Sound has never been easier to come by, or harder to ignore. With endless music streaming, rampant noise pollution, and more media than ever before, the idea of active listening feels almost arcane. An unlikely pair—Etsy co-founder Rob Kalin and longtime NASA engineer William Cowan—seek to change that with A for Ara, a new line of handmade speakers that are tailor-made for attracting attention.
Each of the trio of options focuses on a horn, as opposed to a box speaker. For FS-1 and FS-2, the horn is unmissable, blooming in nine panels not unlike a tulip—or perhaps one of Takashi Murakami’s flowers—above a base that calls to mind, in the former iteration, a charming birdhouse and, for the latter, David Bowie’s Kansai Yamamoto pants. But the bold aesthetic choice, Kalin tells Surface, “is actually form following function. The horn is a coupling device for sound.” This allows the system’s drivers for high and mid range, both located in the horn’s throat, to play louder while using fewer watts than box systems.
Whether painted or oil-finished, in black walnut or cherry or hard maple, A for Ara’s output is best experienced by centering oneself between the pair set eight to 16 feet apart and about three feet from a back wall. This might be challenging in a cramped city apartment. But listen: proper positioning will not only let the speakers realize their full audio potential, but live up to their name, the Latin word for altar.