How do you improve on perfection?

Three years ago, California resident Hal Owen walked into a Magnolia Design Center and walked out with one of the finest audio systems anyone will ever hear. This dream setup includes Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamonds, 1200-watt mono-blocks and a full McIntosh stack, all aimed toward a single chair in the center of the room. Perhaps even more impressive, there isn’t a TV in sight—a pure audio room that Hal calls his sanctuary.

As amazing as this system is, there’s always that lingering question, “can it be better?” So when Hal met Magnolia System Designer Peter Colato and recognized his passion for audio, he invited him to his house to experience his audio system, but also to find out if he could make it better. A near impossible task perhaps, but one Peter had the solution to with some help from a few friends in the audio industry. Here’s that amazing story.

Bringing in the big guns

“When I started calling on Hal, his system was the most impressive home system I had ever heard,” Peter told us. “I have been to Bowers & Wilkins International Headquarters in England. I’ve seen their corporate office showcase. This was better. It was so good that it was intimidating.” Yet Hal wanted to improve on his system, which for many would seem insane, but for the true audio aficionado, there is always a way to make improvements, even in a system as complete and amazing as this. So how do you do it? If you work for Magnolia, you call in your manufacturers’ reps. They are the secret weapon of Magnolia’s Design Centers, with unparalleled knowledge of their products and performance.

To start, Peter invited Marc Schnoll from Bowers & Wilkins to visit the home. In the Los Angeles market, there is possibly no one else who could listen to, diagnose and make recommendations at this level of the speaker game. Marc recommended Hal move his speaker positions slightly, widening his left and right speakers by about 8 inches outward for a better soundstage. Although this sounds both small and simple, it takes an incredible knowledge and authority to make this kind of recommendation. How much could this actually change the sound in a room of this magnitude? As Marc told us, “These little moves can make a night and day difference. It’s really quite amazing when you can set up a speaker properly; there’s actually a bit of an art form to it. If you really take the time to pull the speakers off the wall a few inches this way or that way, move them forward or backward a few inches, it can really change the staging of how the music sounds. It’s the difference between sitting in the back row of a concert or being in the fifth row.”

The next vendor Magnolia brought to Hal’s home was from McIntosh Labs. John Mezzano is the Regional Sales Manager for McIntosh/Fine Sounds in the Los Angeles market. If you have questions about current or upcoming gear from McIntosh, John is your man. John was able to make some small suggestions as to connectivity and configuration that had been bothering Hal since the initial install. As Peter told us, “Not that it was done wrong, but with AV gear, there are oftentimes several ways of configuring it, as we all know, and John’s insight into McIntosh equipment and how it works together is unparalleled.”

Finally, Peter brought over Andrew Kissinger, the Regional Sales Manager from AudioQuest. He came up from their headquarters in Irvine to Hal’s house with what Peter called “a big box of goodness.”

“I brought with me an assortment of various high- end speaker cables, power cords and interconnects; and we went through what AudioQuest calls a ‘shared listening evaluation,’” Andrew said. “We actively listened and discussed the difference each cable made in each category. It was a very organic process where the client got a chance to hear the benefits and technical attributes of the products. In the end, the process was very refreshing, it was Hal telling us what he wanted in his system.”

“Superman has his fortress of solitude, this is my sanctuary that I use every day.”— Hal Owen

Andrew concluded, “It is difficult to describe the pure joy on Hal’s face and demeanor as we swapped in and out better and better levels of cabling and interconnects. Hal thought he knew the peak performance levels of his gear; we showed him something new and delightful that day.”

The team that helped bring it all together Left to right:
Andrew Kissinger: Regional Sales Manager from AudioQuest
Peter Colato: Magnolia System Designer
Marc Schnoll: Regional Sales Manager from Bowers & Wilkins

Being surrounded by great people

From bringing in experts in every field, to making slight tweaks and upgrades, it’s the relationships Magnolia has with its vendors that makes it the place to shop for audio, video and home automation. “The Magnolia sales people know that we are a resource and a tool to be used,” Marc told us. “Being that we’re so close with the sales staff of every store, whenever there is a sale like this we like to get actively involved. Let’s face it, it’s not every day somebody is going to buy a $24,000 set of speakers, so when they do, they want to feel a little special about it. I think that’s what we provide, it allows us to get out there and give these customers that little extra personal touch.”

Andrew added, “Marc and I have the pleasure of working for companies that allow and encourage us to build relationships like this where we can go and help out customers directly. Being able to work one-on-one with Magnolia Design Center stores, and work directly with their clients whenever it’s called for, ultimately yields fantastic results – elevating the level of performance in these systems, and ultimately elevating the joy in these customers’ faces.”

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