Ideal Manufacturers for your local hi-fi shop...?

I'm a college student, and am majoring in Business and Econ/Finance to one day open up an audio shop. I want to focus on multi-channel music reproduction and true high fidelity home theater; something worth listening to music on.

This coming semester I will be in an Entrepreneurship (Small Business Management) class and have to create a fictional business, my choice as to what business seems obvious.

I’ve chosen a few manufacturers that I believe offer a good balance to and selection for a variety of price ranges. This will be a mostly audio based store, so keep that in mind. I would like feedback from the experts/obsessed, like myself, as to what vendor you would recommend adding or omitting to this list. Please keep in mind a couple of things though. 1. This is not a list of my favorite manufacturers; the goal is a list of an ideal selection. 2. The list will ideally be as short as possible as I will just starting out and will make life and the project easier. 3. Any advice on how to get vendors to sell at a brand new store (under real life circumstances) would be greatly appreciated. 4. The goal is high end home theater and multi-channel music reproduction, but we all know 2 channel can’t be ignored.

Parasound Halo (very attractive products, a good 2 channel preamp, the JC-1 bargain “A” rated bargain monoblocks)
Rotel (the only “receiver” offered for those wanting a smaller system, as well as a more affordable home theater alternative with there cheaper pre/pros, they also offer a universal disc player)
Meridian (The cutting edge in digital sources and pre/pros, the G series would be a very attractive option for most customers, hopefully.. No desire to sell their speakers if possible)
PS Audio (A wide range of power products, but not as generic as the Monster brand I would not sell their audio cables if possible)
Audioquest (Once again we have a single company with a solid background and a wide range of product. They also appear to me to be a good value)
Mark Levinson (All the amplification I could want, as well as the best 2 channel pres and cd players I would offer)
Revel (For a class A rated speaker the Ultima Studio is a bargain and offers full range in both frequency and dynamics, they also offer a worthy center, the most important channel, and surrounds. Their new SUB30 is supposed to be great as well.)
Totem Acoustic (This would be my average speaker, they offer a traditional look with wood grains versus the modern Revels, they also are dynamic yet small to be room friend [waf] They Their price range would dip to the bottom end, with the rainmaker or Dreamcatcher paired with a rotel receiver)
Gallo Acoustic (Once again we have a bargain buy with the Reference 3, but also another worthy center, the Duo. They also offer a great alternative to in-walls for those with picky decors.

I want each and every comment from all that took the time to read this entire thread, sorry so long, and thanks a ton for the help.
Patrick Mahoney from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais IL.
How about BAT? They offer very nice entry level 2 channel gear all the way up to state of the art goodies (including a killer multi-channel amp.) Products include a good mix of SS and tube equipment and a world class disc spinner.

Of course the drawback is that they aren't gearerd toward mutli-channel systems, but I would consider this as an alternative to ML.

Also of importance, they have the best customer service I have ever experienced.
Well, if you thinking of doing HT, then here are a few things to consider:

1. Most people don't care about sound quality when it comes to HT; they want boom and sizzle.

2. If you're doing just HT, then you're going to have to do custom install and whole house audio.

3. Your also going to have to learn to program remotes such as pronto, crestron, elan, lexicon, etc.

4. Most people who spend big bucks on HT/WHA(whole house audio) don't care about the sound; they don't want to see it (inwall speakers) and they want it easy to use.

I've been affiliated (I did the home automation)with a couple of local "hi-end" stores over the years. Their bread and butter is custom install. Retail makes up very little of the bottom line.

Example: you sell a guy a 42" plasma for $3000 which has about $600 in profit in it. You sell him the wall mount bracket, cables and install for an additional $2000 with about $1600 in profit. So, which would you rather sell - the tv or the install? Or, you can sell a customer $30000 of gear like Denon, Sony and Yamaha and then charge him $100000 for the install and programming of the remotes. I saw one customer spend over $1,000,000 on a system for his 22,000 square/foot mansion, which doesn't include the 7 car garage. The audio gear was less than $200,000 which including many crestron touch-screen panels.

Remember, High-end and audiophiles are a very small minority.

I've seen stores cater to just the very high end and go out of business and I've seen stores cater to the "entry level" of high-end and go under also. You have to strike a balance. Remember the guy that's spending $250,000 doesn't really want to rub elbows with the guy spending $500. Just like the guy spending spending $200 on a gourmet meal doesn't want to sit next to the guy spending $10 on the early bird bistro menu special.
If you seek financial success (or a good grade in your school work) sell Bose, and the like.

If you want to go happily bankrupt, sell high end stuff.
Your brand selection is 90% all wrong, if you're focusing on multi channel then why are you're selling the wrong speaker systems and your amplification choices are basically only competent 2 channel solutions.

Put some more thought into it, right now you're just name dropping and not doing a good job at dropping the right ones. The Ultima Studio is not a bargain and grossly underachieves because of shortsited design. You actually think the Revel Studio is any better than the Meridian 5502? It really isn't, if you setup the Meridian speaker properly. As it stands the Meridian speakers are the only ones designed properly to work as a surround system in your proposed store. So you're already dumping the only competent speaker system in your store.

You'd be out of business in less than a year and not any good at multi channel. You have to think about the people where you live or go to school, the everyday bread an butter people who will keep your business alive. Not the finicky tire kicking audiophile who won't embrace surround for atleast another decade and will buy his JC-1 mail order because it makes sense.

I'm not giving you any specific brand suggestions because you won't learn anything but let me tell you Mark Levinson is a terrible choice, Revel is so so, Totem is neat but not multichannel savvy.

Rotel won't sound good on any of your speakers etc. Parasound is Parasound. Gallo? the Duo as a center channel? LOL!!!

I'm being harsh on purpose, but I suggest you learn yourself how to design a proper surround system then begin building systems at likely consumer price points. The store is about serving your customers not yourself. They come to you because you're supposed to be an expert. Right now if you ignore Meridian, your systems are going to be very expensive and be pretty mediocre.

Final tip;

What speaker is the most important speaker in a surround system? This question should be the key to your product selection for speakers. The speakers will guide the electronics etc.

Having some fun with you, but put some more thought into this, or pray your teacher knows very little about audio equipment.
Wow, this has been some great feedback, I really appreciate it. Some were harsh, but apparently I needed that. My goal is to go against the flow. I’ve also done the WHA and hated every minute of it. Some rich guys clueless about audio just sits around measuring and comparing sizes with his neighbor.

The answer to the most important speaker is easily the center channel, and the subwoofer comes in a close second in my opinion if your goal is HT, multi-channel obviously the other speakers come before the sub. I have looked at some brands basing my choices on centers, such as Sonus Faber’s beautiful center, as well as the Paradigm Reference Studio CC-570 that I use. Dynaudio makes a couple of worthy centers as well.

I ask that you guys don’t give up on me and disregard this effort as futile. I really want to learn, as much as possible.

BUT since this is hypothetical for now let us ignore the real necessity of WHA and Home Automation sale to keep most HT businesses afloat.

In regards to the 2-channel amplification, I would like to make a strong push to run a 2 channel amp in the rear and 3 monos up front

PS Scratch Gallo from the list, that WAS a pretty dumb, I just read the review of the Reference and got all excited about a budget full-range speaker.

Keep the comments coming…
If it is a project for a business class, the brands that you sell will have less to do with audio quality and sonic signature, but more to do with the ugly side of audio, the business model!

Manufacturers' reputation, QC, support, territorial protection, point structure (profit percentages), store demo unit policies (pricing and payment schedules) are your primary considerations.

Having attended the CES and "The SHOW" 3 times in Las Vegas, I have become friends with 1 manufacturer, 1 manufacturer/distributor, and 1 distributor. I have started to gain a perspective from "the other side of the mirror". Believe me, the audio industry can be just as nasty and cutthroat as any other business sector. Although we audiophiles get pleasure (hopefully!) from our hobby and music, the sales side of audio can be very brutal.

I wish you good fortune on your future business ambition, but do careful research before pursuing your endeavor.
Thanks Fatparrot, am I just being an idealist, or is it simply not possible to operate a hi-fi shop that is really just high fidelity. I don't want to charge outrageous WHA install fees, rather I just want to do free in home setup with any product, and become friends with hobbyists/educate the curious/spark passion in those seeking out a new hobby. I really want to think it's possible to run a business like this (the old fashioned way if you will)


If your market is big enough, sure you can make a living just doing retail. A lot of people go into business with the idea "I like product x, so everybody else will like it too". This is a flawed business model; you have to sell what the public wants, not what you as a individual want.

As far as you idea for using mono amps goes, offer it as an option, but have a good 5 and 7 channel amp as the primary.

I was going to suggest that you pick up a few issues of Audio/video interiors but they've changed the focus of thier magazine. You would se beautiful homes with incredible looking theaters driven by mid-fi crap.

Let me say it once again; Audiophiles are a very small minority. I can't stress that enough.

Good luck,
I know they are the small minority, but they are out there. Look at how many views this post alone has had. Sadly we are buying used equipment for the most part. I have flipped through some amazing looking theaters with some Def Tech and Denon crap running in a multi million dollar home, and it simply makes me sad these people don't know what they are missing!!! I have a very very modest home theater, I'm just a student. I desperately want to believe that you can educate and inspire passion for quality in enough of these confused people to stay afloat. Not saming I'm educated enough to take on this task, but I refuse to believe it's impossible!

First, not everybody on this site is an audiophile.

When your young, you think you can change the world. After about 20 years of banging your head against the wall and pissing into the wind, you'll learn that sometimes it's easier to move a mountain than change the world. I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm saying be prepared for a lot of aggravation and frustation. When I was you, I felt the same way; now I just want to hide in my safe little hole.

Regarding Cinematic Systems posting-

I couldn't help but notice that you expressed your opinion in a rather authoritative fashion.

I also noticed that you have no sales feedback and no items for sale.

Just curious- are you a home theater system dealer? Audiophile hobbyist?
That last line should have been:

When I was young, I felt the same way; now I just want to hide in my safe little hole.
And what is wrong with Linn!!!! Great product, solid reputation, fantastic in both 2 and multi-channel applications, not to mention zones and hard drive servers. I am an architect and have done many homes with high and medium end audio/video systems and for the most part (except for the one guy who insisted on cello) Linn comes in on tops. It looks great, integrates seamlessly with the architecture, and the good news for you is that it can always be upgraded
Hey Danlib; all of the above and add Speaker designer;

Don't sell to 'goners typically, but I worked and sold Revel for years and Levinson and Rotel, Gallo etc.

You could say i'm an authority on this subject, just a little bit. :)

My special interest is multi-channel systems and how to design and set them up.

I am able to sell ATC speakers, due to a unique relationship with the importer. Often I help other dealers sell their ATC's too. Powered speakers require considerable education of the client.

Revel's center channels for some reason do not blend with their counterpart tower/bookshelf speakers. Their is an issue with the crossovers, amplitude measurements don't reveal the problem but they will NOT blend together. Couldn't figure it out and tried for weeks, made phone calls etc. They just don't work.

That's the problem with Revel.

As for the comment about multi-million dollar homes with Denon and Deftech, that is not the fault of the owners often its the fault of the audio designers who would rather program remotes and sell flat screens than get a grip on what good audio is. Look it up, often the companies who did the install only sell brands like Denon and Deftech.

HT theater people want good sound, infact audiophiles are the goofy ones who want weird stuff. Like horns in a small living room and 3 watt circa 1916 amplifiers. So I think the generality is pointed the wrong way. Quality clients want the best value for their money all the time. Insulting them by assuming they are ignorant is the wrong attitude for you to succeed. Audiophilia is a curable disease if the victim wants to be cured. Do not cater to audiophiles just be prepared for them.

BTW Eclipse now your getting somewhere with your speaker choices, a much better variety too of good better best, & fancy boy. Do not underestimate how good a receiver based system can be. The Miata is a fine sports car and lots of fun, if you get my drift. As the desinger you must be able to maximize your gear and be focused on what you do well, so that you do it well. You will need an installation team, no way around it. You sell luxury products, would you want to glue the diamond on your fiances ring?

BTW most audio stores have 100IQ dudes, so if you have brain and apply common business sense and a scientific method, you can eat their lunch all day.

I don't compromise for my clients and neither should you. Just don't expect them to drink Kool Aid for you. People with $20K to spend didn't get wealthy by being an idiot.
Nola (used to be Alon). How can such an accomplished speaker manufacturer be so overlooked??? AAMOF, there is no dealer in Atlanta!!!! (AFAIK) (OK?) (DUDE?)

Just for the record, the dealer also offered Anthem, Aragon, Parasound and Theta. The client wanted a receiver so in went a Denon 5XXX.

I've sat through some of these sales meetings, to do the remote part, and sometimes the client is trying to hit a price point. They don't want to spend a lot on eq and spend more on making it look good and easy to use. Other clients trust you to give them the best for thier money, but they don't want you to sell them stuff that they will never use. As you know, there is a lot more profit in hi-end seperates than in a $1200 receiver. Hey, I've actually come across clients that only wanted one speaker in each room for WHA to save money.

Just for the record, I've been retired for the last three years, but I do still consult on the occasional proposal as a courtesy.