I visited my local hi-fi dealer this weekend to let him know how happy I am with my system and see what was new. I asked him about people that come loaded with "specs" and he laughed. I told him that for me the only thing that was important was sound not specs. We went into the listening room and he played me two different systems and asked me which one , in my opinion, sounded better. After listening and switching back in forth I told him that as far as I was concerned system B sounded a lot richer and had more depth (they were both using the same B&W speakers). Then he proceeded to show me the specs on one system, A Macintosh and the other, an Arcam Integrated amp. While the Macintosh had a lot better specs, watts, S/N ratio, the Arcam had richer deeper sound. Conclusion: Like he said..it's your ears that should guide you not your brain ! He also told me that some people come in and equate price with performance which he said is another big mistake. He said he had just sold a Levonson system to a customer who paid over $25K for two monoblocks, a CD player and control AMP. He said "it's a good system but for the money he could have done a hell of a lot better" but then some people just can't get over the price has to equal performance issues. He's a great dealer and have never tried to sell me on anything he lets my ears do the listening..
Why is it so difficult to understand that one's ears, not a spec sheet, tells us how a system sounds?
This is why I prefer the small "Ma & Pa" operations...listen for yourself and decide what sounds good to you. No "weekly specials" or "one day only" sales.
I'm glad you have a dealer as great as mine, Rich. I remember telling the salesman I work with that if I replace my Paradigm 7se's anytime soon, it will probably be with a pair of Monitor 11's. His reply was "Are you sure you wouldn't want a pair of Studio 20's instead?" I think that's admirable that he would recommend a speaker costing $300 less because he believes I would get more enjoyment out of it.
As for my amplifier, well, I'm pretty confident that I would choose it over much more expensive gear. I'm extremely satisfied.
I get the impression that there aren't a whole lot of these places around anymore. I intend to do whatever small part I can to help these guys keep their doors open. If everyone had a shop like mine nearby, there would probably be a lot more audiophiles in the world.
Specs, in general, shouldn't be a deciding factor other than specs for H,W,D and weight. You need to know if it will fit on your shelf and what type of vehicle will be required to bring it home. However, what someone buying Mac is expecting is a product that will be trouble free (for the most part) and long lasting as well as sound good. My Mac tubes have been in service for 45 years now. I doubt you can find the same performance from Arcam. "Richer deeper" doesn't translate to more like live. In particular, Mac doesn't please many folks who want to buy a hifi. So, pick what you like, if you have your priorities and references in order. You may like to sit in the first five rows of the audience while I may prefer the next five. Where we sit will determine what we expect to hear. That is the sort of reference you should bring to the dealer, not anything else.
He said "it's a good system but for the money he could have done a hell of a lot better" ...
Don't let the dealer's priorities become yours. Saving money's nice, and, as a salesperson, I found it more enjoyable to put together a top notch system on a budget than just collect the top of the line everything. But what do you believe that Levinson customer thinks he/she now owns? Over priced junk? Your perspective on this is too narrow.
MacIntosh ain't been around for 45 years though, McIntosh has though. Let's see Arcam be in business for as long as McIntosh has, not many, but teh ones who survive, usually do cus' it's stuff people want. No voodo, just real electrical designs that work. McIntosh also supports their stuff well don't they? The book is GREAT too, get it. I still remeber seeing my first McIntosh in wall setup, at a friends house back in the end of the 60's or so, THAT is what got me going. Also Dynao ST-70 with in wall coaxial built in's. McIntosh is still going, Dyna is long gone. But McIntosh did need to be bought out into D&M which is getting stronger and stronger, Marantz also an old surviror, from Philips ownership, now D&M with Mc...looks like they have another 50 years ahead of them. Ya shoulda' got teh McIntosh....
He tells YOU that cus' he senses you are buying teh lesser priced stuff....he probably loves selling teh expensive stuff to the people who want it, certainly he makes more on the pricey stuff, selling $200 amps ain't gonna keep him in business unless he sells like Best Buy or Circuit City VOLUME. He probbly told teh guy buying teh expensive stuff that teh cheap stuff won't satisfy him, after he realized teh person was looking for some pricey stuff, a good saleman can size up the prey, knows what to say at what time. Ya shoulda got some AVA stuff anyway, much more for less. www.avahifi.com No dealer middleman to jack up the price either...Wonder just what teh markup is on say $25,000 worth of Levinsom stuff, think he made a few grand commision?
Quote>>".......I found it more enjoyable to put together a top notch system on a budget than just collect the top of the line everything."
I suspect that approach is fun for a salesman. It certainly is for the buyer who can't reach the "price no object" level. Today's the day to do it, too. Never heard so much modestly priced gear that performs so well. Pity I don't need anything.
Quote>> "I think that's admirable that he would recommend a speaker costing $300 less because he believes I would get more enjoyment out of it."
Clearly, Erik, you have many other reasons to trust your dealer and the particular sales person in question but, in the general case, as I'm sure you understand, recommendations like that one sometimes have to do with excess inventory and relative margins. You're certainly right overall, though with your commitment to helping a good dealer keep his doors open. I've lamented the passing of two or three for whom the support I was able to give just wasn't enough. Count yourself lucky and send your friends.
Read the last two paragraphs of AD's introduction to the Audio Valve Eclipse in the August, '07 Stereophile. It begins, "The transformer, tubes, ... ".
I doubt the shop you were at has a service department, most don't now days, but ask a technician about the fit and finish of a Mac or Levinson and how many come in for repair. You can take the screws out of the heavy gauge steel top and bottom plate and put them back in a dozen times without once stripping screw thread or having the plate sit cattycorner on the chassis. Components and wiring are laid out with serviceability in mind and good sound comes with that. Then ask about the same with the Arcam. Maybe this doesn't mean anything to you at this point in life. But, I can assure you, if you pick up a fifteen year old copy of Stereophile's recommended components, you will see names of great sounding pieces of gear that were made by a company that didn't pay attention to the details and the company no longer exists. Superphon and Counterpoint come to mind, though some of their troubles were more than poor fitting cases and unreliable equipment.
Don't look at specs but do consider what you may be buying. A Chevy is not a Lamboughini.