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The High-End Audio Artist

David Frangioni, owner of Audio One, tells how he does it all from professional recording studios to high-end home theaters and whole-house automation systems.

David Frangioni knows sound. A drummer from the age of two, he became an in-demand studio designer and sound engineer, working with Aerosmith, KISS, and Bryan Adams to name a few. When his famed studio clients wanted equally impressive home systems, they called Frangioni, who then added high-end home theater and whole-home automation systems to his offered services. Today, his company, Audio One, based in Miami and Beverly Hills, takes care of all AV needs, from studios, commercial installations, houses of worship, to top-of-the-line residential systems.

“Home and pro are definitely parallel universes for me,” says Frangioni. “I found so many similarities between the two worlds. As you improve in one of them, you improve in the other, and you just keep getting better and better by doing either of them. I was able to build Audio One doing studios, home theaters, and home automation systems. Now we do entire digital facilities and expansive church integration upgrades — things that are all in the same family of technology.”

Because many of Frangioni’s clients come from the world of pro audio, they know the value of high-end sound. Of course, he has clients who don’t specify audio as a priority, and Frangioni doesn’t try to convince them otherwise. “I’m not trying to convince people that don’t care about audio or that don’t really believe they can hear the difference,” he says. “I try to understand what their ultimate goal is and I respect whatever it is.”

Toward that end, he sees three different types of clients:

  1. People who truly do not want to pay for high-end audio.
  2. A client who wants an experience that’s unrivaled. They don’t understand what that means — what the audio equation is, what the video vision is, and all of the nuances — but they do have a goal that they want a great experience.

3. The third type of client is an audiophile and already has experience with what great audio can do for your life, for your spirit, and for your entertainment.

“So two out of the three scenarios can deliver really outstanding audio, and I’m always excited when you meet like-minded people who have those goals,” says Frangioni. “With the first type of person, I don’t get on a soapbox. My approach is to give them what they ultimately want, and if they don’t prioritize audio, we’ll talk about it a little bit, but I’m not a sales guy trying to change their mind. My goal is to provide them an end result that exceeds their expectations.”

Related: Sam Cavitt on selling high performance and luxury.

Understanding Clients
In the constant battle with clients over “what they say” compared to “what they mean,” Frangioni has a system, and it all comes down to content. “Things have changed quite a bit over the years in terms of content and how people consume it, as well as what kind of soundtracks and picture quality are available,” he says. “You want to understand why they’re building this system.”

Will it be mainly used for sports, Netflix, full CinemaScope-style movies? The content will dictate the sound and screen setup. “If you’re only watching sports, does it make sense to spend a lot of extra money on sound? Not really, but if you’re watching blockbuster movies, it’s a no-brainer — you’ve got to go the extra mile with the sound or you’re going to fall flat. Even with an amazing video picture, you’re going to wonder why this is not moving me in a certain way — it’s because whoever did the sound didn’t get it right!

“It’s gotten to the point where most luxury homes have a theater or dedicated media room and at least one more surround system in the house. Most people want their family room and their master bedroom to have a really nice surround experience, plus a dedicated dark viewing room. Of course, they have distributed audio throughout the home for stereo audio zones. That’s our typical AV installation.”

Another trend he notices is less about the sound of the system and more about the look of it. “Aesthetics have become a much higher priority than they’ve ever been at the high end,” he says. “People are spending a lot of money on their interiors and they don’t want to see traditional white grilles that look the same as they have for the last 20 years. They want to see speakers that blend into the décor — not necessarily invisible, although some clients do — but they are looking for a higher level of aesthetic than they’ve ever wanted before.” Which is one of the reasons he designed his own speaker line, Frangioni Speakers, with a silver finish that comes in rectangle or round and can be painted to match the decor.

One final trend that Frangioni notes is the return of home theaters. “It’s an interesting cycle,” he says. “In the ’90s and early 2000s it was all theaters, and then about six or seven years ago it transitioned to media lifestyle rooms, and now it’s coming back to theaters — clients seem interested in allocating the necessary real estate in their home for theaters.”

Being a Great Archer
When it comes to favorite brands, Frangioni is fairly open, citing an integrator’s skill as the more important ingredient. “It’s the archer and not the arrow,” he says, “although you have to have very high-quality bows and arrows in order to hit the bulls’-eye.” For him, some of those high-end audio bows and arrows include companies such as James Loudspeakers, Anthem, and Integra.

“I’m always looking for what the best products are, as sound is always incrementally improving,” adds Frangioni. “I think it’s also really important to get the coverage right and get the subwoofers correct, as well as make sure that the preamp and amplification are best for that room size. Having EQ on it and having different tone controls and loudness and balance and crossovers are really important.

“Of course, in the home theater the ability to dial in very fine crossover points and speaker levels and distances is a must. The processor in a theater is so often underrated as far as people’s focus on it — they don’t realize how critical it is. I’ll see someone’s theater and they’ll have a $50,000 projector and $20,000 of speakers, and the speakers will be in the wrong place and they’ll have a $2000 receiver with not enough amplification. It’s not just about how much it cost — it’s about using these numbers to show how disparaged the system design is.”

And, although high-end audio doesn’t get as much attention as the pixel counts in video systems, Frangioni knows that it deserves more. “I think audio is an art form, and it needs to be perfected,” he says. “I encourage the installers out there to really learn about sound and understand it. There’s so much to learn between playback electronics, source material, acoustics, equalization coverage circumference…there’s just so much to know.”

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