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Why Do You Need a Hi-Fi Dealer?


In Jamaica, one of the more formal names they give to DJs is "selecter." It sounds like a relatively banal term unless you know the degree to which Jamaicans consider music to be vital to the fabric of the country and to life. The selecter is -- to this day -- revered. He's the person that hunts down the hits, selects them and makes a mix that suits the specific group of people listening.

Hi-fi dealers used to offer the same kind of service. Within 5 minutes of walking into the best UK, European or American hi-fi store, a dealer could lead you to the perfect stereo to suit your needs. These were true professionals who listened to every piece of equipment that was available and selected the best of the best to carry in their stores. They listened to lots of music themselves and spent a lot of time going to live music performances so they knew what live acoustic spaces and musicians sounded like. How many dealers still do this today? 

On the other side of the coin, the information that hifi dealers spent all their waking hours collecting and distilling is now largely available on the Internet directly to customers. If you want to know the frequency response of a pair of speakers it can be found in ten seconds off the manufacturer's web site. If you want to know where you can buy a piece of equipment or what the price of it is, you can find an almost limitless number of suppliers who will compete for the lowest price online. Who needs a real dealer anymore?

To add to the cornucopia of choice, there is now more and more equipment of all description to choose from. Big box stores offer fifty different televisions alongside twenty different receivers. There are probably one thousand integrated amplifiers on the market today. Go to an internet forum and you can find a hundred opinions on each of those amplifiers. There is so much information at one's fingertips!

However, as many of you no doubt have experienced, all this choice can become extremely confusing. Who's to believe? When you finally order one of those used amplifiers from a distant seller, how confident are you that it will arrive in one piece - or at all? Will it sound anything like what you've read? How do you know its flaws aren't masking the problems elsewhere in your system without a true benchmark of knowledge?

Access to an amazing range of information is certainly increasing, but it's not necessarily resulting in better choices. People are finding they don't want to put the work in to become hi-fi experts. They want it to be simple again.

In a world of unlimited choices, the traditional hi-fi dealer is becoming more vital than ever. They're not all good for sure. But, the ones that are, are wading through the mountains of crap, the lies and the junk to bring you the truth. A good specialist hi-fi dealer offers much more:

1. An environment of expertise.

Walk into a big box store and try to listen to a pair of speakers. You can't hear them over the noise of the store. Try to find a salesperson. Even most mid-sized stores now concentrate largely on home theatre. Many people are shocked to hear a really good 2-channel stereo playing music in a store. They're more shocked when they hear how good it sounds! A dedicated dealer provides a much better environment to listen to and discuss equipment. 

2. Quality equipment.

So much of what is available today is plain garbage and is supported only by marketing. Any competent dealer can show you the difference between budget components and high end. Take your old CD player in and compare it to one he recommends. You WILL hear the difference. Does your iPod not satisfy you? Take it in and compare it to something he considers better quality. You WILL hear the difference. The high end is filled with a lot of bad companies but the good ones truly justify their price and reputation. There are huge differences.

3. No planned obsolescence.

Let's face it, the majority of consumer electronics are made to break. Even many so-called high end components have low quality components or will be replaced in a yearly (or less!) product cycle. As we become more aware of the environmental ramifications of buying so many throw-away components, it is important to consider buying for the long term. With children making $49 DVD players in China, it's time to consider spending MORE for something that is made sustainably, something that lasts and performs to a high standard for a long time. A good independent dealer cares about more than the bottom dollar, he cares about equipment that puts less burden on the landfill, equipment that is made in decent working conditions and equipment that will keep pleasing you for a very long time. 

4. Long term satisfaction. 

Look at the deluge of used gear on the market. People are selling gear quicker and more often than ever before. It's a landslide of cast-offs out there. When you don't put together sympathetic components or you fall prey to the latest over hyped product, you have no choice to but sell at a loss. A good hi-fi dealer can save you months of despair and wasted money by recommending the right piece of gear for you the first time. How many people have gone through three, five or even ten amplifiers in their quest for something good? Life is too short not to be listening to good music! Your dealer can save you time and money.

5. Inside information.

Ever wonder why there are twenty of the latest speakers for sale used just after they get a raft of great reviews? Maybe those speakers aren't really that good at all! Dealers often hear products long before consumers do. Many visit trade shows and check out all the competition months in advance. They talk to other industry professionals and have the inside scoop on what products are defective or which company is going bankrupt. Befriending a good dealer can give you knowledge that might save you from a bad purchase.

6. Help with your setup.

It's pretty hard to learn how to position your speakers from reading internet forums or to understand why the midrange fluidity of one cartridge is better than another despite having identical specifications. This is stuff that you can really only get by talking to a real person or having a real demo in a real store. For those of you that really care about the meaningful parts of music reproduction, consider your dealer a wise teacher who will flatter you if you are a good student. It will help you to bring your system to its optimal setup.

7. Ability to hear the gear.

No matter how much you read, there is no substitute for listening. Again, save time, money and frustration by going to a dealer and getting a good demo. 

8. Community.

Until recently you could go into a record or hifi shop on Saturday and meet 5 or 10 other people who shared a passion for music. The opportunity to "talk shop" and trade stories is almost enough reason to be an audiophile (or a music lover). You can't get this kind of interaction on the Internet. It happens spontaneously when you hear something that's being played on the store system or when you see what someone else is buying ahead of you. A dealer can be the center of your universe and he can connect you with so many great records, deals and likeminded people. Get out there and open yourself to hearing something new and unexpected.

Life is short. Music is essential. A good dealer is making you a promise. If you come out and support his/her store, they are going to give you the gift of musical enjoyment. They're going to share their knowledge so you don't have to waste time and money learning the hard way. They're going to relate one-to-one with you in a way that no internet forum or classified ad can. They're going to put all their knowledge to good use to help YOU. If they come through on their side of the deal, make a promise back to them. Listen with an open mind and an open ear. Consider their opinion as sound and researched. Buy when you enjoy something and pay a fair price. A good dealer will charge you a fair price, not necessarily the lowest price. It will be a happy medium that allows him to keep offering you good service and advice as well as the best value for you dollar.

A good dealer can be like a good DJ. The best "selecters" are simply a pleasure.

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