Nepenthes London presents Friendly Pressure
Introducing Shivas, owner of specialist speaker studio Friendly Pressure.
Sourcing vintage while hand crafting his own speakers in recent years, with instalments now across peoples homes and venues such as North London’s Moko. The approach to his work is certainly admired by the team here at Nepenthes London.
We caught up with Shivas at his studio in Brick Lane, East London.
So, describe to us in a few sentences what friendly pressure is all about?
Friendly pressure is a view that I personally have on a certain of level of entertainment that people should strive for when bringing people into their home, thats it first and foremost. Secondly, conceptualising how I think that should be played out in a visual sense and from a technology perspective, making sure that the sonic experience is over and above any other speaker in its field.
How long have you been building speakers for?
A couple of years now and theres been some smaller prototypes, in the form of janky unfinished prototypes that were nothing close to presentable but that was more for me to confirm a proof of concept in terms of me making sure that I understood how I was building crossovers, circuitry and filters and then pretty much as soon as I got the confidence I was like I’m building my first pair.
What sort of style do you go for when you design your speakers?
I love explaining my references thats what I’ve spent the longest time pondering over. The original vision came to me at the first month of the pandemic when everyone started entertaining in their homes more and having the odd friend over. Everyone kind of embellished their homes and there set ups.
At the beginning of the pandemic there was this almost pornographic love of incredibly well designed spaces, and I think post the year of the pandemic you’ve seen how people have tried to incorporate completely timeless design into every aspect of their home. I think the best reference of that is the Ligne Roset Togo as its a 50 year old couch yet the value of them has gone up more than most other sofas.
Other artists /companies that have inspired my designs are Dyson, from a form and functionality perspective, to redesigning a product as the hoover that had already taken another brands name but made it into something else.
Phillipe Stark has been a massive influence to me, Alessi home wear also.
You clearly play a role where you know the importance of sound quality ...
Yes for sure, I've always worked within music, so obviously speakers have been a vehicle for me to connect with whatever particular role I’ve been doing at the time. That's the short answer, the long answer is that we’ve always had speakers in our house and we’ve always played music to entertain. Whichever pair of speakers has been available to me I’ve plugged them into whichever amp ive found, and felt I understood a different sound. Having a computer in my room since I was 11 has allowed me to access information on whichever product it was i was into at the time so i learnt a lot in those years just reading online.
Working through different music labels, I’ve come across millions of different sets and pairs of speakers, previously to that I’ve always had my own interest in technology so through the growth of the MP3 player I’ve always had a different pair of speakers or headphones. Same as the growth of the cd walkman, at whichever stage it's been I’ve found they’ve at best way to listen to whatever media I’m listening to in the best way possible with the means I have at the time, financially or space wise.
What defines a great speaker?
A great speaker should make you cry (laughter) obviously depending on what you’re playing on it, but like that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive at all.
I think the Bose mini soundlink series are probably the most iconic, versatile, portable stereo speakers there are and I’ve definitely come to tears listening to music on those as an example. Yet they are a cheap and accessible product, well, not cheap in terms of where it sits in its comparable products, but in terms of sound quality Bose have always managed to supply consumers with a product that has a good balance of digital signal processing, stereo, bluetooth connectivity. So just as a product, its usability trumps anything else.
You must be around a lot of loud music, what about your ear health?
When I started raving, I was going to spaces with big rigs from the age of 16. I stood at the front of the speakers, left or right.
As I got a bit older I started getting inside the speakers (laugher) but I only really understood that I was loosing my hearing each time I went I’d say probably later-ish 20’s I think and im 34 now so in the past 4 years specifically with age you start to feel your body a hell of a lot more and when your bodies not happy its very clear that somethings wrong, so a combination of me getting my first ever ear plugs fitted when they did the ear test the test showed I’ve lost 4db around 4k which is basically consistent with being in places where there is music at high spl levels and I remember saying to the woman taking the readings that this is a sign of raving and she said I think so (laugher). So since then the awareness of how sensitive my ears are becoming and also having to now have objective views on my own speakers that I’m developing I think Its imperative that I started protecting my ears.
Funnily enough the thing I have most on me are my Sony earbuds XM4's, so I end up poking those into my ears because obviously they have an attenuation with ambient sound and Sony have the best for ambiance reduction, much better than the airpods so thats what I’ll use. If I go to a party and I don’t have my plugs with me I’ll just put in my ear buds and they’ll protect my ears.
For anyone looking to get there first speakers, which set up would you recommend from a low to high budget?
If you have the time to do the research, find a speaker range that you like, that’ll be based off the model number. Find amps that you like, find any information that you can find online about the series and try and acquire the highest model within that range. Because whatever range that a speaker company has put out, they’ve invested the most money into the top model. It’s also about aesthetically what you like; theres a lot of really ugly stuff out there thats worth absolutely nothing but sounds better than some expensive stuff but it think its all about a persons time and research, if you have the time to research your favourite album from your fav artist and who the guitarist is on there and why they play in a certain way then you’ll find the music from that you’ll also be able to do that with speakers, and if you don't have that time you’ll come to Friendly Pressure!