‘It’s a bit complicated. First you have to use this remote control to connect to the tv, then this one…’ As his voice trailed off, both us knew my jetlagged self knew I was going to spend my first night in the hotel with just the hum of air-conditioning as background audio.
“Our IT department chose it,” said the man apologetically, offering to come back when I’d had some sleep. I’ve also stayed in numerous rooms where a $100,000 plus room refit has been partnered 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. Increasingly though, when we’re away, we want a sound system to be as good – and as easy to connect to – as our home audio 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 turned several buildings in the street into a series of hotel rooms and suites. Number 6 where the Sex Pistols had been reborn as the I Am Anarchy apartment, still with Johnny Rotten’s caracicatures on the wall.
Elsewhere, the former studios of Davie Bowie, Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones are now a mix of louche and distinctly fun places to bed down, with rolltop baths, maxi bars and outre decor. And they are all fitted with the very latest in audio equipment.
The entry level rooms have Artcoustic soundbars but it’s in the suites and lofts where sound gets very serious. Here, you’ll find speakers from Void – usually used in clubs – and Meridian, all installed by audio specialist Butler Harwell.
For added fun (and sound depth), the townhouse apartment has a subwoofer built into the sofa. But the system is accessible; there’s just one remote control and access to the speakers – and a series of playlists reference Denmark Street’s musical history – is through the television.
Void Acoustics, founded in 2002 by Rog Mogale and Alex Skan, and based in Dorset in England’s West Country, was born from the Acid House movement. Its speakers spurn the traditional black boxes. Instead, they are sculptural; with Chateau Denmark opting for the Air speakers in vibrant red for some of the suites. Void is also providing the sound system for the public areas of Hotel Dame des Arts which opens in Paris on October 17; it too will have bespoke playlists too.
Ruark is another specialist audio company increasingly sought out by hotels that want to make sure their audio is up to standard. Founded in 1985 and based just outside London, Ruark has an outsize reputation for audio engineering. Each R1 – with bluetooth speaker and D.A.B. radio – costs upwards of £239 but packs serious sound into very compact dimensions (the R1 is 13×13.5×17.5cm and won a Wallpaper Smart Space award in 2021).
Over the few years, Ruark has also provided the Farncombe estate hotels and cottages with its audio products, as well as The Savoy and the Iconic Luxury Hotel group that includes Cliveden House.
Clock radios? In this day and smartphone age? They simultaneously offer retro familiarity and – there’s still nothing like tuning into a local station to help you feel connected to a new country or location. D.A.B. radio, widespread in Europe and other countries, but not the U.S., has a crystal clear sound and Ruark still has a dial for ease of use.
Says Ruark founder Alan O’Rourke: “At Ruark we design audio products that are aesthetically pleasing but most importantly they have a sound quality that is rich and natural, producing an ambience that draws the listener in. Our R1 is a perfect example of a product that exudes in-room sophistication and is a product that guests will enjoy spending time with.”