Lifestyle

Top Audio Systems For Your Home

Hong Kong is changing. Tastes are shifting and though a good old-fashioned banquet is never going to go completely out of style, demand for terrace and roof space has skyrocketed thanks to a new breed of urban dwellers that actually spend time at home. The key for young couples and millennials in their first homes — either rentals or small flats that establish equity for future upgrades — is flexibility. Sound needs to be portable, multi-functional or nearly invisible for modern Hong Kong homes, the majority of which are unsuitable for traditional mega-watt floor speakers.

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Internet connectivity and Bluetooth technology have made home audio more accessible than ever, and for investors renting out flats, “lifestyle” amenities — like a decent sound system — are crucial. In 2018, investors and end users alike have a range of options, from sneakily affordable luxury to budget busting aural indulgence.

As Good as it Gets


Devialet

One of the newest sound purveyors to hit Hong Kong is French brand Devialet, an audio manufacturer that prides itself on its innovation. Its new Gold Phantom Bluetooth speaker is notable for its proprietary ADH technology, a hybrid of analogue and digital sound amplification, which marries the warm, natural sound quality of analogue and the compactness and power of digital, and eliminates distortion completely — and is truly mind-blowing. The bestselling Devialet appeals to audiophiles for its turntable-friendly wired option. It is the sound supplier of choice for the Plateau Spa at the Grand Hyatt. It’s the backbone of the Paris Opera’s Palais Garnier Grand Vestibule Discovery Area. The Phantom breathes rarefied air, but “It’s for everyone. It is a premium product but it’s affordable luxury. The look is pure luxury but we want to make amazing sound available to everyone, to democratise high end sound,” explains Julien Bergère, Devialet’s general manager for Asia Pacific.

The addition of the Gold Phantom last year brings Devialet’s range to three (starting at $14,800): the 750-watt Phantom, the 3,000-watt silver Phantom, and the state-of-the-art 4,500-watt rose Gold Phantom — ideal for outdoor spaces. The Phantoms are weighty pieces, but a handy satchel for transport is available, and best of all it’s water-resistant, so when it starts raining the drops will just dance off the Phantom’s surface. The speaker has a lot of juice, but Bergère argues it’s a must for performance. “Music has a lot of dynamics and without power you’ll erase some of the extremes — and therefore the emotion of the music. And of course for miniaturisation, to convert electrical energy into sound, in a small device you need high efficiency amplification, power supply speaker drivers, and so on. If you don’t have peak power, you can’t respect the integrity of the music.” 

Style and Sound


Paolo Cappello

Democratising sound at the same time as creating an appliance that slots seamlessly into a design concept is standard operating procedure for manufactures now, so it’s no surprise that audio engineers are turning to industrial designers for ideas. If Devialet is outside the budget, Newblack recently tapped Italian designer Paolo Cappello to create its Luciano ceramic speaker (from €590, online). The contrasting elements — earthy, traditional ceramic, steely, modern electronics — are given an artistic, typically Italian spin, and the Nove ceramic, a Veneto town renowned for its ceramics, will please those who value the visual element. The Luciano’s shape is also vaguely reminiscent of an amplifying horn on an old Victrola, giving Newblack’s engineering a nostalgic boost. Luciano comes in black, shiny black, red, blue, white and 24Kgold.

If Scandinavian design is a better fit, the Baggen is Urbanears’ new connected WiFi speaker, a perfectly geometric device — great for drinks and canapés, but we didn’t say that — designed for multi-room listening. The Baggen (€450, online) is decidedly analogue feeling, with no digital display, no LED readouts; volume is adjusted with a dial, creating a tactile experience. Think an old-school Marshall amp, but brighter and effortlessly slotted into any flat. Which is not to say the Baggen isn’t loaded with current connectivity and user software and built for open-plan homes and outdoor spaces.

Old Favourites


Bang & Olufsen


Bang & Olufsen

That said, where there is room for traditional, standing mega-watt speakers, Dutch electronics giant Bang & Olufsen offers up its new BeoLab 50 — a tall, lean, silver and oak standing speaker that nonetheless manages to blend into the background. Technically, it rivals Devialet’s Silver Phantom for power (2,100 watts), but its microphones that compensate for ambient sound, Active Room Compensation, and B&O’s Acoustic Lens Technology, which manages upper frequencies and disperses sound via Beam Width Control in either a social, 180-degrees or a narrower “sweet spot” for home theatre, are what set it apart from other systems.

The BeoLab 50 is the little sister of B&O’s 90th anniversary BeoLab 90, a monster of a speaker that spits out a massive 8,200 watts and pioneered the ARC and Beam Width tech, but was ungainly in some Hong Kong homes. The BeoLab 50 (HK$223,620) is still an indulgence, but a more manageable one.

At this point in time, a stellar home audio experience is about space, function and budget. The Devialet, Newblack, Urbanears and B&O products are all capable of classic “stereo” pairing and use in multiple rooms, remote app management and streaming — and most of these will blow your neighbours out of their windows. You’ve been warned.

Devialet

LIMITED EDITION RELEASE

Direct from Paris and exclusive to Hong Kong, a limited number of 88 Opera edition Phantoms will be released across Devialet's ifc mall and Harbour City stores. Available from January 16 (while stocks last), priced at HK$27,800.

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