Rowers’ Rugged Megaphone

User Research, Industrial Design, Mechanical Engineering, Product Brand Language, Engineering Analysis & Optimization

The Blue Ocean Megaphone is the most powerful and reliable for rowers, scullers, and sailors – go ahead and throw it overboard.

This megaphone’s users do not go easy. Bresslergroup’s engineers put the rigor into rugged for a superlative product that stands up to the abuse.


Refusing to compromise on core company values wins customer loyalty – even when it adds cost.

Nielsen-Kellerman’s customers spend serious time on the water, and the company is known for its rugged, reliable gear. When N-K asked Bresslergroup to engineer a megaphone that would match its watertight reputation, we knew it had to be tough and acoustically advanced – and that it had to float.

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Rugged quality is the hallmark of Nielsen-Kellerman’s brand. The company has built a reputation for rugged, waterproof gear that floats so it can be retrieved when it goes overboard. Its clientele is a global audience of rowers, scullers, and sailors.

Many companies would use color to distinguish their products, but Nielsen-Kellerman prefers to customize the colors for each rowing team. Because we couldn’t use color to define the product line, Bresslergroup’s designers unified it by giving every product a protective framing element, an elastic armor with a distinctive look and feel that conveys rugged quality.

We spent hours on the river with rowers, and we learned some things. Rowers fall – and sometimes throw – each other into the water a lot. Coach or cox, you’re likely to take a dunk at some point, and any gear you’re holding goes in with you.

Rowing coaches often stand in their boat for long periods of time, coaching multiple teams. The sturdy handle of the megaphone attaches to the horn at three different spots and allows for two grips—the speaker can hold it up to his mouth or down at his side, speaking into a headset. The rubbery material also covers the bell of the horn, so it won’t slip when the coach sets it down and the boat accelerates.

Because Nielsen-Kellerman’s customers demand the best performance possible, we even went back to basics on the acoustics, calculating the theoretical best possible length and shape of the megaphone if it was a single, long horn. Bresslergroup’s mechanical engineers then took those equations and converted them into the three interlocked horns that produce the trenchant sound.

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Sealing the megaphone was the toughest part of the job. With so many parts coming in and going out, from sound to wires to batteries, our solution consists of more than 10 separate seals, using technologies from epoxy to silicone gaskets. This complicates the manufacturing process but the user would never know it. 

And Nielsen-Kellerman clients aren’t complaining about increased cost. The products are considered quality investments. As one member of the Old Dominion University sailing team recently posted on Twitter, the Blue Ocean megaphone that went missing off their dock in September was discovered during a wetlands cleanup the following Earth Day. “Works great!”

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