The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Swamped in sound in listening room

Carpeted and cosy, with a sofa and a glass-top centre table — looks like any other drawing room. But it has a one-point raison d’être — pure listening pleasure.

Welcome to Calcutta’s first “listening room”, where sound reigns supreme, be it on DVD or on CD. Tucked in between Big Bizz and Café Coffee Day, on Elgin Road, it is set to open doors later this month. “Contrary to popular perception, sound in a music system is not just about volume. The listening room tries to recreate naturally the exact sound of the recording, without adding any of the gizmos available in the market,” says Anindya Mukherjee, vice-president (marketing and sales) of Sonodyne.

The concept of the listening room, part of any big-banner audio retail store in the West, has hardly arrived here, except the sound corner created at Promises Instruments, on Shakespeare Sarani. The Elgin Road endeavour, however, is the first dedicated listening room, with no retail space, clarifies Mukherjee.

There are two kinds of sound, direct and reflected, explain officials at the Sonodyne set-up. In the listener’s room, the unwanted reflected sound is damped out. “We want to ensure that the listening room experience is as closely replicated by the customer as possible. So, we just use home items, like upholstery, carpet and sofa, in a bare room to absorb a lot of reflected sound,” states Mukherjee.

“Before making an investment in a high-end audio or video system, a customer has the right to find out what sound he exactly wants. That is difficult in a noisy retail shop,” adds Priyesh Deb, manager (sales and marketing). The listening room is equipped with two settings — one for two-channel music listening and the other for multi-channel home theatre viewing of live concerts and cinema, and a wide variety of music being played out.

The room does not have an elaborate sales counter and the listener’s details — lifestyle, listening environment and house interiors — are fed into a database in an ante-room. “We have a sound grid matching the room size with the speaker package. If the interiors are the conventional cement wall-carpets-upholstery sort, we recommend the classic amplifiers of beech-finish wood. If it is a new-age set-up, with a lot of glass and metal interiors, the best bet is the metal range, with a choice of colour to suit the decor,” say officials.

Though the room has not opened yet, there is a steady walk-in flow of the curious. “We have a database of 2,000 music buffs here who are waiting for the listening room to open,” says Deb. Sonodyne, that does the sound at major retail outlets and entertainment centres, including MusicWorld, Planet M, Incognito, Big Ben, Clown Town and Grain of Salt in Calcutta, will take the listening room next to Bangalore and Mumbai. “We started with Calcutta, as our survey revealed the city to have the largest segment of audiophiles,” signs off Mukherjee.

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