life without audio dealers

currently there is a thread eliciting comments regarding the purpose of audio dealers. i would like to go a step further and consider the question:

what would it be like without audio dealers ?

in order to answer this question one should analyze the activities of audio dealers, such as:

providing an opportunity to audition stereo systems.

possibly lending components.

providing advice as to component selection, providing repair service for components under warranty and providing information as to how to deal with component "malfunction" which do not require a technician.

the obvious, namely, ordering and selling components, both new and used

i maintain that auditioning components at a dealer's store is usually not helpful. if you cannot listen in your own stereo system, the demo may be useless.

some dealers may lend components over the weeekend , or for longer periods of time. this is a very useful service.

advice may not be useful, as there is no guarantee that a recomendation if purchased will satisfy your needs. providing advice when a component acts up may be helpful at times. providing service during a warranty period is of value.

lastly selling a component may be necessary if one wants to buy new and is willing to pay the price.

as a consumer, i prefer buying direct from the manufacturer. in that context many of the dealer functions are now provided by the manufacturer.

it would seem that a dealer is not indispensable and while there might be some inconvenience in absence of dealers, i don't think i would suffer too much if there weren't any dealers.

How about a world without teachers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters etc?

Your model is one where only the product matters and experience and system setup, means nothing. Sure you can do everything yourself with enough reading and practice however your results may vary.

For the record most of the time an experienced dealer can walk into a room and can improve a system sometime just by making a few simple and inexpensive changes.

Yes there are bad dealers but there are many superb dealers!
the days of hi fi and music stores (as a significent part of any community's culture) are either going or gone. i had the priviledge to live in minneapolis/st. paul when there were (per capita) more music and hi fi stores than any metro area in the world, as well as live theater and indie book stores....the only thing certain is change, but occasionally change sucks.
There is no good substitute for looking at and hearing equipment in person. I've seen some fine looking photographs that fail to communicate certain aspects of how a piece actually appears in real life. Punching buttons, twirling knobs and generally "kicking tires" are immensely helpful.

Hearing different speakers and other equipment side-by-side is also enormously useful, even if the dealer showroom isn't a duplicate of my home listening room. When I went speaker shopping two years ago, I was able to very quickly eliminate a number of well known quality brands. Lots of people liked 'em, and they had good reviews, but side-by-side auditions at the local dealers quickly showed they were not my cup of tea. It was immensely useful in narrowing the field down to two candidates.

None of that could have been easily accomplished with direct manufacturer sales. I have done that in the past (I auditioned Ohms about five years ago) but it simply is not a process that's useful for narrowing a field. The procedure is a hassle that I find worthwhile only if you are making a final decision.

The big problem with many brick and mortar dealers is they are stuck in a difficult middle spot. Best Buy, Circuit City and the others have a pretty good lock on the middle-market where the vast sales numbers are. The audiophile end of the market has gotten increasingly fragmented with zillions of brands and buyers who, honestly put, are more and more in the obsessive eccentric category. Audiophiles make for an extraordinarily difficult and demanding customer. I don't blame many B&M dealers for turning their marketing efforts elsewhere, such as HT, or getting heavily into the overpriced and sometimes questionable accessories and tweak end of things.

Ultimately, as Adam Smith put it, the invisible hand of the market will sort things out. No one stays in business long solely on the basis of being a good samaritan. There are rent, salaries and insurance to pay, inventory to buy, bank loans to repay and the business model has to support all that. If small audiophile B&M dealers disappear, then we will have pretty much gotten what we asked for. I think that'd be sad, but then there are lots of things in my life that are not the way they used to be.
Shockingly enough, I tend to agree with Mrtennis. I do find the one true value of a dealer is in-home demo. If the dealer doesn't offer this, he has no value whatsoever to me. Listening in a unfamiliar room, to a bunch of unfamiliar components may be enjoyable, but fruitless. Listening to a dealer's expertise (re: forced agenda) provides even less.

As for Audiooracle, who by the way is a dealer, hence the defense, comparsion of an experienced dealer to a craftsmen, I disagree. Audio tends to be a opinion/taste or subjective field, whereas the trades tend to be objective fields. A dealer will certainly have his opinions, but often there are hidden agendas (re: sales) behind his opinions. I actually find more useful opinions on-line from experienced amatuer reviewers can relate experiences, usually without the agendas. A licensed tradesman (electrician, plumber, etc.) opinion will carry a lot more weight, to me anyway. That doesn't mean I wouldn't get a second opinion, or estimate, but it does carry more weight.

Sorry Audiooracle, and more importanly Audiofeil (a classy dealer), but I also would prefer to buy direct from the manufacturer. I'm fully able to form my own opinion, and it would save me some dough. I have, and will continue to support dealers who let me have free in-home demo's, as I find this to be the one useful tool for a dealer. However, these guys are few and far between. Most dealers I know are simply willing to dispense their 'knowledge' (sic), in exchange for their handsome fee.

There are a few products that I have been interested in where there was no way to see anywhere...either they have no dealer or they are really rare. In these cases I have contacted the manufacture about hearing the product. Most always when I told them where I live they said that they had a few people in the region that would be able to see their product. Most of the time these are other audiophiles who then contact me about hearing said product. I was even able to make a few friends this way by people coming over with said product and hooking it up and having some beers.

I will admit that I have done the borrow "product" from my local hifi shop just to purchase it cheaper online, and I would probably do it again. No reason to pay retail plus tax when you can purchase at a fraction of retail, right?

Anyhow, it is in communities like this that we can all get exposed to products and others who own those products. It seems to me that if we banded together we would be able to audition almost anything you could think of and never have to travel much more than a few hundred miles, but this would require people to open their homes to others, and in today’s society this seems to be difficult for most…hell we could even rent gears to each other or create a loaner society where people can pay shipping to borrow gear to other audiophiles….kind of like the cable company or something.

What really needs to happen is that most manufactures need to sell directly to the public. If they did they would probably make more sales because the factory direct costs would be much lower than the dealer markups. I saw a dealer price list for a few different brands, and we are talking like 50-70% markups on some of these things...Imagine what kind of systems we could have if you could get high $$$$$ items from the manufacture at cost!

when you compare speakers at an audio dealer, will that comparison hold up in one's own stereo system ? maybe.

it is possible that while you might prefer speaker a over speaker b during a dealer demo, you might prefer speaker b over speaker a with your own components.

i don't believe you can extrapolate the results of a dealer demo to your own stereo systems, regardless of the component comparison. if cable performance is syetm dependent, why wouldn't speaker performance be as well ?

thanks john, for your support.
I think that many knowledgable audiophiles could do without dealers, especially with resources like Audiogon available. But I also think that there are many "discriminating non-enthuisiasts", i.e. people who like good quality musical reproduction but don't want the bother of the techie side of the hobby. For them, a good dealer is a valuable source of information, advice and demonstrable products, as well as someone who can help with the design and installation of a system, particularly home theatres which might involve some home renovations. Besides, if you bypass the local dealer and deal directly with the distributor/manufacturer, would the latter not, in effect, become a retailer to you? In the end, you just replace one retailer with another, and it would be one that is physically farther removed and perhaps less responsive to your needs because of that distance.
I am in the same camp as Mrtennis and Jmcgrogan2. I live in a somewhat isolated area where I must drive at a minimum 300 miles to audition a piece of equipment. My experience with dealers has been nothing short of trying to protect myself from a hurricane by seeking shelter in a thatch hut. I quit walking into the eye of that storm! I will research the gear find it on this site buy, demo, and if I like it then keep it. If not, try to turn it over. On the other hand, I would think the margins would be more attractive by omitting the middle man.
when you compare speakers at an audio dealer, will that comparison hold up in one's own stereo system ? maybe.

it is possible that while you might prefer speaker a over speaker b during a dealer demo, you might prefer speaker b over speaker a with your own components.

Let's get practical for a moment. I took a quick look over at AudioAsylum. There were roughly 1,200 models of speakers by around 300 different manufacturers. Using your logic, I would have to drag each of them home (or at least those in my price range) before I could reliably dismiss them from consideration.

Lets say you're looking for a pair of speakers in the $3000 range. There's a ton of 'em.

By your way of thinking, I will have done myself a great disservice unless I bring each and every candidate into my own listening room and give it a trial of weeks or more.

That, my friend, is impossible. I dare say that precious few full time audio reviewers have heard more than a fraction of the available speakers on the market in their own listening room.

As a practical matter, we all have to make judgment calls regarding which of the many available speakers will make the cut for our final selection process. At best, if a person gets two or three speakers into his home for an evaluation, he's done pretty good.

To think that I'm going to bring home 100 different pairs of $3,000 speakers for audition isn't going to happen. And I'm not going to look down my nose at anyone who winnows down the field with judgment calls at a dealer's showroom. I also certainly don't blame any dealer who restricts home trials to serious candidates.

It would be interesting to see how your selection process works. How do you eliminate the non-serious contenders? I find a dealer showroom demo gives me more useful information than advertising copy or a flowery review, whether professionally done or from an online contributor.

I don't buy that you're bringing "every" possible candidate, so you're eliminating them somehow. If you haven't heard them yourself, that leaves appearance, published specs, reviews, reputation and not a whole lot more.
As far as I'm concerned the only real value of a B&M dealer is the serevice they provide. I'd rather take a piece of electronics to their service department, even if they have to ship it to the manufacturer, for repairs. Makes my life easier.

I appreciate the B&M dealers letting me take home stuff to listen to in my system/room without a lot of hassle.

A dealer who doesn't provide both, is in MHO, worthless.

And yes Mr T, in store demos are, basically, worthless. I'm amazed at how much emphasis is placed on them, as well as the value of hearing components at trade shows. Even more worthless except for manufacturers, retailers, and reviewers who make their living from sales and reviews as a result of their promotion of products that 'impressed' them at the show.

I do feel sorry however for the beginning audiophile who has to get educated over the internet without the ability to lay hands on or hear what quality products can actually sound like.

But thats life without a B&M dealer. Too bad, but then I guess if you've never experienced great audio properly set up, you can fanticize to your hearts content re the quality of what you have and the effectiveness of your set up. Conversely I guess its possible, one might visit a high end store, hear how crappy their set up sounds, and go home all happy about how great their set up sounds. Its a crap shoot either way............
Just to be ornery with Mrtennis ;o) I'll suggest from my experience that you _can_ "extrapolate" a dealer's demo to your own system successfully. It worked for me when I chose the monitors for my bedroom system, using none of the same upstream components. A comparison with other speakers of similar size helped, but the choice was ultimately very easy.

That's not to say that the decision can't possibly be difficult and ultimately require a home demo, but gee whiz, it worked for me that time. So perhaps it depends on what system characteristics you're trying to reinforce, or quell.

Just joking about being ornery, Mrtennis, and Happy New Year!
There are no audio dealers in my world at this time so it isn't hard to imagine. If there were though it wouldn't make much difference. Auditioning the few lines they carry probably wouldn't lead to a great discovery but if it did I wouldn't be able to afford retail. Then I would have to compromise my integrity by buying online. I've visited a few in the last five years but it wasn't particularly enjoyable. Seems they are doing me a favor to simply acknowledge my presence, who needs that.

I did buy my speakers from a dealer. I already knew what I wanted so they were just an order taker kinda like a waitress (I respect waitresses though). After the sale they referred my questions to Albert.
To completely dismiss a demo at a dealer is an extremely narrow minded approach. While room interactions cannot be accounted for in such a demo, it's assumed that if you're buying a serious piece of kit you are also serious about the acoustics of your room and have it properly treated. As to the actual sound of the system, as long as a person is familiar with the components in front of the speakers, side-by-side comparisons at a dealer are an invaluable part of the purchasing experience. Frankly, I don't expect dealers to haul 150+ lb speakers to people's houses for auditions. Also, it's a catch 22 in most cases on the smaller stuff. It annoys me no end when a dealer doesn't have a speaker on demo because someone has it at their house to demo; they simply can't win. But it's also important to pay attention to what a dealer is pushing as often they will assume that you are clueless and set up the front end to accentuate the strengths of the line they are trying to push.

I can tell you with 100% certainty that if it wasn't for a dealer audition, I wouldn't have the speakers I have now; I would have stuck with B&W as that's what I know and missed out.
I am surprised by the number of people who suggest that in-store demos are worth so little. I personally like in-home demos because they give me a feeling of comfort. However, I also appreciate listening in B&M stores. I find that the neutrality of listening to a component in a slightly different (but broken in) set-up provides a "neutral ground" for listening. I also think that there are a lot of good dealers out there who have heard a lot of things, help set up a lot of systems in a lot of rooms, and can in many cases point out what those of us who have listened to fewer systems miss.

I am curious... If in-store demos are worth so little, what is the reason? I would love to read peoples' ideas about this...

Are dealers' systems (outside a particular component being listened to) sub-par? Are dealers' listening rooms badly designed? Are dealers' systems plagued with bad synergy between components (impedance matching or low-current design solid state with electrostats)? Is it perhaps that customers' own systems and rooms are simply not up to snuff so any benefit heard in store will not necessarily be heard in one's own system?
I will admit that I have done the borrow "product" from my local hifi shop just to purchase it cheaper online, and I would probably do it again. No reason to pay retail plus tax when you can purchase at a fraction of retail, right?


Ben, quite frankly I totally disagree with this practice. I find that act reprehensible.

While some may take my post as bashing dealers, I do not 'USE' them like that. It is very rare to find a dealer who will let you try gear that you want at your home, in your system. I feel that dealers like this should be 'rewarded' with the sale. I do not buy everything I have tried from a dealer, but if I do buy it, I will buy it from the dealer who was kind enough to lend it to me.
To do otherwise is in very poor taste IMHO.

If you don't intend to pay for it, do not borrow it. Buy it on-line and try it. That's the price of integrity. Yes, consumers should have integrity too.

I totally agree with Jmcgrogan2. It is just wrong to use a loaner from a b&m store then buy that very item from an online source. It costs that dealer real money to give you that service (which is why some do not offer it).
As to life without b&m stores, I live in an area with one small hi end dealer with a limited selection of brands. It does make life more difficult and I have had to go the route mentioned above of buying and selling used and learning by trial and error. Whenever I travel to bigger cities, I always map out a plan to visit hi end stores to broaden my knowledge and experience with gear I have read about but never actually listened to.
With the rise of the 'Net (and especially the 'Gon) and the demise of the brick and morter, audio dealers just don't play in my pursuit of audio. Maybe if I was in NYC I'd stop by and say hi to Andy, but the limited, limited range of equipment available at a local dealer, plus the takeover by video, makes the dealer less and less relevant. And that's not even getting into price markups and attitudes when you walk in. New speakers locally--sure if I can find them. The rest, hello, you've got mail.
for a brick and mortar store to keep up with the fickled nature of the lunatic fringe, the store would have to change brands faster than changing clothes. we would all like to believe the latest piece of gear is the greatest, but the 'belief' is generally just a 'compulsion' to spend money and try something different. like it or note, most music lovers do not need the trappings of hi end audio. In fact, more and more are jumping off the merry go round, than jumping on....stores or no stores
T-bone & Bar81,

The reason behind my statement is that most often, to the point of being a near universal, complaint of folks who buy speakers (only) on the basis of a dealers demo and then take them home to discover that their room is too small, too large, has the wrong dimensions, that their rooms configuration doesn't allow for optimum set up, that thier electronics either don't have synergy or that the amp/speakers don't match., etc, and they then post here wanting to know what electronis they should get, how to set up their stuff to make it work, and how to treat their rooms, what kind of wires, cords, and IC's, they can buy to justify their decision they made in their speaker purchase.

If a person is well versed in audiophelia and knows all of the possibilities then perhaps he would have an excellent chance of succeeding with a purchase based on a showroom listening session. I just did that! Successfully!. But I knew what I was listening for and I knew the demo components strengths and failures sufficiently to make good judgments. I also knew how the speakers would set up in my room.

But FWIW, in the mid 80's I bought a pair of Thiels based on a showroom demo and its reputation. It had thunderous and tight bass, great imaging, etc, etc, etc and I had no meaningful point of comparison in the show room where the set up and electronics had been optomized to match with the music being demo'ed.

I got them home - all pumped up! In my room I found that my room did not support the bass very well, and it was bright beyond bearing. We didn't have the internet then, only the rags (Cordesman loved my speakers) and dealers and I had trusted them.

Since I couldn't take them back I tried to make them work. Mod'd the cross over (as per Thiels rec's) went thru some amps til I 'found' the amp Thiel used in the speakers design process, got a new pre-amp (tubes) and over hauled my sources. Two years later when I had these speakers up to par, so to speak, I was so worn out by it all that I was happy to sell them to another eager novice who bought based on the same reviews and general reputation.

I think at that time my experience level was not all that different from the folks who post threads here asking for help and opinions about potential selections.

So I don't really care what all of the experienced audiophiles (you guys) can do, I'm far more interested in what will work out better for the beginning audiophiles and what will help them avoid some of the traps.

FWIW. BTW, how is that for an extremely narrow point of view?
Unfortunately a lot of this discussion seems to be turning into a black and white situation. It is almost as if some are saying that if the dealer won't deliver endless pairs of expensive speakers to their homes for lengthy trials, then a B&M dealer is of no value whatsoever.

That is a "reductio ad absurdum" argument.

Yes, it is great when you can hear equipment in your own home before buying. I've had that pleasure and it is the "10" on a scale of 1 to 10 for a buyer.

However, if I get my choice of just reading or talking about a product before I buy it or actually listening to it, I'll take the listening choice, thank you. Listening in a dealer's room is very valuable to me, even if imperfect.

Even then, one has ample opportunity to tell the dealer about your room size, layout and other equipment, along with what type of music you favor and "how" you listen. Most dealers will be glad just to take your money if you want something, but I've also found them willing to discuss concerns you may have.

(On a side note, one thing that many dealers find aggravating about certain audiophiles is their strong desire to already know everything. This often prevents them from even asking for suggestions and help, or keeps them from accepting or even considering valuable advice.)

I'm not an audio dealer (though I did manage a stereo store some 30 years ago.) The types of buyers and the egos people have really haven't changed that much in that time frame. We're still human - the world would be a great place if everyone would just do things our way.

Things are messier these days with more products on the market and more distribution options. The Walmarts of the world and internet sales have affected all businesses; the audio world is hardly alone in this regard. That has made some things better and other things worse, but here we nonetheless.
'will admit that I have done the borrow "product" from my local hifi shop just to purchase it cheaper online, and I would probably do it again. No reason to pay retail plus tax when you can purchase at a fraction of retail, right?'

followed by....

'this would require people to open their homes to others'

Ben, you don't have any concerns about ripping off the dealers' time and resources; you think i'm gonna invite you into my house??? To extend your reasoning, why pay retail when you can just steal it? LOL

Seriously though, dealers are still relevant for many, i believe. Keep in mind that the opinions expressed in these forums are typically those of experienced, internet savvy 'philes with years of involvement in higher fi. I believe we represent a very tiny minority of those interested in good sound. It certainly isn't helpful to the cause of failing dealer support that there are too many dealers out there who have alienated the audiophile, myself included. i honestly can't remember the last time i had anything but a disasterous experience at a hifi shop. Some of them just don't seem to get it, even while they watch their customer base shrink and shrink and shrink some more.That said, we all know that there are some great dealers out there that earn their business by providing invaluable services to us and to those who may want great sound but don't have the time or interest to turn it into an obsession, like some of us do. Not all 'philes or potential 'philes have the time or energy to devote the time required to build a great system, and there is way too much gear out there that just isn't worth anywhere near the asking price. A very good dealer can be an enormous benefit guiding a customer. In the end, audio stores can survive if they offer a good service to consumers in a value sense and as specialists with superior product knowledge and customer support. Unless of course, Ben and his type take advantage of their honest efforts to provide a good customer experience and they throw their hands up in futility. Honestly Ben, what you're doing is not cool, ok?
I could live without B&M dealers. That said, if it was the case that B&M dealers disappeared completely, I believe that the environment would "morph" a bit, and there would be more hi-end manufacturers who would have to offer alternative methods of interaction. Direct sales, with generous return policies, and continued enhancement of the information that is available online would yield an environment that I could comfortably interact with ethically and get good value for the dollar.

I don't really think the current model works very well to begin with. There are several manufacturers that I would love to explore auditioning / buying, but my best option is to wait until something comes available used. There is no reasonable way for me to interact with a dealer even if I was wanting to, so I'm not sure that I'd be missing anything if the dealers suddenly went away.
What would it be like without B&M dealers?
My last purchase from a B&M store was a positive experience. The owner (who had never seen me before) allowed me a two week loan on a set of speakers, spent ~ 2-3 hrs with me and gave me a great price on some used stuff I wanted to unload. He was rewarded with a sale. I will certainly return to that store when its time to upgrade. What is interesting is that this was 9 years ago. He is still in business and appears to be doing quite well selling equipment that is well beyond my budget in a medium sized Midwestern city. My guess is that he will still be their 20 years from now, because he has made himself a unique asset that can't be replaced. If he doesn't survive, something valuable will have been lost. I'd be in the store more frequently, but I just can't do $10K for a new amp. He respected me, so I respect him and won't abuse in store time or home loaners.

During the same period of time another half dozen B&M stores have come and gone. My experience with those stores was a waste of time. See the post of Stubby above. Nothing of value was lost at their closing.

Look, this is an expensive hobby that is fueled by discretionary spending. Most of us have limited time, and little patience with arrogant salespeople who don't respect our time and money. I'll pay within my budget for service, but I can get insults and irritations for free at work and at home. It's really pretty simple.
- If no one payed retail....there would be no second hand.
- Nobody likes to pay retail...that includes me.
- Dealers are important to audio industry.
- Find the one you can trust - build relationship.
- Can you make it without them ??? YES
- Where do you audition ????? Dealer !!!! then you buy some place else - no wonder you can not build healthy relationship. Trust is everything, You just have to find it ( not an easy tusk ). When you do - it is great.
There are good and bad dealers. Good ones will be in business for a long time. Bad... will slowly die out.
The dealers I deal with...will always take care of me. If I want something that he does not have I will let him know, so he has a chance to find a similar product from his line or try to get it from the manufacturer. If not - no hard feelings. I trust him- he trust me. We help each other, talk about new products, laugh, listen to music. There is no......Yes sir, No sir. It is a relationship based on friendship. But it is very difficult to find.
Trust me, I dealt with many, many guys....and most are a.....s to say the least. But every blue moon you meet a good guy. Then it is worth it. Otherwise shop here or direct.
The high-end audio dealers I know all have money. They didn't make their fortune selling audio equipment. These guys have boats, homes, exotic cars, etc, etc. They sell audio equipment as more like a hobby than a business. They carry the products they like. They are not going to go out of their way for you.
Some of the dealers will lend out gear and some will not. One dealer I know owns the building where his store is at. He told me he doesn't care if people buy from him or not. He never will sell less than retail and he will get insulted if you ask. Another dealer works from his home and will let you audition gear overnight. He carries very esoteric gear that costs more than most people make in a year. He is very opinionated and will tell you to you're face that your gear is crap.

The 3rd dealer I know has carried the same gear for 20 years. He doesn't follow the trends and sticks to the tried and true. He's still in business but I really don't know if he makes any money. He enjoys what he does and is not concerned about sites like audiogon or audio asylum. I have a feeling he will be doing this until he gets ready to leave this earth.
If you can't reliably and repeatedly extrapolate the listening evaluation from a dealer's showroom to your own system it implies that the sonic differences between equipment is very small yet somehow still critical, which is something of a contradiction. Or it could mean that a 2 or 3 hour listening session is not sufficient to judge a product's sound which would throw into question all the hifi show judgments and most "at a friend's house" listening sessions that are recited here on Audiogon.

A good audio dealer is hard to find, but once uncovered and a working relationship established they are most useful for their facilities, opinions and experience. To use their services knowing that you're going to be mail order/internet is far worst than even going slow in the left lane.
Many of us feel that we have passed the point of needing dealer assistance. Many dealers just behave like toll booths, believing that you have to pay them to gain access. Many manufacturers support this notion with exclusive sales territories. Everybody's crazy.
The number of real B&M dealers has shrunk to only those who say "my way or the hiway". The number of manufacturers seems to be growing exponentially, and the number of new audiophile purchases seems to be static at best.
Something's gotta give -- especially since those few of us who remain obsessive enough to keep spilling significant sums into this mercantile abyss, has to start diminishing dramatically as the grim reaper collects his toll.
The stores are merely the first part of this ship to meet the iceberg.
As someone who has taken on the role of distributor for a high-end audio company, this argument is of particular interest to me...

I have the complete freedom to steer the brand here as I see fit, which translates to being able embrace either a direct sales or traditional brick and mortar business model. I found there are arguments for and against each one.

If I sold direct, I could offer a 35% - 50% reduction in pricing, as well as having my hands on each and every sale directly. The latter yielding the type of relationship I would hope the customer would find value in. If I went down that road, to take the place of the audition at the dealer or his recommendation, I would also offer a trial period in the range of something like 60 - 90 days, as I agree with the sentiment that only via having a component in one's own system can the best decision for the individual be made. I want to be clear in my desire to provide the ability to audition a component either way - through direct sales or a dealer network.

However, I have seen very few companies become sucessful along the lines of direct sales, among them are Prima Luna and Zu. I have also watched as companies like Coincident, Jadis, and Von Schweikert more or less come apart at the seams when they have (willingly or unwillingly) gone down the direct sales road.

I have the utmost confidence in the sonics, build quality, and value for money the product line I represent possesses, and feel that allowing people to able to see, hear, and touch it will result in brand acceptance and sales. But, in my opinion, I feel building the dealer network is the best way to accomplish that. While that opinion certainly diverges from the majority opinion in this thread, after thinking it over long and hard, I made the decision, rightly or wrongly, that it is the more prudent one.

Apart from all of this, I work a high level full-time job in an extremely stable company, and am hesitant to walk away from the money and benefits it allows my family to enjoy. OK that may sound like a cowardly reason, but I have to be honest. On the other hand, I feel it has yielded the unforeseen benefit of being able to take the long view of things, and act along those lines to build the brand up the way I feel is the best and most ethical manner, as opposed to most in this industry who have to unceasingly generate sales at whatever expense in order to put bread on the table.

In the end, my sincere desire is to provide the best possible service to people interested in our product, and I am really open to embracing whatever the best vehicle to provide that is. Right or wrong, I have chosen the brick and mortar avenue, but am always here to listen as to why folks believe I made the wrong decision.
The journey of the audiophile is, to a certain extent, a journey of self-discovery. If we all knew what we like, what we don't like, and what we can put up with if necessary - then we could reliably make all our purchases on-line or factory-direct.

Presumably mrtennis has reached the stage where he can reliably predict which equipment will and will not do what he wants. But he has enormous experience from attending audio trade shows and reviewing. I doubt that he is taken by surprise very often when auditioning speakers, for instance. That's not the case for most of us, though - I still hear surprises at just about every audio show I attend.

So one of the roles I see dealers playing is assisting the audiophile in that journey of self-discovery. Unfortunately for the dealers, as hard-core audiophiles become more experienced they need dealer auditions less and less, so they are more likely to buy direct. At the same time, the shrinking market means that not enough new audiophiles are coming into the dealership to make its two-channel operations self-sustaining.

In a world with no dealers, I see audio shows possibly filling that role for those audiophiles in a position to attend such shows; but for those unable to attend, the journey of self-discovery will be longer than ever. Many will never make it because they will never hear anything better than a Circuit City or Best Buy system.

I think in a world without dealers, high end audio will shrink even faster than it's shrinking now.

experience at ces shows and reviewing does not give me an edge relative to others who have not had my experiences.
i do not consider myself an expert. rather i know what i want and have ears to tell when i hear it.

you don't have to be a food critic, movie critic or wine critic, for example, to be able to tell that you like something. noone can tell another what is best for that person, with the exception of a doctor or lawyer. we are dealing with aesthetics, not rocket science.

one does not have to understand why or how something works.
you need a good brain, a good ear and an understanding of what you like.

how deos a dealer help ?

he does not have your ears. no one can predict what a component will do in another stereo system based upon what it may do at a dealers stereo system.

this hobby needs more small manufacturers and fewer audio dealers. as long as there are direct sellers of every conceivable component, one has the opportunity to sample products of each category. the designer is a useful source of the nature of a component. however, a manufacturer cannot predict how a component will integrate itself in a stereo system.

there are many surprises. i may expect a silver plated copper3 cable to have a certain signature, but i have been surised.

the answer is listen, listen and listen--at home.

when i go to ces, all i can say is that i either like what i hear or do not like what i hear. i don't try to analyze.

this hobby needs more small manufacturers who offer in-home audition and less audio dealers. ket the consumer decide for him/herself without influence from a person who has a vested interest in selling something. how can such a person be objective about a product he/she doesn't sell ?

an audio dealer is a conflict of interest waiting to happen.

i have spoken to some manufacturers who prefer not to deal with retailers.

the best an audio retailer can do is lend gear at the request of the consumer, perhaps for a small fee. then the consumer can buy it direct from the manufacturer.
That's well put, Duke. But my experience says that most people will never hear or care about "the difference" no matter how much exposure they get. It just isn't there for most people.

The Viet-Nam era, driven by drugs and the youth movement of the day, propelled widespread purchase of component audio. Later, during the 1980s, when tech stocks were causing widespread consumption of all things luxury, high end audio evolved as a separate category and money flowed. We are the sad remnant of those glory days.
Today, component audio and high end pretensions are passe. Many of us are in denial about this but those people are like Goethe's drunk on horseback. No matter how much they wave and yell and curse and gesticulate, the horse plods undeterred in whatever direction it chooses. And the current direction involves computer music servers and personal audio. New and better versions of the same old componentry will not redirect the horse. Dealers, graphs, reviewers -- all will struggle in vain. The die is cast and the end is in sight. It will probably never go away entirely but high end audio is in an irreversible decline. It's still fun though, if you are given to this sot of fun -- but too few are.
'you don't have to be a food critic, movie critic or wine critic, for example, to be able to tell that you like something. noone can tell another what is best for that person, with the exception of a doctor or lawyer. we are dealing with aesthetics, not rocket science.'

Personally, i agree with this statement by mrtennis. However, i have recently come to understand and believe there is a group of audiophiles who subscribe to the A. Holt theory that an 'absolute sound' is the standard equipment should aspire to, a sound that comes as close as possible to live music. This belief is the fundamental behind such absolute statements like, 'This is the best amp (speaker, CDP, etc) under $2000.' or (opens can of worms)' Analog is superior to Digital'. Indeed, until i discovered these absolutists, as i like to call them, i could never understand what drove someone to make what appeared to me, such an arrogant statement. I now believe that audiophiles are divided into two groups, the subjectivists and the absolutists. Unfortunately, every single dealer in my area falls into the absolutist camp; thereby rendering what i like or don't like secondary to their 'more expert' opinion on what sounds best. Of course, as a subjectivist, this bewilders me and makes that dealer of no use to me. Worse, it's actually torture listening to them pontificate on the various attributes of all equipment ever manufactured. i now stay far away from these audio shops.

But back to mrtennis for a second. As a reviewer, i wonder, how does he recommend a component for sound quaility, percieved by him subjectively, if he believes this:

'no one can predict what a component will do in another stereo system based upon what it may do at a dealers stereo system'

he should have added 'or at a reviewers home' to that statement i think.

There are lots of good reviewers around; I like Art Dudley a lot personally. But i would personally feel a lot more comfortable listening to a component at a dealer (or anywhere for that matter) than taking a reviewers opinion as a worthy substitute for my own ears, no offense to reiewers intended.

and again, by Mrtennis:

'an audio dealer is a conflict of interest waiting to happen.'

Harsh mrtennis, and not nessessarily accurate. A very good dealer can provide a very valuable service, possibly even commesurate to the profit margins from the 70's perpetuated still as representing good value. In order to do that, they must abandon this 'do as i say' mentality (absolutist) and adopt a relationship with the consumer that underpins a more subjective approach. But then again, the dealer is working with the vagaries and insecurites of obsessed audiophiles; he can't switch out amps and speakers all day long in what is almost always a hopeless attempt to provide a long term satisfied listener. Maybe you're right, it's useless! Just imagine a conversation like this: Phone rings, dealer answers: 'Hello mr dealer, listen, that amp you sold me last week, i was listening to this diana krall recording, and on track 6 there was some sibilance, an 's' sounded like 'sss'; it was unlistenable! Can i bring this rotten amp back and try something else?'' Maybe dealers deserve that high profit margin, having to deal with the likes of us!
a reviewer should not recommend a component. if you read my reviews, you will see that i do not recommend a compoents . i do not indicate that i either like or dislike a product. instead i report my perceptions.

there is no substite for listening with one's ears. a review should never substitute for personal preference and personal experience.

regarding the conflict of interest. it is obvious that a dealer will not suggest that a customer buy a product that he/she does not sell and may denigrate products he/she does not carry. if dealers were order takers and could obtain any product a customer wants without voicing an opinion, customers would be better off.
With regard to recommendations, there's simply no point to a review if it's completely subjective and no recommendation is made. Recommendations (particularly best of listings) are an invaluable tool in assisting purchasers in whittling down available products to demo. Recommendations also permit a consumer to determine the credibility they assign a reviewer in the case of future purchases. If Reviewer A likes x and y products and I try such products and find them not to my liking and/or poor performing I then know to give very little weight to any other reviews from such reviewer and vice versa. So while your ears are the ultimate arbiters, recommendations are an invaluable part of the audition process.

With regard to conflict of interest, in an ideal world, that may be the case, but in the real world no store carries all products/all people are biased, so to single out audio dealers regarding conflict of interest is a peculiar argument to make. There is simply no substitute for a consumer doing some research prior to a purchase; particularly with the wealth of information available on the internet. A knowledgeable consumer is his own best friend and can much more easily gauge the validity of a salesperson's comments.

if dealers were order takers and could obtain any product a customer wants without voicing an opinion, customers would be better off.


So one of the roles I see dealers playing is assisting the audiophile in that journey of self-discovery

Now there are two opinions that are poles apart. It seems to me that the first one entirely omits the educational role of the honest and knowledgeable dealer. Honest meaning, among other things, honest to himself about any conflict of interest and willing to choose the customer's interest first.

Maybe such people don't exist outside my imagination but there are posts here that suggest the contrary.

If all a dealer does is take orders, and I am a newbie, I will never get the benefit of a better-informed opinion and I will just order anything. It could take decades for me to get a system I loved, if it ever happened at all. Along the way I might get discouraged enough to drop the whole idea.

So certainly, the hobby has a place for honest BAM dealers IMHO. I think that may be true of any field at all.
mrtennis said:

this hobby needs more small manufacturers who offer in-home audition and less audio dealers. ket [sic] the consumer decide for him/herself without influence from a person who has a vested interest in selling something. how can such a person be objective about a product he/she doesn't sell ?


the best an audio retailer can do is lend gear at the request of the consumer, perhaps for a small fee. then the consumer can buy it direct from the manufacturer.

First... the small manufacturer is going to be, if anything, less objective in comparing his/her products against products he/she does not make. If potential audio buyers do not need the advisory-type of hand-holding, then they do not need it and the existing brick-and-mortar plus internet plus direct-from-mfr plus audiogon plus whatever model allows them to do so. Others want that help (it's called 'service') and I bet there are many people on this forum who once used a b&m dealer and got something out of it, even if they have 'graduated' to a new level now.

Second... there is not 'just one' true audio system for any given person. There are lots of appropriately put together and matched systems out there at any given budget level. Dealers should not be expected to carry all possible systems, just some - acting as a filter for what is out there in the world. And if people don't like what the dealer carries, too bad for the dealer.

Third... any number of threads here have produced screaming hordes who were upset that a dealer wanted to charge for a demo. Dealers are not Blockbuster. If the whole dealer system moved to something like an "interior designer" type of economic model, where the "stereo design consultant" (not "dealer") could provide anything, and do so at a 20% discount to retail (while still taking a 10% spread), then the 'SDC' could be objective (until the 10% creeped to 15-20%?) but that would require something like equipment libraries where SDCs borrowed the equipment from their regional library and then set something up in the home of the potential buyer.... then because it's a big world, there would have to be a bunch of these depots, and then, well, rather than schlepping 5-8 different pairs of speakers over to a customer's house to have him listen, he could listen in a listening room in that regional equipment-lending depot, or there might be several listening rooms. Oops, this is beginning to sound like a brick & mortar dealer. FWIW, I think the idea is interesting, but who pays for the hundreds of little lending depots around the country? Is there something like a CostCo warehouse of audio equipment outside of every medium-sized city in the USA?

There are lots of people who do not have access to years of experience of going to shows, or time to spend hours or days at the next one, the experience which would allow one to filter down to the top 5 systems of a given price that one would want to audition at one's home. If I wanted to buy that experience, what would that cost me in hours? in dollars? If I wanted to bypass that with a dealer I trusted, would it be worthwhile to pay cash for the dealer's service to instantly get some ways up a ladder? Lots of people would say yes. But those people might not 'waste' their time here on Audiogon...
Above posts bring some valid points and are very controversial in the same time.

However question remains.......
Do we as "Audiophiles" need AUDIO DEALERS.

I am talking about all levels here....., skills and knowledge. Mrtennis, you and I (and many others) could probably do with out them. But some will have a very hard time .......especially those, who do not know what they want or what sounds good (to them). Those unable to setup that new turntable and cartridge. Those that use composite and S-Video cable to hook up their HD-display.....etc.

Even seasoned audiophiles can benefit from a GOOD dealer.
The only question is how many of those are out there?????
Not too many. And maybe we......or rather industry should try a little harder to bring that gap between us and them.....(or even better audiophiles and audiophile shops with ONE goal ......better music, service and long relationship) just a little closer.

I live in New York for the past 16 years and I have to say,
it is one of the worst places to be an audiophile.
Attitude, customer relations and care is hopeless.
It isn't surprising to hear stories of many that took their business to neighboring New Jersey or even Pennsylvania where some dealers actually know what this hobby is all about and understand your needs and/or concerns.
I personally rather drive for an hour or two then deal with ANY DEALER in N.Y.
It shows you how frustrating some of us get and why the general perception towards dealers is so negative.

There is a room for improvements.......I do believe so..YES.
But it takes two to TANGO.

Mrtennis, if I understand you correctly, you're saying that we don't need someone else (like a dealer) to tell us what we like.

I'm not arguing that the dealer's role is to tell people what to like.

I'm arguing that the dealer's role is to provide people with the experience of discovering what they like by providing auditions. In cases where the person already has a pretty good idea of what they like, a conversation with a dealer experienced in that type of speaker or amplifier can help them narrow down which of several contenders would be the probable front-runner(s).

For the record, Mrtennis, I know of dealers that will recommend someone buy something they do not sell if in their opinion that something else would better meet the person's needs.

I tend to agree with MrTennis on this topic. As an analogy, consider digital photography. Look at dpreviews . com and study the style of the "reviwers". They patently will not tell you what they would buy, but how the products perform; both measurement and subjective viewing experience. Digital photography has no real dealers per se and you can buy direct from many makers. While they offer a unique service that the internet can not, dealers bias the transaction. An audiophile needs to audition at home with as little stress as possible. Must sleep now...
i see no evidence that trial and error without a dealer's assistance is any less effective than getting an opinion from an audio dealer.

only the consumer can decide his or her preferences. how does one learn? through listening. from a position of ignorance, one listens and then decides that a certain presentation is what he or she likes.

there are enought manufactureres who sell direct who can provide many of the services of the non-manufactryrer audio dealer.

if you must rely on a dealer, who would you trust, the manufacturer/retailer, or the retailer, regarding a product.
in addition, most direct sellers will allow you to return the component within a period of time.

even when dealers are present, consumers still end up with equipment they don't like. just look at audiogon.

so, until there is some evidence supporting the value of a dealer, i am not convinced that dealers are necessary.

when you think of the products that people buy, there are so many instances where all that is needed is the facts, rather than opinions. an example like wine buying comes to mind. if i am buying my first bottle of wine, and i want to buy a sweet wine, i can look on the internet and then order a sweet wine. i don't need any suggestions. after i have sampled enough wine, i will figure out what i need to do the next time i want to buy a bottle of wine.

why is it that in this hobby, the conventional wisdom suggests that consumers cannot educate themselves just by listening ?
After reading these posts I would like to add that if the manufacturer became the primary source of sales for the audiophile/customer, then we would all lose out. The reasons are several, first off, the direct sales will have to also rely on stocking merchandise or the one off specialty designed products where the lead times are long already may result in even longer waits for such products because the direct seller must now cater to more people, thereby increasing workforce to ramp up production or shipment and delivery. These come with added costs to the company.

I think the demographic of people who would go to the dealer has changed due to the internet and people becoming more savvy way to spend their money. This does not preclude them from wanting to spend their money. Suppose a manufacturer states their is only one direct sale point of contact, then what would people do to audition products across the states. I as the direct seller now have to arrange to box, ship and insure a product to some other state to allow someone to demo a product (in which case I support home demos 100%), however I now have incurred an extra cost, these costs will go up exponentially as more people desire to listen to products at home. I will in effect have to track more products coming and going plus deal with the insurance claims. Some manufacturers that are small to begin with will not be able to support this financially while the larger ones will. So we will see more mass market products able to be demoed easier versus the small manufacturer production base. I personally do not want to wait long to demo products either, however, we must realize, that we cannot influence small manufacturers to simply drop their direct dealer network. I have been dealing with the same dealer for almost 10 years and now have a reputation with both the dealer and manufacturer as I have some unique requests to experiment using the equipment I have purchased and going to trade shows and talking with the manufacturer directly to tell them about their products. This has led me to be on their "list" of allowed customers to do home demo's with their high end equipment. But, I have to wait another 2 months for the home demo equipment to make its round to me because other people are also home doing the home demo on the same product. This is a very small manufacturer and they do not mass produce, but what they do is in great demand and people are willing to wait to get a demo. If they were to build more home demo products, this would take away from the availability of off the shelf products they already sell or add costs to production to hire new people. It is a tradeoff. So direct sales do work, but the smaller companies will not be able to support the demand of all customers leaving some people just as frustrated as with a dealer network.

Just a few more facts about small businesses, that could effect local communities if they are active participants in events, programs or local hires providing jobs:

#1 Small Business is America’s No. 1 Job Creator

Small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms, employ half of all private sector employees and pay 45 percent of total U.S. private payroll. Small business has generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade. (U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy)

#2 Small Business is a loud voice in Public Affairs and Politics

Disproportionately large percentages of small-business owners are registered to vote (95%), usually do vote (84%), and run for elective office (3%). (NFIB National Small Business Poll: Political Participation)

#3 Small Business is a Steady Part of the American Work Force…and will continue to be.

Forty-six (46) percent of small employers intend to never fully retire. Another 23 percent will retire at 65 or older with half that number retiring at 70 or older. Sixty (60) percent of those intending full retirement at some point expect to phase-out, rather than to retire abruptly. (NFIB National Small Business Poll: Retirement)

#4 Small Business Contributes to Local Communities

Ninety-one (91) percent of small employers (small-business owners) contributed to their community in the last year through volunteering, in-kind contributions, and/or direct cash donations. About 41 percent contributed all three ways. The estimated average value of contributions is $6,600 per small employer, contributing and not, for a total of roughly $40 billion . (NFIB National Small Business Poll: Contributions to Community)

I really cannot see a good business model without the benefit of the small business. If we were to have only direct sales, then we would displace a viable workforce, adding unemployment, I know increasing sales directly implies that we will add or create jobs at the manufacturer, but tell that to someone in the middle of nowhere where they depended on the income for survival. That business would surely go under and effect the some people, while the manufacturer would likely increase work force lets say in Washington State, far away from the dealer that was.

Enough of my thoughts….
Happy New Year,
there is a difference between infoirm and recommend.

the inform is like the "what". it tells the reader what the product is doing in a stereo system. what is the relevance of then adding : "i like what the product is doing". a reader can make his own decision if he is told how a product performs.

it is like the expression "you report, i'll decide".

with information, a decision can be made. the indication of preference does not inform, rather it persuades.

i would rather have the reader make up his mind than try to influence him/her. read my reviews and tell me what you think. you can read them at .

the most important function of a dealer is making the product available for sale. it would seem that this should be sufficient for the educated consumer. also provide an opportunity for home audition. a dealer needs to have one demo of each product he carries. withn such a model, i can see the viability of dealers.
Mrtennis, if the audiophile world were to devolve into small manufacturers directly marketing their products, then how many electrostatic speakers do you think would be on the market? Small may be beautiful but it's not particularly economically efficient nor do truly small companies spend much on R&D. The end result could be higher prices for less innovative products.

The music business may offer insight into what you propose. The major record labels have basically withdrawn from new artist development which leaves new bands with the problem of how to get their music heard. The internet, constant touring, OST or TV placements, video games, etc. are all being used. But from the consumers' POV how does one shift through all the media for something they would like? The record labels once served as a filter for getting the best, well at least the best commercially viable, music to the public. The audio dealer also serves such a function. In a world with hundreds of audio manufacturers it's a valuable function.
Many already do experience "life without audio dealers" - it would appear that the vast majority of people on A-gon recount how they do not have access to a good dealer, either due to geographic location, or lack of quality in the dealers that do exist.

I think the majority of us would welcome the opportunity to have a full-service, knowledgeable dealer with whom to develop an ongoing relationship with. If we take the somewhat idealized version of dealers that some recount, this dealer would know us, would know our system and preferences, and would save us time and money by being able to direct our attentions and $$ to the place they would most benefit our quest, even if, occassionally, that place wasn't a place that they profited from.

I don't understand why the industry seems to be retracting its business model instead of modifying it. It seems much harder now to get in-home auditions, to get trade-up policies, to, in some cases, even get a dealer's attention. Pricing, for at least the upper-end, seems to have no boundary, and the dealers are probably more dependent on the large margins than they've ever been.

I used to live in Lawrence, KS, home of Kief's. It's a college town, so they dealt with tire-kickers in spades. Even back then, they had a three-tiered pricing structure. There was full service - advice, home demo, full support, etc. - for a small discount off of retail. There was "partial service" - advice, home demo, 30-days direct support, after which you dealt with the manufacturer directly, for a larger discount off of retail. Then there was mail order - they'd get the unit in, but as they said - if it comes in two halves, you own both halves. This was for a competitive mail order price.

I don't know why some version of this type of tiered model couldn't work for a modern dealer, something that makes the service more explicitly paid for by the customer.
Mrtennis wrote:

"i see no evidence that trial and error without a dealer's assistance is any less effective than getting an opinion from an audio dealer.

"only the consumer can decide his or her preferences. how does one learn? through listening. from a position of ignorance, one listens and then decides that a certain presentation is what he or she likes."

Duke replies:

At least we agree that experience is necessary to deciding what one's preference is. Assuming the person has access to high-end audio dealerships, I maintain that visiting dealers and listening to what they have on display is usually the fastest and most efficient way to gain such experience. It is not as thorough as an in-home audition, but will narrow down the field of contenders for said in-home auditions.

Mrtennis, what do you propose as the alternative way to gain sufficient experience to decide which presentation is preferred?
I like Kthomas's post. I think we could all benefit from the presence of a high end B&M dealer who is capable of providing a service consistent with the needs of his customer and price his service accordingly. I would certainly welcome one. I have always hated buying over the internet unheard products and rarely ever buy anything used.
Unfortunately all of those that have existed in my area went broke some years ago or converted to AV and only support AV type products.

Now what would really be helpful, especially from all of those knowlegable proponents of B&M stores, would be to help assemble a list of such merchants so those of us who appreciate their services can find one. I live in a metropolitan area with a population excess of 1 million and have no shop I can recommend. Saddly, I have to travel over a hundred miles to even find a high end store, let alone one with which I could enjoy a good business relationship, with interesting (to me) product so I'm left with little alternative but to work with the internet, and I hate it!

I suspect that outside of LA, Chicago, Atlanta, and the Tri-State area on the East coast, the list will be veeery short.

Oh well.....
Ok guys...let me clear something up. I have only borrowed one piece of equipment from a dealer, and only after spending two months salary on some speakers and new cables that he was kind enough to give me a 10% discount on. He was a very nice guy who I still go and talk to when I visit my home for where I live now, I have very little good to say about the "primary" high end dealer here. Last time I went to his shop, I went with a buddy who had a number of thousands of dollars burning a hole in his pocket and wanted my input on some equipment that he was interested in (note, I had helped him with some other purchases and he found me more knowledgeable than any dealer he had ever visited). He and I were totally put off by the dealer when he began arguing with me about something that I was obviously better schooled in than he. You would figure if a dealer wanted to make a sale (which my buddy was READY to do) he would have been much more collegial in his ability to make conversation with other people...That seems to not be the case with all but a few of the best dealers I know. One of my favorite dealers is based in my home town (different from the one I spoke of above) and has been operating throughout the region (and I am talking a number of states in the middle of this country). He has always been great to talk to and very into all the newest trends and pieces of equipment (which is neat for a “old” guy)...However the last time I went into his store one of his new helpers was working the floor and I was reminded again about how stuck up most of the people in this business are...He criticized my system and then he criticized me...but worst of all he criticized the music with which I wanted to demo some equipment. WHAT? This is my music which I like and I find to really show weakness or strength in a system. Perhaps it revealed too many of the obvious defects.

Personally, I don't consider myself to know very much about this hobby when I look at some of the others who have been doing this a long time, but I like to consider myself as being among the new generation of audiophile. I have never owned a record player (with the exception of the playschool one I had when I was a kid). And I can pretty much guarantee that I am at least 20 years younger than the median age of people interested in audio reproduction and equipment. As being such, I find myself much more at home in the digital realm than in the analogue. It is probably the product of being born around the same time that computers began their surge into people’s homes and being taught to use a computer at school.

As for my idea of having people come into my home or me go into their homes and listen…Brimac, I take offence to the idea that you would even suggest that I would steal equipment from a fellow audiophile. I have opened my home up to many people to come and take a listen and have had the favor returned to me by few. I do really think that one should hear equipment before one starts to spend money in the extreme amounts, but if you are planning on spending $10000 on a CD Player, or a pair of speakers or, or, or… what would be $300 on airfare to go hear and see it live. Additionally what would in the same case, shipping from a equipment lender and a rental fee much like the cable company be for a piece of equipment…Perhaps I should start an equipment library. It just seems to me that there would be the potential to get more exposure to much more equipment if there were something like this. (and have you ever looked at their used cable list….they are still making a profit on that price too, as well as the money they have made off of their rentals)…As for me now, I just look for good deals on a number of different brands of equipment, and purchase what ever I am interested in….If I like it great, if not, off it goes to some other interested party.

I guess that for some I do see the interest of having dealers around….and if it were not for a great dealer I would have never known what is capable from an audio system. But there is another part of me that wishes that my local dealers understood my appetite for different equipment and would do something to appease me. If I were able to purchase equipment somewhere from a dealer at a deep discount (lets say they get a 10% commission over dealer price) I would be happy to continue to spend upwards of $10,000 a year (which is about my current yearly rotating equipment budget, and will only increase as I get my career going) on equipment that they carry, but there is probably not a dealer out there that would allow this, and it is not even worth my time to try and do this when I have the possibility of purchasing things here on the GoN...

Finally because of the lack of quality customer service, the ability to do research on my own, and my own equipment fund for auditioning equipment, I will probably never set foot in any but the highest end dealers…but I still can’t see myself purchasing anything from one of them when there is perfectly good equipment available here and fractions of the cost.


Nice to see you acknowledge the positive role at least one dealer played in your journey. Was this the same one you borrowed equipment from for an in-home audition, and then you turned around and bought the product for less money online?

If you have no need for dealers, fine. But don't steal our time and borrow the equipment we have invested in to help you decide which online discounter gets your business.


No, actually the dealer that I borrowed equipment from was not the one who really set me on my journey. The company that I borrowed equipment from was one in which I had pretty much maxed out what they had to offer when I purchased there (and I wanted to try something in addition to what I had purchased). As for the dealer that set me on my way, they used to be nice, but their new staff has turned me off to them. I am sure Duke that you are different than most of the dealers out there. I just visited your website and saw that you offer hotel accommodations and airfare if someone makes a purchase from your store. Just because of that if I am ever interested in a pair of Sound Labs you would probably be the first person I would contact. You perfectly fall into my idea that people should fly to where the products are in which they are interested...especially when preparing to make a large purchase like a pair of Sound Lab speakers. Great policy and I think many others would be wise to take a page from you book.

Best to you Duke and happy New Year!
Gosh Ben - here I try my best to start the new year off by being a jerk and picking a fight with you, and I can't even get you to take offense - instead, you reply with friendliness and wish me a happy new year. Dangit, I guess we'll have to get along after all!

Well done my friend, and a Happy New Year to you and yours.