Small space, big sound — how to amplify auditory bliss in today’s condos

Bose’s small and sleek SoundTouch 300 soundbar is a wireless speaker for music and movie lovers in compact spaces who want to up their audio game. (Photo courtesy of Bose)

Whether you’re binging on Netflix’s addictive series du jour in your snug junior bachelor, or impressing a dinner party crowd with your Nina Simone record collection in a spacious, open-concept pad — there’s a sound system for you.

Fully scalable from a few hundred dollars up to $40,000 or more and fully customizable for every condo size and layout, sound systems are the auditory equivalent of interior design. And no two clients are the same.

David Ivancic, custom design specialist at Bay Bloor Radio, says most condo clients fall into one of two broad categories: watchers or listeners.

“Certainly questions we ask are whether the system is used mostly for music, or whether it’s going to be more for television or movies,” he says. “And of course, sometimes it’s a bit of both.”

“If we’re just working with a television and augmenting a TV sound with some streaming music, often we use soundbars and subwoofers like Sonos,” Ivancic says. “It’s certainly a brand that makes a lot of compact-solution products; they have a solution for many different scenarios. And then we also carry Bose — they make their soundbar and subwoofer product as well.”

As for music lovers, it seems the past and present are colliding rather conspicuously in sound systems these days. On one hand, you can stream music wirelessly throughout every room in your home, or even take calls and speak to Siri from your system. On the other, an incredibly popular request from Ivancic’s clients is for a technology originally developed in the late 1800s.

This classy Signature 10 turntable is a high-end, quality-engineered piece of art from Pro-Ject Audio. (Photo courtesy Bay Bloor Radio)

Turntables are more popular than ever right now — it’s a huge category of growth,” he says. “For the last four or five years, every year, more and more turntables are selling.”

“Once that comes up in conversation with the client, we move in a different direction and go with a simple, high-quality amplifier and a pair of bookshelf or floor-standing speakers,” he says. “We try to make a quality music system that the television can also tie into.”

Ivancic adds that — for larger, open-concept condos — small speakers would be installed throughout the space “so you’re not just trying to play it really loud from one corner.”

Many condominiums — particularly newer ones — have nearly seamless exteriors of glass, and boast floor-to-ceiling views in the suite. While this is easy on the eyes, it may not be so for the ears: Ivancic says a large reflective surface is not ideal for your audio performance.

“I tell everyone: the system will sound better with your curtains or blinds drawn.”

Sonos, in fact, came up with a neat trick for setting room acoustics using an iPhone: it can calibrate its acoustics setting specific to your space.

“It sends out test tones and uses the iPhone to pick up the sounds as they reverberate,” he says. “It can figure out if you have reflective surfaces like glass, and address that.”

As for sound leaking out of your suite and potentially bothering neighbours, unfortunately there’s no app for that, or special setting that can manipulate basic physics.

In other words, just keep it down.

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