Sound & Visionary: John Hunter of Sumiko

After honing his business chops at Denon, John Hunter was hired as sales manager for the acclaimed audiophile brand Sumiko, where he has since become president. He's grown the company substantially since he started there in 1988, creating affordable products with impeccable high-end pedigree, starting with the legendary Blue Point phono cartridge. His stated goal, as he told S&V's Jamie Sorcher, is "to bring the magic that is the high end to real people."

Where does a high-end company like Sumiko fit into a world driven by things like iPods and whole-house audio? There are times in your life when you want fast food, and then there are times when you want a wonderful sit-down meal. Similarly, there are times at home when you want a beautiful room where you can sit down and immerse yourself in a musical experience - which is very different from running around with an iPod strapped to you while you're shopping or trying to pay a toll. Whole-house audio, meanwhile, has become a lot of really, really bad Chinese-constructed speakers crammed into people's ceilings.

Are high-end and whole-house audio incompatible? I don't believe for a second that the whole house can't be high-end, but I think the industry is in a transition. We've gone from 15 years ago, when we realized we can cut into walls and put speakers there, to whole-house audio becoming mainstream. And now we're gradually drifting more toward bigger, broader possibilities. The entire custom-installation business is burgeoning in so many interesting, creative ways - and one of those ways is quality. That doesn't mean there have to be beautiful $10,000 speakers in every room. People now consider having a library, for example, with a high-quality small music system in it or have a plasma in the bedroom with really great speakers attached, and it's not an afterthought.

Whole-house audio is even moving outdoors now. The whole outdoor world has just exploded in the last 18 months. Look, high-end is a mindset - it's a lifestyle. So, if you've got a pair of Sonus Faber speakers making beautiful sound in your main system, why not have something equally amazing just outdoors?

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