You may often hear that you look like a million dollars (at least, I hope you do), but you rarely hear that something sounds like a million dollars. That may be about to change with Aesthesis’s Gramophone Speakers – not least because they cost £54,500 and there will only be one hundred pairs in existence.
YOU MAY OFTEN hear that you look like a million dollars (at least, I hope you do), but you rarely hear that something sounds like a million dollars. That may be about to change with Aesthesis’s Gramophone Speakers – not least because they cost £54,500 and there will only be one hundred pairs in existence.
The speakers, tall, lithe and black, culminating in a refined horn inspired by that most antique of musical systems, look too elegant to be as technologically refined as they are. But talking to Bjorn Gunnarsson, owner of Swedish company Aesthesis (which commissioned the concept), it becomes clear that the speakers are being rather coy about their complexity: “No-one has ever combined these four elements in one speaker before: the base reflex; a full-range element; horn loading; and tube loading.” The full-range element in particular is vital: it prevents phase anomalies by ensuring all parts of the sound reach the ear at the same time.
What this means practically is that any symphony you would care to put through these speakers, from 37-20,000 Hz, will make you think the actual orchestra is sitting in front of you, clearer than if you were conducting them yourself. (Bjorn would play electronic jazz through his – Waltz for Koop, by Koop, since you ask.)
You need not just sit, mouth agape and ears pricked up, and wonder when you will ever get to hear such sounds. Bjorn says that they are installing a pair of these speakers at Quintessentially Soho in a couple of weeks, so members of the club on the corner of Greek Street and Soho Square will be about to indulge their ears. If you were at the Venice Biennale last year, you may well have seen the Gramophone Speakers beside the red carpet, their first appearance in public.
The Gramophone Speakers have been developed with some of Scandinavia’s top design firms, including Eker Design, Carbocomp and Ergonomidesign. All of these companies work with Koenigsegg, manufacturers of elite space-age supercars – their Trevita model was recently named as the most expensive car in the world by forbes.com, and the CCXR does 0-62 mph in 2.9 seconds – and Bjorn freely confesses to being inspired by the company.
THE SPEAKERS ARE not just the product of twenty-first century capability, however: the idea has long gestated in Bjorn’s mind. “This journey started when I was young and I wasn’t fully aware of where I was going. I came from a very little town and my friends bought cars when they were young and they started to build speakers for them. I wasn’t interested in speakers at that time but I was interested in music. When I got my first internet connection, it would take half a night to download a song for my mix-tapes. My friends would ask me to be responsible for the mathematics of their speakers; that was where my interest began.
“I came to follow my father’s path unwillingly. He was an engineer who built electrical systems all over the world, laying cables to send electricity over long distances, like the Three Gorges Project in China. When I finished studying [he has a degree in product design], I worked as a Bang & Olufsen store manager, and I wondered why everything had such ruler-like edges there.
“I started contacting the manufacturers of different speakers and asked why these were like that. It took me some months but I got a team set. Five years later, we produced the Gramophone Speakers.”
Other than the long research and development period, what can explain the price tag? According to Bjorn, “They require a production technique that’s quite expensive. It’s highly technologically advanced to calculate the shapes required and then it still requires a lot of collaboration.” The horn-shape is not, thus, a whimsical retrograde reference but the refinement of a proven model, adapting it to the electronic age.
The Gramophone Speakers can be customised into whatever colour you choose, which means that you do not need to be a Scandinavian minimalist with a home of stripped pine, Fukasawa sofas and grey cashmere throws to enjoy them.
As Hamlet never said, the sound’s the thing, only instead of a depressed Dane sounding off you can have the best Sweden has to offer, caressing your ears with its powerful yet clear tones and pleasing your eyes with its striking shape.