Introducing the Cotodama Lyric Speaker

This article is about an “odd” product. (The quotes are mine.) One of several reasons that this product is odd is that it uses a display in a way that seems unique for a product of this type. The product is called the Lyric speaker. It was created by the Japanese company Cotodama, an affiliate of the “progressive creative agency,” Six Inc. The Lyric is a speaker that visualizes a song’s lyrics on a large, built in display.

The Lyric speaker features a minimalistic housing. The front and back of the housing are laminated, translucent TFT LCDs. When music plays on the speaker, the back LCD turns a milky white. There are two speakers on the front with a volume knob. A circular disc on the back holds a computer that generates the lyrics and graphics that are displayed on the front LCD.

The speaker is illustrated in the photograph below. A demonstration of the system is presented in the video appended to the end of this article.

The model LS1 Lyric speaker.

Some features of the speaker include:

  • Contains two coaxial loudspeakers and two drone cones 20 W x2 (total 40 W)
  • Can play 96 kHz / 24bit FLAC files
  • Has a range of 40 Hz to 40 kHz
  • 22-inch transparent LCD
  • WiFi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Color black
  • Width 52 cm x depth 14 cm x height 35 cm
  • Weight 11.5 kg
  • Body made of ABS/glavanized steel/acrylic plate

The means used in the Lyric speaker to generate the graphics draws upon services provided by SyncPower Corporation. This is the largest lyric distribution company in Japan having a database of over 2 million songs. The name SyncPower may be familiar in that the company is the source of “PetitLyrics.” This is a free music player which brings a karaoke experience directly to a user’s smartphone by allowing the user to view synchronized lyrics while listening to songs.

Once a song is recognized, the system analyzes the mood and its “expression engine” automatically generates specific fonts and motions on the LCD to match with the music, using so-called “3D CG technology.”

It should be noted that the Lyric speaker can only display song lyrics. At this time, lyrics are available only in Japanese or English. “The speaker can be used only in the country in which it was bought.”

If the lyrics to a song are not in the database or if an instrumental song is played, then the speaker shows abstract graphic images that animate in sync with the music. The company’s web site describes that abstract graphics are generated by a program called Xtal/Skygazer.

The speaker can be controlled by an app which supports Wi-Fi but not Bluetooth. By this means, the speaker can connect to the user’s smartphone. If the smartphone uses Android, then only the Lyric speaker app and Spotify are compatible. If the smartphone uses iOS, then Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play, SoundCloud, YouTube and other services are supported.

In the one year that Lyric speaker has been available, the product has won several notable awards. This includes the Best Bootstrap Company Award at 2015 SXSW Interactive Festival’s 7th annual SXSW Accelerator Competition, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry 2015 Innovative Technologies Award and Japan’s 2016 Good Design Award.

It is interesting to note that the word Cotodama means “soul of words” in Japanese. Somewhat cryptically, the company explains that “the word itself has a soul and has the power to change everything.”

First released exclusively in Japan during 2016, the system became available at selected locations in the United States and United Kingdom as of August 31.

Additional “odd” aspects of the Cotodama Lyric speaker are that each speaker is “handmade,” sells at a price of $4,500 and that only 15 speakers are produced each month. -Arthur Berman