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Julie Mullins  |  Sep 06, 2023  |  0 comments
Phaenelagh "Nel" Lenard Burnett is an outlier in a most basic sense: She's a woman who works in hi-fi. For the past several decades—essentially all her adult life—she has immersed herself in running her father's audio business.

Her father is John Lenard Burnett of Lenard Audio, a veteran designer, researcher, and educator whose work has crossed over from recording studios, concert halls, and commercial spaces to hi-fi for the home. The Opal 4-way active loudspeaker system is the senior Burnett's signature product and serves as the foundation of Lenard Audio's hardware and strategic designs.

"When I was a baby, Lenard was the largest manufacturer and supplier of concert PA systems and guitar amps and so on in the Australian market," Nel told me. "Some of my very first memories are of me sitting on his workbench. That was one of my happiest places to be when I was a kid, literally sitting on his work."

Julie Mullins  |  Jun 18, 2023  |  1 comments
Many family-owned hi-fi companies have experienced generational leadership transitions over the last few years: Wilson Audio, Von Schweikert Audio, PS Audio, and VPI Industries, to name a few. In two of those cases, the founding father is still around. One of those is VPI Industries.

Harry and Sheila Weisfeld founded VPI in 1978. A succession plan? "Initially there really was none," VPI President Mat Weisfeld (above), who took over for his father Harry, told me. "They'd hoped to work to the last of their days. Unfortunately, my mom's days were cut short."

Julie Mullins  |  May 22, 2023  |  2 comments
Even if Darren Myers's name isn't familiar, you still may have heard—or at least heard about—hi-fi components he designed, including the PS Audio Stellar phono preamp, which garnered Stereophile's Analog Product of the Year Award in 2020.

After working on projects for Classé and Bowers & Wilkins, Myers was hired by PS Audio, where he ended his tenure as senior analog design engineer. Myers recently joined Parasound (footnote 1) following the company's acquisition by David Sheriff.

Julie Mullins  |  May 02, 2023  |  9 comments
Several traditional hi-fi dealerships have shuttered in recent years: NYC's Lyric Hi-Fi and Chicago's Audio Consultants are prominent examples. A few new brick-and-mortar shops have opened, but it's rare to see a next-generation owner breathe new life into a long-established dealership. Christopher Brewer (above) is doing exactly that with New England Hi-Fi.
Julie Mullins  |  Mar 22, 2023  |  10 comments
Probably the biggest group of audiophiles right now are still "Boomers": members of the "Baby Boom" generation, which by most definitions puts their minimum age at close to 60. Boomers are aging and won't be around forever. So bringing new blood into the hobby is more important than ever.

Younger people (post-Boomer generations) listen to a ton of music—but are they really listening? Are they paying close attention, or, as the cliché goes, is it, for them, all background music? Generational clichés are rarely accurate. Of course they actually listen. Enough of them are, anyway. And they hear more; their hearing is better.

Julie Mullins  |  Feb 22, 2023  |  2 comments
Those of us who aren't wealthy must often sell something before we can buy a new piece of hi-fi gear, and it's usually another piece of hi-fi gear. Selling in order to buy makes a great deal of sense because, after all, you only need one of everything (or two in the case of speakers) at a time in a two-channel system.

Another secondary-marketplace incentive: As I pointed out a couple of Re-Tales columns ago, the higher prices rise on new equipment, the more appealing pre-owned gear becomes.

Julie Mullins  |  Feb 01, 2023  |  14 comments
In last month's Re-Tales column, I discussed the impact the current economy is having on the hi-fi industry. Some hi-fi companies said sales have "normalized" after widespread, dramatic increases during the COVID years—which is to say, sales are down relative to their peak but still strong. Others have noticed customers biding time before making expensive purchases or opting to buy less-expensive equipment than originally planned. Yet, even in this risky economic climate, a few people are taking the risk and opening new brick-and-mortar retail stores.
Julie Mullins  |  Jan 04, 2023  |  9 comments
How healthy is the hi-fi market? One widely reported silver lining of the pandemic was increased sales of anything to do with home entertainment, including hi-fi. Recently, though, inflation has broken out and the stock market tanked. Higher prices all around—from shipping and logistics to necessary parts and raw materials—added pressure from all sides.
Julie Mullins  |  Dec 08, 2022  |  40 comments
I spoke with people working in hi-fi to get a sense for how the industry is evolving. Here's one way: Some companies at the market's higher end are eschewing the traditional distribution model, in which a domestic company serves as middleman for products from overseas, buying and reselling inventory to dealers and then providing support. In the newer model, distribution services are provided by the overseas manufacturing company itself, either directly or via a US subsidiary. Brinkmann, dCS, Estelon, Gryphon, and T+A employ variations on the model.
Julie Mullins  |  Nov 01, 2022  |  12 comments
Audiophilia often leads the afflicted on a long journey, but no one need take that journey alone: Many audiophiles seek the company of like-minded people, on-line or in person, to exchange tips and advice, buy and sell gear, and share skills, fun, and musical experiences. And those who don't seek audiophile companionship? Perhaps they should.
Julie Mullins  |  Oct 06, 2022  |  23 comments
Attracting new customers is essential for brick-and-mortar dealerships' long-term survival. Over the last several years, many b&m dealerships have continued to expand into home automation and custom installation. Home theater is also undergoing a resurgence. These services can support—and complement—two-channel audio-equipment sales.
Julie Mullins  |  Aug 25, 2022  |  6 comments
It's not every day that someone opens a new brick-and-mortar hi-fi store. A variety of factors make the prospects of such a venture uncertain at best. Hi-fi industry veteran Michael Klein, though, has the guts and seasoned-salesman charm to make a go of it.
Julie Mullins  |  Jul 28, 2022  |  6 comments
Like many fans of music on vinyl, I've grown accustomed to waiting for preordered records. For several years, record-pressing plants have been oversubscribed; there just aren't enough presses to keep up with demand. When vinyl declined in the 1980s—replaced first by cassette tape and then by CD—old presses were abandoned, falling to rust and disrepair before the vinyl revival, leaving the industry with limited capacity.
Julie Mullins  |  Jun 16, 2022  |  3 comments
In last month's Re-Tales, I discussed what was happening on the vacuum-tube landscape, especially tube shortages resulting from Russia's war on Ukraine and its consequences for trade. Tube availability is, of course, a small concern compared to continuing Russian atrocities and the resulting suffering of Ukrainians. Still, it's a question tubed-electronics lovers and makers must grapple with, and we're a hi-fi magazine. So: If that Russian tube supply is curtailed or boycotted, what are the alternatives for manufacturers and individual buyers?
Julie Mullins  |  May 19, 2022  |  12 comments
Unless you live under a rock, you've followed Russia's invasion of Ukraine. You know something about sanctions against Russia and Russia's responses to those sanctions. If, in addition to not living under a rock, you're a tube-audio aficionado or electric guitar nut, you may have thought about a likely consequence of that war that's far less momentous than the destruction and carnage we see on TV: Will I be able to get new tubes for my amplifier? Especially those lovely Russia-made tubes.