How do you get to listen to high end speakers?

Wierd question.

Since I was a little kid and my father bought his first "Hi Fi" rig, Ive been hooked on the stuff.

I am a fan of the hobby and my interests in it have flucuated throughout the years. Kind of bouncing between a mild involvement to nuerosis.

I am absolutley entranced by the workmanship, build quality and engineering of some of todays high end audio gear manufacturers.

So that brings me to my question.

How does a guy, that simply cannot afford the best the industry has to offer, get a chance to listen to some of it every now and then? If for no other reason than to hear what he might strive for in his own personal system.

For example, Wilson Audio. While Im not poor by any stretch, I also just cannot afford a pair of $125,000 X-2's, let alone the front end worthy of such a mighty speaker. Does that mean that I should forever be shut out of the kingdom of audio nirvana?

Dont get me wrong, Im not asking someone to let me take a pair home and audtion them. However, is it wrong to find a high end dealer that might have a pair on display as demos and ask to take a listen, at least for a song or two?

Im not asking for the keys to the kingdom, maybe just let a fan of the craft take a peek through the front doors now and again.

I live in South Florida and found a local high end dealer that had a set of MAXX's on demo. While in there to buy a $350 center channel speaker cable, I asked if I could take a listen. I was told no. That auditions were for potential buyers only. Meanwhile, two guys had just walked out of the room after having them cranked up.....employees, not customers.

Now dont get me wrong, I dont expect them to just let anyone and everyone in the world to come in and start jamming with their $175,000 rig. Im not just anyone. Im a customer that over the years has probably spent $3000-$4000 dollars in various stuff there. Cables, speaker stands and the like.

Am I on the market for a $40,000 set of speakers? Absolutley not.

Would I love to listen to them? Of course.

So has Hi Fi become the new class system. The realm of the rich and mighty where the "haves" dont even let the "have nots" take a peek into their realm?

If I was the owner of the business, I would love to let true fans of the hobby take a listen to perfection, even if I knew they could never afford the product. I would love to inspire people, to give them a glimpse of what is possible. To teach people to be excited about Hi Fi and music again and to give them a goal to work towards with their own personal systems.

Besides, a guy that knows that once a awhile he can listen to the newest and latest in esoteric gear, will frequent the store more. Knowing that, what Hi Fi junkie walks into audio nirvana without at least buying something?

Seems like a good way to get repeat customers.
Sounds like this dealer will be retiring soon! There's only so much self foot-shooting a business can take.
The few remaining dealers up around here in Boston are only to glad to provide high-rez system demos. Maybe this particular dealer has enough sugar daddies so he can't be bothered. Sigh....
A good audio dealer should also be an enthusiast and proud to show off his/her equipment regardless of cost. The thought should be that even if you can't afford it today, if you like what you hear, you'll aspire to somehow purchase it in the future. I've encountered various snobbish arrogance with some high-end dealers but have never been told no, I couldn't listen for the reasons you state. If I had been you, there is NO WAY I'm giving ANY money to that business for a cable or anything else! Whatever you were buying, I'm sure, could be had someplace else.

Typical response from an ultra high end dealer. You just got introduced to the term high end snobbery. It makes no sense. The audiophile industry is a very small minority of the population. It is not good business to try and grow the hobby. I admit experiencing this attitude for the first time is frustrating and disappointing. But, now I laugh all the way home because I have, over the years, built a better home rig than almost every high end shop that I enter. It is a matter of priorities. Do you want a fancy car to get to point A to B or do you want a top notch HI FI!!!

Shame on that dealer, and shame on you if you went
through with the cable purchase.He doesn't deserve
your money.
Let's see, you've spent $4000 at this store and they wouldn't let you listen to a pair of overpriced speakers for a few minutes? According to them the speakers were available to audition to potential buyers "only" How do they know what kind of money you have and are willing to spend on audio equipment?
Apparently they (wrongly) were judging a book by its cover?

Reminds me of when one of my younger brothers - in a pair of clean jeans and a t-shirt - walked into a local Mercedes dealer (on the weekend) and was completely and utterly ignored by every single salesperson, they looked directly at him and never even acknowledged him. I'm sure they thought "How could a guy in jeans and a t-shirt afford a Mercedes?"

So he went down the street to a BMW dealer and leased a $60,000 car for himself and two BMW 5' series for a couple of executives who worked for him.

He returned to the Merdedes dealer - spoke with the sales manager and told him what happened. They not only lost a rather large sale, they also lost all future sales. They also judged (wrongly) a book by its cover.

If I was you, I wouldn't spend so much as a dime in that audio store ever again. And if you ever find yourself in the position to purchase audio equipment of value, I would march back in and tell the owner precisely why you didn't and wouldn't purchase anything in his store ever again.
I agree with the rest of the guys, I wouldn't have bought the cable, and wouldn't frequent that dealer anymore. I don't like some of the practices of my local dealer, but they are always happy to show me anything they have!
Find a new dealer. They would only have to take a minute to accomodate you and make you feel special and like you mattered to them as a customer. Obviously they are not deseverving of your business. I would find a new place to buy my merchandise and I would write a letter to the owner explaining why I was doing so. I am in retail and if I treated my customers like this, I would not be in business. Just my opinion FTIW.

Best of luck,

Steve Bachman
Phoenix, AZ
The more of these types of dealers that go under, the better for all as they will be replaced by a NEW more hungry type. Do your small part with your wallet in the future.

I called a very well know tube dealer a week or so ago, rude person and not helpful at all. I have picked up two pair of $$$ NOS tubes with in the last week from another source and will never miss the UPSCALE jerk. My small part with my wallet!

They were already playing;----and you couldn't go in and have a quick listen-----??? Ouch.
The good news is that ain't the best there is anyway. Go to a live event----The stuff audiophile dreams are made of.
I hope this guy has a competing dealer, somewhat close by.--If not, buy your stuff mail order or used.
Dave (so-g'd) This dealer ain't the only dealer or the only source of great tubes.---Hey; I've been ignored by better than him.---(I think that's where the expression SHOPPING comes from.)
Hey,Johnny M; still got them 5s. Love your leftovers.
Hello Nm512,I know how you feel,dont know where in s.fla you are , but check out St.Cecilia Sound Gallery in Clearwater,owners Brian and Peggy are great,will let you listen to everything they have set up in there 4 rooms they also sell music,very nice expererience,have web site,,
Here's what you do Nm512 - Do you guys have Costco or maybe Sam's Club down there in Florida? Well, just pick out your favorite warehouse store like that and get yourself down there. Don't go on a weekend now or you'll be having to fend off the crowds and you'll grow a beard waiting in line. So go on down there and pick yourself up one of those really HUGE Industrial-Sized cans of WhoopAss. Don't get the cases of the small cans, you want the huge ones that are good for a know, the ones you need those big platform carts to get to the cashier! So you buy yourself one of those huge cans O' WhoopAss and bring it on down to that dealer who wouldn't let you listen to his pathetic overpriced hyped-up Wilson's, and ask for the manager, or the owner, or whoever it is that created such an JackAss policy that has nothing whatsoever to do with the love of audio, music, high-end, nor reflects good business practices, nor even common decency. Once that person comes down you get out your can opener (you did bring the can opener didn't you) and you open up that Industrial-Sized can of WhoopAss all over that person and any other employees that happen to be around. Believe you me, that store will be changing it's policies the very next day. But I sure as hell would never buy anything from them again. Go back to Costco - I think they have those Wilsons on special this month and you can listen to them there, if you can get them to shut off the 17 other pairs of speakers that are blaring around them.

I actually avoid all of the nonsense by simply lying to the dealer. I go in as well dressed as I can (sometimes I'll come from work in my suit) and tell him I'm looking for a [fill in component] in the $50,000 (or higher) price range. You must volunteer a few speakers in that range that you have listened to (do your homework and find the models of the components that compete with the model you want to demo). Also make up a system that is made up of very high priced components, including a component that competes with the demo (e.g., for the MAXX's, tell him you currently have the Kharma reference speakers and are looking to move to something more dynamic - or some garbage like that). If you do your research and can lie convincinlgly, the idiots will be falling all over themselves to let you demo. I once had a dealer stay 2 hours after closing allowing me to demo. It is rather sad that one has to go to such extremes, but as others have indicated, many dealers in this hobby have snobs who are trying to compensate for failings in other parts of their lives. Good luck
That dealer sounds like an ass. I remember when I first got into this hobby, I went to a high-end shop in Boston to buy a $100.00 cable and was treated to a listening session of a $100,000.00+ system by the owner. I've been chasing after that sound and came close without having to spend anywhere near that. One recommendation, I've just came back from HE2004 in NY and in six hours, I've listened to 10+ great assembled systems. Attending these shows is a great way to listen to what's out there without having to deal with that non-sense, which you shouldn't have to put up with in the first place anyway.
I had a former dealer tell me that the stupid audio game was to push the person away and insult their equipment. If the customer was a good little boy and bought the appropriate equipment, that they would let you into the audio club. He also called the most extravagant audio pieces male jewelry. If you think about the prestige games that are played in this field as well as many others in the carrage trades, they all point to one psychological component. This component is that you are only as good as your things. This game works amazingly well for those who esteem themselves primarily in this manner. I am not shaming in these remarks to those affficted, I consider myself recovering from this affliction myself. Bob
I have experienced this treatment many times...I'll go into a store ask a few questions & not get any real response from a salesman. Once I tell them some of the equipment that I have (Levinson 40, Levinson 436's, Revel Salons) the Red Carpet all of a sudden appears. It shouldn't be like this, especially when these dealers have become nothing more than glorified distrubution centers for Hi End audio. The saleman rarely even give you the right info. I learn more about Hi End audio from Audiogon from people who actually own the equip than from the dealers.

Contact Wilson and describe your experience with the dealer. See what they have to say about how their potential purchasers are treated.
I would ask to speak to the owner, and explained the rude manner in which you, a repeat customer, were treated! If it WAS the owner who treated you in this manner...keep on walking!
a good dealer will let listen to anything you want whether you could afford it or not . what's the name of the dealer?
Please name the dealer. I live in S. Florida and might be able to provide some particularized insight if it is the dealer I suspect in Coral Gables.
Onhwy--The best so far.
Marco-- the funniest(as usual) so far.
I was in having my amp serviced. I looked a fright ;also as usual. I asked to see the Marantz 12s3 projector in action. Well they did fire it up--- Then pretended I wasn't there. I bought a more expensive projector from someone else.(Sim Seleco 300extra h.)
These dealers need to realize that most folks with High end systems started their journey with very modest equiptment and worked their way up,,
I would hate to start naming names and slandering someones business.

Maybe I just dealt with a poor salesman.

Some people seem to be on the right track though.

Its too easy to take my business elsewhere than to make a stink.
Well NM512-

A few thoughts:

1. If you relate your experience truthfully, it is not slander.

2. If it was a joint in Coral Gables and handles Wilsons among their SOUND COMPONENTS, and also focuses on home theater, you probably ran into a moron for a salesperson. I know the manager of the establishment, and he is a fine person, but some of the employees are awful. They really act crazy when he is away. I ran into a similiar situation with a young guy who wanted to tell me a number of rules before I auditioned a pair of speakers. He quieted down finally, but it was disconcerting to have to ask him to be quiet while I listened to the speakers.

3. I listened at length to Von Schweikert's latest megabuck speakers when I was in San Diego recently after requesting an audition on the telephone. I understand that some other manufacturers are similarly accomodating. You might want to try it on you next trip out of state.
Just another proof that audio snobery is scaring away many audiophiles, closing down bick and mortar shops, and opening the door to internet sales even wider than before. These dealers do not deserve your money, or respect for that matter. What a shame.
As a former high-end dealer, I know that unfortunately, your experience is not unique. I was treated that way in the past, especially in NYC and made a commitment to never treat customers in such a manner. Regardless of a customer's budget or purpose for entering the store, I never denied anyone the opportunity to hear the top shelf components upon request. My experience is that it resulted in considerable repeat business, referrals, and a more enjoyable business to operate. Like others have stated: Vote with your money.
Find a new dealer! Not every, but most dealers I have visited are more than willing to "show-off" their highest of high end equipment. I have gone back to the same dealer numerous times to listen to the exact same setup with hours of my music, as a matter of fact they encourage it. Prior to buying my current speakers I would guess that I had about 40 hours total listening during various trips at the dealer, plus dragged the monsters home for a week, so I could hear them in my listening room, prior to purchase (no deposit required, no guarantee I would buy). Anyone who says you can't listen is a fool, how did they know you weren't buying a cable for your son's system?
Hmmmm...wouldn't be Sound Components by any chance? Interesting that the store's former owner, Peter McGrath, is now in a lead role with Wilson Audio. I'm a former customer of that store when Peter owned it, and I was treated extremely well. Just the opposite of what was described here.
Sadly this is one of the issues confronting the 'mystique' of High End Audio.
Two very disparate perspective taint this discussion.
"Hey some guy in Studio Three wants to hear the Wilson Grand Slams, and he looks like he couldn't afford a Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast."
"Yea, well blow him off, tell him they're not hooked up."
Customer, leaving the store, "That ass*ole, doesn't know that Kenney Chesney sent me in here to audition these to see if they're as good as everyone says. What a schmuck. OR
"You know honey, every since we inherited your Dad's money people seem less inclined to wait on us. Let's look on the internet."

All to sadly, dealers prejudge buyers, or assume that two hours with the customer is wasted, since the prospective buyer will go the 'net, and buy a used, or from elsewhere, just to save taxes.
My training that I did for THIEL at stores around the US, mentions this very issue. The training, called, "Eleven Hard Earned Lessons" highlights this very situation in great detail.
The most frustrating part of all this is, the customer WANTS to buy, and the dealer WANTS to sell, and friends, THAT is fertile ground for happy customers, AND profits.
Sorry, I am not pontificating, but bear with me while I tell a story that happened to ME as Vice President of Sales for THIEL Audio, in one of OUR Dealerships.
I was doing sales training for free, as part of my effort to establish dealer partnerships, instead of just a supplier, buyer relationship, (more on that another time).
Anyway, they had two salesmen, who were experienced in sales but not audio. But the mistake you're about to hear about, has nothing to do with audio experience, just common sense.
In roll playing, I set up the scenario that I wanted to talk to a salesman, he approaches...
Hi there.
How may I help you?
Well, I just saw a friends magazine, uh Stereophile?
Yes that's it.
Yeah, anyway there was this speaker on the front, of it that looked really good cosmetically, something my wife might go for because the wood was really nice, and it was a THILL, or uhh
(No help from him to say THIEL)
Anyway, I saw it laying on your counter when I came in. I had looked in the Yellow pages and saw that you sell them.
And I'd like to hear them, and maybe, if they sound as good as the reviewer guy said...
The salesman, given this 'Slam Dunk' scenario shot back with: Hmmm...What kind of turntable do you have? Then he proceeded, for ten minutes to try to sell me a turntable, even though I asked several times about the speakers again.

I told the dealer about it, dismayed at the salesman's lack of attention to my buying signals, and just plain old questions. And, instead of him being concerned, he defended the salesman, and said, "Well, he's new."
I countered with, "Yes, but he does speak and understand English doesn't he?"
Mediocrity in sales people abounds, and customers often take advantage of dealers, demoing, when having no intention of buying 'locally'.
HOWEVER, that is no excuse to not DEMO.
Dealers MUST DEMO or DIE!!!

To the person wanting a demo. Call the manufacturer; ask for the local representative of their product; have them call the store owner "at your request" and introduce you.
Make the appointment to go in and listen at a predetermined time. This will allay any confusion or poor treatment.
Most all manufacturers are dying to have people respond to their reviews, or their advertising. They have no control over the way that some people treat customers at the retail floor level.
Good luck.
Nm512, it's sad to hear a story like yours. A lot of us have been in your situation at one time or another, and for those who haven't, count your blessings.

Sedona's example is perfect. His brother did the right thing, going back to the Mercedes dealer and speaking with the sales manager to tell them that they lost a sale (and future sales) and WHY. The latter is important, and while it's a bitter pill for the dealer to swallow, if he's smart he'll learn from the experience and do better with other customers.

I don't agree that someone wanting a demo should call the manufacturer to be introduced to the local dealer and have a demo arranged. If the dealer isn't going to help you, that's his problem! Like the Mercedes dealer, he should be told after the fact that he lost a sale and why, but except for a few cases he doesn't deserve a second chance. By the same token, a little mutual respect can go a long way.

My story that dates back to around 1977 is about when I happened to be working in the area for a few weeks and decided to take the train into Chicago to visit a dealer or two I'd seen ads for in some of the high end publications. One of them carried most of the stuff you would see mentioned, and on that Saturday in the summertime there turned out to be a fair number of customers in the store. The memorable moment came when one of the salesmen, dressed in a WHITE SUIT, walked over to where several of us were standing around and loudly proclaimed, "anybody who's here to A/B preamps today might as well forget it" and marched back to whatever he was doing.

As it turned out I did get a chance to audition some gear that day and gather some literature, but that day will always stand out in my mind as a bad experience.

Conversely, I had some wonderful experiences back then with Mel Hodes and John Thomas of Perfectionist Audio, a home based dealer in central Pennsylvania who's long gone. These guys had killer stuff, and they demo'd the stuff in an unpretentious manner: Dayton Wright, Quad, Magneplanar, Dunlap Clarke, Audio Research, and the list goes on and on. To this day I vividly remember leaving John Thomas's home in total awe after experiencing his Tympani IIIA's triamped with ARC tube gear. WOW! More than anything, it was Mel and John's sincere approach as music lovers and audiophiles that made a lasting impression and served as an inspiration for what a high end dealer should strive for. Since I now wear the hat of a dealer as a home based dealer in my spare time, I have a good example to live up to.

On the other side of the coin,

I called Straightwire this week because Im buying a new DLP front projector and I needed a long run of RGBHV cable for my new Dwin.

I spoke with Jerry from Straightwire and he quoted me a price on a 25 foot run of their better cables that while Im sure it was worth it, it was a little out of my range considering what I just spent on the projector.

He explained that he understood and said for me to think about it and give him a call back whenever I decided what I wanted to do.

The next day, he called me back.....I didnt have to call him. He told me that he really wanted to work with me and he understood what it was like to work on a budget. He said, "let me look through our B stock and see what I can come up with for you".

Ten minutes later he called me back and told me that he had a 32 foot run of some very nice cable that they had used for a trade show and that I could have it for $275.

Since Straightwire is local here in South Florida, I spun by there to pick it up that afternoon. Now, here I am, just got off work in shorts, a T-shirt and sneakers and Im here to buy a $275 cable. Jerry greets me up front and gives me the red carpet treatment. He brings me in the back and starts showing me all of their high dollar cables and explains the extrusion process on some of their more expensive stuff. He introduces me to the owner Steve and his father. He went out of his way to help me out on a cable that saved me a significant amount of money and still treated me like I was their most important customer.

I left there feeling like a million dollar customer. I was almost stunned by their sense of courtesy to their patrons.

That kind of service wins me over every time.

Straightwire has earned a customer for life. I will never buy another cable without first auditioning what they have to offer first.
I really see nothing wrong with a newbee, calling to have that personal invitation.
Certainly it's partly true that if the dealer won't help its his problem; the issue is that the customer STILL hasn't been serviced. That only points out the bad dealers and doesn't help the customer.
I have given personal introductions to dealers from customers who called the factory for information.It is a very simple process that helps BOTH parties.
The dealer is on the ready for the, sometimes intimidated customer, putting him or her at ease and gives him great treatment.
It should be that all experiences are that way but they aren't.
I have made many customers VERY happy by giving them a simple intro to their local dealer.
Nm512, Jerry from Straightwire is a very wise (and accommodating!) man, indeed! I really admire a businessman who treats a new potential customer as a future loyal client, whether or not this actually occurs. This type of "marketing campaign" costs no money, just an investment of time, decency, and courtesy. So many dealers will either treat a potential customer as a "mark" or as a "waste of time", depending on the salesman's mood, or cursory initial evaluation. The old marketing adage is true: a loyal customer provides a priceless source of advertising, and while a satisfied customer may not tell others about his experience with you, an unhappy and dissatisfied customer will tell EVERYONE about his experience with you!
Nm512, I'm also in S. Fl.
Sounds a lot like Sound Components in the Gables.
I'll never set in that place there again.
What's really funny is, they are just a bunch of sales clerks putting on airs.

You should have to go into some of those kinds of stores as the Vice Pres. of Sales, for a company which they just USE in order to sell other products (sell against).
I held a sales meeting that was not pretty. It was almost as if I were pledging for a frat. Some of these, (hi killerpiglett, couldn't have said it better) 'glorified sales clerks', are downright NASTY.
Your only gotcha, on all this is that they have to be transient, since they can't sell anything, and will never be successful in any industry requiring grace and ability.
On the other hand stores like Progressive Audio in Columbus, has a great group of guys who know what they are doing, and don't pretend to be part of the 'Manhattan Project' working on secret, sacred government plans.
Don't let the jerks get you down, because there are plenty of good ones out there too.

Good listening
Sound components...........the worst dealer I ever dealt with, nasty, stuck up, don't give a damm. Stay away from them
Part of the fun, and sometimes the frustration, of this hobby/addiction is the colorful characters that you end up dealing with. Some are awesome, and others don't seem to give a flip if they ever make another sale to another "idiot" ever again. It doesn't matter, I am getting to know the good ones, those that really want to help you make a good purchase and understand. The good ones will get the reward of our repeat business, while the others, well.. who cares?
For what it's worth my cousin and I (16 and 19 at the time) were given a top class demo by a dealer in Salt Lake - Wilson/Levinson, 9 inch CRT projector, etc. My cousin walked into the shop expecting to see $300 Best Buy quality components for his dorm room. The sales crew was more than happy to spoil us with a 20 minute demo despite our clear intention of buying nothing in the store (at the time for a total lack of cash).
I would consider getting a great headphone set up - they cost less, and they rival the sound of the high end speaker system.

You can enjoy the sonic heaven you are searching for - for a lot less.
Lets see be polite and tell the truth. If they dont want your business take it elsewhere. I have had good luck at various shops in the denver area.

Now for the story.

I was in the market for some cables nothing to high end mind you (Scott W at Listenup gave me a hand, execelent experience.)

Went back the next day for a power conditioner and a TT. Scott was out so Lew Black gave me a hand. He spent an hour with me going over the details and this was a small purchase.

The rest of the story.
Over the past 8 months Lew has put up with my ranting and raving, all my questions and always given me his time when I have asked no matter what it was for. Weather it is to listen to gear or problems with my setup. In doing so from the beginning he gained a faithfull customer. (By the way I have put him through hell). With my latest purchase I had to wait for my amp to come in so he loned me his personal Proceed to drive the front chanell in my HT. (Overkill but very nice). I went through three transports before deciding on a used theta from the Gon. Still it seems that nothing phases this man.

The moral of the story (Beware the sales man.) It is sometimes better to be turned away by the snob then listen to those $$$$$$ speakers.

I like to call Lew a friend.