I have a transistor radio in my apartment. Yes, an AM only transistor radio. Beyond my computer speakers and my coveted transistor radio, I don’t have any quality sound device to play my my favorite tunes which more often than not tend to be of the German “oompah” sort (no joke). Coincidentally enough, the following interview is with Marcell Faller of sonoro audio, a German based audio designer who creates amazing sound systems out of wood casings the size of a toaster. I think I am convinced it is time to upgrade… Enjoy the Q&A!
I’m was born and raised in Neuss, Germany. sonoro audio was first started in my hometown but shortly after the introduction of cubo, our first product, we moved the company to the near-by vibrant city of Cologne. I’m a gadget guy and products with flare have always caught my eye and my wallet. I have an interest in all things global. I have traveled around the world for adventure, education and work. I especially love the USA and lived there off and on for over 10 years.
How did you get into the electronic/audio/design world? What sparked the need to begin sonoro and create such quality audio pieces that also have such a refined and thoughtful design element?
Prior to starting sonoro audio, I was the international product and purchasing manager for Medion, Germany. The company has been very successful at developing consumer electronic products under their own brand and distributing them through a number of middle to low-cost distribution chains such as grocery stores. Medion is a well-established player in this market area, yet there is a lot of competition as well.
While working with manufactures in China, I saw a niche that was going unmet. There are plenty of low cost products in the market on one end of the spectrum and a number of well known, high-end manufacturers of top quality stereo systems and components on the other end. Yet that middle market – high quality compact audio solutions, while being addressed by some key players, still had a lot of room for growth. I saw a chance to develop a line of tabletop audio products that are of exceptional quality, and equally important, unique design.
How has the German market impacted your designs? Additionally, how has opening the line up to the rest of Europe, the US and the world impacted your designs?
I’d like to think our designs are universal. They’re modern and streamline. Our cubo line is colorful and fun, while our elements family is high tech and sleek. The beauty of all our products is that they look great in any interior: from a classic setting to a minimalist environment. The German aspect of sonoro products comes through in our attention to detail and our exacting standards. We carefully choose the components and materials that go into each product. We scrutinize the wood casings, real wood veneers and lacquered finishes. We also carry this attention to detail into our packaging. You’ll even find a pair of white gloves in each product box!
How would you describe your design style/philosophy both in and out of the home audio world? How has it evolved over the years?
Our design philosophy is to create top quality products that appeal to the style-conscious. They are also very practical. The features we choose to go into them are those that people will use the most. Equally important, they sound amazing– especially for such compact solutions.
Our products produce very rich and robust sound that easily fills a large space. While high end stereo systems are valued for the sound they produce, they are usually hidden away in closets along with all the cables and wires that go with them.
While there are a lot of radios, CD/MP3 players and iPod docks out there, we like to think ours are more chic. We want people to be proud to display their sonoro radio in a prominent place in their home, office or studio, show it off to friends and play them often. Style enthusiasts, interior designers, or simply anyone with a keen eye for design are attracted to sonoro products.
Congrats on winning the Red Dot Product Award for the elements system!
Actually, I’m delighted to say that all our products are award-winners. We’ve won numerous Plus X awards, a prestigious consumer electronic distinction in Europe, the US’ CEA Innovations award; and, as you mentioned, we’ve won a few reddot awards. All our awards have recognized sonoro products as innovative, easy to use and distinctive.
As a German native, I’m especially proud to say that our elements product was nominated by the German government for its most prestigious Designpris. People cannot submit applications to be chosen for such a distinction, a panel of judges search the German market and find the most innovative and interesting products. Not only has our product been nominated for this award, it will also be on display at the 2010 Shanghai World’s Fair as representative of the best of German design and engineering.
My guess is the award has a little something to do with the fact that the pieces are made of wooden housing and are not just plastic. That and the sound systems look so sleek and minimal. Tell us a bit more about the product design and how/why a wooden shell makes such a difference for the sound?
You have picked up on an important point that differentiates our products from the multitude on the market, and that is our curved-corner all wood housings. From a design perspective, the material provides a rich, warm texture. From a technical perspective, the high density low resonance wood cabinet with handcrafted multilayer lacquer or real wood veneer reduces high frequency resonances for richer sound. The curved-corners also add to the sound quality because the rounded edges reduce diffraction effects for enhanced sound dispersion.
I’ve also heard that you have partnered with Pandora. Being an avid Pandora user myself, this sounds to be a fantastic partnership. How difficult is it to keep up with the ever changing/developing tech/audio scene?
You’ve hit on something important here. When it comes to technology sonoro isn’t about being technical innovators. We concern ourselves with features that people use the most — wrapped up in a beautiful design. Having said that, we are actually trendsetters when it comes to our elements W, Internet/FM radio with iPod dock. This product is getting lots of attention and not only for its good-looks. elements W is like a mini music computer. It streams of thousands of stations from around the globe, searchable by country or genre. At last count, our elements W directory contains 16,133 stations (and 21,242 on-demand streams) in 284 locations and 67 genres. So, a jazz enthusiast can tap into music from New Orleans or Paris; a college student in Florida can hear the local ball game in their hometown in North Dakota; or, a London bloke can listen to the latest Electronica sounds from New York.
The radio is updated through an internet connection every 24 hours either wirelessly or with a LAN line cable. This is all to say that the owner of elements W will have the most up-to-date radio with the most current stations for many years to come.
Because elements W operates through the web, we can partner with companies like Pandora to provide their personalized music service through our radio. When a person signs up to Pandora and creates a list of their favorite artists within their website, the play lists are automatically streamed to elements W. Using our product’s remote control, any Pandora recommended artist can be given a thumbs up or thumbs down, thereby, enabling the service to learn more about a person’s individual taste in music. The service is like having your own personal DJ creating a play list just for you.
As new services come to market, we can add these to our radio’s offering. In fact, subscribers to satellite stations could access their favorite stations from elements W as well. We’re in negotiations with a satellite radio company on this capability now.
If you could see the Sonoro Audio in the home of any one person who might it be and which color would you choose for their space?
Ah, good question! President Obama should have our eklipse all-in-one system because it’s modern, and multi-tasking, like him. Oprah Winfrey should have our cubo.mystique – our Limited Edition cubo in purple. It’s fun, lively and in the color of her successful film. Paris Hilton should have our elements stardust. It’s an exclusive Swarovski edition of our elements FM/AM radio with 3,900 hand applied crystals. Daniel Craig should have our elements W – it’s high tech, cool and sophisticated, just like James Bond.
Speaking of celebrities, our products are celebrities in their own right. Paramount Pictures has our elements radio in the movie G.I. Joe. It appears in the bedroom, on the nightstand of the Baroness played by Sienna Miller. Our products also appear on the sets of the TV shows: Entourage, Weeds, Michael and Michael Have Issues, The Cleaner, Melrose Place, 24 and an HBO comedy called Bored to Death. Since we’re in Europe, we don’t have access to these new TV shows, so let us know how our products look!
What advice would you give aspiring designers?
Keep it simple. There is beauty in simplicity.
If you haven’t yet had enough of Dr. Faller or his designs, check out the following video interview:
View all of the sonoro audio products on Design Public.
I enjoy wood paneled station wagons, German food and senior citizens (I am 80 years old at heart). Nearly every weekend I am taking photos at other people's weddings and I have a blog of my own (but I don't update it often enough). I love to paint, sew and knit. Check out my DP Staff profile on Hatch.