Commercial Electronics demonstrates how mobility can revolutionize home entertainment
Buying home entertainment isn’t what it used to be. Just ask Hal Clark, a residential-systems design specialist at Commercial Electronics. “We know the biggest game changer today has been the mobility craze,” Clark explains to the Georgia Straight on a recent tour of the company’s new location at 1565 West 7th Avenue in Vancouver. “Now, people carry their music with them. They carry their pictures with them.”
For more than a decade, Commercial Electronics has been a local partner of Bang & Olufsen, a Danish designer of luxurious audio, video, and communications products. As Clark strolls through the Bang & Olufsen showroom, which takes up 1,500 square feet of the new store, he points to a compact graphic-music server. Not only does it display cover art and distribute sound throughout a home, it enables a person to do things that used to only take place in The Jetsons.
“It’s possible to have multiroom music, but also to control your shades, to control your energy, and to make your comfort systems integrated with the audio-video,” Clark points out.
Most homes have at least one heat-control panel on a wall, but Clark suggests that this isn’t necessary in the 21st century. “You would rather see art there instead of thermostats,” he says with a smile. “What we do is essentially give you control so that you can use your iPhone or your iPad to look at and monitor different areas of your house and simply set the set point for the comfort of that particular room. You can even change it for that particular home if you’re in Whistler or even if you’re in Europe.”
Hal Clark offers a tour of the Bang & Olufsen boutique.
According to Clark, mobile devices can also reduce clutter. He characterizes compact discs and DVDs as “dying creatures” because people often prefer to carry their media in their pockets. And when returning to their families at the end of the day, they want to share what they’ve gathered from their office or their friends’ homes. They can easily do this by plugging an iPod into docking devices that connect with whole-house systems.
That’s not all. In the Bang & Olufsen showroom, Clark points to the BeoCom 2. It’s an elegant, foot-long, and extremely narrow phone with a gentle, sculpted curve. It wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery. “Design plays a much more important role today than just buying hardware,” Clark says.
Hal Clark discusses the impact of mobility on home entertainment.
Commercial Electronics has come a long way since Henry von Tiesenhausen launched his small television and radio repair shop in 1957. For decades, it occupied a mustard-coloured building at the corner of Burrard and Harwood streets, but in 2010, von Tiesenhausen sold the site to a real-estate developer. Susanne Adam, a 40-year Commercial Electronics employee, took over the business and became president. She and her daughter Christina, a company vice president, selected the new South Granville site in consultation with Bang & Olufsen.
“It was a great marriage of the size of the building and the location, with the high-end art galleries,” Christina Adam says in the middle of the new showroom. “We fit right into this neighbourhood. We feel comfortable here.”
The new store includes a customized sound room for customers. In this area at the back of the store, the company’s hi-fi specialist, Dennis Parsonson, jokingly refers to himself as the “analog man” because he’s so fond of listening to music from turntables. He bluntly states that the invention of the CD was one of the worst things that happened to music because it led publishers into epic battles over copyright. He adds that for many years, the digital revolution promoted convenience over quality, but claims that this is changing with more advanced technology.
“We’re finally getting more space on our hard drives,” Parsonson explains. “It’s finally getting easier to use. Everybody is bowing to Apple and finding ways to work with them—and then you’ve got the tweakers who are getting around Apple—but digital music is getting to the point where it can sound really good.”
He invites people to bring their records to the store to hear how they sound on a modern system. “High-end is probably the worst thing you can call it,” he concedes, “because everybody thinks, ‘It’s elitist and it’s not for me.’ But it’s faithfulness to the artist.…We try to put that as the most important thing in this room.”
In a nearby customized video room, there’s Bang & Olufsen’s 55-inch home-theatre system in 3-D. It retails for $22,000, including speakers. In the showroom, you can see a chanterelle-coloured, easel-shaped, limited-edition BeoVision 10 with a 46-inch screen. It sells for $13,000, but you better act quickly, because there are only 500 of these in the world.
There’s also a meeting room, where clients can discuss their objectives. Clark says that not everyone who visits an audio-video business is looking for gear. Sometimes, they’re just seeking guidance. “To sort out and remember the passwords for your computer is tough enough,” he acknowledges. “But when you have to remember how to control your life with technology—through user interface, touch panels, key pads, remote controls—that’s a complex issue. That’s why we are a solutions provider, to make things really simple.”