever way to show it is charging by illuminating the USB port when a cable is plugged into it.  


Industrial Design:

The Pill is not the first compact speaker in the world of portable stereos.  There have been many before it that were too small, under powered, or unappealing.  The unique style and shape of the Pill helps separate it from the crowd.  It also includes a quality carrying case for protection and portability that maintains the same design aesthetic of the Pill.  Having four speakers provides quality sound for it's size.  

The pill shape causes many constraints for cost of assembly and parts.  This results in a higher cost for aesthetics, functionality and performance.  The smaller space for the speakers limits the quality of bass.  In order to create bass you need to move lots of air quickly and forcefully.  The Pill would have to be bigger or a different shape to improve the bass quality.  

In WhiteBoard's world of Form Follows Reality™, this is a good example of the need for a unique and relevant shape trumping cost of goods and performance (bass).


Design for Manufacturing:

All in all, it is a clever design for manufacturing in a unique form factor.  The Pill is a good example of strong collaboration between design and engineering.    



WhiteBoard Product Solutions - whiteboardps.com

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  3. Thanks for the detailed photos and analysis. The ready availability of pre-assembled PCB modules from China make taking on a DIY version of this device very tempting. In particular, Aura's Cougar full range driver appears to be the same as the OEM ones used in the Pill. With two drivers wired in series per channel, a 5 or 10 watt Class D tripath amplifier board paired with a Bluetooth PCB would be a very effective pairing. Given the cheap and reliable DTA-2 amp module available online, one could even go so far as 15w/ch and still benefit from a Class D's high efficiency and be powered by a relatively small LiPo or Li-Ion battery. The tough piece would be finding a good cheap DSP module. Then again, the wide variety of apps available for any mobile device might be the better option. In any case, it'll be fun to try to improve the acoustic performance over the Pill as it looks like there is a minimal amount of a airspace for an effective acoustic suspension design, Logitech's early success in this space with their MM50 was largely due to the well engineered use of passive radiators for each channel to extend the low frequency response. In other words, since the performance of these micro drivers, the Aura Cougar in particular, showcase impressive cone excursions that surpass much larger speakers, you've got to let them breath in order to get the most out of their performance. The Aura Cougar's xMax is an astounding 4mm, so I think a ported design or a passive radiator design would greatly improve the low frequency response. They are somewhat inefficient though, so wiring them in series likely allowed Monster to get a significant bump in efficiency thereby permitting them to use a smaller amp without sacrificing overall SPL.

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  4. Looks good.The Beats Pill is an all around great speaker. It is small, light, and portable and still able to produce great quality sound at amazing volumes.


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