Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Story of the Snooty High End Audio Salesman (and other assorted jokers)

If we take the time warp machine to one day earlier, I can show you the story of the snooty High End Audio salesman.  Here we go!

It's not a mainstream industry per se, but when you factor in Home Theater and Projection equipment, the High End Audio/Video Industry is very much alive.  I've been a big Hi-Fi (as they once called it) enthusiast for quite some time, going back to my undergrad days at Cal Lutheran.   *With* it comes the inevitable "I'm better than you" attitude of audiophile writers, salespeople, and fans.  Oh it happens baby.  It's not much different from your local Jaguar dealer, "it matters more because it costs more," you know, that kind of thing.

All right, long explanation over, here's how it went down:

I went to a place in the area to look at new equipment.   Stores these days are focused more on "custom installation" whatever that means.  Basically, you call them up and set up a whole system and an home install.   Even new furniture, screening rooms, we are talking about potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment.  Well, as it turns out, guys who sell these things which require mortgages to pay are not going to want to waste their time with Joe Blow looking for a $500 integrated amp.  BUT, be that as it may, I went over there anyway and the awkward exchange went like this:

Guy stares at me.

I say, "Hello!"

Guy looks at me like I have four eyeballs.  He asks, "What can I do for you?"

I didn't have an answer... I just wanted to check out the equipment, so I said as much.

Flustered, he goes "Do you have an appointment?"

An appointment?  Is this a store or not?  It's almost as if I tried to break into a country club... "ohhh how can this average joe ethnic character be going into *our* club," and again, with Country Clubs, they're private institutions so actually I don't really care about whatever elitist attitude they have because its their membership and their right to be as elitist as they want and the onus is on the membership group to either deal with it or go somewhere else.

BUT!   I did not have an appointment so I just explained that I wanted to see what you had in stock.  Begrudgingly he let me check out their meager two show-rooms.  He directs me to the home theater group and brags about all the expensive equipment, emphasizing all the time that they cost thousands and thousands of dollars.

I think either he asked me about it or I just told him that I've been a big audio enthusiast and said I love NAD (this place was a NAD dealer), and he goes "Oh, have you heard of Simaudio?"

SIMAUDIO?!   Is that the brand name sitting on the couch next to you?   I told him I was not familiar with this esoteric brand.  He goes "Well you must not be that big an audio enthusiast or read any of the magazines if you've never heard of Simaudio."

Gee whiz... looks like I knew what I was in for.  How dare I try to intercede with his usual hobknobbing with people carrying too much money on their hands?  I mean, right away you knew that I was out of his league, or he was out of mine.  I have *NEVER* heard of Simaudio, in all my reading of Audio Forums or reading of magazines here and there in 20 years of following high end Audio.  I've heard of Adcom and Arcam, Marantz, Krell, Linn, Creek, NAD, McIntosh, Rotel, PSB, NHT, B&W, Monitor Audio, Audioquest, Kimber Kable, Tara Labs, Sonus Faber, and a bunch of other brands.  So *maybe* one of them slipped by me.

He leaves me alone and I go into the "Audio Room."  THEN, I found this thing:

HOLY MOSES, folks!   What is this monstrosity?  A drink cart?  A fancy shelf?   No!!  It's a record turntable!   This right here is the essence of High End Audio Pomposity.   It looks like the whole thing is made of glass no?  If I knocked it down I would owe $900,000.

I swear, one of these days I'm going to go back to the store and ask them, DARE THEM, to play a record on that damn thing.   I want to prove it works.  I mean the delicate geniuses who have the money to buy one of these -- would they actually play music on this on a regular basis, or worry too much about breaking it?  It would seem to me that such a piece is primarily designed to wow people at parties.  "Ooooh look how expensive this looks!"  Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

If you look really carefully, there's a stack of LPs to the left and behind this turntable, and sticking out just a hair from the stack is a copy of Led Zeppelin's "Houses of the Holy" album. *This* would be the defining piece I want heard on that turntable.  I'm quite familiar with that recording so I would be very intrigued by how much this mantle piece could enhance the sound.   If I go through with this, I'll keep you all posted.

Anyway, to sum it all up, this place just reeked of elitist attitude, but some of the products were pretty damn good... the thing of it is, you gotta go through the hoops or have a lot of money to get the salesperson's respect.   That whole afternoon was a *scene!*  Some places have less of this attitude with the same products.  Some places have more of it too.   Even so, I get a kick out of all the crazy equipment, so I'm happy to tough it all out.

So just in case you had some morbid curiosity on the whole thing, the place is called "Definition Audio/Video" and they're at 2934 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica.  Just make sure to call them first to give the folks fair warning.  The NAD product, upper crust material at just about any other store, winds up being their "low end, phillistine" product here.  Arcam is somewhere in the middle, and it's a legitimately great audio amplifier brand, and hard to find but they have Arcam too.  The key to a place like this is to know what you want already and just ask them to tell you about it.  Make a deal... there's so much markup with these goofy audio products that you'd be a damn fool to pay sticker price.  It's just like buying a car.

One more thing before I go -- every music and audio store will get in cahoots with one specific audio brand and position that brand with more prominence than the others.  For Definition, the brand is Moon by Simaudio... their amps are front and center in both showrooms... they're also REALLY expensive.

At some other places, NAD *is* the featured brand.  I know this was true at a store in Goleta several years ago.  It just depends on the dealer.

That's my story, I'll stay to it.  Happy listening everyone!

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