Technology Profile: Premium Audio
Entertaining with Sound
an audio industry veteran walks us through a dinner party whose pièce de résistance is the spectacular sound
By Kevin Voecks
Revel speakers and Mark Levinson electronics from Harman Luxury Audio
THERE IS ALWAYS A BIT OF MAGIC that goes into the process of entertaining dinner guests. My husband camps out in the kitchen and works his magic preparing amazing dishes. I work my magic welcoming in our guests to our home and making them feel comfortable from the moment they walk in. And part of the magic we both weave for our guests is to expose them to sound of such grandeur that we have come to think of it as entertaining with sound.
When we welcome friends into our house, they are immediately immersed in a wonderful sound field from a high-quality architectural system playing at background levels. I usually have a jazz playlist running, depending on how much I know of their musical tastes in advance. I lead our friends to the kitchen, which is the hub of the pre-dinner entertaining and with the same quality of architectural sound present, the transition is seamless.
As drink requests are fulfilled, the great room is visible and our guests, one-by-one, are somehow drawn to that space because they can sense an even more luxurious sound field. The great room is where our sculptured, free-standing speakers, blending into the décor, create a space that invites curiosity.
While our sculptured speakers are works of art in-and-of themselves, they are also musical instruments. Since they are slightly positioned away from the wall, the speaker can perform in an ideal manner – creating a three-dimensional expression of the artist’s vision that has both width and depth. In most cases, someone comments “What is that? I’ve never experienced sound like that before except in a concert hall.”
As the evening progresses, I inquire about everyone’s musical tastes. Many of our guests are actually in the music industry here in Los Angeles, so there are diverse requests that our hi-resolution streaming services can easily accommodate.
Having been a speaker designer for many years, I am thankful that it is possible for form to follow function, as the physical characteristics of speakers that make for the best sound quality are smooth, curved lines which are also desirable aesthetically — the speakers really appear as sculptures in the room. There are now many different types of finishes available, including ones with custom high-gloss paint that have become very popular.
This provides new decorating options for in-room models — you can choose to feature them as artistic pieces in their own right, or you can have them subtly blend in with their surroundings. We’re way past the point of clients just having to choose from light or dark wood veneers. And, of course, the rest of the audio gear can be easily hidden away in cabinets and closets for a totally stealth presentation.
”The vast majority of people — and this has nothing to do with income — have never heard great reproduced sound. And when they do, they’re flabbergasted.”
back to the dinner party
After spending some time in the great room, it’s difficult to pull everyone away for dinner. More times than I can remember, everyone starts to ask if we can just grab our plates and go listen to more music in the great room.
So, we gather up our plates and drinks and go camp out together, with everyone getting an opportunity to explore their favorite songs. There is obvious joy in experiencing familiar music in a far better way than you’ve ever heard it before. It really is wonderful to see people enjoying music, which we have all grown up with and which has helped shape our lives. Some orchestral works often lead listeners to tears, which is another example of a great system communicating the emotion of the music in a superior manner.
The vast majority of people — and this has nothing to do with income — have never heard great reproduced sound. And when they do, they’re flabbergasted! A high-performance system reproduces the music honestly, without any alterations, to match the way it was recorded and truly reflects the vision of the artist. The most exciting thing about this is that music is able to convey such a wide range of emotions, that there’s no question in my mind that the intent of the artist is transmitted far, far better with a great sound system. I’ve had many guests say, “It’s like I’m hearing this song for the first time.” They are truly enthralled by the realism and pure emotion of the music.
Part of the dictionary definition of luxury is “A desirable item which is difficult to obtain.” To me, music is more than desirable, it is essential, and deeply ingrained in our fundamental make-up as humans.
I grew up in Omaha in the sixties and mid-seventies, and music was my great window to the outside world. I was buying 45s from the time I was five years old and was totally addicted to music, which I played during virtually all my waking hours. When I was young, the music I listened to included jazz and big band music, as well as pop music, which evolved to rock and later incorporated classical music.
While in college I attended the Boston Symphony Orchestra regularly and have frequently attended the Los Angeles Symphony. I believe that attending live unamplified concerts in a good venue helps give a speaker designer needed perspective. You need to know the sonic impact both of different halls as well as various listening locations within a live hall. With a great home system, you are transported back to the concert hall in your mind’s eye. That is true luxury and a gift in its own right.