23rd Jan. 2003
Some times last year I had a gentleman walked into my shop with a "XXX brand" phono amplifier under his arm. Advanced in years and with many years of experience playing with audio gear under his belt. He asked me to put the item up for sale on my website, as he had done so with other audio stuff he had got tired of in the past. I vaguely remembered he had asked me to help him to sell the exact same phono amplifier some six months ago. He had bought that brand new and had not used it for for than a month before deciding that it was not what he wanted. That was sold quickly. I kept my doubts to myself. It seems he had bought another unit, brand new again from the dealer and had used it for about a month before deciding that it was not suitable and wanted me to put it up for sale on my website. I thought maybe he had wanted to give this product a second chance, even to the extend of buying another new unit. After conclusion of the usual sales agreement, he asked me hesitantly whether he had asked me to help him sell this phono amplifier in the past. After recovering from the surprise of learning that he did not remember that he had bought and used one before, I answered simply "Yes". Talk about a short audio memory.
17th Sept. 2002
Sometimes back I had an Audio Innovation preamp up for consignment sale in my shop. One of my regular customer dropped in for coffee and small talk. Upon seeing the Audio Innovation preamp, it brought a grin to his face. He said that he knows the owner and that there was a very funny story behind it. He spoke in Hokkien, and some of the effect would get lost in the translation.
It seems that the owner (no names mentioned - to avoid offending the embarrassed party) of the Audio Innovation preamp, was a keen believer in the sonic benefits of expensive NOS tubes and had spent a bomb in constantly changing the set of tubes (I think there were three 12AX7) in there to get the preamp to sound its best. Each time he changed to a new set, he claimed superlative improvement in the sound. He was a happy guy, until one day one of his audiophile friends dropped in to listen to his setup with the latest set of NOS tubes in his preamp. The friend being more knowledgeable told him that the Audio Innovation preamp runs a passive linestage, and the three tubes were for the phonostage. The problem was that this guy plays only CD, and the tubes were never use at all. You can even use the preamp without switching it on , if you are playing CDs on this. The red-faced owner did this to prove that this was so.
To cut the story short, the preamp was then put up for sale at a very good price for the next owner . It turned that the new owner was the regular customer who told me this story. Besides the preamp, he also went home with a few sets of NOS tubes thrown in with the deal. He was a happy man that day because he plays vinyl.
This incident occurred one Sunday afternoon. I was as usual demonstrating my system to a few customers. One of them was a young man in the early twenties. Speaks only Mandarin, and I was trying to help him, answering many of his questions about some tubes he needed for his amp but was not able to get them elsewhere. Unfortunately I was not able to help him as I did not have those tubes in stock either. Attention turned to my system. He became interested in the pair of monoblocks Chinese made 211 amps which had been heavily modified and voiced to sound like a Zenn amp.
After listening to a few songs , he surprised me with a question I was not prepared for. His question in Mandarin was " What does this amplifier sound like?" I glanced at him for a second, and realized that he was sincere and wasn't kidding. My reply was, in the best Mandarin I could muster, " What does your own ears tell you?" Still sounding sincere, but getting disbelievingly so, he said " But I do not know how to listen".
That conversation ended there not so much due to my imperfect grasp of Mandarin. but more so to lack of ideas as to how to carry on a conversation that was headed towards uncharted waters. Having been in this weird and wonderful business for a number of years, this is the first time that someone had actually make this admission. Though in my mind, I have often wonder about the listening capabilities of not a few audiophiles I have known who own and boast some very expensive hifi system.
Either this guy was pulling my leg or he was one of those very rare, down to earth, honest to goodness individual.
Posted: 17th July
Pick up my phone one day last week in response to its ringing. An unknown male voice asked " Do you have any speakers for sale?" I responded with- " I am a dealer for the range of Digital Phase speakers." He responded" Is that high end because I am only interested in high end speakers ?" After being dumbstruck for about three seconds, I responded with a rather meek" Well, I do have a pair of Rogers LS3/5A...." But I was interrupted by a impatient "But is that considered high end?" After being dumbstruck for another three seconds, I replied with struggled patience " No, I don't think so. Perhaps you could try visiting Adelphi, I am quite sure your high end aspiration will be met there." End of discussion and not a word of thank you.
Perhaps a reader would be able to advise as to how I could have response better in such a situation.
Footnote for our foreign readers: Adelphi refers to a shopping complex where most of the "high end" stuff can be found.