Barcelona in Hi Fi
Casa Werner During my Barcelona sojourn, I made a trip to the leading high end gear store in that beautiful city, Casa Werner, which is downtown, on the Ronda Sant Pere. Open since 1933, this former music store which began selling Victrolas along with 78’s, before moving entirely from content to gear, has been in the same family now for about a decade.
I had a good feeling about the place when, as soon as I walked in, there were Stereophile reprints of Bel Canto gear displayed prominently. The owner of Werner, Vicente Viguera, who was a sly fox and a world class character/charmerinterested in the ladies he wastold me in a matter ofFact, everybodyknowsthistobetrue voice that the two Spanish Hi Fi magazines, Alta Fidelidad and On Off, were both “Stereophile knockoffs.” Upon investigation, both did indeed copy our format and according to Viguera, again spoken in a low, dismissive tone, were “inferior.”
I was given a tour of the place which included a loft in a building around the corner, that was stuffed with gear and used for auditioning equipment, although it was very secluded and could have easily been adapted for other less, ummm, business-like purposes. Given Viguera’s suave personality, I’m thinking that perhaps a mujer or two may seen the inside of that room.
Back in the main building, the downstairs space, again crammed with gear, some of it used, from manufacturers like Chario, Bel Canto, Viva, Balanced Audio Technology, PMC, Audium, Classe and B&W, has an exposed wall built by the Romans. An adjoining wall, while not quite that old, was also fairly ancient. The acoustics in this room were impressively cold and crisp to say the least. There’s something very awe inspiring about listening to Miles Davis in a room with a handcut stone wall built by the Romans. Roman ruins, which tend to be brutish and immoveable, always evoke the same response from me: These boys meant business. Steamrolling was the name of their game and ruling forever was the goal. Mercy was out baby. Get in their way and they’d flatten you!
Throughout our visit to Werner, Viguera was entranced with my friend Don Lucoff’s wife Maria who is from Columbia and so has the dark hair and skin tone the Spanish favor. He was laying the charm on thick and heavy and when I ask him to pose in front of the Roman wall, he quickly shot back in Spanish, and with a quick glance towards Maria, “Alone?” When I answered in the affirmative, he looked at her, smiled and said, “What a pity.” I’m telling you the man is a character. No audiophile visit to Barcelona can be complete without a visit to see Senor Viguera.
Back upstairs, Viguera ushered us into his BluRay surround sound room, the kind of haven very few normal folks can afford or build, and showed us excerpts from a performance by Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon (who is currently still recovering from having cysts removed from his vocal chords this past spring) and also a snippet of a concert by the group Naturally 7 who use no instruments but do everything, make the sounds of every instrument you can think of and also straight singing, with their voices. Needless to say it looked gorgeous.
When I was on my way out, Viguera said to me, via translator, that he loved great gear but he was also picky in choosing the music and video he liked to play on that gear:
“The quality of the content has to match the sound quality of the equipment.”