Louis Vuitton’s Hideous $4,000 Speaker Looks Like a UFO

Louis Vuitton’s Hideous $4,000 Speaker Looks Like a UFO
Image: Louis Vuitton

Sometimes, you see an expensive gadget and think, “Oh shiz, that’s really expensive, but given the design, feature set, innovation, and build quality, it’s probably worth it.” This is absolutely never the case when luxury brands decide they want in on the tech game. There are dozens of examples of why luxury brands getting into tech is dumb, but the latest just happens to be this $US2,890 ($3,943) UFO-shaped Louis Vuitton speaker.

Dubbed the Louis Vuitton Horizon Light Up Speaker, this thing is “inspired” by the brand’s Toupie handbag. Unfortunately, that means it’s an ugly, overpriced leather-clad cone. LV has also thrown up a lot of pretty marketing jargon on its site, saying it “reinvents the world of portable audio” by creating something that doubles as an “art object” made of metal and leather, dotted with LV’s logo. The brand would also like you to believe this metal and leather cone with monogrammed patterns and a total of 35 LEDs is a discreet travel companion.

Look, art is subjective and fashion is incredibly personal. Maybe you look at this thing and think, “Ah, the epitome of art…!” I will politely disagree, but respect that you have your own sense of taste. I might even nod my head if this speaker had respectable specs. But as far as I can see, you’re paying maybe $US2,790 ($3,806) for Louis Vuitton branding and $US100 ($136) for an OK Bluetooth speaker.

This thing has a 3-inch woofer, two 0.75-inch tweeters, a Qualcomm QCS 404 chip, 15 hours of listening time, three microphones, and maximum loudness of 89 dB SPL at 1 metre. It supports Bluetooth, wifi, and AirPlay 2. Supposedly, it’s capable of detecting directional orientation so you get 360-degree sound even if it’s out of the dock, flopped on its side. These are roughly the same specs you can expect to find on an Amazon Echo, Nest Audio, or literally any decent portable Bluetooth player in the $150 – 300 range. Did I mention it weighs 1 kg? That’s about double the weight of other portable speakers out there.

It’s folly to expect a gadget from a haute couture brand to be reasonably priced to match its feature set. You’re paying for exclusivity and to be the type of person that casually whips out something like this and say, “Oh, Muffy darling, this old thing? It’s a Louis Vuitton.” Technical capabilities or functionality is an afterthought, so long as it does the bare minimum. After all, a flashy light-up speaker that can’t stand without a dock, weighs this much, and comes without an IP rating is definitely a “discreet” speaker reinventing portability.

Louis Vuitton is no stranger to this kind of stunt gadget. Last year, the brand created $US1,190 ($1,623) Horizon wireless earbuds. Before that, it made a dumbass purse with flexible screens sewn into the sides. It’s also got a Wear OS watch that starts at $US2,700 ($3,683). (Spoiler: It has the same specs as Wear OS smartwatches that cost less than half that price.) It’d be one thing if this sort of stunt didn’t work. But for some reason, it does.

I get how it feels to be bitten by the collector bug and the thrill of hunting for a rare item. For some things, it makes sense. Retro tech, for instance, has its value both as a means of preserving history and nostalgia. But luxury watches are things you keep for a long time. You pay for craftsmanship, for something that you can maybe pass on — an investment piece, so to speak. Gadgets are ruled by planned obsolescence. It’s a racket. These luxury brands can put out a limited edition Super Mario watch that makes no technical sense, and hypebeasts will gobble them up in minutes to resell them at an astronomically higher price. Technology evolves, and these things you paid out the nose for become outdated and worthless in a year or two — but the brands? The brands rake it in.