Kurt Villanueva has been an audiophile ever since he was a kid. One Christmas, when he was just 12 years old, his cousin played Michal Jackson’s You Are Not Alone on a brand new audio system. “I was hooked,” said Villanueva. Just three years later he was building his own speakers. Fast-foward to 2004 and Villanueva was getting set to open his first distribution company, selling high-end audio products, while attending Mount Royal University.
In 2010, he started working at the Audio Room, one of Calgary’s leading audio equipment sellers, and is now the operations director for the company.
We caught up with Villanueva to nerd out over audio gear and add a few goodies to our ever-growing wish list.
What are some the most popular brands that you carry at the Audio Room?
We carry quite a few popular brands and a range of products. In the speakers and headphones space a there are a few standouts:
Focal: In my opinion Focal is one of the most technologically advance speaker companies. With the exception of a few multimedia products, Focal speakers and drivers are designed and manufactured in France. They recently started manufacturing headphones. Their recent released Uptopia high-end headphones are already considered one of the best headphones on the market today.
Tannoy: This is one of the oldest speaker companies around. They’ve been in operation around 90 years. Tannoy’s dual concentric driver has been the number one choice for many studios and musicians.
Audeze: They have always been one of the most innovated headphone companies. They released one of the very first planner magnetic headphones that included Lightning cables (with DAC amp) for Apple users. They recently released the very first planer magnetic in-ear phones.
Turntables are very popular as well with the resurgence of interest in vinyl records. One brand that does very well in this space is Rega.
Rega: This company produces one of the best value turntables on the market especially in the sub $2000 range. It’s easy to setup, which makes one it one of our most recommended turntables for newbie vinyl enthusiasts.
When it comes to multimedia systems two brands really stand out.
Devialet: Arguably the most high tech audio company today with over 100 patents.
Their latest speaker wireless speaker, Phantom, produces an output of a speaker 20 times it’s size.
Bang & Olufsen: One of our favourite brands for both industrial design and sound quality. B&O’s unique DSP (Digital Signal Processing) enables room-filling sound with a small footprint.
You were at CES this year. Were there any stand out products you’ll be bringing in?
The Tannoy Legacy speakers where definitely one of my favourite new products shown at CES. I was pleased to see one of their most famous speaker lines reimagined for the modern age. With modern day drivers they kept the cabinet design virtually the same as the ones released in the 1970s. Tannoy is releasing some other new and exciting products this year, but unfortunately we had to sign an NDA and aren’t able to share information.
A lot of people are rocking headphones these days. Any favourites?
Bang Olufson H9 is definitely my favorite for traveling. With such an elegant, stylish design, excellent sound quality, comfortable fit, and active noise cancelling, they’re my choice when I’m on the go.
That said, Focal and Audze are my picks for pure sound quality.
Industrial design, how a product looks, matters a lot to some people. In your mind, what are the sexiest designs right now?
Fashion headphones have become increasing in popularity over the years. Pryma and Master Dynamic are the best looking headphones in my opinion.
The Devialet Phantom gets lots of attention too. It looks amazing especially if you like the ultra modern tech design. And for speakers, you’ve got to check out the Focal Sopra 2. It’s definitnely my favorite looking speaker at the moment.