New Yorker Mark Rosen is a well-heeled audiophile who makes his home in a stark, high-ceiling apartment in a Donald Trump building.
He chose the space two years ago not just because of its fantastic location — he works three blocks away — and the building's attentive staff, but because it had a room big enough for his planned entertainment system.
Rosen, who made his fortune as president and CEO of an executive search firm specializing in lawyers, enjoys watching the news, movies and his Super Bowl champion Giants in high definition, but his true love is music.
"I love it when people come over and hear [my home theater system] because they don't want to leave," he said. "These are not all audio experts; these are typical people."
An aggressive Swiss engineering company is making some inroads with people like Rosen — the super rich — by promising to deliver startling video and sound; that is, if they're willing to shell out the cash for perfection.
Goldmund, a 30-year-old company, is best known for its studio-quality Reference Turntable, which can be yours for a mere $300,000. (Records, if still available, are sold separately.) But Goldmund recently refocused its efforts to study the full home theater experience.
In the last two years, it has made more than 100 successful installations, complete with price tags ranging from $500,000 to more than $1 million.
"When I heard [the Goldmund] system, I knew I had to have it," Rosen said. "Initially, I invested $100,000 in the pre-amps and some components, but since then I have added some more speakers to the stack."
Chuck Mangione, Rosen's friend and a celebrated jazz legend, was skeptical of the money his friend spent on the system; the whole system set Rosen back about half a million dollars.
"[Mangione] thought I was crazy, so I bribed him with some Yankee playoff tickets," said Rosen. "Before the game he came to pick me up, and I put in one of his CDs. A tear came to his eye, because he had not heard that quality since performing the music live. In fact, when I close my eyes and listen, I feel like the musicians are in my house. It's a sound you feel."
Besides having the money to get into the game, you need a space large enough to accommodate the techno gadgetry. The company has yet to install its system on a private plane, but yachts are not out of the question as long as they are at least 150 feet long.
"It's a market that most people are not even aware exists," said Brent Butterworth, who reviews equipment for Sound and Vision magazine and reports on ultra-luxury goods for the Robb Report. "It seems crazy to a lot of people to spend this much money on a home theater system, but people buy $500,000 watches too. In the high-end realm of audio-video manufacturers most are dazzlingly excellent. Most of those companies focus on individual components, and most of them offer components at prices lower than Goldmund's, but the full system integration of Goldmund can't be beat."
Unlike gold teeth, a fur coat or a blinged-out Cadillac, a Goldmund home theater is more about craftsmanship than status. The company's equipment has simplistic European styling, but most of the millionaires who own Goldmund equipment install their systems behind the scenes. One family in the Middle East is currently building a room that will accommodate an unfathomable 500 speakers hidden in the walls.