hi-fi stores

An awesome small room/high-end stereo system

One of the most important factors in selecting the right hi-fi components is room size. If you're lucky enough to have a big living space (over 500 square feet), I'd recommend floor-standing speakers. Big rooms also soak up amplifier power; smaller rooms need a lot less. Here in NYC, most folks live in small apartments, and they'll get terrific sound with midsize bookshelf speakers and small amps.

I was thinking about the stereo/room size ratio question during a recent visit to In Living Stereo, one of my favorite NYC hi-fi shops. I was listening to a … Read more

Are brick-and-mortar hi-fi stores still relevant?

Way back in the late 1970s, long before the Internet, iPods, and home theater changed the way we listened to music, I worked at Sound by Singer, a high-end audio store in NYC. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the golden age of high-end. It had a good, long run that made it to the early 1990s, but the high-end audio market didn't shrivel up and die. Here in NYC there are more high-end stores than there were in the golden age. Rents are sky-high, so you might wonder how the stores prosper, and … Read more

Listen before you buy a hi-fi, what a great idea

I sold high-end audio in New York City for 16 years before I started writing. Talking one-on-one with my customers taught me a lot about how a broad range of people relate to hi-fi. Those experiences influenced my writing, because I know firsthand that there's not a lot of agreement about what constitutes "good sound." You have to listen for yourself to really know if you love the sound. You might do that at a friend's house, but the best place to compare and learn what you like is in a hi-fi store

I've blogged … Read more

The Turntable Lab also sells headphones, records and other stuff

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I just recently stumbled upon the Turntable Lab in the East Village in NYC. The shop was established in 1999, and the company also has brick-and-mortar shops in LA and Seoul, Korea.

The NYC shop may not have a huge selection of goodies on display, but I was very impressed with the range of products offered. Store manager David Azzoni stressed that customer service is "attitude-free" and totally avoids the snooty vibe sometimes associated with high-end hi-fi shops. For example, if you're new to vinyl and need help picking out … Read more

'Confessions' of a hi-fi salesman

Hi-fi salesmen are some of my favorite people. The job is nonstop audio, and they turn their customers onto the best stuff. I know from where I speak; I sold high-end audio for 16 years in New York City. I played more combinations of speakers, amplifiers, turntables, and CD players than any audio reviewer ever has. I knew the gear inside out.

The best sales people are successful because they're all good listeners, and listening is important because you have to first understand what the customer is looking for before you can provide solutions. The best salesmen have lots of satisfied customers, and those customers turn their friends and relatives on to the salesman. The bulk of my sales worked that way.

I dropped by a Long Island, NY, hi-fi shop, Audio Breakthroughs, for the first time last Wednesday. I was immediately stopped in my tracks by the hi-fi store "smell." Nothing bad, just that old familiar slightly sweet scent of new electronics, mixed with a delicate blend of plastic vapors, furniture polish, and packing materials wafting through the air. It's an intoxicating aroma; I love the smell of new hi-fis in the morning!

I know some folks don't trust salesmen, but when I was on the floor I sometimes found it difficult to gauge the intent of a new customer. I'd greet them, exchange a few pleasantries, and try to be of help. Please understand, my store sold speakers priced from $200 a pair to over $100,000. I'd need some sort of ballpark number to get things going, but that wasn't always easy.

The worst part of the job was dealing with people who felt they had a right to hear any combination of gear, at their whim, at any time. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Now sure, if they just wanted to hear some good stuff that was already set up, and the store wasn't busy I'd play a tune or two. For some that wasn't enough, and they'd become indignant when I tried, graciously, to change the subject. Sometimes they would claim they would have bought something from me, if I had only treated them better. I can't say I was right every time, but over the years I heard from other salesmen in other stores that they never really bought anything. I got out of the business 15 years ago, long before the Internet started chipping away at brick-and-mortar sales.

My favorite customers were the ones who came in with a clear agenda, and could tell me what they wanted, how much they wanted to spend, etc. The demonstration of gear might stretch out over days or weeks, which was fine with me, as long as I felt the customer wasn't wasting my time. Buying a serious hi-fi or home theater system involves a lot of decisions, and having a knowledgeable salesman can be a big help. If you think you're smarter than the sales guy, that's cool, just tell him what you want. … Read more

NYC's hippest hi-fi shop

Steven Mishoe opened In Living Stereo just a few weeks before 9/11, and it turned out to be the worst possible time to open a high-end hi-fi shop in New York City.

But ILS is still there on 4th Street, right across from where Tower Records used to be. And unlike the bigger, more established hi-fi shops, ILS sells music systems. Don't go there to pick Mishoe's brain about music servers or iPhone apps. No, In Living Stereo caters to people who listen to music at home. What a concept!

Over the years I've heard great … Read more