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Interview with the founder of tritone, Mervyn Loh

How did tritone come about and what’s your target market?

tritone is set-up to offer bespoke solutions for av enthusiasts, and home technology systems, from hi-fi to wi-fi. There are many areas in our system offerings that can be made specifically for the individual. 

Speakers: Finish – the look and feel of speakers are important. Our main speaker manufacturer, Legacy Audio offers 10 real wood veneer finishes, high gloss black pearl, high gloss Cabernet Sapele Pomelle, and Satin finishes from the RAL chart, and different shades of finish in the wood veneer, and types of grain patterns too – using sustainable rosewood finish, clients can choose the standard rosewood grain and stain, or request for a more particular grain pattern which derives from quarter sawn or plain sawn methods, in specific stain, for a degree of brown to red. We also have a speaker design, and cabinet manufacturing arm, if clients would like to customize their speakers, from the ground up. 

Speakers: Design – tritone has a ready solution for most application of speakers, for those that we do not, we can design & build. Our custom install speakers come in various forms: garden speakers that are very directional, so that it does not impose to the neighbours, or omni directional garden speakers that allow you to spread the sound evenly if you do not have to worry about the neighbours, to in-wall, in-ceiling, on-wall, surface mounted, humongous subwoofers, to small, slim or flat multi-driver subwoofers, and invisible speakers. 

Power Amplification – Depending on response of speakers, room size, listening demands, tritone has amplifiers that are bespoke to the requirements. starting from 50 watts, which is usually suffice for lifestyle based systems, to more than 2,000 watts each speaker. Why would anyone need that much power? It is to power low frequencies, which uses more power than high frequencies, continuously, to fill up a large space. If you’ve been to a cathedral with a pipe organ, you will notice the lowest note has a long and wide pipe to produce deep bass notes, that surprisingly, not many main speakers can handle well. These low notes require plenty of power to move large cones in the speakers. Large power is also used for “headroom”- the higher the power, the more effortless the usage demands from the amplifier, and the lower the distortion from the amplifier. Higher power also provides protection from “clipping” in a speaker. 

In Home Theatre, we can customize the number of channels required, the grades of digital to analog conversion modules. The modular design in the HDMI modules and power modules that can be upgraded as technology progresses further. We offer bespoke control systems, with voice command, mobile device interfaces, how the controls look, operate, the control of lights, curtains, blinds, chairs, in a room. With our degree of bespoke offerings and solutions, we have found ourselves being THE destination company for Private Cinemas. 

In Multi-zone audio, we have two systems. System 1: our coverage pattern is bespoke to the requirements of the client. The images used to identify each room is also from a photo and name of the particular space to be controlled, they can all be linked together, or play separate music in each zone, from a variety of sources, such as internet radio, cd player, record player, live music, music stored in a network attached storage, internet streaming services, and basic sound to room adjustment equalizations. System 2: elaborate room adjustment equalizations, with focus on high-resolution streaming audio, network attached storage, and internet radio. 

In elaborate systems, we design the contour of the system’s sound to fit the listener’s preferences. We design rooms – acoustic isolation, acoustic treatments, thematic private cinemas, or music rooms, recording studios. Spatial planning, finish of walls, ceilings, floors, doors, curtains, recliners, sofas, and other amenities clients may request in a room, even theatre marquees. 

Bespoke networking design – for wifi, the level of penetration and power. Whether it is 5GHz throughout the home, invisible or exposed. Indoor and outdoor. 

Hearing Enhancements Systems for those who require hearing aids.

Live sound management, Live sound equipment leasing, Fixed Live sound systems and Karaoke Systems.

Information Display Systems for bathroom / commercial applications. 

AV over IP systems, that are 4K capable, for video distribution throughout the home. tritone offers turn-key wi-fi, hi-fi, av solutions that has width and depth, with experience in small and large homes, commercial projects, and yachts, with specialists in each field, and we work as a team for each project. 

What were the challenges you faced when setting up tritone and how did you overcome them?

Getting people to know about tritone is a challenge. It still is. Seeing that it seems like a “niched” product offering. But what we have done in the mean time, as a young company is that we have kept our heads down, we work hard and humbly, and once in a while we stop and evaluate how much we have progressed, and have built up a nice portfolio for the company. We have always aimed to design technically correct systems and impose correct methods of set up and installation. In reality, all of us use wi-fi systems, all of us listen to music, watch tv shows, and watch movies. The level of tolerance the individual or family has for these is really what determines if they require our services. As long as they want better than tolerating slow wi-fi in the bedrooms, and decent wi-fi in the living rooms, or better than music off their mobile devices, better than the sound coming off their TVs, or a better experience than watching tv shows movies off the laptop, we can help. So really, it is not THAT niched with regard to the functions we cater to. 

We understand that you have quite a number of musicians working with you at tritone. Is that a coincidence?

From a performance of audio system point of view, it actually is a crucial element that the musicians in the company listen to the systems we set up in the showroom, that the systems need to sound natural, and real. The combination of speakers, and electronics we represent go well together, in a real way. If they do not sound natural, they are then not recommended. Some might say, “audio is a subjective thing” – yes and no. “no” because the basic intonation should be correct, there is a level of fidelity involved, both measurable and immeasurable. For those that require measurements, we have the specialists tools to do so, and expertise to use them. “yes” because once the basic intonation is achieved, there can be some element of “flair” introduced. The contour design of the system’s sound is important to how “natural” and “real” it relates to the listener. It is not a coincidence that many of us are musicians. Not just hobbyist musicians. It is also not a coincidence that all of us are good-natured and hardworking people! 

Why is audio so important and does it matter if you are an audiophile or not?

There are only a few things that universally bring people together. Music is one of them. The way we experience music varies drastically through the mediums we consume them. Music has a way of enveloping you and moving you.

Not just through the lyrics, but through the composition, arrangement, and recording quality. The other justification, is for the listener to experience the artist’s intent. One clear example, is in the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” Freddie Mercury sings “…Sent shivers down my spine…” then the guitar strums between the nut of the guitar to the machine head which is an extremely tensioned position for the strings, as though to represent the shivers on the spine. “…bodies aching all the time” is the following lyric. If you’ve been listening to the song on the speakers of a mobile device, you probably never noticed it. But when you are searching for it, it is easier for us to find it.

A good audio system, whether in-ear monitors, or large speakers, presents that information to you, instead of having you look for it. This dimension of music has always been there. The smaller the speakers are for a room, the more the audio reproduction system works like a funnel, where the large part is the music, and the narrow part is the hardware you are listening from. The more it is shaped like a straight pipe, the better.

Can you share with us the basic things we should look out for when we are looking to get a pair of headphones or earbuds?

In any music system, (1)tone is most important. Once the basic intonation is achieved, then it is referenced with the listener’s preference. For in-ears and headphones specifically, (2)comfort would be the next thing that follows. (3)Isolation is something to be considered. If the buyer is looking for (3.1)spaciousness, open back headphones have an inherent advantage that delivers this, with the inherent compromise of (3.2)isolation. With headphones, the center image of a vocalist tends to sit in the middle of the head, as opposed to a music system where the vocalists tends to be on a stage, in front of you. Deep (4)frequency response, so that your music reproduction devices can deliver all that was recorded, including the vibrations from steps, and trains recorded from a distance vibrating the floors in the recording, and of course that low “C” from the pipe organ that is fundamental in 16Hz, a very deep note. (5)You don’t always get what you pay for. Having a budget of $1,000, I bought a $299 headphone for its tonal quality, and this does not mean a flat curved frequency response, but rather, what sounds natural. This can only be derived from auditioning especially when manufacturers voice their headphones differently, in various models and series. 

Televisions now come with good surround sound systems built-in and audio on smartphones are getting better. Do you see these as threats to your business profits?

As manufactures improve on the aesthetics and display performance portions of their Televisions, clients are encouraged to match audio with visuals. It’s actually good for our industry that the user is allowed to pick the sound system to pair with the glorious new television. We understand this thoroughly, as we offer televisions as well. 

You are pretty much in a niche business and with many cheaper audio options making their entrance in the market, how do you intend to tackle them?

Our surround system offerings start from around $1,800.00 onwards, and about under $900 for a pair of active speakers that can go with your desktop system, or a sound bar that complements a smart television. These are best-in-class categories of components that are an easy decision for many when they are looking for “better-than-the—default”. In this sense, it is really about getting people to know us, and know us better. 

Looking back at your entrepreneurship journey, if you are to change one thing, what would you change?

We’ve always been professional in the way we manage our clients who then become friends, some of them are now very close friends. However, we are now encouraging in showing more love in the way we work and speak, to clients and other stakeholders. We treat others like how we would like others to treat us and then some, both internal and external. And perhaps it is our little way of making the world a better place, in our small way.

What’s next for tritone?

In tritone, we have never really tried to be better than others in industry for the sake of it, which entails trampling down our “competitors”, and just “one-up” them. Our strive for “greatness” has always been doing the right things, and doing what’s right. This has always been the direction, and this is where it has brought us.

This year, we’ve established our networking business, as a separate entity of the AV business, but accessible from both channels. We are keeping up with the smart-home technologies, and we continue to do more research and development for the integration with other external components, to make these functions more seamless. We continue to work closely with our select manufacturers to develop products and solutions, and also to improve our internal processes to make things more efficient, so as to provide better service to our friends and clients. We are also more conscious on our environment with regards to wastage, of paper and electricity. 

We seek to unify the diversity in people and service-offerings (turn-key services) in our bespoke approach, while being in communion through the way we deal with our internal selves like employees and staff, who are really the care-takers of the company which is a vehicle, and externally, our family, friends and acquaintances, represented in the circle in our company logo.

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