Sound Sensation

December 8, 2017
Project G stereo

Did You Know? Despite the Project G’s incredible design and sound quality, fewer than 400 were made.
Photo: George Whiteside

Let’s state the obvious: the stereo is gorgeous. In our present era of unobtrusive speakers and tiny portable music players, the Clairtone Project G is a potent symbol of a more swinging time. A mash-up between a luxury liquor cabinet and a Sputnik satellite, the stereo was the 1960s brainchild of an energetic new company out of Toronto founded by Peter Munk.

Known today as one of Canada’s most significant philanthropists and corporate titans, Mr. Munk, founder and Chairman Emeritus of Barrick Gold Corporation, started out as a young immigrant from Hungary. His first business foray was the Clairtone Sound Corporation of Toronto. The company’s legendary “stereophonic” high-fidelity consoles, endorsed by many, including Oscar Peterson and Frank Sinatra, helped put Canada on the map for innovative design in the 1960s.

While the Canadian Museum of History has an extensive collection of Canadian-designed objects from the era, it was until now missing Clairtone’s most celebrated product, the iconic Project G. Now, thanks to a $150,000 donation by the Peter and Melanie Munk Charitable Foundation, the Museum can finally showcase a Project G in the new Canadian History Hall for all Canadians to appreciate.

Introduced in 1964, the Project G, with its futuristic black aluminum “sound globes” and hefty price tag ($1,850, or $12,000 in present-day terms), was intended to make a big statement — and it did. Praised by critics, it was awarded the 1964 silver medal for excellence in design at the Triennale di Milano and was featured on the 1967 set of The Graduate. The Project G is still considered a high point of good design. And now, with mid-century modern collectors hunting for Project G stereos, the units are difficult to find. Even Peter Munk doesn’t have one.

The Peter and Melanie Munk Charitable Foundation is committed to improving healthcare and supporting education. Acquiring the Project G stereo helps the Museum tell a bigger story about the history of Canadian design and technology.