Challenger Technologies ventures into the high-end audio market with Musica Boutique.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The Cage houses a headphone- testing area.

Proving the cyclical nature of things, online retailers are increasingly also moving into brick and mortar spaces. Blogshop-turned-fast fashion sensation Love Bonito launched its physical flagship in 2017, while Internet grocer/delivery service Honestbee opened high-tech supermarket Habitat by Honestbee late last year. For local tech and hardware retailer Challenger, the reverse happened when it launched online marketplace, after the closure of its 50,000 sq ft store when Funan Digitalife Mall shuttered back in 2016.

Now, the company’s going full circle with the opening of Musica Boutique, a high-end audio retail store that – like all previous online retailers that have ventured into physical spaces – champions product experience for customers.

The new premium audio concept by Challenger Technologies is situated in Ion Orchard, providing a great break from the shopping, and offering the rare chance for a horizontal listening across various luxe audio brands, from the usual suspects like Bang & Olufsen and Bose to more niche manufacturers including UK-based KEF, known for its multiple innovations in the field of point source driver technologies.

 Visitors can readily test out the various systems set around the spacious 2,000 sq ft store, which even has an area decked out to resemble a living room for a taste of that electrophonic dream. Serious listeners can even choose to sample a system in the store’s soundproof room for a more acoustically conducive environment.

For those on the go, Musica Boutique also has a selection of highend earphones, portable players, and amplifiers from the likes of Astell & Kern, Beyerdynamic, and Chord Electronics – all of which are available to try in a space called The Cage.

#04-26, Ion Orchard
My Reading Room
The back of the boutique is designed like a living room.
Niche products to test out at Musica Boutique.
My Reading Room
The first wireless speaker and player from audio specialists Naim delivers exceptional sound performance, in addition to ease of use and high levels of connectivity. The solidly built system is composed of six speakers, each powered by its own amplifier to put out a total of 450 watts of power. It also plays audio with a nuance rare to wireless speakers. Play a highres audio to really experience the crisp highs and resounding lows.
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Standing at almost 1.2m and weighing just 55kg, the Focal Sopra N2 is a compact system that is suitable for rooms up to 750 sq ft. Coming in at 300W of power, the hi-fisystem features various innovations, like a 27mm Beryllium tweeter that’s loaded to a horn that absorbs rear sound waves, minimising sound distortion; and dampeners inspired by earthquake-resistance and motor suspension technologies.
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South Korean electronics brand Astell & Kern introduces the latest model of high-end portable audio player range A&ultima: the SP1000M. Smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the device is uncompromised high-fidelity listening in the palm of your hand. The pocket-friendly piece comes powered by two digital-analogue converter chips, one dedicated to each stereo channel; and an octa-core processor for playing studio quality audio. A 4.1 inch touchscreen, expandable 128GB internal storage, and support for at least 11 music-streaming services mean you can experience high definition audio on the go.
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Bose has announced the launch of its noise-masking Sleepbuds, a set of diminutive earbuds that cancels out the sounds of things that go bump in the night. Every aspect of the Sleepbuds has been specifi cally engineered to promote restful slumber, so don’t expect these to play music, although they do come preloaded with 10 “sleep tracks” that work to cancel the frequencies of common noise disturbances like snoring and traffic, and replace it with soothing audio for up to 16 hours. While going to sleep with earbuds on might sound uncomfortable, they have been made for just that – each bud weighs just 1.4g, and measures only about 1cm wide, so users barely feel them.
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What does one add to one’s 86-inch ultra-high definition television? Ostensibly, an audio system to complete the full cinematic experience. Unveiled at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, LG’s soundbar collection for 2019 is a collaboration with high fidelity audio experts Meridian. All three models, the SL10YG, SL9YG and SL8YG make use of Meridian’s proprietary technologies for improved sound staging, while at the same time supporting audio codecs like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The result is powerful, three dimensional surround sound that will put listeners – whether amid the cacophony of a war movie, or in the theatre with an orchestra – right in the thick of the action.