Cinematic Texture: A home listening experience with distinct depth
There's a tall tale told of Rick Rubin and his choice of musical playback. Apparently during the production of classic hip hop records he used to take a tape straight from the mixing desk, march proudly out to a car parked amidst the back streets of New York, drive around beneath the glow of streetlights, blasting the likes of LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys outwards into the deepest night.
Environment has always been a crucial element in musical playback, circumstance and setting has the capacity to drastically alter the listening experience of any given record. Many producers and musicians choose to listen back to their music through systems far more normalised than that of the high end, singular sound systems and monitors situated in recording studios the world over.
It is here in which Sonos has tapped into a truly individual market.
Since 2002 the Sonos brand has evolved drastically, building monitors and speakers designed to sound superb amidst the context of a home or personal space. The brand has been critically praised for its depth and perspective, appealing to first time buyers and audiophiles alike. Aesthetically pleasing with enough musical integrity to match the needs of those looking for more than just a speaker.
A few months ago I was sent my first Sponos speaker, the 'Play:1'. As someone who has depended on high end monitors and the perfectionism within sound sculpture, this was to be a new experience and a true test.
Would the speaker be able to carry the depth and perspective of some of my favourite records in recent months? Sound design is arguably more prevalent now within electronic music than it ever has been previously, certain producers are blurring the lines between cinematic parameters and music itself. Would a wireless speaker be able to compete with the extreme highs and lows of modern day electronic music in all its glory…?
Below you will find a couple of the records used to test the capabilities of the speaker:
The Sonos 'Play 1' carries a warmth and a depth which is remarkable considering its size. The craftmanship here is telling with the speaker able to maintain the physical presence and weight that many of these records carry. There is no distortion despite testing the parameters and altering the EQ, each element of the tracks remain fiercely individual and represented via the sprawling capacity of this punchy speaker. The highs are delicate and tuned with a liquid like edge, the low end rumbles with brutal sentiment but not obscenely so.
After conducting the above tests I was keen to find out more about the emotional attachment and ethos behind the design of the Sonos speaker. There's a lot behind the scenes of which I was not familiar with previously: a lot of precision with some of the most innovative curators and creators in the industry contributing to the design as Greg McAllister, a sound experience manager, explains.
"Working with engineers and producers is actually a big part of Sonos’ product development cycles. We have a Sonos panel of industry sound creators (led by Sonos’ Sound Experience Leader, Giles Martin) who are heavily involved when we are working on new products and doing the fine-tuning of the speakers. This panel includes creators working in both music, and film and tv industries.
Typically our work with these creators involves asking them to listen to something they’ve recently worked on, and asking if it sounds like they remember it sounding in the studio. Usually, to begin with, the answer is ‘no’, and so we spend time with them to work out what’s not right, and improve the speaker until they’re happy.
We don’t want there to be a ‘Sonos sound’, because that would mean we’re hyping something, or adding our sonic opinion to the mix. Instead, we’re very focused on creating speakers that are accurate and faithful to what the art should be."
There are many myths told about speakers and environment, some offer a ludicrous notion that only the most expensive, pristine audio setup will do whilst others underplay the value of precision and quality.
Sonos does neither, it exists exactly as it should, as a committed musical force with the sole goal of making a personal space sound good. This is ultimately the purest objective of any listener, all else is irrelevant and Sonos know this. The 'Play:1' packs a punch but delivers in elegance and texture. A beautiful machine.