I just heard the Podium Model 1 flat panel speakers at Laufer Teknik, a brand new, high-end audio showroom in downtown Brooklyn, New York. Sam Laufer's shop doesn't carry Sony or Bose, in fact I doubt most audiophiles have heard of most of the brands on display there. The Podium Sound speakers are new to me, but these slender panels, which look like beautifully constructed room dividers, may break through to the wider market.
Laufer Teknik promotes uber audio, stratospherically priced exotica from cutting-edge manufacturers, mainly from Europe; Laufer also serves as a distributor for Behold electronics, Ascendo speakers, and Podium Sound. The goal is to bring advanced audio technology to new markets.
As high-end designs go, the $8,000/pair Podium 1 speakers are the height of practicality--they radiate sound from their front and rear surfaces. The large sound is unlike any box speaker I've ever heard, much more like live music. But Sam Laufer isn't really courting the audiophile market; he believes there's a wider audience interested in buying quality sound. He has, for example, teamed up with a high-end food caterer to provide sound and music for parties. Hmm, sounds like a great new way to spread awareness of quality audio beyond the usual confines of the audiophile market. I hope so!
It's clear that Laufer's customers have a taste not only for sound, but just as much for the brand's artisan craftsmanship and innovative engineering. (How many Porsche owners ever really come close to pushing the car to its limit?) Yes, the components and speakers are expensive, but hardly out of line compared with high-end cars, clothes, and watches. Patek Philippe's top wristwatch goes for $900K, and buyers have to endure a one- to four-year wait to get one! Damn, how do they know what time it is while they're waiting?
I love the sound I'm hearing at Laufer Teknik, but it's the opulence of the technology that clinches the deal. Complete stereo systems start around $5,000. The Web site, www.lauferteknik.com won't be fully online until the end of the year.