MCINTOSH’S NY SHOWROOM
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.
Built by Con Ed substation to provide electrical power to NYC.
It was converted to a warehouse.
SoHo became a starving artists’ community, and 214 Lafayette served as an art gallery into the late 1990’s.
The building was purchased by a film director, who did a gut renovation turning it into a unique residential property & event location.
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