“My job is to be perpetually disappointed,” says Tonmeister Geoff Martin, the man who strives to ensure each Bang & Olufsen product attains a perfection of sound.
An alchemy of craft, design and sound
Geoff’s a good listener. In fact he’s so good at listening, it’s his profession. Creating a Bang & Olufsen product is a kind of imaginative alchemy – a creative collaboration transforming the elements of sound, design and craft into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. To make that magic happen you need only the most passionate experts. That’s where Geoff comes in. Alongside a team of engineers, he relentlessly tests the sound of new speakers and headphones during their design, using his finely-tuned ear to fine-tune each product he helps develop.
The creative process
“Our goal is that we make a speaker that behaves the way that a recording studio and a studio monitor behave together,” explains Geoff when we visited him recently at Bang & Olufsen headquarters in Struer, Denmark. In essence, Geoff and his colleagues work so that the sound of our headphones and speakers always stay true to the music and never compromise an artist’s original intentions. But how do you manage that balancing act?
For Bang & Olufsen everything follows human experience, even during the early stages of creating a product. “We can’t do all the possible measurements, that would take forever because there are an infinite number of measurements to be done,” says Geoff. Instead, all sound tests begin with listening to music, lots of it. “I have one or two songs I use to start with,” Geoff explains. “I never make decisions off them, but it helps me decide where exactly to look for problems.” From there, depending on where he hears any imperfections, Geoff moves on to a track list of numerous songs that he uses to test bass, mid-range, imaging and more. That process can last months.
Something new every day
In the end, it’s the variety of projects that keeps Geoff excited from day to day “Some days it’s a big speaker, some days a small speaker,” he says. “Some days it’s headphones, other days it’s a car sound system… I get bored easily so it’s a very good place for me to work because I have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow.”