An Immersive Champagne Tasting Space for the House of Krug in France

September 10 2020, 05:30
French designer and manufacturer of high-end electroacoustic systems Amadeus and the Krug Champagne winery in France have set up a tasting room with an immersive audio system with highly customized speakers for specially composed music to accompany wine tasting. France's advanced acoustics and music technology research institute IRCAM was intimately involved with Amadeus to create an immersive 'Audio Tasting Space' at the House of Krug, Reims France.

Normally, audioXpress doesn't cover installation stories, because we simply don't have the resources and it's not the focus for our core audience. But every time we hear from French loudspeaker manufacturer Amadeus, we get details of unique projects, which sometimes combine cutting-edge products in sound reinforcement applications, and other times jump straight into the crossroads of artistic triumphs and hedonistic indulgence with unique luxury audio concepts. Mostly, because Amadeus doesn't focus on "building a product catalog," instead using cutting-edge technologies and craftsmanship to create unique, custom products.

And such is the case with this project for the iconic Champagne brand, House of Krug, which wanted to create new and immersive tasting experiences for its guests. The 'Audio Tasting Room' effort involved the collaboration with France's IRCAM Institute, Amadeus, and the renowned international architecture and interior design agency AW2.

Since 1843, the House of Krug has explored new ways to enrich the tasting experience. While Music has always been at its heart, the current endeavor was spurred by recent research further affirming the impact of hearing on taste, including the work carried out by Charles Spence and Janice Qian Wang of Oxford University's Cross-modal Research Laboratory. This led the House to push the boundaries of immersive tastings through its collaboration with the IRCAM.

To envelop guests into the Maison expertise in the art of blending, the Krug team - including former Krug Cellar Master and Deputy Director Éric Lebel and Alice Tétienne, a member of the winemaking team - challenged the IRCAM researchers to use the powers of sound to convey the unique profiles of the different base wines that compose Krug Grande Cuvée. It is through daily tastings of these still wines that the Krug Tasting Committee can make decisions about the final blend but this process does not lend itself to a tasting with guests as it can be quite technical.  

The question was: How can one translate the base wine tasting experience in a universal language? At the STMS (Sciences et Technologies de la Musique et du Son), a laboratory founded in 1995 and hosted at the IRCAM campus in Paris, the association of CNRS, Sorbonne Université, Ministère de la Culture, and Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique - including teams from the Perception and Sound Design Department, as well as from the Acoustic and Cognitive Spaces Dept - worked together on the project to bring sound into the process of tasting Krug's base wines. 

After a brainstorming session between Krug's craftsmen and the sound experts, they suggested linking sound properties to correlating tasting notes, thus creating a sonic environment able to offer a multisensory experience in the new Family House in Reims. This approach allowed them to translate each unique wine into a unique soundscape based on its flavor profile.

Composer Roque Rivas was approached to create the ten soundscapes, representing ten sub-regions within Champagne that are represented in the final blend of Krug Grande Cuvée. The soundscapes reveal the most striking attributes of the wines, enabling participants to "taste" the sound.

A tailor-made immersive sound system was designed by IRCAM, in collaboration with the Amadeus company, which the Institute recognizes for its work in high-end sound reinforcement loudspeakers, studio monitors, and signal processing interfaces,  aiming to create a more fluid listening experience and to get the tasting and sound experiences to blend into a single experience.

A one-of-a-kind sound system was designed specifically for the room, made of two electroacoustic setups. The first is frontal and seamlessly integrated into the 'Wall of 400 Wines' that depicts the different wines auditioned each year to create a new Édition of Krug Grande Cuvée. The system uses 18 Amadeus PMX 4 coaxial speakers, spread regularly on three levels, along a 9-meter width space. The second system, more immersive, is situated above the guests. It is composed of 8 speakers integrated into the ceiling plus 6 speakers developed specifically for Krug and surface-mounted on the walls, supplemented with two low-frequency speakers. Each of the 34 speakers in the system is amplified and can be controlled and processed independently.

Sound contents for this unique system are created and played with SPAT, IRCAM's sound spatialization software. The frontal matrix included in the '400 Wines' front wall offers creators and sound designers new spatialization possibilities vertically and allows them to create very 'graphical' sound scenes. Associated with the immersive system, it gives the sound system a rich vocabulary to create a parallel soundscape for the tasting experience.

The COR-TEN Steel Speakers
Concurrently, an electro-acoustic development project was initiated, matching the technical needs of IRCAM and the aesthetic demands of the House of Krug. It resulted in a unique speaker system, produced in six pieces specifically designed by AW2 and engineered by Amadeus. These unique speakers are made of COR-TEN steel, cut and then laser welded. Their rust finish results from the rapid oxidation of the material, stopped by a chemical process, then 'fixed' with a transparent matt varnish.

As a genuine aesthetical, technical, and acoustical challenge, the development of these speakers was managed by designer Stéphanie Ledoux, associated with AW2 and Michel Deluc, Amadeus' R&D Manager. Each bespoke speaker hosts a long-excursion coaxial transducer with a frequency response down to 60 Hz. Each transducer is hidden behind a laser-machined front panel with a 'K' logo, symbol of the Maison Krug. 

Two speakers dedicated to low frequencies were developed as well, they are the Amadeus ML12K. They are equipped with a 12-inch (30cm) boomer drivers hidden behind a 'grid' directly machined in wood, with vertical thin lines or 'blades', alternating matter and empty space.

To find out more about the Wall of 400 Wines and this immersive tasting experience, visit the Krug website:

With more than 1060 employees, IRCAM (Institute for Acoustical and Musical Research and Coordination) is one of the biggest government-funded research centers in the world today. It is dedicated to musical creation and to scientific research. A unique place where artistic perspective and scientific and technical innovations converge. Founded by Pierre Boulez, IRCAM is associated to the Centre Pompidou under the supervision of the French Culture Ministry.

Created in 1992 from the collaboration between the French designer Bernard Byk and the scientist and musician Michel Deluc, the Amadeus brand has grown to become a leading supplier of high-end audio solutions and services for theaters, opera houses, museums, recording studios, research centers and touring concert sound rental operations. All development and product manufacturing is centralized in Amadeus headquarters in France, with field offices and authorized distributors located in Europe, Asia and UAE. 

Amadeus also developed the Holophonix processing system for live sound spatialization and immersive experiences, the first solution to combine several different spatialization techniques including Wave Field Synthesis, High-Order Ambisonics, Distance-Based Amplitude Panning, and more, enabling intuitive placement and movement of sources in a 2D and/or 3D space. |
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