David Wiener founded the original SoundTube company, and after selling the business went on to design and manufacture the Art.Engine single-tower, standalone wireless sound system in collaboration with Ferrari. COMPANY: David Wiener Ventures
CHALLENGE: Combining high performance with style in products ranging from automobiles, airplanes, bicycles, lawnmowers, outdoor clothing and skiwear, and sophisticated sound systems.
Ask most people to imagine a Formula 1 race and they'll picture cars weaving around a track, making the occasional pit-stop so a frantic crew can conduct a year's maintenance in the blink of an eye. Then ask someone who built engines for Ferrari's U.S. racing team in his college days, and today manufactures a truly remarkable sound system in partnership with that very same car maker in Italy, and you'll find there's more than meets the eye in F1 design.
For the engineers, mechanics, and drivers of F1, "nothing's ever good enough, you're always striving for higher performance," explained David Wiener, whose company, David Wiener Ventures (DWV), was the originator of SoundTube speakers, among a dazzling array of other products ranging from fashion to furniture. High performance isn't the only objective Wiener took away from his early days on the track. He also noted the beauty and efficiency inherent in every aspect of F1 design.
Today performance definitely meets style in Park City, UT-based DWV's Ferrari Art.Engine, a wireless, single-tower standalone sound system. Like a lot of the creations in Wiener's repertoire, the Ferrari Art.Engine begins as a tremendous amount of raw materials at DWV's Salt Lake City manufacturing facility and lovingly crafted into an object that is at once stunning and unobtrusive.
The Art.Engine represents the past in its shiny automotive finish, but its high-tech wireless operation is focused on future listening. These speakers are designed to sound good anywhere in a room. "It's not meant to be something that makes you sit there and do nothing but listen, it's a lifestyle product," Wiener explained, "and it sounds as good as it is nice to look at."
The Ferrari Art.Engine doesn't just look good on the outside. Its interior electronics are strenuously arranged to resemble the engine of its namesake. Gold, chrome, anodized, and carbon-fiber parts come together precisely in every one of the 1,000 limited-edition Art.Engine units.
The Art.Engine is manufactured to DWV and Ferrari's exacting standards in Salt Lake City, UT.
In an age where electronics become obsolete at Formula 1 speeds, Wiener likes to think of these sound systems as heirlooms. This philosophy is reflected in the production process for the Art.Engine. "It's not so much that we're using processes that are secret or necessarily innovative, it's just that we're applying high-tech manufacturing processes to a product that normally would never see that level of attention to detail," Wiener said.
The more than 100-pound chassis of the Art.Engine tower begins life as nearly triple that weight in raw, high-grade aluminum. That material is machined for almost 24 hours, all day and well into the night, a process enabled by DWV's computer-controlled, "lights-out" manufacturing capabilities. "We're using very advanced machines with laser probing technology, so if something goes wrong or a tool breaks inside the machine, there are all kinds of checks and balances," Wiener reported. "The difference between us and typical machine shop is it's hard for a machine shop to be passionate about the parts they're making when they don't even know where they are going to end up. We're running what almost seems more like an operating room, you could almost eat off the floor."
The Art.Engine is then finished with a coat of Ferrari automotive paint from the palette of the company's car colors. This process requires an absolutely pristine surface, otherwise the paint will amplify flaws in a very apparent way. "We do lots and lots of hand finishing and polishing on each Art.Engine," Wiener said. "Some of the parts are polished and gold plated, some are polished and anodized, and still other parts are polished and then plated and then painted. In any one of these things there are five ways to cut costs. But that's not what we're making. Just like Ferrari could cut the cost of their cars, but that's not their objective."
After assembly and finishing, the Art.Engine is tested via mechanical and sonic measurement quality control procedures combined with a listening test and system tuning, all in SLC facility.
DWV's tendency toward precision is augmented by Ferrari's demands for perfection in any product that bears its logo. "That's why we're good partners," Wiener commented. "Ferrari could work with anybody in the world. What they see in David Wiener Ventures is a similarity to who they are. We are a small company doing very exotic and very innovative work at a high-quality level, and in the auto world, Ferrari is a very small company doing very exotic work based on performance and style."
Wiener with some of the vast array of his creations at the original DWV shop.
In The Driver's Seat
The road from building racecar engines to designing loudspeakers has been a winding one. If Wiener's accomplishments years of accomplishments were laid out along a Formula 1 course, he could be found in both the pit crew and the cockpit. He has skied professionally, raced and customized Porches and BMWs, designed an airplane and the world's fastest recumbent bicycle, and somewhere along the way he also developed and realized several lines of performance and street clothing.
Meanwhile, in its 26 years in business, DWV has dramatically changed loudspeaker design-twice. And the company is about to do it again. While Art.Engine sales are primarily aimed at the luxury lifestyle market, it seems the commercial audio market is always knocking on Wiener's door. The Art.Engine has already found a home in hotel lobbies and guest rooms, and Wiener pointed out that the sound systems would also be a profitable corporate sale to CEOs who want to outfit their office with a coveted and aesthetically pleasing sound system.
It's been a year since DWV launched the Art.Engine, and already it looks like loudspeakers will once again be at forefront of the company's plans. "We've been approached by a company that would like us to develop advanced commercial audio speakers possessing high-quality aesthetic and sonic attributes."
The products will be very high-performance, with a focus also on coverage and ease of installation, Wiener said, "because that's something we take very seriously. Of course the other side of the design would be a very unique aesthetic. These will be products that add to their environment as opposed to taking away from it as speakers usually do."
The Road Ahead
Given the wide array of products created by DWV-the company is always working on an ecologically friendly lawnmower, among other innovations-it has become necessary to market a selection of them under the same umbrella. Soon, a spin-off company called the David Wiener Collection will launch new audio and entertainment products, extending the Art.Engine wireless solution into sound systems for home and office.
Clearly, Wiener has much to keep him inspired every day. In fact, he said, "one category inspires the others. We do a lot of crossover. We've been in so many different industries, we can bring things from another category to any of our products. We are able to learn things that we might not realize if we weren't exposed to them in another market. That benefits the product and the development of everything we do."