Three years ago, Leon Speakers had the “Baddest Audio Demo” at CEDIA 2010 with its blinking, smoke-spewing, 16-foot, 9-channel dragon sound sculpture. This year at Infocomm 2013, the maker of ultra-customized speakers one-ups itself with a piece of art that would suit a museum or music hall or the living room of anyone who loves the museum or the music hall.
The latest sound sculpture combines Leon speakers with multicolored LED lights and the amazing artwork of founder and CEO Noah Kaplan.
First off, the six-foot-by eight foot piece is beautiful (if you like that kind of thing, and I do) with its black background and white slats protruding out to nine inches, sculpted to depict movement. Colored lights lining the top and bottom of the sculpture set the visual mood.
And we haven’t even talked about the sound.
The sculpture features four channels of audio with four woofers and one tweeter per channel. The speakers hide behind the backboard, along with an embedded Sonos ZP90 amplifier.
Because the slats vary in depth and shape, “as you walk by, the sound changes,” says Kaplan. “The sound stage is so interesting because of the way it disperses naturally.”
Leon Speakers has made a few of these sound sculptures before, but no two look alike. Each is designed to suit the aesthetic and acoustical properties of any given space.
The first was commissioned by a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Leon is headquartered. The place needed some modern art, some powerful sound and a little mood lighting.
Soon, designers and discriminating homeowners got wind of the sculpture and ordered a few of their own. One Leon dealer in the Miami Design District, Sound&Shade, had a customer inquiring about the sculpture he’d discovered via social media. The integration firm ordered a demo sculpture and the rest, as they, is history – well, maybe not history quite yet, but any day now.
Kaplan says the sculptures sell for about $16,000 to $25,000 but they are small beans compared to what the artist has in mind.
Even though the sculptures span 48 square feet, “each one to me is just a single tile,” says Kaplan. “I would like to create massive installs.”
At the same time, Kaplan wants to reverse the trend of “stealthy” loudspeakers hidden in walls (often behind them), within cabinets, under eaves, in gardens and behind faux-painted grilles.
“The real mission is to make art with audio,” Kaplan says. “It just wasn’t enough to hide speakers. I want people to think speakers are cool again. How long can we live where we’re marginalized?”
It’s an ironic statement from a guy whose company stands out for making products that blend in.
In a recent podcast with CE Pro and a Top 100 integrator (below), Kaplan said, “As an artist you always want to show your work. … As a speaker company the trends in the industry are really about hiding your speakers.”
Today, Kaplan and crew are seeking to “change the way speakers look forever.”
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