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I met a man today whose religion was speakers. Whitney Walker, the general manager of retail for the soon-to-be-unveiled Sonos store in Soho, talked to me for an hour about sound diffusion and stereo design and, while I’m not sure, there’s a chance our discussion may have ended with me agreeing to check out their literature. Who knows? 
Sonos, if you’re not familiar, makes speakers—five speakers, to be exact—and pretty much nothing else. The new flagship store is almost, without exaggeration, a shrine to those five little boxes. The immaculate lobby area prominently features a painting of record producer and Sonos advisor Rick Rubin in a kind of yogic pose on a couch, just beyond which is an entire wall of mounted speakers, hanging like some kind of grey-and-black pantheon of lesser deities. 

(Photo: John Ambrosio)

(Photo: John Ambrosio)

While these stereos have already been available at Best Buy, this new, devoted store will provide a “more elevated” shopping experience, says Walker, thanks to their seven house-shaped, artist curated listening rooms. When the store opens to the public next Tuesday, July 19, some of those artists—including El-P, Thurston Moore, Nancy Whang from LCD Soundsystem, Kyp Malone from TV on the Radio and Walter Schreifels from Gorilla Biscuits—will break in the listening rooms, which allow you to try out Sonos stereo equipment in a variety of different configurations.
Actually, Thurston Moore has already made himself at home in one of the mock houses. Hanging in one is a tape collection that includes a number of painted cassettes and home-made mixtapes and bootlegs recorded by the former Sonic Youth member when he was involved in the New York City noise scene (he used to live just down Lafayette Street).
Each of the listening stations is able to simulate a few different set ups: a “kitchen” that features a smaller, individual speaker, a “study” with a larger stereo set-up, and a “living room” with a multi-speaker home theater display, complete with TV soundbar and a subwoofer, for the surround-sound experience. A seventh house display on the store’s lower level also features an analogue turntable and hi-fi display run through Sonos speakers, for those looking for something to play all their records through.
(Photo: John Ambrosio)

(Photo: John Ambrosio)

Clearly, a lot of work went into improving a purchasing experience that usually involves a lot of pretending like you can “totally hear the difference, man.” After all, just about everything from the store-wide music playlist to the wallpaper is described by Walker as “curated” by some artist or another.
To the store’s credit, it did at least make me think about sound. When Walker demoed one of the rooms for me by playing a very on-the-nose selection—Pavement’s “Stereo”—I almost forgot I hated Pavement for a moment because I was internally philosophizing about “low-ends” or whatever.
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In addition to their sound rooms, the store also has display-only zines, courtesy of rare book collector Arthur Fournier, that hang somewhat longingly behind protective glass frames, like a collection of xeroxed butterflies. The store’s collection boasts several issues of iconic NYC zines like New York Rocker and Punk!—including an issue of Punk called “Mutant Monster Beach Party,” with this truly bizarre photocomic featuring Andy Warhol, Joey Ramone and Debbie Harry.
The store opens next Tuesday with a number of events throughout the week, including those in-store first listens on Tuesday. In addition, Pitchfork Radio will host a live broadcast inside the store over its first weekend, with several unannounced artists and special guests.
The Sonos Store is located at 101 Green Street. It opens Tuesday, July 19 at 12 p.m. and will be regularly open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.