The audiophile designer
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New Delhi: Abhishek Gupta’s new flagship store at Defence Colony in New Delhi is a reflection of his twin talents—fashion designing and sound designing. But what takes the store to a whole new level is the “Listening Room”.
Across a brown leather sofa in the 15x18x8 ft Listening Room sits a state-of-the-art sound system, a combination of some 10-odd gadgets, handpicked by Gupta to produce a world-class music experience. The idea behind it is to introduce his clients to his passion—sound design, says Gupta.
In the Listening Room, the acoustics have been designed by Rainer Weber, technical director of Kaiser Acoustics, makers of some of the best speakers in the world. The walls are made of micro-perforated MDF, a mixture of reflector and diffuser.
The structure is “floating”, which means the ceiling and the floor are false—the “cube” is not attached to the store. “This is to ensure that there is no superstructure resonance,” says Gupta.
The music system runs on batteries. Two HP700 pre-amplifiers by Octave, two Octave monoblocks, two capacitor banks with 450,000 farads of capacitance, a Stahl Tek digital-to-analog converter, Furman power conditioners, a turntable and a computer, all connected with Van Den Hul carbon cables and two PMC speakers complete the set-up. To the uninitiated, this might be Greek, but for audiophiles, it is like the Harley Davidson or the Blue Label of sound designing.
The system is connected to a server that stores the music library and costs Rs.1 crore, while the room will set you back by another Rs.75 lakh. The overall result is stunning sound clarity. As the music starts playing and you close your eyes, you are transported to a parallel universe of pianos and organs, cellos, violins and percussion. Be it Bach’s Fugue in G minor or James Brown’s ‘It’s A Man’s World’, every note is crystal clear.
Outside the Listening Room in the 1,800 sq. ft store, designed by Studio Lotus, are a sequence of courtyards that display Gupta’s fashion collection.
The overall space—sans the clothing—is a monochrome canvas and painted in deep charcoal tones. The Italian marble on the floor is dyed to develop a dark patina to highlight the clothes. Perforated dynamic film on mirror and glass makes for the wall, generating a moire effect. Looking out from the store, the perforated skin extends to the façade.
Gupta first built a music system about 20 years ago. “My brother gave me a budget of Rs.3 lakh to build him a music system. I picked up a pair of Bose 901 speakers with NAD amplification,” he says. “That’s when I was bitten by the audiophile bug. I started comparing different technologies and products, reading and researching. Whenever I went abroad, I spent a lot of time in good demo rooms to understand the latest technology.”
“Five years back, one of my friends asked me to set up an audio system with a budget of Rs.5 lakh. He was blown away with the result,” recalls Gupta.
Word spread and he started getting more orders. Within months, Gupta was charging a consultation fee.
His first professional consultancy was in 2011, to set up a sound system for a cousin with a budget of Rs.8 lakh. Over the years, he has set up around 40 systems with budgets ranging between Rs.5 lakh and Rs.1 crore. His clients, mostly between 35 and 50 years of age, are high networth individuals from different walks of life—photographers, industrialists, fashion designers, among others. “Essentially people who are music lovers,” says Gupta.
The 42-year-old was born into a family of businessmen, engineers and freedom fighters in the Nagwa locality of Varanasi. As a child, he loved painting but was also good with gadgets. “If a toy wouldn’t work, I would open and fix it,” he says, and adds that fixing irons and toasters was a hobby.
After graduating from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in 1995, he worked with well-known designer Rohit Bal. Gupta started his eponymous line in 2000 and also launched a streetwear label, Fightercock, with wife Nandita Basu in 2006, which the duo suspended in 2008. He sells his line from his store at DLF Emporio luxury mall in New Delhi and through boutiques across the country. None of his other retail spaces has the sound room though.
“There is an almost 25% increase in demand year-on-year for high-end home theatres and stereos in India,” says Harshul Parikh, managing director and chief executive of Trescent Lifestyles Pvt. Ltd, the India dealers for Steinway Lyngdorf sound systems. Parikh adds that the firm sells about 15 configurations every year, ranging between Rs.50 lakh and Rs.5 crore.
Gupta is keen to create an experience. “I wanted to set up a store where I could invite people to have an audiophile experience similar to that in Munich High End, which is like the Paris Fashion Week for audio. If hearing a song or an instrument connects with you enough to bring a tear to your eye, I know you will be coming back for more,” he says.