Steinway Lyngdorf's Elegant Unveiling

It was an audio demo quite unlike most others. Less than two weeks after the debut, at CEDIA 2012 in Indianapolis, of Steinway Lyngdorf's Model LS Concert two-way floor-standing dipole line-source loudspeaker/sound system, the LS Concert joined two other complete Steinway Lyngdorf systems for a "very first" quasi-public unveiling in San Francisco. Jointly staged on two floors of a Pacific Heights mansion, the event was hosted by several entities—Steinway Lyngdorf, a collaboration between piano maker Steinway & Sons and legendary audio innovator Peter Lyngdorf; Sherman Clay, the largest Steinway dealer in the United States; Engineered Environments, a residential systems design and installation firm that specializes in customized technological "solutions," including home entertainment systems, for a "discerning clientele"; and the Luxury Marketing Council of San Francisco. Hence the RSVP and "business attire" required, valet parking, catered event targeted, not audiophiles, but instead a select group of home builders, architects, custom installers, real estate brokers, and venture capitalists.

The likable Peter Lyngdorf, who presented three different Steinway Lyngdorf sound systems to the assemblage, arrived with a pedigree even more impressive than that of his audience. Since the 1970s, he has helped found Dali Loudspeakers; owned or co-owned NAD Electronics, Gryphon Audio, and Snell Acoustics; and initiated pioneer research in digital amplification and room correction that produced the world's first digital amplifier in 1996, led to the founding of TacT Audio ApS, and yielded products such as the TacT Audio RCS 2.0 digital equalizer/preamplifier. TacT Audio's successor, Lyngdorf Audio, currently has offices in 13 countries. Lyngdorf also founded retailer Hi-Fi Klubben, which has 80 high-end shops in Scandinavia.

"We want to make people aware that if they spend $5–15 million on their home, and $2 million on decoration, it might not be a bad idea to spend $100,000 or more on sound," Lyngdorf told me before the three-system demo got underway. "Really good sound costs a fraction of interior decoration. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't realize this."

Amidst apologies that he didn't expect I'd get a chance to do much critical listening over the din of the crowd, Lyngdorf explained that Steinway Lyngdorf was Steinway & Sons' first partnership in which they allowed another company to use their brandname. Lyngdorf convinced the piano maker to come on board after he played them a recording of a Steinway Grand on his system and challenged them to hear the difference between it and the real thing. They couldn't, and the partnership was on.

The product
Steinway Lyngdorf loudspeakers are only sold as part of a complete system package whose components sport Steinway & Sons' eye-catching high piano-gloss lacquering.

All Steinway Lyngdorf systems are calibrated to the specific room in which they are installed. "We don't allow any dealer to sell a system," Lyngdorf explained, "and we never sell a system if we don't think it will work. We need to approve the project every time. Every final installation must be able to accurately reproduce the sound of a Steinway grand. I probably have 1000 tracks that I use to test a system. Once we set up properly, I know exactly what they'll sound like."

Steinway Lyngdorf's first product, the Model D Music System, was introduced in 2007. It consists of two open-baffle dipole loudspeakers, a digital amplification unit complete with integrated CD player, and RoomPerfect™ digital room-tuning. The just-introduced LS Concert loudspeaker (starts at $86,000/pair) is designed to be paired with the company's SP-1 Stereo Processor or P-1 Surround Sound Processor and Steinway Lyngdorf's fully digital amplifiers. The LS Concert system demmed in Pacific Heights ($240,000) included the SP-1 processor, six A1 400-watt amplifiers, and a pair of imposing, all black Boundary Woofer towers.

Proof is in the Puddin'
After a demo of a home theater surround system in a relatively small (for a mansion) room on the second floor, conducted by Thomas Birkelund, CEO of Steinway Lyngdorf, attendees descended to congregate before the Mobius Jazz Trio, ensconced amidst the Model D system. A top gun of Luxury Marketing proclaimed, "Without equivocation, without hyperbole, you are about to hear the finest sound on the planet."

To demonstrate the veracity of Lyngdorf's "Is it real, or is it Memorex" claim, Birkelund invited the trio to begin performing. After playing for what felt like, at most, 30 seconds, the musicians began to fade out as the volume of a pre-recorded track of the same music was turned up. Although the much too short demo left many in the room a gasp at how remarkably close the live trio and tuned-to-the-room system sounded, Birkelund failed to mention that the Model D system was never silent. The recorded track was playing from the start, albeit at low volume, so that the Mobius Trio could initially synch to it and match its tempo. Hence, the sound of the "live" event was always colored by the system.

On to the mansion's large front room and the new LS Concert (pictured below). "None of our systems are expensive, but some of them cost a lot of money," Lyngdorf quipped. "Some of our complete systems start at $20,000; then again, Steinway doesn't make a $5000 piano."

Lyngdorf emphasized that what we were about to hear was a product of his proprietary three-dimensional room compensation technology. During the set-up process, mikes had been placed all over the room, creating a sonic map which the system was contoured to. The mapping was so effective that the system's satellite tower woofers delivered copious bass at the listening position while playing quite softly.

Lyngdorf's chosen track was Eric Satie's well-worn Gymnopédie No.1. Although the music's level was quite high—I kept trying to convince myself that, when I've sat very close to a concert grand, its high notes have vibrated with the same pressurized, slightly oppressive resonance as delivered by the system—it also possessed, to these ears, a certain dryness that I would not expect sitting so close to a real Steinway Grand. But before the luxury crowd's attention span came to an end, Lyngdorf switched to another track whose horns and cymbals were anything but polite. All of which left me wanting more. Then again, wasn't that the point?