New Yorkers walking through the trendy SoHo district starting July 19 will catch a glimpse of perhaps the most unique retail store in the audio market.
Sonos is opening its first retail store on 101 Greene Street, nicknamed 101G, with the goal of giving users and prospective customers an audio listening experience that they just can't get anywhere else.
While it's certainly possibly to hear a Sonos speaker in a store like Best Buy or Target, the experience will never be the same once the speaker is hooked up at home. Why? Because consumers don't live in spaces that resemble big box, warehouse or department stores. The acoustics, shape and size of the space are all different, so the sound will be different too.
Sonos built the store from the ground up to mimic the experience of listening to music in the home. When visitors enter the store, instead of seeing a bunch of Sonos speakers on shelves as they might expect, they'll see a row of seven listening rooms, which actually look a bit like mini houses.
“It's a very unusual experience,” says Dmitri Siegel, vice president of global brand and executive creative director for Sonos. “We've devoted almost all of the floor plan to these listening rooms. You'll be able to go in there with whoever you come in with, and we're going to leave you alone and let you listen to music.”
Each room is different than the next. The rooms range from staged kitchens and living rooms to bedrooms and studies, each are individually designed for aesthetics and acoustics and every one gives customers a different “feel” of being at home jamming out to some tunes.
Sonos worked with interior designers to capture the styles and periods from the past century, including custom furniture, visual art and lighting design. Sonos' sound experience leader, Giles Martin, personally tuned every room for maximum quality sound. The listening rooms are covered in thousands of pounds of sheetrock and custom-beveled glass to make them soundproof and acoustically perfect. But the furniture and details in the space work to reflect exactly how music would sound at home, using bookshelves, woven rugs and other pieces that improve acoustics in any room.
Visitors are encouraged to play around with the Sonos software and queue up the music they love, alternating between different combinations of speakers and sound systems. The different “personalities” of each room allow visitors to hear Sonos sound on everything from home theater systems to turntables in the proper context.
The entire store is designed to reflect the rich musical history of its hometown. New York City was the birthplace of so many new sounds, from hip-hop to punk rock to disco. Legendary illustrators and painters like Mark Stamaty, Thibaud Herem, and Mark Chamberlain designed and hand-painted the wallpaper. Thurston Moore lent the store cassette tapes from the golden age of NYC cassette trading. Archivist Arthur Fournier put up rare selections from his classic zine collection. And right in the front of the store, an 8-foot portrait of Rick Rubin, famed record producer and Sonos board member, greets visitors coming in the entrance.
What Do Integrators Think?
How integrators might be affected by the opening of the Sonos store is still up in the air. Some will argue that integrators are at a disadvantage because customers can buy the speakers directly from the store. But Sonos says the objective of the store actually isn't immediate sales.
“We know it can be a long buying decision-making process,” says Siegel. “It's not generally a spontaneous purchase.”
The goal of the listening rooms is to allow customers to experience the speakers in the perfect environment, and then do more research at home and consider the speakers for their next audio purchase or home install. They could, at that point, talk to a dealer and say, “I listened to these speakers in the Sonos store and I love them. Can we include them in this project?”
Dealers could even suggest that their New York customers make a stop at the Sonos store to try the speakers out for themselves, the way that many firms use Lutron and Crestron experience centers to sell home automation and lighting control systems.
Hear more about the Sonos retail store from CE Pro editors in the video below.