When the late great INXS frontman Michael Hutchence penned the hit Listen Like Thieves, he asked us not to believe everything we read and hear.
Discerning the truth takes vigilance. It’s all in our hands, he sang. So it is when purchasing HiFi equipment. To get the real story, more than ever, one needs to listen like thieves.
A few weeks ago, one of our customers purchased a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 804 D3 speakers, undisputedly one of the finest speakers at their price point on the market. A couple of weeks later, he contacted us to say that they did not work in his environment. It was not a complex problem to solve; we asked what he did not like about the sound, came up with an alternative, and took them out to listen to in his room alongside the B&W’s. Our suggestion (in this case, a pair of Sonus faber’s) did the trick, and we took back the B&W’s.
This does not mean that the Sonus faber’s are a superior speaker to the B&W’s – far from it. Both are outstanding speakers with their unique strengths and weaknesses. In this case, the B&W’s did not suit the customer’s room acoustics, existing equipment, listening habits, musical styles, or, most likely, a combination of the above.
A products reputation, marketing, reviews and forums can be helpful guides, but nothing can replace listening to something.
It also highlights the importance of making your own decisions when choosing equipment. In this case, the customer had done the right thing and auditioned the B&W’s in our showroom with similar equipment to what he was using at home. Despite this, the choice did not work out as well as hoped, so what chance do you have if you skip the audition stage? A products reputation, marketing, reviews and forums can be helpful guides, but nothing can replace listening to something.
The ideal solution would be able to audition all options in your environment. Unfortunately, this is not practical. The staffing (and cost) required would be prohibitive. What is important is that you have a relationship with your AV dealer where if you do end up with something that does not suit – irrespective of how good it is – you have an alternative.
Reading a few reviews and then ordering over the net may sound easy, but I do not believe this is the most sensible way of buying Hi-Fi – would you purchase a car without driving it? Take the time to listen to music you are familiar with. Form a relationship with the company you are dealing with. They can guide you and support you if things go wrong.
A HiFi system can be a significant investment and one that hopefully will bring you many years of listening pleasure. It is worth getting it right!