An innovative sound system with a digital twist.
By Angela Prues
He test-drove a number of different printers, finally choosing the Epson Stylus Pro 9800, partly because he liked the Epson UltraChrome K3 8-color ink set. "The Epson allows us to print at the giclee level...and the Epson 8-color doesn’t have any adverse effects. We can choose vivid, contemporary graphics," he says. Dura25bility was also a factor. Butcher wanted his images to last, and added a Drytac JetMounter laminator to his equipment arsenal to help ensure that the graphics would last as long as the speaker technology behind them.
The array of SoundArt image options has been drastically enhanced since Butcher’s initial plans of solid Pantone-based colors to match a room’s decor. Today, stock photographs- ranging from nature and animals to cityscapes and abstract art-are available on the SoundArt website; Butcher has contracted with various photographers and artists, who receive royalties based on each system sold with their image.
In addition, customers can send photographs and images directly to SoundArt, which he then outsources to a local provider for scanning. He also has a system through his distributors in which they will bring in local photographers to shoot photos for customers (typically for those seeking portrait options).
Regardless of how or where the image comes from, it won’t be printed until it’s perfected. "Sometimes the quality just is not there. We have great technicians who work wonders to get rid of blemishes and marks," Butcher says. SoundArt technicians use Photoshop to manipulate the images until the files are print ready.
The speakers-and, therefore, image sizes-range from 40 x 50 cm (16 x 20 in.) to 95 x 150 cm (37 x 59 in.), and come in both portrait and landscape options. For output, SoundArt currently prints on two Epson Stylus Pro 9800s, though Butcher states that the company only needed one initially. But, he says, he prefers to err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to color calibration and emergencies.
"We like continuity. I’m a great believer in technology, but I’m a realist. These thingscan fail," he says, and by having redundancy a technological breakdown will not interfere with SoundArt’s production. In fact, he says that he is in the market to add at least three more Epsons to his fleet, although, again, it might be a little excessive. "We do things on an overkill basis," he says.
Visually satisfying audio
From family photographs on the dining room wall, to African wildlife photographs hanging in a themed hotel, to even a risque Sienna Miller photograph on one customer’s home speaker system, Butcher and company are now bringing "visually satisfying audio" to consumers worldwide.
After a March 2006 "soft launch" in a few bars and homes, Butcher took his product to the UK-based Grand Designs Live show in October of last year (displaying the speakers beneath the tag, "This is a Sound System," to ensure visitors weren’t fooled into believing it was simply a graphic reproduction). In March of this year, SoundArt traveled to the Ideal Home Exhibition in London, resulting in networking connectionsin Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Belgium, "and it just grows and grows," says Butcher. In the United States, a registered distributor is soon slated to open in New York, and Butcher is seeking more retailers; Internet orders already have generated about 100 SoundArt shipments to US homes.