PLAYING IT BY EAR
Boenicke Audio, This year celebrating its 20th anniversary, has always been playing it by ear, so to speak. “The beauty of sound,” enthuses Sven Boenicke, the company’s founder, “is that it can neither be measured nor recreated by technology alone. Bringing it back to life at home through technical means is an art. I gauge with my ears and compare my speakers to live concerts only, of which about 250 I have professionally recorded.”
It’s this gut instinct and experience of true sound that led Sven to forego industry norms and switch to manufacturing his products from solid wood. Wood has innate acoustic properties that make it ideal for his needs. Its resonance characteristics are so that the human brain can much easier process the acoustical information than with other materials widely used to build loudspeaker enclosures.
“Wood gives you a warmth, naturalness and connection to the music,” says Sven. “It’s a material that mankind has lived with for millions of years. To our hearing, it’s just natural.” But there are challenges. Solid wood is expensive and difficult to work with. The usual mass-manufacturing processes simply don’t work with wood. So hard is it to find suitable staff that, until the start of last year, Sven has personally handmade up to 200 pairs a year, carefully carving out the maze of chasms to create an extremely stiff and anechoic body.
The passion begun when Sven was just 13. “I always wondered how a whole orchestra could go through a thin run of wire,” he recalls. His pursuit for perfection saw him test out all manner of different materials for building the enclosures while experimenting with an array of different shapes. Starting with MDF, he moved on to elaborate and heavy sandwich constructions, before trying out layers of welded steel with liquid damping materials in between. “When I discovered solid wood, the music began to shine like never before,” he says. “It became obvious that I would not have to look any further. There has been a very deep transformation – yet on all levels, not just due to usage of solid wood. Every detail matters.”
Today, Boenicke produces four models, ranging from the book-sized W5 to the 40kg, metre-tall W13. Two of its speakers have won awards: the W5 was winner of a 6moons Blue Moon award in 2013, while the Boenicke W11 received the 2019 Image HiFi award. Aesthetically, form follows function, so Sven designed the speakers to be as narrow as possible, slightly tilted back and resting on a proprietary mechanism, horizontally totally decoupling the loudspeakers from the floor. “Our customers are typically people who are tired of changing their hi-fi system constantly, looking for a missing piece they couldn’t find so far,” he explains. “They don’t desire background music for cooking – they crave sound that touches their hearts and transports them back in time and space.”
It is, perhaps, for this reason that Sven insists the company will never grow too big and unwieldy. He doesn’t want to transition away from being a boutique manufacturer and has set a limit on producing no more than 250 pairs of speakers a year. Instead, the plan is to offer complete audio systems that create a magic whole. “I have a very honest approach,” he concludes. “What you perceive as the surface is what you get throughout, to the core. It’s about audio performances that make goosebumps rise.”