So, how is it that home entertainment got so ugly?
Consider this: no matter how much cash you dump into the latest and greatest in home entertainment, you most often end up with a stack of off-putting, brick-shaped boxes of wires and glossy digital edifices. Even the most pristine setups have no game. “Funky” color ways? They don’t help. Stereos are ugly. TVs are ugly.
This culture of entertainment fixtures has conditioned us to accept that what is beautiful in a stereo is about what's pumping through and how it sounds—not how it looks. But increasingly, life isn’t really like that. People are becoming more attentive to the harmonic necessity of everything in their lives—from the kitchen to the wardrobe to the office to their holidays—and thus, we are living in a world where the entire picture, or experience, is more relevant than the focal point.
Enter Pantheone, an Australian audio outfit that is reinvigorating the conventional market for what we can ask of our entertainment conduits. The flagship smart speaker product—Pantheone 1—expresses itself in a sculpture. That's right. It expresses itself as an art object in high density resin you can be soothed by, stimulated by, and maybe most importantly— in combination with the rest of your home—achieve something greater and more elevated.
Winner of a recent Red Dot design award in 2020, the inventive experience does not just look pretty. Years of research and development—driven by creative team members who previously worked across the luxury space, from Louis Vuitton to high-end French audio brand, Focal—amassed a desire to create something that not only performed to a rigorous standard, but didn't stunt your imagination or vibe.
Having been a Sonos client for years, in addition to owning an analog setup for those Bach or Beatles moments, I was skeptical of such an object delivering acoustic elegance like Pantheone 1 does. But it’s absolutely rich. Playing this thing is exciting. Forget the Sonos. Add that its visual role in your living room layout can be welcomingly prominent, as opposed to shelved or hidden—like I've done with speakers for years—and we’ve bounded into the 21st century.
Flaunt had the privilege of speaking with Pantheone's founder and CEO, Oren Adani—a luxury consumer electronics veteran—who shared the product’s origin story (can you guess it derives from one of the most tested and famous aural architectural experiences?), how an object’s visual sensuality might influence your listening experience, and why the at-home circumstances around the world in the recent period have given way to a renewed interest in functionality and form, which isn't unfortunate to sit next to.
I understand that Pantheone was inspired by a trip to Rome with your son?
It was. I don't know if you've been in the Pantheon, but when you're going into it, it’s this beautiful architectural building. It's just a feeling—you can’t put it in words. And it's amazing, the feeling that you get—the light is coming into the building from the dome, it’s so special. And when you consider the acoustics there, everything is in one kind of current, and that gave me this inspiration of the Pantheone. It's art meets form and sound. That’s who we are.
How about Pantheone’s role in the audio space? What about its peer set?
We wanted to change the status quo for the speaker—it doesn't have to be a box. You look at 99% of the speakers worldwide, most of them will be just a box, and there's few reasons for that. One is because that's what people are used to—it’s what manufacturing usually wants to do and the easiest thing to them is to build the box and put speakers in them. So it’s a box, you put it on a shelf, and the way that you put it on the shelf, from a design point of view, is very simple.
Most people are going to listen to music by closing their eyes and saying, ‘Wow, the sound is fantastic.’ And that was what really inspired us. We wanted something that was going to be visual as well, to support the listening experience—to create a beautiful object in the the day to day living space, that you can kind of float with, without shouting, ‘Here is a speaker!’
But still, it's very important to create beautiful sound, and you need to know the physics in order to create good sound. And that was challenging—a big challenge for this first Pantheone product. And of course for the one that will come later on.
And who do you feel is the desired demo for this sort of product? Do you feel this is for speaker and sound system enthusiasts?
So I think I need to split it two ways. You’ve got the hi-fi people—you know, very, very high end, hi-fi. Big boxes with wood that produce beautiful sound, etc, etc. And you have the rest of the people. Now, we didn't go to the market in order to compete with any of the high-fi. That's a really niche market for someone who wants something that they wouldn't get with Pantheone—they’ll get something else. And we want to be in the area where people just enjoy the music. If you look at today—if you look at Spotify, at Apple, you see that all the music itself has already been downgraded from the quality side. In our product, the product is a high resolution, you can play themusic in high res and now Spotify is coming with high res.
On the other hand, when you're talking about the complexity—the complicated way to produce theproduct—it’s really in the shape of it. So in order to get good sound, for example, from a product that made from a pure resin material, we need to create a kind of chamber. It's like having two speakers—you have one speaker that actually has the all sub woofers on the bottom of theproduct. And then you have a different chamber which has the major and the tweeter, giving you the music in a 360 degree presentation when it's playing out to the room.
It took us a long time—I must say—more than four years to get to that kind of quality, that kind of craftsmanship. But you don't want to show technology.
What kind of music do you actually do trials with? Any one kind more than others?
Okay, so we do try to trial everything, from rock, to opera, to, you know, to hip-hop—pretty much everything, because that’s what the customer will listen to. I think we nailed it—to have the EQ to the level of almost every music that you play. There is a way that you can, of course, play with theequalizer, but most of the songs that you play through the Pantheone 1 should sound fantastic.
How about the unequivocal power of music and the human experience. Has your opinion on this changed in the course of developing this product?
People look at it in different ways. Some will listen to music when they want to be happy. Some will listen to music to be inspired. For us, it’s about art. What we want to create with the design of the Pantheone 1 is to be very soft, to let you have that kind of relaxing feeling. So all those—I’ll call them objects—we are creating at Pantheone will always give you a good feeling… I would say it’s neutral, organic, and that is the aim of our team.
If you took this product and just stuck it in some place that is irrelevant to the space, the feeling that you're going to get will be totally different than if you put it in the right place—you will see it in a different way. And you're going to feel it in a different way. So it just depends what you actually put into power.
It seems like the world of design is ever-growing and evolving. How would you describe your place in it?
We don't want to associate with luxury. We much more associate with style. We're associated with uniqueness. I don't want people to buy that and this and promote Pantheone as, ‘Ah, that's a luxury item’. We are different, and we know our customers, and our customers are buying it because it's different.
You won a Red Dot Award for Pantheone 1’s design in 2020. How did that feel?
We also won the Archiproduct designer award last year—the Italian one. And I must say, people were very appreciative and understanding, because there is a difference between drawing something and doing a sketch, and then doing a rendering and sending it to people and saying, ‘Okay, here’s what it’s going to look like and here’s its design.’ Everyone will respond and say it’s beautiful. But when you actually see that product is literally working, you ask: someone managed to manufacture something like that? And when somebody in design understands the technology, and what it would take, for example, to place all the buttons on top, that kind of thing—it’s worth giving us these awards.
It’s been an extraordinarily challenging year for many, yet I know that certain markets and areas—like interior design, floral arts, technology—have in many ways enjoyed upticks due to so many people being at home. How does Pantheone fit into this?
It was such a tough year, I must say—I mean, we actually created the brand and created Pantheone through the pandemic. And there was a segment of people that really responded—it was amazing. I think it's because people have more time, they're more at home, they're reading more. They sit, they think, they want to have music, maybe they want to design or create something that they’ve wanted to do for 30 years, and they don't know what's going to happen, so they say, ‘Let's do it now.’ I think this pandemic changed everything, from the prospect of using products, and innovation—everything changed. It is a major, major thing. I think that's a lesson for a lot of people.
Lastly, how about the team you’ve helped assemble and your chemistry as a team?
I mean, all of my team—Adrien, Anne Claire [Bottos], for example—we're all in a different stage in life. So it's not about just building a brand, selling the brand, and making money. We’re all enjoying what we're doing right now. And look, Ann Claire [Creative Director] was working, for example, at top companies, like Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Cartier—top, top, top. Adrien worked with Focal, and myself, in consumer electronics for many years. And we all noticed that we were perhaps at a certain stage… you get to that stage and you say, “Okay, that was okay”, but you want to experience something new. And we feel that our customer is exactly at that stage.