Fortunately for today’s custom integrator, form and function increasingly go hand in hand. No longer do we have to settle for unattractive smart home products that only have great technical specifications. We have seen Baldwin enter the smart door lock market with their attractive single body construction Evolved door line of products, Nest redefined what a thermostat should look like, and Samsung’s new FrameTV delights our interior designer partners.
Few audio products exemplify the marriage of form and function as well as Steinway’s Spirio piano and the Phantom line of wireless speakers from the Parisian company Devialet. I will explain why.
Steinway released the Spirio Piano a few years ago. The Steinway team recognized that digital player pianos have been available for some time but that none of them had the quality sound of a masterpiece Steinway piano and their artist recording techniques fell short of the quality of recording that Steinway wanted for their piano line. But that perspective changed a few years ago when Steinway acquired technology, including unique software by Zenph, that allowed them to translate classic recordings by famous pianists into the data files used by Spirio.
Spirio’s playback systems used high-resolution recording software to measure hammer velocity (up to 1020 dynamic levels at a rate of up to 800 samples per second) and proportional pedaling–for both the damper pedal and soft pedal (up to 256 pedal positions at a rate of up to 100 samples per second).
The recording quality of this technology is so exact that the term concert artist “re-performance” was coined to describe the realistic sound of these recordings. It is as if you are at the concert listening to the original score, except the artist is digitally in your home, not physically. To further enhance the magic of these re-performances Steinway has produced videos of some of these piano masters so that you can watch them perform on a high-resolution digital TV while you listen to them play.
These video playback files are downloaded from Steinway’s servers to a local Apple iPad where they are then streamed to an Apple TV. The video stream is sent to the TV, and the audio stream is sent directly to their player piano. Listen and watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas Carols, and you’ll experience and understand the magic of this technological innovation.
“Steinway has produced over 3,000 recordings at Steinway Hall featuring the greatest pianists in the world,” Robert Polan, Steinway’s director of product management shared with me. “We’re adding five hours of new music every month, included at no additional cost to Spirio owners.”
Steinway recognizes that one way to market the full audio/video experience of their pianos for their client base is to embrace the custom installation channel because of our knowledge of home networking, streaming products such as Apple TV, and high-resolution distributed AV architecture. Steinway entered into an agreement with Azione Unlimited last year that gives a referring Azione Unlimited member a significant referral fee if one of their clients is shown or told about this piano line and purchases it directly from a Steinway retail showroom or one of their authorized dealers. We installed one of these Steinway pianos in the main entry hall of our showroom, and it plays for every client that we see. The impression that we make on cyberManor’s overall audio/video expertise for the client is indelible.
Similarly, custom speaker Devialet has differentiated itself in the very crowded market with a product that not only sounds phenomenal but also has striking appearance. In the shape of an oblong egg, Phantom wireless speakers feature a subwoofer cap that reverberates like the vocal cords of an opera singer. As impressive as the sound and appearance of this speaker is, the company’s agreement with the Paris Opera is one of its most striking innovations.
The Paris Opera performances in the 2017/2018 seasons will be streamed in high-definition audio exclusively to the Devialet platform. Customers with their Phantom speakers will capture this stream directly from their local Devialet gateway.
Just as Steinway brings concert pianists into the living room or entry way of our clients’ homes, the Devialet speakers bring world famous operatic singers directly into the home, providing the best of piano and opera recitals for enthusiasts of the highest quality music performances.
Devialet also recognizes the importance of the custom integration channel to knowledgeably showcase and demonstrate the features of this unique product, and they are actively pursuing CI relationships in the United States.
This column may seem like an advertisement for Steinway and Devialet, but it’s more of an endorsement. The real takeaway from these unique products is the recognition that our industry designs and supports the robust home networking platforms that enable these phenomenal products to showcase the absolute best in audio and video entertainment for our clients. And isn’t that one of the greatest joys of our profession?