I have a ludicrous number of sound systems in my not enormous flat, both my own and product samples that come and go. I hit 11 hifis of various kinds at one point. I see this as perfectly reasonable. Each has its delights that I could, if asked to, go on and on, and on about.
I have to say, though, that almost nobody visiting shows even the slightest interest in any of my systems, other than, in the case of my children, by demanding I turn the speakers down. Parents used to ask children to lower the volume; now, at least in my family’s case, it’s the reverse. These millennials don’t even play music they like at a proper level. A lost, background-music generation. What’s music for if it’s not loud enough to immerse yourself in?
Only one audio system has ever gained the unprompted attention and approval of my guests – this admittedly striking, heavy-as-heck, glass-enclosed stereo machine from Stockholm: the Transparent Speaker. This is the small version, measuring 27cm x 20cm x 9.5cm and weighing in at 3kg. There’s also a bigger 11kg version. Two of either can be paired to create a credible two-point, wirelessly fed stereo.
So how do these supremely cool-looking devices sound? They sound OK. No, good. Perfectly good, powerful, neutral, clean, with no clever digital monkeying-around tricks. My point being that the Transparent Speaker is not made as a spoddy hifi-bloke piece, but as a thing of beauty. As the company’s own bumf says, “Our speakers are designed to be as much an interior-design object as a great-sounding piece of technology.” Accordingly, The Conran Shop and Mr Porter are the British stockists.
They are also, in a very Scandi twist, that rare thing: a sustainable audio product – each electronic element is designed to be replaceable as technology is developed (no commitment to which technology, but it’s a nice thought). And one that has gained some following among music performers – Britney Spears, will.i.am and Snoop Dogg are said to be among the brand fans. They are available in wood and steel finishes too.