Why you should care
This is for those who love music but don’t want to see where it’s coming from.
We like to believe in the cliche “home is where the heart is,” but the real case these days is “home is where the clutter is.” Think about that unused waffle maker, the lamp from your parents you can’t throw out, all those books. So when a piece of technology serves two purposes — being functional as well as satisfying our passion for pretty things — we pay attention.
Like a high-end speaker that doubles as artwork. Visual Art Speakers are custom-made, flat-panel loudspeakers concealed behind silk-screened prints. For now customers submit their own images — anything from a favorite Dali to a wedding day photo — and select the frame lacquer color: natural wood, walnut, cherry, black or white. The company is working on independent artist collaborations to create an additional library of art. The speaker can be connected to a home theater system, or be used as a stand-alone sound system. Magnetic connectors allow for easy print updates, by snapping them into place.
But these are considered luxury speakers, and luxury doesn’t come cheap: They’re priced at $2,000 for the loudspeaker frame, including the silk photo. Additional silk prints cost $100.
Engineer Derrick Poon’s skills as a trained violinist influenced the design.
Inspiration for the art speakers hails from Derrick Poon, the company’s applications engineer — well, actually from his colleague Geego Fan’s ex-wife. Poon told OZY that one of the couple’s arguments (pre-divorce) was how messy speakers looked in the lounge. During his marriage, Fan says he wasn’t allowed to display them, and that got him thinking of how to incorporate them in a way that fit with a room’s design. Visual Art Speakers were the result: a way to appeal to two senses — the ears and the eyes — at the same time.
With such a hefty price tag, any audiophile is going to ask: But what do they sound like? Poon has drawn on his skills as a trained violinist, which has influenced the design. “We use silk as it’s acoustically helpful to amplify speakers,” he told OZY. Sound hounds, take note: The single planar driver has a 50 Hz to 12 kHz frequency range and an 8 ohm impedance. For the rest of us, that means it’s rugged, resists extra resonance and can really hit those bass and high notes.
But freelance session musician and songwriter Sebastian Bird isn’t convinced. “Visual Art Speakers have a limited frequency response range — especially in the higher registers,” he told OZY, which makes him “doubt how they stack up against standard studio speakers.” He also pointed out that there are competing companies such as Soundwall, which sells canvases that start at $999 and have Wi-Fi connectivity. “It’s hard to justify the price,” he said.
Visual Art Speakers says it is all about the luxury listening market, and though it’s competing with established brands, its customization elements give it an edge.
But if we pay attention to the words of Adele — “I don’t make music for the eyes, I make it for the ears” — then everything here is a moot point, don’tcha think?