Audiophila is a messy hobby – how to build it and they’ll come won’t work in av retail


The well-run audiophile business may not be so luxury-oriented despite the alternate name of the high-end audio hobby. Oh, not to say the prices aren’t high for audiophile gear. The finishes as well as some technology for the equipment may be exotic, but is it really a luxury goods company or something else?

3-B & W-803dsYears of experimentation with ‘build it and they will come’ audio-video showrooms suggest that the audiophila’s hobby / business never translated well into the luxury goods lexicon in general. In terms of quality, what’s the difference between, say, a Hermès ‘Kelly Bag’, a bespoke Brioni suit, or, say, a pair of Bowers + Wilkins 800 series speakers in an exotic finish? These are all expensive, proven products that all have design appeal outside of their target audience. The way (and place) of sale is very different. Hermes, unfortunately even on Rodeo Drive (and they should know better) still has that level of “Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman” snobbery. Their magnificent items in leather, textiles and beyond are sold with an ever-present limited edition exclusivity that one might expect to get from Ferrari, for example, when it’s time to invite collectors to buy. an F70. Buy it or we’ll sell it next time. This rarely happens in a good audiophile outlet.

Brioni has the unique craftsmanship and tailoring to make even the overweight, orange-tinted former world leaders look half-decent, unlike the best golf apparel. They would never give off the same level of “buy it or someone else will” like Hermès, but like the French leather goods brand, Brioni offers a more than refined customer experience. If you are a good customer, they are likely to pay you $ 100 worth of good scotch while you uniquely outfit yourself for your next costume or choose all of its accessories, be it shirts, ties, belts, etc. It can happen in an audiophile store if the owner is an enthusiast, but stores built with clean lines, spectacularly gorgeous lighting, and a wow factor have historically proven to be rejected by the crowd of audio enthusiasts.

How does the sale of audiophile products compare to these other luxury products? Audio enthusiasts don’t look for the same experience offered today, although retailers around the world have replicated it time and time again. For decades, global efforts have been made to build showrooms that can offer the luxury as well as the technological history of audio. And almost everyone I can think of has failed at one level or another. I moved to Los Angeles almost 30 years ago and worked for the legendary Christopher Hansen Ltd. in Beverly Hills towards the end of its activity as a retail store. Indonesian royalty funded the construction of a huge audiophile and home theater store in the former Rolls Royce showroom on Olympic Boulevard around 1990, this was to replace the messy, cluttered and successful showroom of all time on Robertson Boulevard which has seen more big ticket audio products sold than perhaps any other place in audiophile history. When the award-winning and insanely beautiful new venue opened, audiophiles stopped coming. En masse. Yes, there was a post-Cold War military-inspired economic recession, but that was not the problem. The problem was, the new store was too fancy. The cables were hidden in conduits. The showrooms were amazingly backlit with Hollywood dramas with the quality of presentation you would expect on Rodeo Drive, Fifth Avenue or Les Champs Elysée. This irreparably puts off audiophiles.

Others have tried to build it and they will come up with retail model for audio. The store I grew up in learning about real high end sound was called SoundEx. Like Hansen, they sold almost all of the audio. All brands, even those that were directly competing like Krell and Mark Levinson or Transparent and MIT cables. They conducted their sales in a dilapidated house in a retail location near the Pennsylvania Toll Freeway outside of Philadelphia. In their prime, they had a buying community from across the region who gathered around stacks of rare Mobile Fidelity CDs, recently printed copies of The Absolute Sound, and talked about their hobby every Saturday morning. They had the most high end equipment somewhere in the location and things that ordinary people could afford in this crowded retail junkyard and it was awesome. Manhattan people would rent a car and come to the Philadelphia suburbs to get the same discounts they might have gotten in the Big Apple, but the unspoken secret was that they were also looking to save on New York sales tax. . This made SoundEx a behemoth at the time. The only problem is that the owners of SoundEx didn’t understand this value proposition. Long after Chris Hansen’s lesson and a warning from me, they built a 26-room, two-story showroom that had it all. Everything except video in the age of $ 10,000 plus plasmas that were selling like hot cakes. Their community has eroded despite having all audio under one roof and displaying beautifully. New Yorkers bought more in New York or from dealers with lower overhead (think: more margin to give away). SoundEx went bankrupt quite quickly after that.


How to attract new blood in the audio hobby?

Beer gardenIn the more modern age, the McIntosh Showroom in So Ho is a very cool place if you’ve never been there. It’s a somewhat hidden gem of New York City that deserves a rendezvous. They have the best of audio, cutting edge home theater, and 4K video in the coolest, coolest place. Still, one way or another, the showroom appears to be more enduring than a creative office space and more specifically an event space in Lower Manhattan. Other world famous retailers in the heart of the audiophile world simply cannot generate enough revenue to have retail stores on the ground floor. They go higher and higher in spaces on the second floor (or higher) that have lower rents but have little or no foot traffic.

Indeed, the audiophile hobby is presented as a luxury product, but it plays something else. Maybe audiophiles are looking for a passion project, or they see the hobby more as a one-off religion. Every audiophile takes a (often unscientific) journey to find what works best for them or what others think sounds best to them. Used equipment has been and is playing an increasingly important role in the hobby. Presenting the best of the latest technology in a glamorous setting has historically turned out not to be so important.

So where do we go from here? Successful audiophile locations in more affordable “retail” locations are apparently the future of audiovisual retail. Maybe they are not outlets at all? You need space to showcase what the best audio and video can do and it’s very expensive in the most famous places around the world. Looking at Sunny Components east of downtown Los Angeles, I see a warehouse-like location that sells some of the best products in a very accessible way that isn’t too offensive to the rest of the audience. audiophiles. Smaller and more versatile stores like bookstores, craft beer gardens and other more quirky places are particularly good at promoting new, younger audiences in entry-level amenities. If you were selling beer for a few bucks a pint, wouldn’t you like to occasionally sell a $ 1,000 audiophile system? The industry would benefit from another nationwide retail option like the one offered by Circuit City, but you’ll notice that no one has entered this now ten-year-old void.

The lack of new blood in the hobby is going to demand that there be more and more creativity in terms of how the future of the audiophile business plays out. The Lack of audiophile shows inspired by COVID doesn’t help matters much. The lack of regional and national AV channels is not good either. The great hope is that the millennial generation, who love music perhaps more than anything before them, will embrace high-end “performance audio” as they move late into homeownership and will deepen the technology.

uncomfortable messages on 03 December 2021 04:16

The well-made audiophila business may not be so luxury-oriented despite the alternate name of the high-end audio hobby. Does store luxury dictate traffic and clientele?

Jerry Del Colliano’s latest article brings up some interesting points that specialty audiovisual is not like exclusive, expensive luxury items. Maybe selling it in such an environment isn’t the way to appeal to a younger audience, as it showcases examples of how this type of storefront has failed in the past. Instead, imagine going to a cool downtown spot that serves good inexpensive draft beer, a space for games (darts, pool tables, video game room), and a demo area with the latest audio equipment. Do you think something like this could work?


Read: How to build it and they will come not working in AV retail


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