Audio takes pride of place in London Tech City hideout
Below the soaring curved steel and glass façade peaks of Canaletto, a waterside 31-storey residential tower overlooking the vibrant London districts of Islington, City, Shoreditch and Clerkenwell is a flat that has undergone a something of technical transformation. Now equipped with complete home control system and a powerful home cinema set-up which discreetly blends with the modern Nordic interior, the audio experience offered by the space now would not be out of place in a commercial environment.
“The project started when we decided to buy an apartment from the yet-to-be-built Canaletto tower,” explains the client, a tech entrepreneur. Designed by renowned Dutch architect Ben van Berkel of UNStudio, the owners of each apartment in the Canaletto tower (named after the Venetian landscape artist) were free to put their own mark on their space.
“The goal of the project was to create a home where we can enjoy movies, videogames and music as close to reference-quality as possible – conscious that acoustics at a residential space are inherently worse than in a studio.” A technology enthusiast, the homeowner played a significant part in the decision-making process when it came to what AV would go into the flat.
After purchasing the flat, the homeowner reached out to local installer and Crestron specialist, London Media, to specify the system. The homeowner chose the audio and video equipment to be installed (down to the detail of speaker type, audio source and DACs), with London Media Rooms stepping in to handle the rest of the system and the network.
“The goal of the project was to create a home where we can enjoy movies, videogames and music as close to reference-quality as possible”
A Creston home automation provided access 4K video, music, access control, heating, lighting and curtain control all onto a single iPad app, which was then customised to the homeowner’s specific needs. The focal point of the flat, the main open-plan living area, is built around an 85-in Sony 4K HDR TV, specifically selected for its suitability for online gaming. The TV is accompanied by a PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, Nintendo Switch and Titan X Pascal gaming PC, in addition to 4K Apple TV for enjoying TV show and movies. “This model was chosen for its low input latency and high quality 4K HDR image. Its slim profile also complemented the minimal design of the flat,” says the owner.
The display is accompanied by a 7.0 sound system created with three Genelec 8351s in the front, and four ceiling-mounted Genelec 8340s at the rear of the viewing area offering discrete side and rear channels for 7.0 playback or diverged sounds for 5.0. “We opted for a Genelec system because we wanted a high quality surround sound solution that would allow us to enjoy films and video games as closely as possible to the way that was originally intended by the creators,” he continues.
“From a technical and auditory point of view, we appreciate the clarity and flat response of Genelec loudspeakers, which deliver faithful and accurate sound reproduction. However, we appreciate even more the fact that many of our favourite film, video game and music producers use Genelec products themselves to create the content that we consume. It makes the whole experience feel even more authentic.” He adds that although high value equipment was opted for as “budget was not an issue” when specifying the system, he also felt the speakers deployed offered “better clarity and frequency response” than more costly alternatives, as with Schiit Yggdrasil DACs.
With the listening experience of high importance to the owner, careful attention was paid to the living room system – which posed a particular challenge due to the large amount of reflective glass surfaces. To counter this, Genelec 8351s and 8340s were calibrated using Genelec Loudspeaker Manager (GLM) software to minimise intrusive artefacts resulting from hard surfaces.
Andy Bensley of distributor Source Distribution was on hand to calibrate the system is the most effective manner possible; “Due to the glass and exposed surfaces, the ability to tailor the HF response of the system allowed the reproduction to be detailed without being overly bright,” he noted. “Coupled with GLM's ability to compensate for differing arrival times at the listening position we had the means to deliver an incredibly coherent and immersive system for the client in a difficult acoustical environment."
Elsewhere in the flat, a total of 16 AIC25 in-ceiling speakers have been installed throughout the flat, deployed for their performance and ability to integrate seamlessly with both Crestron and the minimalist interior design of the flat, designed by local interior architect and design practice, Johnson Naylor. “The amplifier modules slotted very easily into the Crestron AV rack in the utility room, making for a neat and efficient solution all round,” states the homeowner.
All speakers are part of the Crestron home network and connected to a Mirage Media Server so the client can enjoy Tidal Master-quality audio. Everything in the home is controlled via iPhones and iPads, with the ability to switch individual rooms on and off, change sources on mobile devices, and select songs at will. In the master bathroom and snug, the speakers are also used to play back Apple TV audio.
“Our AV system is quite complex and sophisticated, but it’s the Genelec sound reproduction that really brings it to life,” concludes the homeowner on the project.
Autonomic MMS-2A audio server
Crestron control system
Genelec: 3 x 8351As, 4 x 8340As and 16 x AIC25
Schiit Yggdrasil DACs
Sony 85-in KD85XD8505BU 4K HDR TV