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Thread: UK dealers in the 1980's...

  1. #1

    Default UK dealers in the 1980's...

    I am now unable to address this in the manufacturers room allocated to me, but feel strongly about this subject to the point I must comment as I have experience on both sides of the argument here.


    For many years, I worked in the sister shop to one of Linn and Naim's biggest UK dealers (now out of business - a story in itself but distracting to the point...). The basic vibe for years in the early 80's was that these two manufacturers were the best there was, Rega, NAD and Creek was sold to cost conscious wannabes, Cyrus mainly because the sales director got an annual skiing holiday out of it and Quad and Rogers were stocked for the oldies...


    Up until 1985, when the unthinkable happened (Linn introduced their own amp which was poles apart from the favoured Salisbury made product), I was occasionally witness to the way other manufacturers were treated at the hands of said sales director. One vivid memory was of 'Myst' audio amplifiers, which were beautifully made Hitachi MOS-FET designs I seem to remember. These sounded rather better (with hindsight) to the lower caste Naim amps which were harsher of tone and flatter of perspective, but no, this latter sound was the preferred sound and said sales director wouldn't hear otherwise, so off went 'Mr Myst' and his lady wife, probably feeling rather deflated.


    Another time I personally witnessed was with Peter Comeau of Heybrook, who my colleague and I had got to know well as customers of his, since the late 70's at another store. He was introducing revised replacements of established models (I forget the year but I think it was after the Myst visit), which I think were the HB150 and HB100 or 200 - sorry, I cannot remember. The poor man was left standing on his own for three quarters of an hour while the rest of us were running around like headless chickens, all but being ignored by the same sales director and we were pretty well powerless to do much other than (hopefully) offer him another coffee.


    Looking back, I cringe with embarrassment and always tried to ensure that visitors and customers in for a dem were treated better. I do understand better now I think, how we were back then and how awful so many of us young arrogant shits were to trade visitors with alternative gear. Sadly, I think it still goes on, in the southern UK, probably in the dealer chains, where profit, 'dealer contracts' and commission rule, but these dealers are suffering and it's getting tougher for them.


    Sadly, Myst has long gone and I don't quite know what happened to Heybrook, other than tat Stuart Mee went into his other love which was wine-making/selling I believe and PC eventually sold up and found his way to China where he designs IAG speakers (Wharfedale and others) with great success I believe.


    This whole 80's UK dealer 'thing' does leave a nasty taste for those who remember it and it's this kind of blinkered narrow-mindedness (for whatever reason) that caused the demise of a number of good small makers, who just couldn't get headway. Some others, like Manticore and early era Epos, sort-of adapted their designs to fit in under the 'terrible twosome' and did well out of it for a while I think, but it must have been a struggle..


    In 1985, Linn and Naim started their long and for a while imo, acrimonious divorce. Naim got better, Linn got worse and worse for a while, changing the innards of their amps with almost every batch it seemed until they got their act together in the mid 90's. It 'broke the spell' though, thankfully, and did begin the slow process of letting others in to the old cabal of dealers...


    Sorry all, I wanted to get that off me chest as I cannot any longer post it where I wanted to. The loan scheme I'm attempting to administer does help to get round the 'dealer attitude' and knowing the cost of the parts inside, the selling price really isn't overly high when overheads are taken into account (and I'm an overhead as I make a lot of it all).


    I promise not to shill or spam the products I help to make as the 'rooms' allocated to the brand are locked now. Maybe they can still be discussed in general terms?
    Last edited by DSJR; 20th March 2016 at 18:11.
    Turntable bodger, NVA builder and NVA's loan scheme administrator

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    I purchased a quality separates system from an independent hifi shop called Five Ways Hifi and didn't detect any bias. I was recommended what he thought were the best components for my budget and they included B&W, Akai, Dual, Technics and Trio (Kenwood). Maybe if my budget had been twice as much he would have recommended Linn and Naim.

  3. #3

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    John Townrow is far more honourable than that I believe..


    Loads more I could say, but probably best not to - the prof should understand as he was there at the time I believe. The thing is, there were a few na´ve twonks like me around who actually made good and decades-lasting friendships with some of our customers (EEK!) and who also got on well with smaller manufacturers too (who didn't have agendas), learning as we went and adding much to our knowledge.
    Turntable bodger, NVA builder and NVA's loan scheme administrator

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    Dave. Great post, as usual, you can even mention the same treatment applied to NVA, perhaps it will go some way to explaining RD's bitterness.

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    In the 1990's I had just been to a Hifi show (with my brother who knew nothing about hifi, and cared even less). We went in nearly all the rooms and corners, although only staying in some of the venues a few seconds. Worst was Phillips, full of automatons wearing the company suit and tie, and smoking like chimneys. B'ah!

    I liked just two company's sound, they were Harbeth (their P3) and for some reason a huge ribbon from Carver. My brother agreed. So I thought I would pay the local hifi emporium a visit, 'New Dawn' in Chester. As I walked in, I could see the main man rubbing his hands. I told him of my sojourn, and preferences, to which he said he didn't handle either, and couldn't help. I left quickly, and very disappointed. I was hoping he was going to offer something of what I liked, by a different manufacturer, but he didn't.

    I now help my partner with her business, which, at times, means manning the 'stall' when she is on a biobreak. I have understood that the customer is king (or you let them think so) but ensure you have enough stock to satisfy their needs. Offer them your alternatives, not other peoples'. And sell what people want to buy, not what you want to sell them!
    Last edited by cat's squirrel; 20th March 2016 at 19:58.
    cheers.....Bryan

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  6. #6

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    Prof, not for me to discuss personalities, but NVA would definitely have had the 'treatment' from some of these dealers and it wouldn't matter how much better they sounded back then (I believe them to be better again now), because they lacked the 'character' of favoured products, they'd have been politely but smug-condescendingly dismissed.


    Oh yeah, the dealer I worked for. Big bossman was 70 and looking to retire to sunnier climes. He sold the other shop to its manager (I stayed there) who had worked hard to establish it, especially the B&O clientele and because the main business couldn't be sold as a whole to the interested party (parties), it was split into B&O and 'everything else' - two businesses in one premises. During the late 80's, Ab Sounds would have loved this branch to be a flagship retailer for them, as there was an expert service department and very highly experienced installation staff, but it stayed Naim-centric as Linn had gone all snooty and contract-based and ditched half or more of its dealer chain (another long tale). Within three years, the non B&O side had gone down the pan and the B&O side survived for many more years - it's gone too now, looking at Google Maps


    I always wonder if this dealership would have survived somehow had it moved with the times and clientele and gone upmarket. KJ West One is still around in a very swish redecoration of the shop they moved into in the 80's - HUGE overheads though - and they now have the benefit of one of the founding members of Walrus Systems, now sadly closed due to end of lease I understand and 'back at KJ part time where he started in the 70's...'


    And so the 'Big wheel keeps on turning.'
    Last edited by DSJR; 20th March 2016 at 20:34.
    Turntable bodger, NVA builder and NVA's loan scheme administrator

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    Quote Originally Posted by DSJR View Post
    John Townrow is far more honourable than that I believe.
    That name rings a bell. I was very well looked after by a younger chap with a beard IIRC. I also bought a pair of wonderful Beyer headphones. The owner gradually phased out the hifi business to concentrate on watches. I recall he was an advocate of reel to reel tape.

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    He was an advocate of AVI active speakers too, but I won't hold that against him
    Turntable bodger, NVA builder and NVA's loan scheme administrator

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    No doubt about it Dave, if you weren't in the club you were on the fringes. Imagine how Hamish Robertson felt. But this was 30+ years ago, most involved are now dead, retired, or nearly retired.

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    I've had mixed experiences with HiFi dealers during the 80's/early 90's.

    Around 1982 was the time I bought my first "proper" hifi from the Music Room on St Vincent Street Glasgow. The chaps there were reasonably friendly and i bought a Revolver TT, Cyrus 1 amp and Heybrook HB1 speakers. I guess i was lucky at the time because they didn't seem to have an agenda, possibly because there wasn't as much competition in those days, oh and they didn't stock Linn or Naim.

    The next shop i tried around the late 80's was HIFI corner Just up from Glasgow Central station. A much more fly-by-night bunch who sold me a Cyrus 2 amp and an Arcam Alpha CD player. I remember the salesman trying to convince me that the bass on the Arcam was much better than my old cd player. I couldn't really hear the difference but it was getting good reviews at the time and they had previously given me a Kenwood CD player to try which i didn't like so i bought it.

    Next up very early 90's it was Stereo Stereo on St Vincent Street (Music Room was long gone by then) and the salesman there sold me a pair of Ruark Templars. Pretty standard fare but throughout the dealers seemed to be becoming more pushy. They were a Linn and Naim dealer BTW.

    In short, a general worsening of attitudes as competition became tighter. More recent experiences of dealers seem to have corroborated this trend. Another certain dealer in Glasgow sold me a completely mismatched and unsuitable system, pushing their preferred components. This dealer is still going and ironically is in a new big shop literally just round the corner from me.

    So, in my experience, the "pushy" dealer as opposed to the "friendly" dealer became more the norm. Sad.

    RD may be bitter but maybe its time to let the bitterness end as many, not just him, have experienced disappointment in hifi circles be it manufacturers or customers. Even dealers have experienced disappointment, hence the closure of so many of them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DSJR View Post
    He was an advocate of AVI active speakers too, but I won't hold that against him
    Yes, I remember going in years later for something and he said he only recommended and dealt with AVI.

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    Dealers of the 80s and 90s spawned and fed my interest. I had the chance to hear loads of kit with no obligation to buy. I also received good advice on many occasions. I also didn't get thrown out if I disagreed with them No wonder some people don't like dealers.
    Last edited by Oddjob; 20th March 2016 at 23:45.

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    No won't some people don't like dealers.
    I've read this several times and it still doesn't make sense.

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    Sorry it's a typo. It should read "No wonder". I'll fix it

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    Quote Originally Posted by TIU View Post
    I've read this several times and it still doesn't make sense.
    I read it as 'no wonder some people don't like dealers' it's probably predictive text on a mobile device or some such iPad corrections drive me mad sometimes, other times they work well, it's a double edged sword

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    You were spot on. iPad strikes again. It usually works very well, but then just as you begin to trust it, you get something silly slipping through.

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    predictive text is for people who can't spell, I hate it.

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    Touch screens aren't the easiest thing if you have gorilla hands like me, so it's not always about the ability to spell. I'm sure the feature saves more typos than it creates in my case.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TIU View Post
    predictive text is for people who can't spell, I hate it.
    Nothing wrong with my spelling, its my poor typing skills.

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    I visited a small shop in Glasgow in 1986 and walked out with a Townshend Rock, Cyrus2 and a pair of Heybrook HB2r speakers.
    Salesman was very understanding of my lack of knowledge.


    I believe that salesman now makes tonearms in Glasgow somewhere.
    I have a Rock and I'm not afraid to use it.

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