Designing a “Dream Vinyl Setup” for Joe Karnes from Fitz and the Tantrums
After Fitz and the Tantrums played the Leon Loft, the band’s bassist, Joe Karnes, asked us to design a custom audio system for his new LA home. Looking to build-out his “dream vinyl setup”, he wanted speakers that delivered on sound, but that also matched the style of his space. Joe was kind enough to give us his thoughts on his new Leons, as well as sharing some of the tracks that he’s been playing on them.
Q: We created a custom Leon system for you including a Horizon soundbar, Timbre Ultima bookshelf speakers, and an Aaros subwoofer—all wrapped in black walnut. How are you liking your Leons?
A: My Leon speakers have taken my home entertainment setup to a whole new level. The Horizon soundbar has brought a clarity and depth of sound to our television viewing experience—it was like a fog lifted on our sound quality. We have very high ceilings in our living room and a lot of space to fill and the soundbar does a beautiful job of that.
The Timbre Ultima bookshelf speakers and the Aaros subwoofer are dedicated to my record player. They are powered by my ’70s Marantz receiver that’s hooked up to a ’70s Yamaha turntable and it’s truly a match made in heaven. The sound I get out of those speakers with that setup is something I have been dreaming about since I first started putting together my dream vinyl setup. They have a surprising frequency range that belies their size. The low frequencies they reproduce are so full and thick without being muddy and the highs are clear and present. They give a beautifully accurate representation of my setup.
“The sound I get out of those speakers with that setup is something I have been dreaming about since I first started putting together my dream vinyl setup.”
Q: At Leon, our vision is to mix art with audio and design with technology. While sound is always our priority, style is just as important. How did you customize your speakers to match your space?
A: When I first saw the performance space at the Leon Loft, I had a conversation with Noah Kaplan about the style of the space and how aesthetically similar it was to the house my wife and I had recently purchased. There was a lot of style and a great use of reclaimed and repurposed wood in the Loft space, which was exactly the vibe we were going for in our house. Noah said that Leon could design a custom audio setup for our house that matched our style—specifically the walnut floors throughout. I had shown Noah a picture of our entertainment center and after discussing possible configurations, a Horizon soundbar wrapped in black walnut was the perfect match.
Similarly, with the Timbre Ultimas, we wrapped those in black walnut, not only match our floors, but also the wrap on our turntable. Everything looks like it belongs together and that is something that puts Leon a cut above the rest: the attention to detail and the ability to seamlessly integrate the speakers into an existing space.
“Everything looks like it belongs together and that is something that puts Leon a cut above the rest: the attention to detail and the ability to seamlessly integrate the speakers into an existing space.”
Q: How do you listen to music at home? Do you have a dedicated listening room or is music streaming throughout?
A: Our main living space is open-concept so our living room, kitchen, and dining room all exist in the same space. Our stereo and turntable are on one end of the room and our TV is on the other so it’s a pretty dedicated listening space but it covers the area we spend most of our time.
Q: What’s the first track you played to try out your Leons?
A: I’ve been going through a big ’70s vinyl phase at the house so I think the first thing I put on the record player was the “Workingman’s Dead” album by the Grateful Dead. It was the last thing I had played on my old speakers so it was a good judge of how far the speakers had taken the sound of my stereo. Next, I think I played “Animal” by Mike Snow on it which was one of the more modern sounding records I had to test the lower frequencies. My previous stereo was an old ’60s console record player so it couldn’t handle the expanded frequencies that modern recordings have added through the advent of digital recording. Since then, everything I play through my Leons sounds just like it should.
Q: What are 5 songs you currently have on heavy rotation?
“Feel It Still” by Portugal The Man
“Skyline” by Broken Social Scene
“The Evil Has Landed” by Queens of the Stone Age
Photography by Shawn Thomas