The Cable Company
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Current Audio Stores - The Stereo Trading Outlet although I haven't bought anything there in several years. Used to be an absolute museum for used audio gear in the early 90's. Community Audio in Chestnut Hill is also a great store.
Former Audio Stores - Chestnut Hill Audio in Olde City, Danby Audio on 21st St in Philadelphia and Sassafras Audio in Bryn Mawr. I've heard many great things in those stores.
Hey Transnova - where is the new Soundex at?
There are so many bad ones and so few in general that its hard to pick 3, making it to stores in driving distance with disability also adds to the challenge. I have been to enough bad ones though to notice a really good one so the only offering I will give is to John and his gang at Audio Connection in Verona NJ.....these guys are great, no BS music lovers and pressure doesnt fit in there way of doing business. Its too bad more stores were not like this.
Overture in Delaware. Terry Minaker is very helpful and easy to deal with.
Sound by Singer in New York - great selection, and I've always felt welcome there, and always had good experiences with Andy and the rest of the staff
Audible Elegance, cincinnati, Love to talk audio with one of the guys there
Honorable mention - progressive audio, columbus, oh, before they went full blown home theater - great product line up, welcome to listen to anything, great staff too.
Brooks Berdan, Ltd. - Monrovia, CA
Can't say enough about Brooks and Brian. Have changed my whole appreciation for music! Knowledge, experience and down to earth. What every shop should strive to be!
Upscale Audio - Upland, CA
Great service and product! Not bad espresso either! Kevin is a great guy!
Audio Unlimited - Denver, CO
John Barnes..... what a great host! Was on a trip to Denver and wanted to pick up some power cables. John took the time to sit and chat about all things audio. Great showroom and gear! Will make this a destination stop next time I'm in Denver!
New York (in no particular order):
1. Sound By Singer. One of the most famous high-end dealerships due in part to its many ads in the magazines. I've heard many comments both good and bad. One thing I don't like about it is that even though they are located at street level with an inviting window display, the listening rooms seem to be off limits to the casual browser. You can't even peek through a window in a door. (There is a sign by the passageway to the listening rooms that says, in effect, none may pass without a salesman). Many years ago I auditioned some Vandersteen speakers there, and I thought the salesman polite but curt.
2. Innovative Audio/Video. A somewhat limited selection of brands, despite several nicely set-up rooms, but it is the place to go in NYC for Wilson speakers and Spectral electronics. I thought they were pretty tolerant to browsing, and even if the "big-rig" room with the Wilson Alexandria is locked, you can still see it because of the the glass doors. I bought my Linn Majik CD player here, and the salesman was quite nice, and we listened to the big Alexandria.
3. Park Avenue Audio. A few high-end offerings like KEF and Dali speakers, and Cary electronics, but still has the feel of a Harvey Electronics, you know, a place that is way above a Best Buy or Circuit City, yet is slightly more corporate in feel than other high-end stores. No complaints though, they seemed nice enough. One of the few (only?) places left in NYC that displays used gear for sale in the window. I purchased a demo Esoteric DV-50s that was in said window.
4. Rhapsody Music and Cinema. The owner was very welcoming when I dropped in a few years ago, but it is now an appointment-only store. The place to go for Goldmund, and they do have an assortment of exotic stuff that you won't find many places. You will deal with the owner instead of a salesman. He treated me well even though I wasn't a big-buck spender, and actually came to my apartment to check the set-up, even though I had only bought one component from him, and it wasn't speakers. (I did live close by.)
5. In Living Stereo. Now this store has the homey feel of a place owned by enthusiasts. Their friendly dogs were in the store the couple of times I was there, giving it that homey feel. Besides a few "usual suspects" of high end gear, they also carry some exotic tube gear and speakers. I have purchased some cables there.
6. Ears Nova. Never been there, they encourage appointments. The place to go for Harbeth, Marten, E.A.R, and a few other brands not carried elsewhere in NYC.
7. Harvey Electronics. Harvey is more of an everyman's high-end store, where the salesman wear ties. But I like it, and bought my Krell Resolution 3 speakers there. They have filed for bankruptcy a couple of times, and are down to two stores I think.
8. Lyric Hi-Fi. The granddaddy of NYC high-end stores, unbelievably I've never been there. The place to go for Magnepan, Audio Research, and they recently took on mbl. They seem to really be pushing Hansen speakers right now.
9. High Water Sound. Never been there, but judging from their website they specialize in exotic brands, horn speakers and tube amps.
10. Stereo Exchange. Many like myself remember this place fondly because back in the day they had a magnificent collection of used gear on display for sale. I still remember a pair of enormous, used Audio Research amps they had for sale. But they seem to have gotten out of the used gear business, other than the usual demos and trade-ins. Stereo Exchange, like Sound By Singer, seems to be hit-or-miss, that is, people either swear they had a great experience, or swear that they'll never step foot in the place again. I had a good experience with a friendly salesman "the audio elf." In fact, he even exhausted me with his willingness to audition and compare products. Stereo Exchange has a nice number of listening rooms.
So my favorite? I really don't have one. Unless the store is really snobby/bullying, I'll audition stuff and chose based on the brand I like rather than the store that is carrying it. I'll spread my $$$ around.
In the San Diego area:
Stereo Unlimited. Very friendly and generous about loaning equipment. They have an emphasis on analog and tubes. This is where I've dropped the most green. They also have a room full of records.
The other two are guys that work out of their home: Sonic Culture, where I bought my Gyro turntable, and Audio Revelation.
From across the Big Pond:
Transparent Acoustic (Kronberg/Ts, Germany)
Hoergenuss (Frankfurt/M, Germany)
Raum Ton Kunst (Frankfurt/M, Germany)
Technology Factory (Antwerp, Belgium)
Daluso (Echt, Netherlands)
And although not a dealership since Dan only offers his proprietary products, I nevertheless feel compelled to mention in the US:
edenSound (Eden, VT)
I just found this thread, and as they say better late than never! This is an easy question for me to answer: Walter Davies, before he started the Last Company with his record preservation products, had a retail Hi-Fi shop in Livermore, CA, named Audio Arts. I happened to pay my first visit to his place on the day Bill Johnson was there, bringing a full system with him to start Walt off as an Audio Research dealer. Thorens 125 with a prototype ARC arm that never went into production, with a Decca Blue mounted on it. An SP-3 pre-amp, and D-51 and D-75 power amps bi-amping Magneplanar Tympani I-U's. Let me tell you, in 1972 that was something to hear! Walt is the nicest, most kind and gentle soul you could ever know.
Next up, a guy who has already been mentioned---Brooks Berdan. He started out as my S. California dealer, and became a friend. Quite a guy, who did not suffer fools gladly. Honest to a fault, he could come off as brusque, and often did! A really trained set of ears, he could suss out a product faster than anyone else I've known. He is greatly missed by all of us here, but his son has a new shop in Pasadena to carry on what his Pa taught him---Audio Elements.
Lastly, Randy at Optimal Enchantment in Santa Monica. A loooong-time ARC/Vandersteen/Audioquest dealer, and as sweet and honest as they come.
I can tell you why, Taters: Brooks left behind a widow, Sheila Berdan---Brian's mother, and she and Brian couldn't come to an economic arrangement for the shop that worked for both of them. Brian left to start Audio Element in Pasadena, taking with him some important lines (Wilson, VTL), as well as his expertise (years of training by Brooks) and reputation, not to mention some BBL clints. Sheila took over the old store, keeping on the old staff (some great guys), and bringing in some good new lines. They are both worthy of patronage.
I can tell you why, Taters: Brooks left behind a widow, Sheila Berdan---Brian's mother, and she and Brian couldn't come to an economic arrangement for the shop that worked for both of them. Brian left to start Audio Element in Pasadena, taking with him some important lines (Wilson, VTL), as well as his expertise (years of training by Brooks) and reputation, not to mention some BBL clients. Sheila took over the old store, keeping on the old staff (some great guys), and bringing in some good new lines. They are both worthy of patronage.
Jafant - Jack is the best retail audio person I've ever dealt with. He's knowledgeable, fair and doesn't push product. Rather he provides consultation on products that fit your objectives and budget. He thinks holistically and helps you put a system together. He also understands that business success is based upon building long term relationships based upon great advice and service. He's in it for the long haul, not just the immediate sale.