John Storyk began designing music studios with a memorable first client: Jimi Hendrix. The famous rocker hired the young aspiring architect to help him build a recording facility from scratch. The result was Electric Lady Studios, which opened in 1970 in New York’s Greenwich Village and is still going strong. Artists ranging from Stevie Wonder to Taylor Swift have made records on Electric Lady.
To this day, Storyk, now working alongside his wife and business partner Beth Walters, designs studios, podcast booths, performance spaces and rehearsal rooms for clients as famous as his first, including Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith and ESPN. And when it comes to listening to music, he has thoughts. We asked this celebrated music industry veteran to tell us about his home audio setup and any other gear and accessories he uses for casual listening. Here are some of his recommendations.
Best Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speakers: ‘They sound fantastic.’
Storyk likes these compact, portable Bluetooth models – the Bose SoundLink waterproof capsule-shaped speaker and the semi-tubular Sonos Roam – for streaming in the wild: “They sound fantastic.” Both are rechargeable and respond to voice commands (Siri for Bose, Alexa for Sonos and Google Assistant for both). Sonos adds Wi-Fi connectivity. Manufacturers say both can handle splashes, though Bose appreciates its speaker as “waterproof” versus “water resistant” for the Sonos.
‘They sound fantastic.’
Bose SoundLink Flex Wireless Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
- Wireless and waterproof (added bonus: floats)
- Bose’s proprietary technology, which it says is designed for optimal sound quality in different environments
- Siri and Google Assistant enabled
- Rechargeable wireless speaker battery
- Built-in microphone for making calls through the Bluetooth speaker
- 4.8 out of 5 stars with over 5,600 reviews on Amazon
Sonos Roam Portable Smart Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Speaker
- Up to 10 hours of battery life on a single charge
- Use it on Wi-Fi at home and listen anywhere with Bluetooth
- Alexa and Google Assistant enabled
- Waterproof (1 to 30 minutes) with end caps to protect against drops
Best Wireless Headphones: ‘I wear them all the time.’
Storyk still prefers the experience of listening to music through standalone speakers, but he sometimes switches between calls and music on his Bluetooth-enabled iPhone and Apple AirPods Pro. The Pro pair cost substantially more than Apple’s entry-level AirPods ($99 on Amazon), but Storyk says, “I use them all the time.”
Apple AirPods Pro
- According to independent review site Sound Guys, they offer improved audio, stronger noise cancellation, longer charge, more water damage protection, and silicone tips for a comfortable fit.
- noise cancellation
- Sweat and water resistant
- Three sizes of soft silicone tips for a customizable fit
Best wireless noise canceling headphones: ‘Very good.’
The job requires Storyk to spend a lot of time on planes. For in-flight listening, “I have really good Bose and Sennheiser headphones,” he says. Legacy companies from the analogue era, Bose and Sennheiser are also vying for the affections of digital streaming audiophiles: the Bose QuietComfort 45 and Sennheiser Momentum 3 headphones come with Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack cable ( which may or may not require this two-pin airplane adapter, depending on your seat design). “I usually use wire,” says Storyk. “Call me old-fashioned.” Both models include a USB-C cable for charging and listening. Sennheiser adds Alexa-compatible voice control and a USB-C to USB-A adapter.
Sennheiser Momentum 3 wireless headphones with noise canceling
$297 on Amazon
Bluetooth 5.0; SBC, aptX LL, aptX and AACEEffective noise cancellationSound qualityExcellent build qualityMulticonnect, fast autoconnect
- Sound Guys highlight the high sound quality (they rate these headphones an 8.8 out of 10 on sound) and “excellent build quality”
- Wireless and Bluetooth enabled
- Active noise cancellation
- Soft ear cushions and a genuine leather headband
- Auto-pairing mode for easy first-time setup
Bose QuietComfort 45 wireless noise canceling headphones
$279 on Amazon
- Sound Guys highlight the “excellent noise cancellation” and that they are “comfortable for long periods of time”
- Wireless and wired playback
- in-app EQ
- Up to 24 hours of battery life
- Wireless and Bluetooth enabled
Storyk’s home audio and home theater partially run on industrial-grade professional audio hardware, which you might read about and find a little intimidating. But it also has a Sony-made 5.1-channel surround sound setup that he describes as “nothing fancy.” New versions, like the HT-A5000 soundbar that Sony debuted in September, are perhaps a little extravagant, being equipped with immersive spatial sound from Sony’s own Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and 360 Reality Audio technologies. They also accommodate voice commands using Alexa and Google Assistant. For budget-conscious Dolby Atmos and DTS:X home theater sound, Sony’s 3.1-channel model is half the price of $398 on Amazon.
Sony HT-A5000 5.1.2 channel Dolby Atmos Sound Bar surround sound home theater sound bar
$798 on Amazon
- Dolby Atmos and DTS:X with surround sound and 360 spatial sound mapping
- 8K and 4K/120 pass-through gameplay
- Wireless TV connection
- Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Chromecast built-in, Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay
- Integrates with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa
Best Desktop Speaker: ‘A Sweet Pair’
For listening to music at work — whether for work or just fun — Storyk says he has “a sweet pair of little desktops” connected to his office computer. Focal is a French manufacturer with a lot of money among audiophiles and professionals in the music industry. These bookshelf-sized curved speakers are among Focal’s cheapest units, though their Dolby Atmos-equipped counterparts double the asking price.
Focal SIB Evo 2.0 2-way bass-reflex satellite speakers
$499 on Amazon
- Sound Guys singles out these speakers for their high sound quality (gives them a 9.5 out of 10), easy setup, and that the speakers are powerful.
best wall speaker
Whether it’s Puccini or Chicago blues, home music for Storyk plays in your living room and bedroom through wall-mounted speakers that match the decor. After years with a specific brand of built-in speaker, he’s eyeing a move to the Bowers & Wilkins Reference Series, which he calls “a line of great speakers with varying degrees of available dimensions.” By any standard, this top-of-the-line model is expensive: a matched pair will cost around $10,000. Bowers & Wilkins also sells a much less expensive wall-mounted pair, available for $700.98 for the pair at Best Buy.
Bowers & Wilkins 3-way wall speaker
$5,000.99 (each) at Best Buy
- CWM652 Wall Speakers
- 5″ aramid fiber mid-bass driver and aluminum dome tweeter
- Speaker chassis made of die-cast aluminum
- Grille and speaker can be painted to match the surrounding surface
Whatever the budget, Storyk says, “People should pay attention to the room as much as the equipment,” which means they should consider tuning the listening room, which could also mean installing sound-absorbing panels. “I made rooms for people who spent $150,000 on speakers,” says Storyk, “when I could put a $1,500 speaker in here, spend $5,000 to improve the room and you wouldn’t be able to hear it. the difference”.