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RE: A local high end dealer told me...-

My dealer was Soundhounds in Victoria and Terry ran the shop for 45 years until he died a few years ago (they are still operating).

They went to the audio shows always seeking new brands to carry. Some brands sell and some don't regardless of the reviews.

He noted that 90% of the people who walked into the store were "pre-sold" on what they wanted to buy from advertising and reviews. 10% actually spent serious time listening and tended not to buy the stuff the reviewers were raving about.

That was me. I had a set of what would be called "Mid-fi" speakers in Wharfedale E-70s (Vanguard Edition) a three-way 70 litre 90lb speaker with a bullet horn tweeter and 95dB sensitive speaker that hit close to 119dB. It's a fun pop/disco dynamic speaker with good bass down to 40hz. For a 1990 price of $2,000.

The reason I became a listener over a magazine reader is that I kept reading the magazines touting dynamically input 2-way standmounts with no bass and no ability to play pop or rock music well and costing MORE than the Wharfedale's - yes they imaged better and maybe had less colouration but it seemed like a big trade-off to gut the bass and dynamics and impact etc. You paid more and got less.

I sort of equate it to cars. A Toyota Camry is uber reliable (boring maybe) but it works and probably gives you 300,000 relatively trouble-free miles for $30k. You want me to buy a Mercedes at $90k - okay say I - I don't mind paying 3 times the price so give me all of the reliability of the Camry for $30k - and then ask me to pay $60k on top to get the fantastic performance and luxury interior. But that's not what happens - you pay 3 times the price for a car that falls apart 5 times more often and costs 5 times more to fix and has lower resale value because the whole world noticed what piles of utter crap their cars are.

Audio I somewhat the same. Pay more I want more and I don't want to take two steps back to only get one step forward somewhere else.

I owned the KEF LS-50 a review darling - I reviewed it too - it's a mighty fine loudspeaker - but I moved it along and kept my other speakers.

At the time it was $1500 and you could also buy the Cerwin Vega CLS(CLX) 215 and these are massive kinda red-light-district looking loudspeakers with two 15 inch woofers per side. But here's the thing - they will outperform the LS-15 on 99% of music sold - they have actual bass, they have actual dynamics, they sound much bigger and have much more impact so if you play the Rite of Spring or AC/DC or Lady Gaga - music will sound more captivating in my view.

The dealers who carry what gets good reviews run into some problems because IMO a bunch of boring-ass dynamically poor loudspeakers at pretty high dollars get raves from people who listen and review gear with frouĀ·frou Diana Krall and Nils Lofgren and Miles Davis and their idea of hard rock is Dire Straits. Pop/rock/trance/dance/Hip Hop/rap etc sells 99% of the music. So the dealers sell the brands that really don't do any of this music as well.

Terry's approach was different - what he did was he carried the brands the reviews raved about - the brands that sell themselves - McIntosh, B&W, Dynaudio, Denon, Marantz, Magnepan, Quad. The gear that always gets rave reviews but nobody who worked there would ever buy for themselves. When I spoke to another dealer the first question he had for me about Line Magnetic was "what are the margins, and are they well known" - It's all about "how many of these can I sell and what's my profit on the unit) so they had no interest at all in anything they would have to "sell" (demonstrate too much) because McIntosh has blue meters looks cool is really heavy and has been around for 50+ years. Terry noted these brands pay the bills. He didn't like them but he sold them because again - 90% of people come in and know what they want before they listen.

Indeed, he noted that many customers just view the dealer as a used care dealer - so you may as well carry and sell what the customer wants or else the guy down the road will sell it. The customer is always right after all.

But he also realized that carrying a few lines of stuff he and his employees liked had value because there is that 10% of the market out there who doesn't want the stuff that sells and the review magazines were touting - they actually wanted good sound quality. It helped that the store was big enough back then to have a wide selection and so if a brand didn't sell too well it didn't matter all that much.

And because he sold so many brands they never had to hard-sell anyone because they probably carried something you would like. I always felt those small dealers with 2-3 speaker lines and 2-3 amplifier lines were pushy. No selection so the first words would be - "oh your amp is mediocre you should listen to ours." And that would be followed up with "see here in this magazine they gave our amp Editor's Choice or product of the year, or 5 stars" etc. And I think - when was the last time I agreed with the Academy Awards on Best Picture?

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