The absolute importance of audio

‘It’s a little complicated. First you have to use this remote to connect to the TV, then this one…” As her voice trailed off, we both knew my jet lagged self knew I was going to have my first night at the hotel with just the hum of air conditioning in the background.

“Our IT department chose him,” the man apologized, offering to come back when I was asleep. I’ve also stayed in many rooms where a $100,000+ room remodel was paired with a cheap clock radio.

What we expect from our homes and the hotels we stay in is an ever-evolving relationship between familiarity and the excitement of new experiences. However, increasingly, when we’re away, we want a sound system to be as good – and as easy to connect – as our home sound systems.

Still lined with guitar shops, London’s Denmark Street has more than half a century of rock ‘n’ roll history. Chateau Denmark – which opened in April 2022 – has transformed several street buildings into a series of hotel rooms and suites. Number 6 where the Sex Pistols were reborn as the apartment I Am Anarchy, still with the Johnny Rotten caricatures on the wall.

Elsewhere, the former studios of David Bowie, Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones are now a mix of sleazy and distinctly fun places to lay down, with freestanding tubs, maxi bars and outdoor decor. And they are all equipped with the latest audio equipment.

Entry-level rooms have Artcoustic soundbars but it’s in the suites and lofts where the sound gets very serious. Here you’ll find speakers from Void – typically used in clubs – and Meridian, all installed by audio specialist Butler Harwell.

For added enjoyment (and sonic depth), the townhouse apartment has a subwoofer built into the couch. But the system is accessible; there’s just one remote control and access to the speakers – and a series of playlists referencing Denmark Street’s musical history – is via the TV.

Void Acoustics, founded in 2002 by Rog Mogale and Alex Skan, and based in Dorset in the English West Country, was born out of the Acid House movement. Its speakers shun traditional black boxes. Instead, they are sculptural; with Chateau Denmark opting for Air speakers in bright red for some suites. Void also provides the sound system for the public spaces of the Hôtel Dame des Arts, which opens in Paris on October 17; it will also have bespoke playlists.

Ruark is another specialist audio company increasingly sought after by hotels wanting to ensure their audio is up to standard. Founded in 1985 and based just outside of London, Ruark has an outsized reputation for audio engineering. Each R1 – with Bluetooth speaker and DAB radio – costs over £239 but offers serious sound in very compact dimensions (the R1 measures 13×13.5×17.5cm and won a Wallpaper Smart Space award in 2021).

Over the past few years Ruark has also supplied the hotels and cottages of the Farncombe estate with its audio products, as well as The Savoy and the Iconic Luxury Hotel group which includes Cliveden House.

Clock radios? Nowadays and in the era of smartphones? They simultaneously offer retro familiarity and – there’s still nothing quite like tuning into a local station to help you feel connected to a new country or place. DAB radio, common in Europe and other countries, but not in the US, has crystal clear sound and Ruark still has a dial for easy operation.

Ruark Founder Alan O’Rourke says, “At Ruark, we design audio products that are aesthetically pleasing, but more importantly they have a rich, natural sound quality, producing an ambience that draws the listener in. Our R1 is a perfect example of a product that exudes sophistication in the bedroom and is one that customers will enjoy spending time with.

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