A Conversation with Philly Audio Retailer Doug White

This past weekend, John Atkinson, Herb Reichert, and I drove down to Philadelphia to visit audio retailer Doug White of The Voice That Is. In this video, Doug and JA discuss the challenges of a rapidly changing internet based market, the differences between buying online versus buying from your local dealer, and much more.

We also filmed a conversation with Doug, JA, and Herb discussing Tidal loudspeakers, which we will post later this week.

For more on the subject of audio retailing, see Barry Willis's 1996 article "Invaded by the Grays," a retailer's response to a 1985 essay from Sam Tellig here, and JA's article "The High-End Review," especially the response from a high-end manufacturer on the third page.

dalethorn's picture

I've been there a hundred times (well, more than a hundred), not as a seller, but as a customer. One thing I will take away from this is Doug's statement that "If all retailers would do like this (described in the video), we could have a much healthier audio industry." I understand the appointment-only model, but for younger or less-well-to-do customers, I think it would be good to have some shorter, less formal appointments - not open houses where a potential customer doesn't get personal attention - but appointments that develop relationships without pointing toward a sale. I don't mean to suggest free consulting time, rather that some program could be developed that would make good use of available off-hour times. Free seminars might be a way to meet and qualify a few future customers.

Joe Whip's picture

Have been in his studio. He is a class act in all respects.

John Marks's picture

Dear John,

Thanks for the verbal namecheck in this excellent video!

During my long tenure at Stereophile, one of my consistent themes was urging retailers to identify more with their customers' positions and needs (and of course urging customers to treat their dealers as they themselves would want to be treated).

The first example of that that comes to mind is my AWSI "The Tragedy of the Commons," but the AWSI on dealers' need to go out and make house calls is also very important--because it contains a "Viola Joke."

Doug White is indeed a class act, and not as self-promotion but disclosure, he was one of the Bricasti dealers who early on became dealers for my Esperanto Audio digital cables.

JA, I look forward to the next installment, about Tidal loudspeakers, a favorite of Bricasti's Brian Zolner.


John Marks

fetuso's picture

Enjoyed the interview. Mr. White seems like a very classy guy. I'd like to provide some of my recent experience to give a customer's perspective. I've spent the last few years putting together my current system. The prospect of visiting dealerships was very intimidating to me because I did not want to get talked into buying anything. Additionally, the dealerships I did visit were nothing like what I had read they should be like. Speakers were obviously poorly positioned, demo rooms were no better than my own living room, and some salesmen were obviously ignorant about the products they were selling. I ended up buying all my gear from an on line retailer. I built a rapport with a particular salesman and i had the luxury of auditioning products in my own home with the comfort of a 60 day money back policy. Internet sales have grown to where they are for a reason. Not all brick and mortar stores are run by guys like Mr. White.

struts's picture

Enjoyed the interview but was distracted by the SQ, it sounds like you were sitting inside a cello! The room appears to have been treated, at least to a degree, but I find it a little bit hard to believe that the recording and/or replay chain added all that reverb.. You were there, what say you JA?

John Atkinson's picture
struts wrote:
Enjoyed the interview but was distracted by the SQ, it sounds like you were sitting inside a cello! . . . You were there, what say you JA?

Yes, the room is fairly live, but I didn't feel the sound of our voices was too reverberant, Struts. Jana used a directional microphone mounted on top of the primary camera.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

struts's picture

I listened to this last night on a resolving headphone rig in a quiet house and the reverb tails were so distracting that in the end I could hardly concentrate on what you were saying. Hard to believe that the recording equipment (or possible compression to 126kbps AAC for youtube) could be responsible? If it really is the room then one has to wonder what it does to music..

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

on my desktop rig with Benchmark DAC-1 USB, Dynaudio Focus 110A self-powered loudspeakers, and Nordost cabling, and finding the reverb modest and not-in-the-least distracting, I can't help but wonder if you have a headphone amp that artificially augments the sound field with copious amounts of so-called air. I've heard lots of systems that do just that.

Regardless, I would never call someone "over sensitive." The more discernment and sensitivity on this planet, the better.

struts's picture

Hi Jason! Appreciate your comments.

I think it is clear I am being oversensitive (although my comments, maybe ever so slightly exaggerated, are in the context of a recording made in a dedicated listening room for über high-end gear which sounded way too lively to my ears) but I defer to JA's first-hand experience.

However what is even clearer is that it's time to upgrade my headphone rig (Weiss DAC202/fw, Focal Utopia). I knew it was adding some kind of coloration, just couldn't put my finger on it with all those "reference recordings". Well, thanks to your comments the scales have fallen from my eyes (ears)! I have already booked an appointment with my bank manager..

Sometimes it takes someone thousands of miles away to point out the bleeding obvious. ;-)

All the best!

Allen Fant's picture

Nice job! Jana-

I like this kind of series, showcasing, brick-and-mortar dealers/retailers. Keep up the excellent coverage.