Publisher Profile

A Spectacular 16th-Of-The-Month Issue, The Retail Merchant, A Call & A Prize

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In another 15 days, Dagogo’s September 2008 Issue will be launched, which will continue celebration of the ascension of 3 Dagogo Reviewers to the Senior Reviewer positions: Ed Momkus, Jack Roberts and Doug Schroeder. We featured three of Jack’s reviews in our July Top-Of-The-Month Issue, and this month, Doug’s reviews of Jeff Rowland Design Group MC501 ICEPower™ monoblock amplifiers, Rogue Audio Perseus tube amplifier and Wireworld Cables are being featured. The upcoming September Issue will see some very exciting reviews by Ed; but now we have his latest observation on the $569 LessLoss Audio Devices Dynamic Filtering Power Cable in this 16th-Of-The-Month publishing.

In this publishing, I would also like to introduce two new writers to our readers: Richard Austen and Fred Crowder. Dagogo readers know Fred, for his system was featured in the premiere Dagogo Spotlight article in September 2007. You can imagine my joy when I learned that Fred is also an avid writer. For his first article, Fred will share details of his audio journey to date with us.

As for Richard Austen, he has been on my wanted list for 2 years. He uses Audio Note UK amplification and loudspeaker system, and I had tried to recruit him since 2005; but he was indisposed until very recently. Audio Note aficionados rejoice! Dagogo will premier his first review on his own Audio Note AN-J SPe loudspeaker, to be followed by his OTO amplifier. Check out both Richard’s and Fred’s profiles while you’re here.

Phillip Holmes is continuing his single-driver loudspeaker coverage this month – this time on a pair of the $28,000 MaxxHorn Lumination loudspeaker with Feastrex D5 Monster Alnico driver. This new MaxxHorn model was previewed in the 2008 CES, and I was profoundly impressed by what Robert Spence and his crew had accomplished. Do you lust for speakers of 100dB+ in efficiency? Do you lust for the level of spectral coherence that is the specialty of single-driver speakers? Do you lust for an experience of colossal dynamics and frequency extension created by a mere but most unusual 5-inch driver? Watch how the MaxxHorn Lumination redefined the audio hobby for Phillip Holmes.

What is even more exciting is that Robert Spence of MaxxHorn has informed me that his company has begun selling its loudspeakers through the brick-and-mortar dealership network. With a gradual and certain growth progress, more audiophiles will be able to walk into a store and experience a demo of the MaxxHorns.

Jack Roberts is such a prolific reviewer; even though we have featured three of his writing already in our July Issue to kick off the celebration on “triple ascension”, two more of Jack’s new reviews will make their way into our 16OTM Issue: Teresonic Reference 2a3 Limited Edition Integrated Amplifier Review, WGA Ikonoklast Model 3 High Output Loudspeaker Review.

And to make this mid-month Issue all the more spectacular, the sorely missed Dagogoan Chris Redmond is back with the first of three reviews on products from Abbington Music Research: the AM-77 tube amplifier. Readers looking for a sip of the British English in reviewing will be delighted.

The Retail Merchant

The audio industry is a microcosm of every society, in which the group with sizeable margins in disposable income is always vastly outnumbered by that of the average consumers. To those of us who have aspirations for high-fidelity music reproduction at home via the best system one can afford, the audio hobby is an essential element in daily living.

Depending on the motives of the hobbyist, even a $100,000 audio system may not be good enough for him/her. But for those of us who are not in the reviewing business, thus have no need for constant changes, a $10,000 system is more than adequate and a respectable dealer can provide invaluable advice to that end.

Even in the day and age we are living in, with the proliferation of internet commerce altering the consciousness of many an importer in the business, thus propagating business ideas radical and even potentially detrimental to all, such as circumventing one’s own dealer and selling direct to the end-user, ample testimonials attest to the irreplaceable role played by the brick and mortar retail establishment. The audio hobby is among the very few that addresses not quantifiable benefits and results but intangible, empirically derived satisfaction quota. It is among the most financially demanding to the consumer and can only be enjoyed in the confines of one’s own home. Though widely available, the hobby can please none other but the private hobbyist himself.

Businesses that supply a variety of equipment for addressing the goals of the hobbyist, aka audiophile, can only hope to succeed by active engagement of their walk-in patrons. Once deprived of the listening room and informed staff who can educate and demonstrate virtues of designs to their patrons, the brick and mortar businesses hold little more interest to the audiophile than mail-order companies, and the mail-order operations have managed to capture its market share by one predominant factor: a catalog shopping experience that eschews the stress of negative circumstances in face-to-face shopping experiences. It is so obvious: What do we do next when we don’t want to return to a store that carries the exact item we’ve lusted after?

The mail-order channel is a convenience service that is born from the very hectic 21st century style of living; but its longevity is dependent upon the overall health of the industry, and the industry can only remain solvent when its products’ visibility is ensured in the conventional retail environment. With the space it takes up in a home and the cost of admission, the high-end audio hobby is already prohibitive enough in many laymen’s and their spouses’ perspective. Hiding the sometime-awkward-looking products away from the walk-in patrons and making them available only to the informed few via mail-order and online purchases will cripple the industry further and strangle the hobby.

In my opinion, as incomprehensible as some products’ appearances are, in addition to the provocative effects their pricing can have on the audiophile’s spouse, it is also important that the interior design of the demonstration room and the system setup is clean and homey enough as to inspire the audiophile and his/her spouse to want to move the equipment being demonstrated to their own home. My wife and I get no inspiration from equipment stacked on racks in the hall, or in a dimly lit listening room with dark-fabric couches. The last thing you want to do is to make that couple who walks into your store, who then gather up the courage to take your invitation to walk into your listening room, to feel sleepy and unmotivated. Let the audiophile of the two listen with his ears up, and let his significant half look around eagerly with her eyes wide open and bright ideas gurgling secretively. They will leave happily and rejuvenated, each with his/her own motives, and both have their mind and wallet committed for a return.

That said, just as not every willing audiophile makes a good reviewer, not every retailer is created equal, and not every avid entrepreneur-turned-retailer has the psychological makeup befitting the retail mode of business he is getting himself into. In addition to an affinity in one-on-one customer interaction, a retailer needs to know how to minimize the level of anxiety experienced by the potential customer who visits his store, regardless he is on a budget or not. Have your younger and more energetic staff attend to budget audiophiles, while your senior staff will be more in their element in assisting financially freer and more demanding audiophiles. If you are focused in making each one of your customers feel appreciated, then even those who came in a busy day and did not receive attention would know you tried, and they would show their appreciation by returning.

The sheer will to adapt to the new business environment of customer servicing in retail makes all the difference in the making or breaking of a new retailer; but to some, even the harbingering of an iron will falls short on the road to success when external factors are insurmountable, such as location and demographics.

Then, the most unfortunate happens when among the aspiring dealers, one with geographical and demographical advantages becomes so successful that he loses touch with the passion of the hobby and the needs of his less wealthy patrons. The passionate audiophile that feels distressed by impartial or discourteous treatment from his local dealer is one we can all relate to deeply and personally. I, therefore, want to encourage aspiring dealers to maintain their focus on the needs of the audiophile that walks into his establishment, and to always remember that whenever a retailer begins to think that he is superior to the customer that wants to spend money in the store, he will offend and drive businesses away.

A Call & A Prize

Let me end this Editorial with a call and a prize. The Cable Company is hosting a charity called: the 13th Annual Summer Against Hunger. For this year, TCC will donate 100% of purchases of sponsored products in the month of August to CARE. According to the company’s brochure, less than 10% of CARE’s resources go toward administrative and fund-raising costs, which is remarkable.

Bowers & Wilkins premiered its lossless audio download service recently, with music from its own label: the B&W Music Club. Currently, one new album is offered for lossless download each month and the Club keeps at least one previous album available simultaneously. I have downloaded two albums via the Apple Lossless format and then burned the music onto a standard CD. The sound quality is exceptional and worthy of the company’s high reputation in the recording industry.

Downloading is easy. First, download a copy of the Apple iTune v7.7, and follow the instructions from the webpage to run it. When you are ready to download the B&W music, choose the “Apple Lossless” file among the two and save the files into your hard drive first. When you use your iTune to burn it onto a disc, make sure you choose the slowest speed and use no compression option.

The B&W Music Club will give 3 Dagogo readers a 3-month complimentary trial service at no charge. My thanks to Todd Witkemper of Edelman for making this possible. To win your free access, simply send your answer to the following question to editor@dagogo.com before September 30, 2008:

Which Bowers & Wilkins product is designed for use with the Apple iPod®?

Thank you for your readership.

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