Muro Box−N40 Update #5 -
Crowdfunding Campaign Plan in 2023, Survey #4 Results
1. The Current Direction for the New Product: Muro Box−N40
So far, the survey responses of Survey #4 (Price and Exterior Design) show two groups with different expectations on price and functions, we hope to launch two models, and the order of development is as follows:
1. Muro Box−N40 Standard:
It will continue using the parts and appearance design of the N20 Standard model, and reuses most of the existing parts as much as possible. The price is 2 to 2.5 times the current price of N20 Standard. The main added features are the traditional DIN 5 MIDI interface and 6.5mm Audio Out.
2. Muro Box−N40 Classic:
It will replace all of the components that can improve the quality (such as the base, gears, 4 vibration plates), and the appearance will return to the traditional square music box appearance. Due to the small output and inability to scale production, the selling price will be at least 4 times higher than the current N20 Standard model.
More details will be explained in the next report. I want you to listen to us explain why the N40 project was interrupted for so long first to understand our consideration.
2. Why did the Muro Box−N40 project have no update for 1 year after the last update? What happened?
It was because our company’s operation was to sell N20 first to gain more funding before developing the new product, N40.
The Covid 19 epidemic comes to an end in 2023, and everyone’s life is slowly starting to get back on track. But to be honest with you, our sales have been greatly affected. Although we know customers are worried about buying high-priced music boxes online and want to see the real products displayed in the store, due to the traffic restrictions of the epidemic, we can only focus most of our efforts on online sales.
But the mechanical music box needs to be experienced in person to appreciate its full charm. It is difficult to realize the advantages of the mechanical music box only from watching the small screen of your mobile phone. So we have made a lot of attempts to conquer this challenge. For example, we set up a live-stream recording environment in our Taipei office to take pictures and receive sound from the Muro Box N20 product sample in our office to welcome global visitors of our website to test playing it remotely anytime they want.
Therefore, at that time, we made a major decision on the direction of operation, which was to suspend the development of N40 and put all our efforts on the promotion of N20.
Of course, you may agree with this decision, or you may disagree with it. But here I only share with you the factors I have considered.
First of all, the higher the price, the lower the number of music boxes can be sold. The suppliers we cooperate with are very old-fashioned, but they don’t actually make much money. So if we focus on N40, which is more like a hand-made artwork than a mass-production product, the order quantity of its parts cannot meet the Minimum Quantity of Order(MOQ) required by its manufacturers. Hence, those part suppliers will increase our company’s purchase price, and then we will have to increase the end user price significantly, too.
And when the market for N40 is not clear, it is very risky to put resources on developing new products. I discussed this matter with several friends who also started their own companies, and most of their feedback is to avoid taking more risks by developing a new product in the current economic situation. They said that we should try our best to sell more units of the existing product, N20. So if you have been paying attention to our email updates for a while, you will find that although we did not develop N40 in the past year, we actually tested various variants of N20.
Take the N20 Lite as an example. It is a simplified version of the N20. At the beginning of last year, we tested the ultra-cheap N20 Lite at NT$6,600 (220USD). What kind of concept is this? That is, we betrayed all the dealers, saying that the profits were not enough, so we did not allow them to sell this model, but let customers buy directly on our website. Set disruptive prices at the expense of dealers’ profit, but consumers don’t care how much profit you make.
So we have also noticed this unhealthy state and have been thinking about how to solve it. If you are very concerned about our recent situation, you should also notice that we have launched the N20 Lite SE very briefly, which is the subscription-based Lite version. As for the reason for the short-term launch and removal, there is actually a story, but it has nothing to do with the current theme about N40. Let’s leave it to another story to answer it later.
Now, N20 Lite has returned to the price it should have, which means that we have adjusted our strategy again. Although the general environment is not good, we need to fight side by side with our global dealers, not to erode their profits. I’m sorry everyone, there should never be any price lower than 6,600NTD (220USD) in the future.
That is, we realized that the low price did not create value for us. So we started to look back, what exactly do customers want us to do? Obviously, most of the demand is to develop the N40.
Our N20 received the most comments from customers because of the lack of flats and sharps. So eventually, we are back to the starting point of N40 development.
3. Findings from Survey #4 (Expected Price Range and Exterior Design Options)
So far, we have 421 subscribers who look forwarded to the release of Muro Box N40. 116 of them have replied the latest survey #4 about price range and exterior design.
(1) About Price Range
- Under $1000USD: 77 people (about 67%)
- $1275-1700 USD (at least 3-4 times of current N20 price): 39 people (about 33%)
We will aim for finding the best sound option but controlling its price to be under $1000USD.
(2) About Serial Number Engraving on the Metal Base of Muro Box−N40
- Like to engrave the serial number: 51 people (about 44%)
- No need to engrave the serial number: 54 people (about 46%)
- Other: 11 people (about 10%) think that engraving is nice, but not necessary when keeping costs down would be a higher priority.
We will make adding serial numbers a special service option.
(3) Color Preference for Coating Zinc Alloy Base
- Black (same as the current N20): 56 people (about 48%)
- Gold (same as Sankyo model): 30 people (about 25%)
- Gray (not coating to show original zinc alloy color): 15 people (about 13%)
- Use Copper to replace zinc alloy (will significantly increase production cost and end user price):15 people (about 13%)
Most people chose black and gold plated colors. We will prioritize these two options as the primary colors of the N40. We have also inquired about the factory for the copper base, but based on our expected quantity, it is not possible to manufacture at mass production level. However, if we use a single production method, for example, the price will increase by about 300 US dollars for this copper base. Is this price increase acceptable to you? Welcome to email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) to share your thoughts.
(4) Request of Audio-Out for Recording
The most difficult thing about audio output is the noise. The reason is that the motor inside the music box will generate sound, and the recording quality from outside the music box is actually better. However, there are some subscribers requesting audio output, so we will evaluate this option carefully during the product development. Our current plan is to add a passive pick-up.
We continue to find ways to reduce the noise. Maybe it cannot be completely eliminated, but we are sure that every time you see our music box, you will clearly hear the improvement from comparing the videos recorded at different stages.
The recording of the music box is really difficult since the motor’s sound is hard to avoid. Although listening through the transparent lid will make the motor sound less obvious, the sounds from the environment will be recorded, too. After our long-term observation, we actually know the source of the noise, but it is indeed difficult to improve it. Still, we will try our best to reduce the noise.
(5) Increase the Music Box Volume
Regarding the volume, we will enlarge the size of the wooden box of the N40 to increase the volume, but the volume may still not be comparable with an audio speaker. We feel that a music box should be more suitable for appreciating it in a less noisy indoor setting.
The shape of the box has a lot to do with the sound, and we will do our best to achieve high-quality sound. In our next update, we will propose various wooden box design options, please be sure to give us your opinion so that we can make the best development choice.
(6) Will N40 be shipped to my country?
(7) Will you do another crowdfunding campaign?
We plan on doing a crowdfunding campaign for customers to pre- N40 on Kickstarter this year in Q4. We will keep you updated about the launch date by email to help you get the early bird discount. If you have not signed up for our email for N40, please sign up here:
(8) More Design Ideas
We have projects that can strengthen customization, and we have some new ideas that will be discussed with you in the next N40 update.
Regarding sublime harmony, we will provide that but most likely as an option. We currently tend to release two versions, one with a lower price for more people to accept, and the other for those who can afford it. Sublime harmony will belong to the latter.
Some of you have asked about the clear top lid design as the unique design of Muro Box. We will keep this transparent top cover style for Muro Box N40. We will discuss more about this on the next update.
(9) What would happen to Muro Box music boxes if the company ceased in the future?
If that happens, we hope someone is willing to take over the company and continue to operate. But if the worst happens and no one is willing to take over, then we should release the code as an Open-Source Project, hoping that the community can take over the sustainable operation. In fact, we are currently wondering whether it is possible to directly open the source of the APP now? Because our development speed is not keeping up with customer’s demands. Maybe with the community’s contributions, we can speed up the development of the entire product.
(10) Can Muro Box communicate with cell phones by Bluetooth or 5G Wi-Fi?
The limitation of Bluetooth is that it needs to be close to the music box to connect. The user scenario we hope is that no matter where the family is, everyone can freely control the music box. So this is considered as our design consideration at that time, and only Wi-Fi can achieve it. However, 5G Wi-Fi will greatly increase the cost, and there are not many new functions except for speed. Hence, I think 5G Wi-Fi is not necessary.
(11) Latency and Noise
Latency will definitely be there but will be minimized to our best knowledge, because the power goes to drive the Muro Box cylinder for controlling its flexible pins to pluck the comb (vibration plate) according to your programmed melodies.
We have improved the sound of the motor a lot, and we are confident that the N40 will be quieter than the N20.
(12) Transferring MIDI Files Directly to Muro Box
Our N20’s USB MIDI already supports USB flash drive reading, and this function will continue to be supported in the N40 model. What’s more, the MIDI functionality on N40 will be more complete than the current N20 by including the support of a DIN 5 MIDI interface.
(13) Will N40 accommodate the F30 music box mechanism?
Yes, we will do special support for the F30 paper strip music box in N40.
The Inventor of Muro Box
Dr. Chen-Hsiang Feng