MCIN­TOSH’S NY SHOW­ROOM

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I re­cently had the op­por­tu­nity to visit the New York Soho show­room of Brit sound brand McIn­tosh

Lo­cated in a $40M dol­lar uptown build­ing one gets not only a unique au­dio ex­pe­ri­ence but a build­ing that is also as unique as their au­dio ex­pe­ri­ence.

WOM (World of McIn­tosh) is the brand for the McIn­tosh Group Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tre. The WOM Town­house in New York City is the head­quar­ter of McIn­tosh Group and serves as an in­vite-only venue where guests are able to ex­pe­ri­ence the ex­clu­sive McIn­tosh Group’s prod­ucts and life­style, through an amaz­ing sound ex­pe­ri­ence as well as for ex­clu­sive events which dur­ing my visit was for a UK fur­ni­ture brand. I found the 5 story house in the heart of New York City’s up­scale SoHo neigh­bour­hood. What I got was an Art of Sound Ex­pe­ri­ence of the McIn­tosh Group fam­ily which con­sists of McIn­tosh Lab­o­ra­tory, Pryma, Sonus faber, Wa­dia Dig­i­tal, Au­dio Re­search and Su­miko Sub­woofers.

The house it­self has a unique his­tory.

1922

Built by Con Ed sub­sta­tion to pro­vide elec­tri­cal power to NYC.

1975

It was con­verted to a ware­house.

1980’S

SoHo be­came a starv­ing artists’ com­mu­nity, and 214 Lafayette served as an art gallery into the late 1990’s.

1996

The build­ing was pur­chased by a film di­rec­tor, who did a gut ren­o­va­tion turn­ing it into a unique res­i­den­tial prop­erty & event lo­ca­tion.

TO­DAY

It has be­come a prime venue in one of the most trend­set­ting ar­eas of New York City. It’s a re­tail show­room known to draw cus­tomers who touch down in pri­vate jets out at JFK.

It’s ac­cessed by a mas­sive pair of hard­wood doors hinged into a beaux-arts arch of gran­ite. But good luck find­ing the place— there’s no sign over the door, which is locked from the in­side in any case. An in­vi­ta­tion is what’s re­quired to get in here.

Most peo­ple walk past 214 Lafayette with­out know­ing what’s in­side which is good for se­cu­rity as the place has enough sound gear to fuel a 100,000 per­son rock con­cert.

The place is called the World of McIn­tosh. And, be­fore you as­sume it’s the lat­est min­i­mal­ist show­place brought to you by Ap­ple, a crit­i­cal point should be made: This is the other McIn­tosh—in fact, it’s the first McIn­tosh, a su­per high-end brand of home stereo equip­ment, a com­pany that’s been in busi­ness since 1949. In 1980, a long-haired hip­pie named Steve Jobs ne­go­ti­ated the rights to use the McIn­tosh name for a home com­puter he would in­tro­duce in 1984.

McIn­tosh is a sound brand that has had a che­quered his­tory in Aus­tralia yet de­spite this it has pros­pered—for over seven decades. When you walk into 214 Lafayette Street, the first thing you see is in­side a swim­ming pool along with vin­tage com­po­nents that re­mind vis­i­tors McIn­tosh’s that the Com­pany has been around for longer than a few decades.

The first thing a vis­i­tor to 214 Lafayette lays eyes on is a is a win­dow of thick plate glass that looks onto the deep sec­tion of a swim­ming pool where Bey­once swam for her 2008 song “Halo”.

On the floors above, vis­i­tors wind their way through a war­ren of posh, dimly lit rooms—a li­brary, a lounge and a cav­ernous liv­ing room that a cen­tury ago housed the hulk­ing ro­tary con­vert­ers that fed elec­tric­ity to the neigh­bour­hood. The fur­ni­ture—leather so­fas, hard­wood desks, crys­tal lamps—comes from de­signer Ti­mothy Oulton, who also de­signs for Restora­tion Hard­ware. An­tiques and orig­i­nal art­work, such as the Keith Har­ing that adorns the bare brick, are both rare and orig­i­nal.

Elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer Frank H. McIn­tosh was a vet­eran of Bell Tele­phone who worked on ra­dio and radar sys­tems dur­ing WWII. Af­ter the war, McIn­tosh re­al­ized that re­turn­ing GIs were rapidly cre­at­ing a size­able mid­dle class with a keen in­ter­est in home elec­tron­ics, in par­tic­u­lar high-fidelity stereo. The prob­lem was that the amplifiers then on the mar­ket didn’t come close to McIn­tosh’s ideal of a high-pow­ered, low-dis­tor­tion amps that

would sat­isfy the grow­ing mar­ket of Amer­i­can au­dio­philes. The only so­lu­tion McIn­tosh could see was to cre­ate and build those amplifiers him­self.

In 1951, af­ter set­ting up a small fac­tory New York, McIn­tosh be­gan turn­ing out a re­mark­able se­ries of amps, preamps and tuners that were the best the mar­ket had seen. Among the com­pany’s early break­throughs was the MC-275 tube amp. In­tro­duced in 1961, the block­buster unit fea­tured two 75-watt amplifiers on the same chas­sis. It won such ac­claim with hi-fi en­thu­si­asts that the com­pany still makes it to this day.

Us­ing their pi­o­neer­ing tech­nolo­gies, McIn­tosh quickly es­tab­lished it­self as a leader in high-end au­dio. It was McIn­tosh that rigged up the am­pli­fi­ca­tion sys­tem for Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son’s in­au­gu­ral ad­dress in 1965. And when the Grate­ful Dead de­buted their fa­mous “Wall of Sound” PA sys­tem in 1974, it was McIn­tosh that sup­plied the 50 amplifiers that pow­ered it.

To­day, de­spite there be­ing a slew of high-end au­dio brands on the mar­ket, McIn­tosh still holds a place on the top rack, its rep­u­ta­tion es­tab­lished in both two-chan­nel stereos and home theatre sur­round-sound sys­tems.

Writ­ten by David Richards

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