Okay, I admit it ... I choked. I just got new speakers: a gorgeous pair of Focal Sopra N°2s in beamingly beautiful white, with black and polished metal accents. They stand in my room as much an object d'art as a technological statement. Friends, HTR accountants, and other people who don't share the same chromosome as most of HomeTheaterReview.com's readers (aka females) think the speakers are simply gorgeous. And they are. But I didn't get them in Philadelphia Flyers Broad Street Bullies orange, and I am a little regretful.
Nearly every product in the AV business is a rectangle that's black, white, or silver. They often look bland and are hard to show in visual context. We struggle with this exact concept when helping clients to create compelling banner ads, since doing rich, install-oriented photos is not just logistically difficult, but also expensive. Color changes everything. Speakers painted in vibrant colors jump when installed in a typical AV environment. They draw interest to a product in ways that a traditional black speaker monolith cannot do.
Why didn't I get my speakers in orange, you ask? Mostly because I was fearful of the resale value. (Thankfully, I don't have to worry about Wife Acceptance Factor because I built such topics into my nearly 10-year-old prenuptial agreement. I am not kidding.) Orange would have looked really cool in my room, in that there are artistic references that could tie the statement color to the overall décor. Then again, what type of beating would I take when I wanted to upgrade to another pair of speakers in a year or two? Will people pay for more exotic colors versus the standard black or the increasingly popular white paint job? Time will tell.
Occasional HomeTheaterReview.com reviewer Ben Shyman just sold a gorgeous pair of Wilson Audio speakers and bought a pair of the Focal Sopra N°1 bookshelf speakers in orange, which required a longer wait for them to be made in France and shipped to the United States. He didn't care about the resale value as much as the visual statement that such a speaker makes in his new Manhattan abode. No one product affects the sound of an AV system more than speakers, and these speakers are designed to make a statement in both performance and aesthetics once they are installed. This is something wives tend to understand more than speaker-buying husbands.
Custom finishes are nothing new to the AV industry. MartinLogan has a "Fender-like" custom shop that can make your hybrid electrostatic speakers look pretty much any way you or your designer could ever dream of. Sonus faber can wrap your speakers in leather or other fabrics in an elegant way. Wilson Audio pioneered the idea of painting speakers in PPG car paint colors, which has made the company's pricey offerings fit nicely into dozens of homes around the world. Others like Magico, YG, and even entry-level Tekton Designs can offer such custom colors. THIEL Audio built its reputation on selling speakers in custom wood finishes that appeal to luxury-minded people who spend as much time thinking about their home's flooring and fabrics as they do its high-end speakers. RBH Sound also has a plethora of custom wood finishes from which their customers can choose. James Loudspeaker has pretty much redefined its brand to offer custom in-wall and on-wall products. By no means is that a complete list of companies making custom-designed speakers.
Buying AV equipment is a long and enjoyable journey for most enthusiasts. We scrimp and save dollars to incrementally move up the high-end audio and video food chain. The question is, will today's custom-finished speakers and other electronics retain fair market value, or is this a passing phase? A tennis-ball green Lamborghini Mura SV Jota from the late 1960s sells for a premium price, as does a pink-face steel Rolex for women from the 1950s. Why shouldn't tastefully presented and carefully maintained audio/video gear do the same in the future?
Would you buy your next speakers in a less traditional color or finish? If so, what would it be? Please comment below.
• The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Selling Used AV Gear at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Making Show Demos More Compelling for Real-World Consumers at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• CES 2016 Show Report and Photo Slideshow at HomeTheaterReview.com.