Sad but true. High end dealers have to eat too.
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The glory of the internet and sites like Audiogon make it easy for everyone to find great gear at sizeable discounts. There is always someone whoring out virtually any product for some starving dealer. The downfall to all of this? Dealers make zero in the transaction and therefore high end audio dealers will soon be a distant memory leaving in its place shops that focus solely on theater and custom installations. We will be left with a consumer self-serviced market. No place to demo gear, get support (less the manufacturer) and hear multiple pieces at once. But hey, the gear is cheap!
Good Lord, don't you know that large cities are only life support structures for high end dealers...travel! I've got a minimum of 2 hours to drive to my regular dealer and the biggest town in NC, Charlotte, has been years since it had a high end MUSIC dealer...by the by...I drove 9 hours to Atlanta, twice, to audition pieces I thought I'd like...4 hours to Richmond. Take a friend, share the gas.
Just the way it is, markets are only so big.
You tell of a scary story. Once had three Hi-End dealers in my town now there is only two. I hear one of them is not doing all that well. You will need to take that two hour journey to Atlanta. That is one problem the Net has created. It is ever so slowly killing the Hi-End dealer. I vision the time when one will buy direct from the manufacture over the net. If the dealer takes the time and and you decide you like what you hear, will you buy it from him, or go back home and buy it over the net?
Gee, that's two hours each way right? First I'd call the dealers (talk to the owner) and ask what they have in stock and on the floor for listening, try to make an appointment if they take such things. Second, I'd ask the owner their opinions, for example solid vs. stranded cable, tube vs. solid state.
If they don't sound helpful over the phone I'd probably skip them.
A good knowledgeable dealer with help before and after the sale.
of dealers varied tremendously. I probably visted 6 different dealers throughout the tri-state area. Of the 6, I would only say 2 were exceptional with the remaining being okay to poor. I eliminated a few brands right off the bat b/c the local dealer either didn't provide demos or they didn't have the given speaker.
I think the net is putting pressure on the average (or less than average) dealers who can't add value to the process. IMHO, the really good dealers have a following b/c they have differentiated themselves....good service, products to demonstrate, knowledgeable sales staff and carrying strong lines. Its really irritating to show up for your appointment with a dealer to find he doesn't have the exact piece or the room isn't ready.
The speaker shopping experience made me appreciate how good I have it at the shop I have been dealing with for years. I also realize I have to cover a lot of ground if I want to hear something they don't carry.
I think we're going to see a lot more home-based dealers in the future. The lower costs compared to having a store front helps them to stay competitive, and the lack of salesmen USUALLY helps keep the sleeze level down.
I'm not saying all home-based dealers are great, but the ones I've worked with certainly are.
If I take the time, mine and the dealer, to audition a piece I am considering acquiring I will acquire it from said dealer. I have purchased enough goods, both product and service, over the years that I can ask for advice on used purchases and get it. I do not abuse this favour and only ask it of pricey items.
Dealers that do not have a large portion of their business revenue coming from service/upgrades are having a very rough time. People that can actually fix and modify things typically have more than enough work is my experience.