John Bowers once said, “The best loudspeaker isn’t the one that produces the most, it’s the one that loses the least.” Every step in producing your favorite song, from recording it live until it ultimately hits your ears, causes distortion. If your speaker can be as distortion-free as possible, then you’re getting the most out of your music.
The same is true when you go to purchase Bowers & Wilkins speakers: you want clear, distortion-free information from someone who not only knows these speakers, but who has experienced them, firsthand, in their ideal settings. That’s why Bowers & Wilkins’ North American office houses a training center where they teach, among others, Magnolia employees about their products. But more importantly, they demonstrate these products in a newly remodeled Experience Center where these employees can hear nearly every speaker in the Bowers & Wilkins lineup, giving them the knowledge and ear to help bring these speakers to life for customers.
The Art of the Demo
When you think of a typical product training facility for audio and video products, you probably think there are going to be lots of PowerPoint presentations with specs, diagrams, volts, watts, nerding out over the techy stuff. But as we learned from Eric McBride, Bowers & Wilkins Sales Engineering Manager and Custom Theater Specialist, their training is anything but typical.
As Eric told us, “At our facility, we give Magnolia employees an experience. We want them to be motivated, we want them to be fired up and go back with a passion for Bowers & Wilkins and Rotel products. And we achieve that by giving them what we call The Art of the Demo. It’s all about putting that person into that music or into that particular movie and that’s what we achieve here with outstanding products, outstanding rooms and great presentations.” Interestingly enough, the Art of the Demo is what Magnolia calls their demo process when they bring customers into the store and let them try out their favorite speakers. So it’s no wonder that Magnolia and B&W share this desire to allow people to experience fine audio gear in the most ideal environments.
Magnolia training time
This year alone, Bowers & Wilkins will have as many as 10 training sessions for Magnolia employees at this facility, giving nearly 200 employees knowledge and demonstration time with these amazing speakers. It’s a unique opportunity for Magnolia to get up close and personal with this brand, learning from experts.
“What I love most about the Magnolia Design Center crew is that they’re motivated,” Eric told us. “When they walk through that door, you can see the life in their eyes, they’re excited to be here. You can tell they want to learn.”
“It’s one thing to read about these speakers, it’s another thing to actually come to a place like this and experience them in the appropriate venues. In here we tailor the room’s acoustics around specific speakers, so you’re listening to them in the most ideal situation.”
“We also get them up in front of the class, and have them do demos. It’s great, it’s about educating them about the technical stuff, too, but it’s about getting them comfortable with all of our products. So when they go back to the store and someone says, ‘I love those 800s but I want something that I can’t see,’ they can say, ‘I was up in Boston, I listened to the CT800 and it was absolutely incredible, I really think you should try it.’ It’s very powerful when they can tell a customer they’ve listened to it, they’ve heard it. It builds a level of confidence with that customer.”
If a customer still wants to experience a speaker that isn’t on Magnolia’s showroom floor, Bowers & Wilkins is open to them coming up to the Experience Center to audition these systems for themselves. Eric even offers a final service for select Magnolia customers who have purchased a very high-end B&W theater. “For those with an 800 Diamond and CT level system with the correct equipment driving them, I will work with their architect, interior designer, whomever, on how to properly build that room. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you have $100,000 worth of equipment, if the room is not designed properly, the system isn’t going to sound very good. I will tell them what substrates to use, where to place seating, lighting, acoustical treatments, everything. I will tell them how to build that room from the ground up—because all of those little intangible things come into play to achieve great sound.”
It’s all about the demo
The Art of the Demo: it’s the term used by B&W when training people about their speakers, and it’s the term Magnolia uses when demonstrating products to their customers. It’s this demo, this passion behind the demo, that is everything when choosing a speaker. No matter the specs, the reviews, the history: more than anything else, it’s the sound that you buy—and the only way you can get that is by taking a demo. As Eric told us, “You can talk to people all you want about things, the engineering and technical points, but it’s really the Art of the Demo that sells the product, immersing you in great sound.”
The best use Bowers & Wilkins:
Much like Abbey Road Studios, Skywalker Ranch, Capital Records, Warner Music Group and many of the major motion picture and music studio's, two local Boston companies also understand just how important Bowers & Wilkins speakers are to them. We were lucky enough to visit them.
Soundmirror is world renowned for their recordings of acoustic music, racking up more than 80 GRAMMY® nominations and awards. Founder and sound engineer John Newton, whose relationship with B&W spans over 35 years after meeting John Bowers, tells us why B&W is his speaker of choice.
“Bowers & Wilkins speakers give you an accurate representation of what you might hear if you’re listening to music in a performance, although we’re very quick to add that we do not try to replicate a concert situation. We believe a recording is a completely different art form from a concert. To put it simply, we can put you in a seat that doesn’t exist in a concert hall, a much better seat, so you can not only hear exactly what the orchestra is doing, but it can be more exciting because you’ll hear it better. That seat, by the way, is at the top of a 12-foot step ladder right behind the conductor.”
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Inside the recording studio at the BSO, recording engineer Nick Squire records some of the finest orchestras and events for albums and radio shows. In doing so, he appreciates the importance of the studios B&W 802s:
“This hall is considered one of the top three concert halls in the world for orchestral music, and probably the best in North America. Our job as recording engineers is to reproduce the quality of sound we hear in the hall. If we don’t have speakers that are able to reproduce everything as clearly as it is happening, we can’t do our job properly. So it just makes sense to have the best speakers we can have to match the acoustics of this beautiful place.”