Sometimes we get invited to visit companies at their headquarters to explore what goes on behind the scenes - from product design and development, to future concepts and manufacturing. In mid June, off the back of the UE Roll Bluetooth speaker announcement, we visited Logitech, Ultimate Ears' parent company, over in Camas, Washington, for one such experience.
Which might sound as though it has the potential to be dry and boring, but not so when it's a company like Ultimate Ears. Ok, so it's a structured process, and we weren't let entirely off the leash to push big red "do not touch" buttons or eat sandwiches in their clean rooms, but we were - and unusually - allowed to photograph the labs and workspaces.
In addition to chatting to engineers, designers and managers, it's those images coupled with some of the details that show off the Ultimate Ears spirit; that go to show the time and effort put into making the UE Roll; that are fun and worth sharing as a snippet of insight.
Here are five of our favourite features about the UE Roll and its testing and production process.
1. An origami expert was hired to make the packaging
No, really. Not content with "normal" packaging, Ultimate Ears wanted the UE Roll to be wrapped in a single sheet, containing one of six different poster designs.
Which might sound straightforward, but it's not. Dougie (we're all on first-name basis here), Ultimate Ears product manager, explained it took between five and six months to perfect the packaging.
Talk about dedication. It's good for the planet too, so we salute the eco approach.
2. Colour options are tested in the Arizonan sun
Not content with just lab testing the colour options for the external ultra-tough mesh material of Ultimate Ears products, Stevie, UE materials manager, showed us how the company creates 12 test colour swatches on a single sheet and literally leaves them out in the sun. The Arizonan sun, which happens to be nowhere near Camas.
It's interesting to see those colours that hold even after months of non-stop exposure, compared to the obvious bleached-out faded ones after a full year of exposure.
Similar tests can be performed under UV lab conditions, but there's nothing quite like the real deal for authenticity.
3. Anechoic chambers are eerie quiet
A room covered in spikey-looking pointed/conical shapes protruding from all walls not only looks fascinating, it sounds like nowhere else too.
But it's all in a days work for testing how sound output can reach given points and what the frequency range and clarity will be like when it hits its target subject. Lots of measurement occurs in here, so it's not just designed to look awesome, but to be functional too.
In the case of UE's anechoic chamber there's a wire mesh floor to isolate from all sides, and the whole ultra-expensive room is mounted on shock-adsorbent stilts sat on tonnes of concrete to avoid low-frequency vibrations.
Now try and stay inside one of these places without anyone making a sound. It's eerie quiet. A kind of quiet you've probably never heard before, where apparent nothingness reveals you have Tinitus you didn't know about.
4. Lightning always strikes, like it or not
Electronics testing is a funny business. To ensure a product is safe should a surge occur, the lab guys zap the components, shown as arranged in the working UE Roll, to ensure it can withstand such treatment and continue to operate.
And we're talking near-lightning proportions here; 10,000V of power, which is so much it shows as a giant, jumping spark from instrument to product.
This was not a moment for any hands to be on any metal tables, that's for sure.
5. Underwater audio is amusing
The UE Roll is a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, but not so divers can splash around listening to their favourite tunes - as things don't sound good underwater.
It's a great feature to negate accidents should one end up kicked into a pool, dropped in the bath, on buried on the beach though.
To test resistance and assure the official IP7 rating - which is awarded for 1-metre submersion for 30-minutes - the lab guys do, well, the obvious: they submerge the speaker, playing, in a 1-metre tank for half an hour. Muffled sound ensues, but the product continues to work, literally spitting out the water upon its retrieval.
As a secondary option, pressure chambers are also used to imitate higher water pressures in smaller spaces. Even so, for verification purposes an independent laboratory has to verify product claims of water-proofing for it to be legitimate. A bit like getting your degree on a fancy bit of paper.