Lobster aI have a number of difficulties with the Gamut Hi Fi Lobster Chair and none of them involve it looking like a lobster. Being a pedant, my major difficulty is that it’s billed as “the world’s first music listening chair” which it most patently is not. I sat in the first music listening chair I ever tried in the late 1960s. It was a big, egg-shaped thing (think of Agent Jay filling out the test paper in Men in Black) with built in speakers pointing to about where your ears would be if you were of average height and weight. It swivelled.

Other than having fun whizzing whoever was in it around in circles it was crap. It failed the hi fi test (the speakers probably added less than a dollar to the production costs) and it failed the comfort test after the first five minutes when you felt like changing position slightly and discovered that only one position was possible, at least if you wanted stereo.

I didn’t write about it because, at that time, no-one was paying me to write about anything. When I did write about something it was usually handed back to me with a mark out of 100 and various comments written in red, none of them encouraging. But that chair was unarguably a music listening chair and it came unarguably a good five decades prior to the Lobster. And even way back then the maker wasn’t silly enough to declare it a world first.

There are some promising things about the Lobster. It’s made in Denmark, a country that understands both hi fi and furniture, so you can have a certain degree of confidence that your discerning friends will ooh and aah accordingly when they behold it. It’s based on the original (and, I’m assured, famous) Lobster Chair of Danish designers Lund and Paarmann and is manufactured by high-end furniture makers Kvist.

All these operations are staffed by people who know enough about hi fi to understand that one’s choice in speakers is entirely individual and that what sounds great to me and my ears may sound pretty damn average to you and yours. Hence it does not have built-in speakers, rather it is made to complement the speakers you already have.

It does this by positioning acoustic damping materials in the upholstery to “improve the listening experience” and Gamut says that the headrest incorporates material designed to better reflect sound falling around your ears.

Lobster c“The effect is striking,” the company assures. “The soundstage becomes more precise and natural, allowing your music to spring to life in your living room.” That may be so and I have absolutely no reason to doubt it, my hesitation is that people selling hi fi snake oil invariably talk about soundstage.

One enthusiastic blogger suggested the chair would negate any need for sound panels in a listening room, or at least at the back of one anyway, because your head is surrounded by the headrest which does all that work right there adjacent to your ears. Which I guess is fine if you’re the only person in the room, but anyone else in there will get no benefit at all and thus you will feel honour-bound, as a sensitive and empathetic host, to give up the chair to such people and go watch the footy. Or buy a Gamut Hi Fi Lobster Chair for everyone. This blogger said he liked the chair so much he bought it. One reader posting comments on the website asked twice how much he actually paid for it but unfortunately the blogger forgot to reply before he closed comments.

I haven’t tried a Lobster, I’m not even sure there’s one in Australia, but my major difficulty is with the comfort thing. My experience of dramatically shaped chairs is that they’re great for the first five minutes and then, see above. My dad bought a dramatically shaped chair once that necessitated one to sit semi-recumbent with knees up. It looked fantastic and felt great for the first five minutes, but everyone who had sat in it a second or two longer avoided it like the plague. I’ll take a chair I can squirm in thank you, where I can hang a leg over the armrest when I feel like it. And when that starts interfering with acoustics I’ll just switch to headphones.

This brings me to my other great difficulty with the Lobster. It costs heaps. Ball park seven grand and the matching footrest adds half as much again. And the nearest Gamut dealer is in Thailand. So should you encounter one of these and an enthusiastic salesperson on your next jaunt to Bangkok, or possibly on your next walk along the Stroget in Copenhagen. I would suggest sitting in it for at least six minutes before committing.

First published in Australian Hi Fi magazine January 2019


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