July 16, 2007
| by Steven Castle
“We live a fairly low-tech life, with as little electronics as possible,” says Kim Donvig of the Dubai contemporary tower residence he shares with his wife, Patricia Ljungberg, and young daughter, Sienna. Such a minimalist perspective might be expected of someone in a nontechnical field, but Donvig operates a speaker and audio solutions company. It’s just that his company, Artcoustic, reconciles the need both to have high-quality home entertainment systems and ... well ... the desire not to have them.
Artcoustic doesn’t make the stuff magically disappear, but it comes pretty close. The company is known for its thin on-wall speakers sporting grilles that can display various designs, so the speakers appear as framed art pieces. The company also produces bookshelf speakers, storage solutions and other products to maximize the minimalist creed.
Donvig’s 2,700-square-foot Dubai flat, where the family stays for part of the year, is nearly as much a gallery of Artcoustic products as it is a working residence. There’s a 55-inch plasma screen in the living room flanked by two 6-foot-tall Artcoustic speakers bearing a contemporary Michael Banks print. There’s no center channel, which would normally be placed beneath the plasma screen, because the two DFF180-43X2 speakers create a phantom center channel, Donvig says. “We’re not against having a center channel, but the phantom mode works well with the Artcoustic speakers because of the particular dispersion pattern,” he explains.
And while it is true that many thin speakers compromise sound by the limitations of their size, the Artcoustic speakers do more than a credible job of producing a rich soundstage, due to the speakers’ control of vibration and airflow. One really doesn’t expect the quality of sound that comes from these.
The speakers, which each include four 10-inch subwoofers, are powered by two Artcoustic amplifiers. Two bookshelf-size Diablo mini speakers provide the surround channels in the living room. A Dolby Digital audio/video processor and a hard drive–based Axonics MediaMax media server run the show. Slim Devices’ Squeezebox is used to control the musical choices from the media server.
The gear is stored in Artcoustic’s Linax Duo cabinet beneath the flat-panel and speakers array. An OCTO IR (infrared) repeater allows the doors to remain closed at all times. The speakers and plasma hang from Artcoustic’s Media Wall, which allows for easy installations, especially where holes can’t be cut into walls. “The apartment we live in now is rented, so we are not willing to start cutting cables into the walls before we move to our newly purchased house [elsewhere in Dubai],” Donvig says.
“Without a doubt, [our favorite space is] the living room,” he adds. “We are mainly into our music and spend many hours in front of our speakers. It is a kind of family therapy. We are not quite right if we don’t have our music. It is nice to have one of the best cinema systems in the world when we watch movies, but it is not our main priority.
“We mainly start the day with Nickelodeon,” Donvig continues. “You could say that our 16-month-old daughter is very lucky watching her favorite kids’ program on a high-end reference, studio-quality sound system. During the day, we normally just pick a random playlist on the Squeezebox. This way we listen to some of the very old tracks we normally wouldn’t pick.”
Two more Diablos, another Artcoustic amplifier and a Squeezebox with a Wi-Fi connection deliver audio to the bedroom. And that’s it for the electronics in this minimalist space, which proves that sometimes, less really is more.
Systems Design & Installation
United Arab Emirates
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates