The Speed of Sound Saint John NB
Saint John, NB
The Speed of Sound
January 1, 2007 By Brent Butterworth
Music systems are back. By "music system," I mean a simple, lifestyle-oriented audio setup—like the all-in-one 8-track/cassette/radio units we had back in the 1970s, but, one would hope, a whole lot better. Music systems don't give you every last feature technology makes possible; they give you only what you need to play your tunes. They can sound good or bad or somewhere in between, but their simplicity and good looks have made them welcome in many homes that have shunned traditional hi-fi systems.
The Art.Engine incorporates two speakers (with 7 woofers and one tweeter each), two 200-watt digital amplifiers, and a wireless interface that talks to your computer's iTunes program. (Click image to enlarge)
Most music systems take the form of plastic iPod accessories , but a few aim higher. In fact, one aims high enough to demand a $20,000 price: the Art.Engine, a Ferrari-branded music system designed by David Wiener Ventures , a company with extensive experience in commercial audio products. Only 1,000 Art.Engines will be produced.
One look at the Art.Engine and you know you're confronting a music system like no other ever created. It's a 47-inch-high unit divided into two halves, each dedicated to one stereo channel, left or right. Each channel comprises a fabric-dome tweeter, eight 3-inch carbon-fiber woofers, and two 200-watt digital amplifiers. If you attempt to lift the Art.Engine, you may think it's made from the block of some 16-cylinder prototype engine Ferrari never produced. The body is machined from a chunk of solid aluminum billet, and the entire Art.Engine weighs 107 pounds. Four gloss finishes are offered: black, silver, red, and dark gray. A red fleece cover protects the shiny finish when the Art.Engine stands idle.
There's a pair of RCA jacks in the back for stereo audio input, so you can connect it to a CD player or a satellite radio tuner if you wish. But the hippest, most modern way to fuel the Art.Engine is by using its wireless feature to access music stored on a computer. The product includes a Linksys router configured especially for use with the Art.Engine. Your computer connects to the router wirelessly or through a standard Ethernet cable. Just open iTunes; select the song, artist, album, playlist, or Internet radio station you want; and it will emerge from the Art.Engine. The only controls you need access on the Art.Engine are the red Engine Start button near the top and a volume knob on the left side. (You can also control the volume from your computer.)
Knowing the Art.Engine uses a digital signal processing chip, I expected it to employ ersatz surround-sound processing to make the sound more enveloping. As soon as I turn it on, though, I realize that its creators included little or none of such trickery. And in this case, that's a good thing. Generally, such processing sounds artificial, marring the tonality of the music with weird, phasey sound effects. The Art.Engi...