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I’ve designed recording studios for Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith — and these are the speakers, headphones and soundbars I use in my own home for ‘fantastic’ quality music

I’ve designed recording studios for Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith — and these are the speakers, headphones and soundbars I use in my own home for ‘fantastic’ quality music

We asked this celebrated music-industry veteran to tell us about his home audio setup and any other gear and accessories he uses for casual listening.


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John Storyk got his start designing music studios with a memorable first client: Jimi Hendrix. The famed rocker hired the young aspiring architect to help him build a recording facility from scratch. The result was Electric Lady Studios, which opened in 1970 in New York City’s Greenwich Village and is still going strong. Artists ranging from Stevie Wonder to Taylor Swift have made records at Electric Lady.

To this day, Storyk, now working alongside his wife and business partner Beth Walters, designs studios, podcast bays, performance spaces and rehearsal rooms for clients as famous as his first one, including Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith and ESPN. And when it comes to listening to music, he has thoughts. We asked this celebrated music-industry veteran to tell us about his home audio setup and any other gear and accessories he uses for casual listening. Here are some of his recommendations.

Best portable wireless Bluetooth speakers: ‘They sound fantastic.’

Storyk likes these compact, go-anywhere Bluetooth models — the capsule-shaped Bose SoundLink waterproof speaker and the semi-tubular Sonos Roam — for streaming in the wild: “They sound fantastic.” Both are rechargeable and respond to voice commands (Siri for the Bose, Alexa for the Sonos, and Google Assistant for both). The Sonos adds Wi-Fi connectivity. The manufacturers say both can handle getting splashed, although Bose touts its speaker as “waterproof,” versus “water resistant” for the Sonos.

‘They sound fantastic.’

Bose SoundLink Flex wireless waterproof Bluetooth speaker

$149.00

  • Wireless and waterproof (added bonus: it floats)
  • Bose proprietary technology, which it says was designed for optimal sound quality in different environments
  • Siri and Google Assistant enabled
  • Rechargeable wireless speaker battery 
  • Built-in microphone to make calls through the Bluetooth speaker
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars with more than 5,600 reviews on Amazon

Sonos Roam smart portable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speaker

$179

  • Up to 10 hours of battery life with a single charge
  • Use it on WiFi at home, then listen on the go with Bluetooth
  • Alexa and Google Assistant enabled
  • Waterproof (from 1 – 30 minutes) with end caps to protect from drops 

Best wireless headphones: ‘I use them all the time.’

Storyk still prefers the experience of listening to music through free-standing speakers, but he’ll sometimes switch between calls and songs on his Bluetooth-tethered iPhone and Apple AirPods Pro. The Pro pair costs substantially more than Apple’s baseline AirPods ($99 on Amazon), but Storyk says: “I use them all the time.”

Apple AirPods Pro

$249 $199

  • According to the independent review site Sound Guys, they deliver improved audio, stronger noise cancellation, a longer charge, more protection against water damage, and silicone ear tips for a snug fit.
  • Noise cancellation
  • Sweat- and water-resistant
  • Three sizes of soft silicone tips for a customizable fit


Best wireless, noise-canceling headphones
: ‘Really good.’

Work requires Storyk to spend a lot of time on airplanes. For in-flight listening, “I have really good Bose and Sennheiser headphones,” he says. Legacy companies from the analog era, Bose and Sennheiser are also competing for the affections of digital streaming audiophiles: The Bose QuietComfort 45 and Sennheiser Momentum 3 around-ear headsets both come with Bluetooth connectivity as well as a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack cable (which may or may not require that funky two-prong airplane adapter, depending on the design of your seat). “I usually use wire,” Storyk says. “Call me old-fashioned.” Both models include a USB-C cable for charging and listening. The Sennheiser adds Alexa-compatible voice control and a USB-C to USB-A adapter.

Sennheiser Momentum 3 wireless noise canceling headphones

$297 on Amazon

Bluetooth 5.0; SBC, aptX LL, aptX, and AACEffective noise cancellationSound qualityExcellent build qualityMulticonnect, fast autoconnec

  • Sound Guys highlight the high sound quality (they score these headphones an 8.8 out of 10 on sound) and “excellent build quality”
  • Wireless and Bluetooth enabled
  • Active noise cancellation
  • Soft ear pads and a genuine leather headband
  • Automatic pairing mode so it’s easy to set up on the first activation

Bose QuietComfort 45 bluetooth wireless noise-canceling headphones

$279 on Amazon

  • Sound Guys highlight the “outstanding noise cancelling” and that they are ‘comfortable over long periods of time”
  • Wired and wireless playback
  • In-app EQ
  • Up to 24 hours of battery life
  • Wireless and Bluetooth enabled

Best sound bar

Storyk’s home audio and home theater run partly on industry-grade, pro-audio hardware that you’re free to read about and find a little intimidating. But he’s also got a 5.1 channel surround-sound setup made by Sony that he describes as “nothing fancy.” New versions, such as the HT-A5000 sound bar that Sony debuted in September, are maybe a little fancy, being equipped with immersive, spatial sound from Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Sony’s own 360 Reality Audio technologies. They also acommodate voice commands using Alexa and Google Assistant. For Dolby Atmos and DTS:X home theater sound on a budget, Sony’s 3.1 channel model is half the price at $398 on Amazon.

Sony HT-A5000 5.1.2ch Dolby Atmos Sound Bar surround sound home theater sound bar

$798 on Amazon

  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X with surround sound and 360 spatial sound mapping
  • Game play with 8K and 4K/120 passthrough
  • Wireless TV connection
  • Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Chromecast built-in, Spotify Connect, and Apple AirPlay
  • Integrates with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa

Best desktop speaker: ‘A sweet pair’

For listening to music at work — whether it’s for work or just enjoyment — Storyk says he has “a sweet pair of small desktops” hooked up to his office computer. Focal is a French manufacturer with a lot of currency among audiophiles and music-industry professionals. These curvy, bookshelf-sized speakers are among Focal’s less expensive units, although their Dolby Atmos-equipped counterparts will double the asking price.

Focal SIB Evo 2.0 2-way bass-reflex satellite loudspeakers

$499 on Amazon

  • Sound Guys highlight these speakers for high sound quality (it gives them a 9.5 out of 10), easy setup and that the speakers are powerful

Best in-wall speaker

Whether it’s Puccini or Chicago blues, music at home for Storyk plays in his living room and bedroom through in-wall speakers that blend in with the decor. After years with one particular brand of flush-mounted speaker, he’s eyeing a move to the Bowers & Wilkins Reference Series, which he calls “a line of great speakers with varying degrees of dimensions available.” By any standard, this top-of-the-line model is expensive: A matched pair will run around $10,000. Bowers & Wilkins also sells a far less pricey in-wall pair, available for $700.98 for the pair at Best Buy.

Bowers & Wilkins 3-Way In-Wall Speaker

$5,000.99 (each) at Best Buy

  • CWM652 in-wall speakers
  • 5″ woven aramid fiber mid-bass driver and aluminum dome tweeter
  • Speaker chassis made from cast aluminum
  • Grill and speaker can be painted to match the surrounding surface

Whatever one’s budget, Storyk says, “People should pay attention to the room as much as the gear,” meaning they should consider getting the listening room tuned, which might also mean installing sound-absorbent paneling. “I’ve done rooms for people who spent $150,000 on speakers,” says Storyk, “when I could put a $1,500 speaker in here, spend $5,000 to make the room better and you wouldn’t be able to hear the difference.”