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Thread: My visit to a high-end audio retailer (rant)

  1. #1

    Default My visit to a high-end audio retailer (rant)

    My love for the ID model and appreciation for what Dave, Dina & Co. do here was given a boost recently when I went into a (very famous, long established) high-end audio retailer to demo some equipment....we had recently heard some MQA files through big B&Ws and my wife had got bitten by the audio bug too, so even though she loves our Ascends we thought we'd duck in to hear what some serious $$$ audiophile gear sounds like.

    Short answer: I have rarely felt so condescended to in my life! We made it clear that we were aspirational shoppers, just trying to learn more while plotting an upgrade path, and this particular shop owner's attitude was basically that if you're not willing to pay $20K for speakers, or $60K for a transport/DAC combo, then you are basically something to be scraped off the bottom of his shoe. He was far more interested in showing us receipts for all the expensive gear he had sold recently. He even turned his nose up at B&Ws, though he sells them--he basically said we could get a pair of [more expensive brand] or nothing (not quite that literal, but close).

    On the plus side, the guy *was* nice enough to let us audition a couple of tracks on his 100K-plus reference system, but it kind of ruined the mystique for me....(uh, okay, so a $100K digital setup is 2x a 50K system....how, exactly?)

    Look, I'm not poo-pooing high end (except maybe those $1K/foot cables, which are patently silly imo), but I have to wonder just how much more incredible a $60K transport/DAC setup is compared to a top Oppo...maybe the Oppo would reveal tremendous flaws with Wilsons or Focals, etc., but somehow I doubt it.

    I guess the point of this is that the $20K speakers I heard were fantastic, no doubt, and probably better than the $10K B&Ws we recently heard, but I have to wonder if my ears would objectively think they were 3- and 7-times better than RAAL Towers, for example. I'm at the very baby stages of this hobby/obsession so I'm aware of my overarching ignorance, but I still wanted to vent a bit that going into a high-end shop shouldn't feel like entering a cult. At a certain point it goes beyond sound and becomes about fashion, bragging rights, and an insidious form of consumerism-as-superiority.

    By contrast, when I took my son into the flagship Tiffany's store in NYC a few years back so he could buy his mom a tiny charm for her charm bracelet, the staff treated him/us like we were royalty, and gave us every bit of attention and courtesy way beyond what our $150 purchase warranted. I wish this guy had the same attitude. I might be putting money away starting today for a high end component.

    I'm so glad places like Ascend are here, with such a strong customer focus and without the huge markups and snobbery to go with it!

    Happy New Year to you all.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Manhattan Beach, California
    Posts
    6,146

    Default Re: My visit to a high-end audio retailer (rant)

    There are good and bad retailers...but this one was pretty bad.
    -curtis

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Posts
    456

    Default Re: My visit to a high-end audio retailer (rant)

    First off, since I can tell you really do love ID and all it has to offer, I would highly recommend that you read Jason Stoddard's free book/blog, he's Co-Founder of Schiit Audio, a DAC and amp company that sells really seriously valuable stuff just like Dave does. His book, about their start-up, goes really into detail on how the whole dealer model started, where it is now, and why it is so outdated for the most part. http://www.head-fi.org/t/701900/schi...bable-start-up

    I also went to a high-end store with my Dad recently and I was surprised at how little they knew. I didn't get a chance to talk to an owner, but I talked to one of the floor guys and I knew way more about McIntosh and Magnepan than he did. He kept calling the Magnepans electrostats and I had to keep correcting him, it was really weird. I just expected them to be into the hobby or better trained or something, too bad the owner was busy talking to some obviously rich people in a listening room with a pair of some Sonus Fabers.
    -Alex
    PS4/Nvidia Shield --> Emotiva XMC-1 --> Emotiva XPA-5 --> Ascend Acoustics Sierra Towers and Horizon Center w/ RAAL tweeters (L/C/R), HTM-200 SE (Surrounds), 2x Rythmik F12 subwoofers

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    3,536

    Default Re: My visit to a high-end audio retailer (rant)

    Quote Originally Posted by surroundnewbie View Post
    My love for the ID model and appreciation for what Dave, Dina & Co. do here was given a boost recently when I went into a (very famous, long established) high-end audio retailer to demo some equipment....we had recently heard some MQA files through big B&Ws and my wife had got bitten by the audio bug too, so even though she loves our Ascends we thought we'd duck in to hear what some serious $$$ audiophile gear sounds like.

    Short answer: I have rarely felt so condescended to in my life! We made it clear that we were aspirational shoppers, just trying to learn more while plotting an upgrade path, and this particular shop owner's attitude was basically that if you're not willing to pay $20K for speakers, or $60K for a transport/DAC combo, then you are basically something to be scraped off the bottom of his shoe. He was far more interested in showing us receipts for all the expensive gear he had sold recently. He even turned his nose up at B&Ws, though he sells them--he basically said we could get a pair of [more expensive brand] or nothing (not quite that literal, but close).

    On the plus side, the guy *was* nice enough to let us audition a couple of tracks on his 100K-plus reference system, but it kind of ruined the mystique for me....(uh, okay, so a $100K digital setup is 2x a 50K system....how, exactly?)

    Look, I'm not poo-pooing high end (except maybe those $1K/foot cables, which are patently silly imo), but I have to wonder just how much more incredible a $60K transport/DAC setup is compared to a top Oppo...maybe the Oppo would reveal tremendous flaws with Wilsons or Focals, etc., but somehow I doubt it.

    I guess the point of this is that the $20K speakers I heard were fantastic, no doubt, and probably better than the $10K B&Ws we recently heard, but I have to wonder if my ears would objectively think they were 3- and 7-times better than RAAL Towers, for example. I'm at the very baby stages of this hobby/obsession so I'm aware of my overarching ignorance, but I still wanted to vent a bit that going into a high-end shop shouldn't feel like entering a cult. At a certain point it goes beyond sound and becomes about fashion, bragging rights, and an insidious form of consumerism-as-superiority.

    By contrast, when I took my son into the flagship Tiffany's store in NYC a few years back so he could buy his mom a tiny charm for her charm bracelet, the staff treated him/us like we were royalty, and gave us every bit of attention and courtesy way beyond what our $150 purchase warranted. I wish this guy had the same attitude. I might be putting money away starting today for a high end component.

    I'm so glad places like Ascend are here, with such a strong customer focus and without the huge markups and snobbery to go with it!

    Happy New Year to you all.
    Thank you for your wonderful comments and I am sorry you had such a bad experience at this retailer. That snobbish attitude you experienced is not unique to this particular retailer - I used to frequently "shop" at many high end audio stores just for fun, and I too faced that same attitude. FYI, those 3 retailers I used to frequently visit all went out of business, go figure
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    Good Sound To You!

    David Fabrikant
    www.ascendacoustics.com

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