Archived NewsThis Old House, The Cambridge Project, 2005-2006. We were delighted to have been selected as the audio, video, and automation specialist for the 2006 This Old House project in Cambridge, MA.
The contemporary home features an extensive audio system with speakers in most rooms and high-end Dynaudio Confidence C2 speakers in the living room. Behind the speakers, stealthy CinemaTech Acoustic Room Systems fabric walls tame the lively acoustics. Between the speakers a trick Auton lift lowers a portion of a redwood wall (right; click picture to enlarge) into the basement (!) to reveal a glorious 61" Runco plasma. A REL Studio subwoofer supplies "ample" bass.
In the master bedroom, a 43" Runco plasma swivels on a custom cabinet. With 8 color touchpanels, 23 keypads, 5 video cameras, 8 Crestron-controlled thermostats, nearly 80 Crestron-controlled lighting loads, 3 miles of audio, video, and control wiring, and a huge 10kVA Equi=Tech balanced power conditioner, this is the most extensive and comprehensive automation package ever installed in a This Old House project. It even has a superb turntable for you vinyl lovers: Clearaudio Ambient with an Audio Research PH5 phono section.
The first of three episodes featuring Goodwin's High End aired in January 2006 on PBS.
Episode 2516: "... In the basement, Kevin finds master electrician Allen Gallant and Goodwin's High End installing a complex electrical landscape that employs over 6 miles of wire to support whole house automation and lighting control. ..."
Episode 2517 "... We show host Kevin O'Connor how he’s concealing a 61" plasma TV in the living room, and adding acoustical panels to enhance the sound in the room...."
Episode 2518 "... On the final day, minutes before the wrap party, we show Norm the finished media system and whole house automation...."
This Old House Magazine, April 2006. You can see our work in the Cambridge Project on page 74.
Inside This Old House, June 2004. Early in 2004, a This Old House camera crew visited our showroom. Show host Kevin O'Connor chatted with us about video display devices (CRT televisions, plasma displays, rear projection televisions, and DLP front projection). The show also discussed room acoustics, showing products from ASC and Goodwin's High End's own acoustic baffle system. We enjoyed the experience and found the cast, crew, and director a pleasure to work with. We were fascinated to see how unscripted, improvised educational programming is shot and produced.
Steinway Magazine, 2004. A large photo of our high-end music studio was featured as an example of the importance and impact of acoustical design.
Boston Globe, July 21, 2002. Goodwin's High End was cited as an expert on the programming of control systems. The conclusion of the article is that the job of programming a control system is difficult for an end user and might best left to a professional.
Boston Globe, May 23, 2002. Goodwin's High End was selected to provide factual information about:
For example, in discussing the door to a home theater, the Boston Globe reported, "'Ideally you would have a trap door in the floor,' Goodwin says, almost with a straight face. Realistically, he said, the door should be located at the back of the room, so when it's opened, light spilling into the room won't fall [directly] on the screen or the viewers."
Listener Magazine, Autumn 1995. Goodwin's High End was reviewed as the best audio store in the Boston area.
The following is an excerpt from the three page review of Boston area stereo stores:
"...Alan Goodwin is a calm, civilized fellow, deeply committed to the synergistic principle of system matching. He...now has a brand new store in Waltham (781-893-9000), with five [now six] well-equipped demo rooms. Goodwin's High End sells Audio Research, Theta... , MIT and a number of much more expensive brands. Perhaps a little narrow in choice of products (itself a consequence of his "system matching" thinking), perhaps also a flutter obstinate in his embrace of the expensive "high-end" concept, I can nonetheless heartily recommend Alan Goodwin as a trustworthy, knowledgeable, and helpful dealer who will provide excellent service to the music lover. His is the best operation in town."
Boston Herald, September 25, 1992. Goodwin's High End was featured in the Boston Herald newspaper with more than a full page of coverage. An excerpt follows here:
Audio Adventures — by Larry Katz, Music Editor, Boston Herald
What had I gotten myself into?
You don't call a Rolls Royce mechanic to tune up your Pinto. You don't need a brain surgeon if you cut yourself shaving. You don't hire Alan Dershowitz when you get a parking ticket. So what was Alan Goodwin doing coming to my house to check out the sound system I'd bought at Tweeter etc. 10 years ago for under $900?
Goodwin is New England's premier high-end audio dealer. He's owned stores on Newbury Street and in Harvard Square, and Goodwin's' Audio on Commonwealth Avenue still bears his name, although he is in no longer officially associated with it.
In 1990, Goodwin decided to devote himself to offering the very best audio and video equipment money can buy and opened Goodwin's High End...
No sign out front identifies it.** "People who are interested will find me.", Goodwin says.
While not everything Goodwin sells is outrageously expensive, much of it is. A CD player for $10,000. A tone arm for $12,900. Speaker cable alone can run into the thousands. If Goodwin isn't crazy, then his customers certainly are. Or so you might think.
But it turns out Goodwin, a tall, thin, 39-year-old with a soft voice and casual manner is not an audio snob. His interest in the ultra-costly gear stems from his love of great-sounding music. But he believes you don't necessarily have to spend thousands to enjoy good sound in your home. And he was coming to my house to prove it.
Thinking about it was making me sweat. I feared humiliation. I imagined Goodwin sneering at my budget-priced equipment and the tangle of wires connecting it. I could hear him laughing derisively at what I, a music journalist, accepted as decent sound.
But I was the one laughing when I looked out my front window and saw Goodwin walking toward my apartment toting two speaker stands. Speaker stands! What a joke. Was he going to tell me that lifting my speakers a few feet off the floor was going to make a difference in my listening life? Hah!
To my surprise, Goodwin barely glanced at my Yamaha turntable and receiver, Aiwa tape deck, and the one addition to my Tweeter-bought system, a borrowed Musical Concepts CD player, (I'd recently killed my own by accidentally whacking it opened tray). Instead, he immediately turned his attention to the placement of my speakers.
"They're buried," he said after listening to bit of guitarists' Strunz & Farah's "Americas," the CD I'd chosen as our test recording. "They sound dead."
Both speakers — Boston Acoustic A60s— sat on the floor with their backs against a wall and with books piled on top. One was partly blocked by a loveseat.
"Where do you usually sit when you listen?," Goodwin asked. I positioned myself on a couch opposite the speakers. Goodwin removed the books, pulled the speakers away from the wall and placed them on the speaker stands.
"You want air around the speakers", he said," at least the kind you have. You want them at the right height, which is generally ear level. Most importantly, you want to position them across from you to form more or less, an equilateral triangle. If the speakers are too close together, they'll constrict the sound. It won't be open enough. Too far apart and you'll get a ping-pong effect, which can be fun, but you'll lose the center image."
Like any stereo owner, I'd heard about speaker positioning before. This wasn't news. I'd been hoping Goodwin would perform magic and instead he was telling me the same old story.
But the improvement in sound was magical. The music pouring out of my speaker was more alive, dramatically so. Certain sounds seemed to be coming, not from the speakers, but from between them...
Searching for just the right position for my speakers, Goodwin then "tweaked" the sound by having me shift my seat slightly and by moving the speakers an inch here and there. Every change produced an audible difference. As a further tweak, Goodwin removed the protective grills from my speakers, which literally uncovered more sound.
Goodwin wasn't through. He then claimed he'd further improve the sound by changing the cables connecting my components. The notion struck me as ridiculous.
"Just plugging and unplugging your connections is going to clean the contacts and improve the sound," he told me. I tried not to giggle.
First he replaced the cheapo wiring connecting the CD player and receiver with a one meter-long pair of MIT interconnect cable (price $35). To my amazement, the sound became noticeably more vibrant, the bass in particular.
Replacing the wires running to my speakers with 10-foot lengths of MIT cable ($80 per pair) produced another improvement. It was as if Strunz & Farah had replaced dull old guitar strings with brand new ones.
Was I impressed? You bet. Investing time and not much more that $250, I was hearing what my system was capable of for the first time.
Later that day, I brought my speakers and receiver to Goodwin's showroom. There I heard the kind of stunning sound that convinces music lovers with fat wallets to drop large sums at such high-end outlets...
First Goodwin hooked up my speakers and receiver to a Spectral SDR-1000SL CD player ($5795). After a listening period, he replaced my receiver with a Spectral DMC-20 pre-amp ($5395-6995) and Spectral DMA-180 power amp ($6495). Let's just say my $150 speakers were sounding better than ever.
Then Goodwin hooked his ungodly good equipment into a pair of Win Labs SM-10 speakers ($6259a pair). The richness and detail of the music was stunning.
"I call high-end audio the best-kept secret," Goodwin said. "Most people don't even know equipment like this exists. They certainly haven't heard it. When you do hear it, you understand it's not just an expensive toy. You're buying music."
To fully savor the high-end experience, a few days later Goodwin took me to the Brookline home of computer expert and musician Chris M. In 1987, Goodwin designed a dream home-entertainment room for Mr. M., installing an audio and video system that cost upwards of $100,000.
The sound that emerges from the 6 1/2-foot-tall speakers is buttery rich, deeply engrossing and almost life-like. Almost. Reproducing music that sounds as good as live music remains the ultimate goal of high-end devotees.
But the goal of high-quality sound in your own home is obtainable — and you don't need a ton of money to get started. Before you spend a penny, start moving those speakers around and listen. Better sound can be yours if you want it.
(**Please note: We have decided that to celebrate the new millennium that in the year 2000 we will install a sign so that people can find us more easily.)
Arts & Entertainment Magazine, February 1992. Goodwin's High End was one of three stores in the US featured in an article about high end audio. An excerpt follows:
What Does a $300,00 Hi-Fi Sound Like?
The Heavenly Choir Itself, the Author Discovers— by Peter Jurew
In the beginning (for me anyway), there was a trip to Boston to catch up with Nick and Dru, old friends. There was a bike ride with Nick on a glorious afternoon, leaves sighing in the breeze and the world pretending for just a few hours to be an orderly place. Then we found what we were looking for: an audio showroom. This particular one was sunny and filled with plush furniture, and, of course, electronics. I wasn't aware at the time, but subsequently I came to see that we had entered a religious place: a temple that served the cult of the ear.
The wall nearest the street was lined with pairs of speakers of all sizes and descriptions: six-foot upright coffins, five-foot vertical hope chests, four-foot pyramids. Between the speakers stood a wooden table holding large chunks of transistorized metal: amplifiers, preamplifiers, compact disc players, and a turntable. A gilded couple from Florida sat on a couch facing the electronic "altar," while a young initiate ecstatically spoke in the tongues of the trade: "Refined" speakers with "dedicated woofers" had "dynamic range"; their sonic quality was "pure"; they became "transparent" and created "images" of the musician's locations. But the woman from Florida was not as taken by the esoterica as was her husband. She took one look at the two-inch thick extra-heavy speaker cables running along the floor and cried, "Honey, what're we going to do—I can't vacuum over those wires!". The man ignored her, lost in the talk of transplendant sound reproduction. Funny enough, once the ritual balms of demonstration discs were applied to our ears and we finally heard some music, Nick and I understood most of the private language immediately. Every selection astonished. Pianos were crystalline, vocals were filled with breath, and the first exuberant kicks of Art Blakey's bass drum exploded like a concussion grenade. In fact, the system did seem transparent.
After his customers left without buying a thing I asked Alan Goodwin if he had an absolute all-star hi-fi system in mind for me—a "best of the "best" I might save and scrimp to buy some day. An eager smile crossed his face. "You mean no compromises?" None, I replied bravely. Without pause, he rattled off the name brands as if they were sitting in front of us (in fact, some of them were). Curious about how many paychecks I'd have to fork over to own such a setup, I queried him on the do-re-me. The whole system came in at (humina humina) three hundred thousand dollars.
Now I'd owned one stereophonic music-playing device or another since I was fifteen and am currently in possession of completely adequate, well-loved mid-quality products that cost about a thousand dollars ten years ago. Nevertheless, I was aware of devotees whose motto was "only the very best." I'd glanced into some of their specialty magazines, where the letter writers often seemed eccentric, cantankerous, or fanatic. But I had no idea that they spent so much money on their pursuit of the perfect soundwave.
I left Boston haunted by the thought that someone could sleep on a dark street somewhere while someone else could watch from behind a window, calmed by the "sonic purity' and "dynamic range" of this quarter-million-dollar sound machine. Was it just plain ugly ostentation, or was there some kind of price/value equation that I was missing? It'd already hit me that I'd never own that perfect system, but I also realized that I'd never hear recorded music sound better than what I'd heard in that room [at Goodwin's High End]. The "high-end sound" was different, very different. But three hundred thousand dollars different? (That is for you to decide.)
Audio Magazine, March 1985. [An audio and video system designed by Alan Goodwin was featured in Audio Magazine in a one-time-only special supplement printed on extra heavy paper stock. Nine of the top US audio stores chosen—and each store had one of their high end system installations photographed. The system from Goodwin's was prominently featured having been given a full two-page spread showing the system, and also showing how the system was completely invisible when not in use. Alan's system was the only one selected from the New England area.]
DESIGNS FOR LIVING
Even in a world of few certainties, occasional statements can safely be accepted as truth. One such maxim, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, has been borne out by centuries of changing taste, preferences ranging from the classical elegance of the Parthenon and other monuments of ancient Greece to the curvaceous architectural jewels of Vienna. Just as one generation's collective eye exults in the swirling opulence of Art Nouveau, another era's vision is lured by Mondrian's linear austerity or the products of the Bauhaus, all based on a firm belief that less is more.
And consider this dictum, no less axiomatic if all too often ignored: A high-fidelity system is seen even more than it is heard. This is why Audio, which perennially concerns itself with the sound of hi-fi components, makes this brief detour along visual avenues. It is not our purpose here to evaluate the envelopes in which individual pieces of equipment are contained. Rather, in the pages that follow, we present several systems in situ. While designers of these rooms took varying directions, some celebrating the hardware while others chose to de-emphasize it, we feel all are exemplary.
Some years ago, our Senior Editor Leonard Feldman, supervised the setup of a component system in Jimmy Carter's White House. In the process, he had to convince the Presidential minions presiding over the event that the loudspeakers should not be placed behind the drapes.
The installations pictured on the following pages provide clear evidence that neither compacts nor curtains are the answer for people conscious both of what they see and hear. While obviously expensive, some the visual ideas embodied can be scaled down for a long and happy mating of good looks and fine sound. Such solutions are well worth seeking even for those who find the merest sight of high tech a low blow. After all, as a poet long ago noted, "Music hath charms that soothe..."
[The picture of the Goodwin's system was captioned by the following:]
"A now-you-see-it, now-you-don't approach to stereo sound was taken in the above installation by Goodwin's of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Built-in cabinets spell concealment for speakers and subwoofers not in use. For music, one need only open their doors."
The Boston Globe Magazine, March 26, 2000.
We were the only high end store named in a feature article on high end audio.
At the top of page 22 near the end of the article the following was written:
"...seven dealers in the United States — one of them in New England (Goodwin's High End of Waltham)..."
[Copyright restrictions prevent us from reproducing the whole article here, but we were granted permission to excerpt the portion where we were specifically mentioned.]
November 24, 2013
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