McIntosh and John Varvatos

I still remember 315 Bowery as the dank, old punk club, with the wobbly bar stools and the awful sound system. Last time I was there, I sat in a lopsided booth, in a pool of beer, and had my ears blown out by relentless guitars and a singer dressed in rags. I crouched down into the booth and tried to hide from the sound that came erupting from the old, abused speakers. But I came to the party late. By the time I made it to CB’s, the magic was already gone. The place was an echo of punk rock, a memory of a revolution, a museum shop.

That was a long time ago, and the place is much different now, of course. The intersection of Bleecker and the Bowery is now home to a John Varvatos boutique, where one might find a $600 pair of distressed leather boots sitting not far from electric guitars signed by members of Cheap Trick. Is this the intersection of fashion and music? If, to an 18-year old, CBGB’s wasn’t cool, then John Varvatos didn’t even exist.

Why, then, do I feel hopeful about the new partnership between McIntosh Laboratory and the John Varvatos boutique at 315 Bowery? Is it because I’ve grown old and soft, or is it because I now think it’s alright to aspire? I don’t know. Maybe I just like to see hi-fi in unlikely places. Just as I find a thrill in discovering a pair of vintage electrostatics in a Murray Hill condo or a collection of beautiful tubes in a Cobble Hill rowhouse, I am energized by shelves of vinyl, concert posters, and a sound system by one of the most loved manufacturers of American hi-fi, McIntosh—all mingling together in a high-end fashion boutique.

The cherished American brand has announced that select McIntosh products, including the MXA60 Manhattan Home Audio System, will be on display in John Varvatos boutiques in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The McIntosh MXA60 "Manhattan Home Audio System," seen from the front, without loudspeaker grille covers, and from the back.

“Shoppers will be able to experience the unique sensibilities of the trendsetting John Varvatos clothing line alongside iconic McIntosh style and elegance, creating an in-store atmosphere suited for true rock royalty!”

The John Varvatos 315 Bowery and the John Varvatos West Hollywood locations will offer a very interesting, complete McIntosh system, called the “Soho II,” which combines a McIntosh MT10 turntable with Mac amplification and loudspeakers. It seems that this particular system is as much a throwback to the complete stereo consoles of the past as it is an invitation to bring high-quality experiences to our present and future lives. Are John Varvatos and McIntosh asking people to slow down and enjoy?

I hope so.

The McIntosh MT10 turntable, seen from above and from the side.

While McIntosh products have been featured previously in John Varvatos boutiques, this most recent collaboration marks the introduction of the stores as authorized Mac dealers. Why the attraction?

McIntosh president Charlie Randall stated in a press release, “John [Varvatos] is a longtime audio enthusiast and a McIntosh collector, and his brand’s mystique is heavily steeped in his personal appreciation for the authentic roots of great music—something that has always defined our McIntosh commitment as well. Just as importantly, we are committed to not only creating no-compromise, elegant home entertainment solutions, but to making sure they are offered in retail environments that meet our standards for refinement, care and excellence…. We’re looking forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with John Varvatos.”

Now seems like a good time to revisit 315 Bowery, to perhaps replace my old memories with something new.