Mateusz Zechowski sweeps his hands like a musical conductor as he describes how he transformed the basement of his New Haven home into a high-tech recording studio.
"It was a bunker," Zechowski says with just a touch of an accent that lingers from his native Poland.
But now, in a pine-paneled room with a dizzying array of equipment and a wide-screen monitor, Zechowski has all the tools he needs to take music recorded at sites such as Yale University's Woolsey Hall and transform it into audio magic.
And right in the middle of it all stands two small speakers - made by a division of Sennheiser Electronic Corp., a German company with U.S. headquarters in Old Lyme - that put out a quality of sound belying their size and cost.
"Quality speakers used to be $2,000 to $3,000 apiece," Zechowski says. "Only people with a (big) budget could do it."
But Sennheiser, through its German subsidiary Georg Neumann, came out last year with speakers costing about $1,500 a pair and featuring a sound that's as bright as a concert-goer might hear.
"It's frightening how much fidelity it has," Zechowski says.
The Neumann KH 120 speakers stand front and center at the Studioteo classical music recording studio where Zechowski has helped balance the sound of orchestras such as the Juilliard Baroque Ensemble, the Yale Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra New England. Recordings engineered by Zechowski have appeared on such top classical labels as Naxos, Carus Verlag and Dels.
Christopher Currier, a products specialist at Sennheiser, says the move into speakers is a new tack for the company, which previously had been known mostly for its high-end headphones and microphones. Sennheiser, which did about $150 million in business last year, has won an Emmy, Grammy and a scientific and engineering award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its pioneering work in audio technology.
Sennheiser's speakers are geared toward audiophiles, but are available at a variety of dealers, from mom-and-pop operations to the chain store Guitar Center that includes a retail outlet at the New London Mall.
Currier says that as a lot of bigger studios are closing up, people like Zechowski are taking their place with in-home mastering operations that require reasonably priced high-end speakers.
"We want to be able to reach that market," Currier says.
Sennheiser also hopes to tap into a growing market for high-fidelity speakers among those with home theaters.
"In the home theater market, audio is finally starting to catch up with video," he says.
So far, according to Currier, the speakers have been "outselling expectations in every way."
Zechowski, an oboeist who studied music at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw and the Yale School of Music, says the Neumann speakers are striking for the clarity of sound they deliver as well as the forcefulness of the lower-range notes that can turn to mud on some systems.
"With this kind of precision, you can hear and fix things immediately," Zechowski says. "They take their work seriously, and it shows."
Owner: Mateusz Zechowski
Where: New Haven
Where: 1 Enterprise Drive, Old Lyme