Tucked away in the corner of Ponyride, an incubator space in Detroit for entrepreneurs and artists, Paul Karas stands at a workstation tinkering with a small wooden box.
Connecting a wire here and there and suddenly the room is reverberating with sound, emanating from the small box, known as Pingree Audio.
Music fills and reflects off the concrete walls of the industrial workspace and a smile of pride and triumph stretches across Karas’ face.
“I created a job for myself that I really like,” said Karas. “Pingree Audio is the company I’ve always wanted to work for, but I had to make it first. I’m going to do what it takes.”
Karas, a former student of the College of Creative Studies (CCS), left school to fully pursue his idea for Pingree, freelancing as a designer to fuel and fund his own research and development for the project. He operated out of his company, Ware MFG, with his biggest project, the interior design and build-out for Detroit Denim’s brick and mortar.
“My day job is industrial design,” said Karas. “Pingree came about two years ago. I’m doing everything to fuel that.”
His concept is a cross between a boom box and an acoustic guitar, utilizing a unique method of amplification and the convenience of wireless connectivity and portability.
The speaker is used like any other portable wireless speaker, yet operates without speakers. Instead, two thin wooden panels vibrate in order to produce the sound. Transducers are fixed to the back of both the front and rear wooden panels, housed in the aluminum frame that borders the box. The sound vibrates in a similar fashion to a conical speaker and is evenly distributed throughout the room.
“The sound is a similar feeling of being in front of an acoustic guitar and live performance,” said Karas.
In fact, the wood is made from maple, a common choice for acoustic guitars.
“This product is a merging of industrial design to more music history,” he comments. “Music has always been involved in my life. It’s what I want to do.”
The speaker can be paired with a phone through a 1/8-inch audio jack or Bluetooth enabled devices.
“The people who were interested in Pingree gave me confidence to pursue the project,” said Karas. “I kept developing and building momentum.”
The Pingree name comes from Hazen S. Pingree, a former mayor of Detroit in the 1880s who later served as the governor until 1901 (you can also see his statue at the corner of Woodward Ave. in Grand Circus Park). Karas was drawn to his legacy of hard work and ingenuity and thus paid homage through his unique product.
The products will run for $265 on Kickstarter, including shipping charges and an AUX cord. There will be an early bird special for $199 for the first 30-40 buyers.
All products are assembled in Detroit. “I chose Detroit because I grew up around it,” said Karas. “What it came down to as a business: I can get the aluminum extruded at seven different places in the city. I now live in Woodbridge and utilize Allied Supply Company, where they have every fastener imaginable. Pingree’s design and development has been based around those things.”