Nick Wearmouth, Director at Edinburgh-based The Sound Counsel, takes on our challenging ‘Comment From The Coalface‘ installer-focused questionnaire.

Tell us a little about your company; What do you specialise in? Who is involved?

We are a Hi-Fi and home cinema specialist based in Edinburgh. We focus on maximising system performance with long-term listening enjoyment as the goal. We believe in high quality bass in both stereo and cinema and particularly specialise in the EQ systems used in cinema. I run the company along with my business partner – Daniel Bland – we have worked together for over 20 years.

What are you doing today work-wise?

I am in the showroom today preparing for a Hi-Fi demonstration tomorrow and working through some options for a new project as well as the usual day to day support of existing customers.

Tell us about the projects you are working on right now.

We have several projects running right now: a nice commercial project that requires eight zones of high-quality sound with Kaleidescape plus outdoor audio is taking shape. A fully concealed cinema in a garden room for an interior designer is one that is slightly different given the detailed panelling on the ceiling. We are also working on a very high quality multi room system to compliment a flagship Hi-Fi.

How do you feel the industry in general is going right now?

We are positive about the industry, we cover lots of different areas so business is consistent for us. Cinema and Hi-Fi performance has never been better, the competition between brands pushes the manufacturers to constantly evolve. This is great for the end user.

What areas of the smart home and luxury AV sector need to improve and how?

Unfortunately, great parts of the sector seem to be a free for all and the only consistent element of luxury is the price tag. A shift from, ‘How much can we get out of this?’ to, ‘How good can we make this?’ would be a good start in my view. I am not in favour of protectionist policies on brands but I feel it is to the detriment of our industry when products are installed just to function rather than optimised to their best performance.

Do you think training needs to be improved? If so, how?

Without a doubt, high level training is almost non-existent. Despite installing hundreds of projectors over my time I do not recall ever being offered any form of training from a manufacturer, even on the higher ticket price items. Proper support is key for us; 22 years in and we are still learning and keen to learn more. I have been increasing my knowledge on commercial audio this year and today am discovering the world of Assistive Listening for the hard of hearing. The more training we have access to the better we can become. I think manufacture-based training or a suite of set up videos (ranging from unboxing to high level adjustments) as part of any initial purchase would be a good start.

Is there a project you are particularly proud of and why?

We take pride in all of our work, I think that is why people return to us time and time again. That said, I have been working with a very successful post-production audio engineer recently. He has well over 100 films and TV series to his name and to hear his praise of my cinema calibration is very rewarding.

Are there any brands or products you particularly like working with, and why?

We work with lots of brands and the professionalism they offer keeps us specifying their products. We particularly favour Trinnov and StormAudio for cinema processors – we have extensive experience with both ranges and they are pushing what is possible in cinema. We also have a great deal of time for Ascendo speakers and subwoofers. The introduction of an infra-sonic subwoofer to a system is something to behold.

What is the best and the worst thing that has happened to you on site?

We are pretty incident-free on site but in the early days a newly-installed TV was immediately broken by a four year old wielding a golf club. The first demonstration of a newly-installed system is always a highlight that I never get bored of.

What is the most unusual client request you have had?

Nothing too unusual for us really as the strange requests are normally the interesting ones. A customer looking to audition the best sounding speaker to go on the floor behind a sofa stands out though.

How do you see the sector changing in the future?

Bigger, brighter and louder seems to be the direction of travel.

Are there persons/organisations/ companies that have been particularly inspirational in your work life? Why?

Years ago Gordon Fraser of Convergent AV introduced me to accuracy and nuance within a video image that opened up the world of projection to me. That knowledge allowed my first company to grow into a success and stays with me today. Tom Garret (then of Anthem AV) did a very similar thing with my introduction to high performance cinema processing and subwoofers. Today Geoffrey Heinzal of Ascendo has helped shape my knowledge of low frequencies even further. Finally Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross nails the sales inspiration – no one wants the steak knives.

Away from work, what are you interests/hobbies?

Music is very much my main hobby. To me live music is an experience with few rivals. Daniel and I also run a small record label that is tremendous fun. Going from a promo piece of music to the finished vinyl being sold is brilliant.

You have magic powers and get one wish concerning the smart home and luxury AV market; what are you going to wish for?

 Let’s start with the patent for wireless electricity and then throw in infallible HDMI while we are at it.

Favourite music and movies? What are you watching/listening to right now?

It is always changing but I particularly enjoyed The Holdovers as a film. The Young Fathers always hit the mark for live music.

You can invite three people (living or not) out for a meal/drink; who’s coming and why?

Good conversation is the key to a successful dinner for me so let’s start with Michael Parkinson as he met just about everybody. Caroline Aherne was a comedy genius and will keep things lively, and so we can talk movies until the small hours, let’s have Barry Norman as well.

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