As winter settles in and the city’s lauded program of outdoor concerts and celebrations winds down for the season, our attention typically turns inward. But that doesn’t mean we have to endure a shortfall when it comes to the quality of our home sound and vision experience.
Home entertainment systems have come a long way in the last few years, and a lot of that has come from people demanding a home experience on par with the one they enjoy in a theater.
“A lot of people want a sound experience closer in quality to what the people producing the music or movie intended to deliver,” explains Santa Barbara-based musician, producer and sound engineer Chris Pelonis. “People are seeking a beautiful sound experience—that’s what movie directors and recording engineers produce and that’s how they want their art to be heard.”
Along with playing guitar for the likes of Jeff Bridges, for more than 20 years, Pelonis has headed Pelonis Sound & Acoustics and designed state-of-the-art sound studios for companies such as Skywalker Sound, Disney Studios and Geffen Records.
A few years ago, he also developed his own line of critical-listening high-fidelity monitors. The Chris Pelonis Signature Series—including the Model 42, Model 42LF and Model 4288—has won critical acclaim for providing unparalleled clarity, detail and balance by audio professionals and connoisseurs of fine sound alike.
Pelonis now incorporates his speakers into high-end home entertainment systems that he custom designs himself.
“I just installed Model 42 with sub woofers throughout Jeff and Susan Bridges’ new home,” Pelonis says. “I’ve put my speakers in a couple of homes for Kim and Tammy Hughes and recently did a home theater for them. They have ended up spending more time in the theater than anywhere else in the house. They’re able to experience television and movies and music in a way they never have before with typical consumer equipment.”
Another Santa Barbara company that shapes home entertainment systems is Mission Audio/Video (1910 De la Vina St.) . Since 1989, the company has configured and installed hi-fi audio, home theater, audio and acoustics, cabinets and seating, and whole house automation systems for both home and commercial settings.
“We cater to people who appreciate something of a little higher quality and a little more special,” explains Cody Barry of Mission Audio/Video. “A good example of that is a brand like McIntosh, a New York-based company that has been around since 1949 and has an incredible legacy. People recognize McIntosh as quality to aspire to, and while we do have things that cater to everybody, we also cater to enthusiasts who appreciate what finely crafted brands like that have to offer.”
Offering everything from subwoofers, speakers and noise-isolating hi-fi headphones to state-of-the-art full-room theaters and compact limited-space systems, Mission Audio/Video specializes in proven brands such as McIntosh, Mark Levinson, Paradigm, Sony and Sennheiser.
As well as building a sound experience from the ground up, the company can also incorporate digital technology into existing systems.
“Companies like Sony and McIntosh make a streamer that pulls from digital libraries and streams it into your current system,” Barry adds.
Streaming is something the downtown Santa Barbara-based sound design company Sonos has been perfecting since 2002.
Sonos produces a wireless local network-based hi-fi system that allows listeners to stream digital audio on various devices within the configuration. With a multi-speaker system, customers can fill the entire house with music, either streaming different songs in each room or playing one song all through the entire house.
The Sonos range starts with a single wireless speaker. After plugging in the power cord, downloading the free app and connecting the speaker to a Wi-Fi network, music will stream within seconds. Ranging from the compact Play:1 to the room-filling Play:3 and Play:5, the speakers can also be paired for stereo sound.
“The Sonos system takes away the complexity of all the wires, but gives you a high-quality listening experience,” explains Lizzie Manganiello, Sonos brand PR manager. “Because it’s connecting through a home wireless network and not through something like Bluetooth—where there’s the potential for interruption—what you’re getting is a superior sound quality.”
For those looking to do more than just stream music, Sonos also produces a variety of home theater systems that provide sound for television, movies and games. The 3.0 features the Sonos playbar that produces a full range of sound effects and music from the left and right channels and crisp, clear dialogue from the center. The 3.1 comes with the playbar and an additional sub while the 5.1 includes the playbar, sub and two rear speakers for surround sound.
“Who doesn’t want to surround themselves with quality sound?” asks Manganiello.
This story was originally published in the winter 2016/17 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.