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NoHo Sound Intends to Revolutionize High-End Audio Retailing

L–R: NoHo Sound's Chris Petranis, Alex Roy, taxidermy bear, & Ron Kain

In an industry constantly perplexed by the absence of youth, diversity, and appreciation for the hobby, three audiophiles set out to revolutionize the industry with the opening of a new hi-fi shop in New York City that is anything but ordinary. NoHo Sound & Stereo (NoHo Sound for short) is located in a swanky loft in the lower Manhattan district NoHo—open seven days a week, by appointment only, with a second location in Chelsea. They offer: Analog Domain, Audio Research, Aurender, Box Furniture, Croft Acoustics, Devore Fidelity, Focal, Grand Prix Audio, Larsen, McIntosh Labs, Micromega, Musical Fidelity, Naim, Sonos, Sonus Faber, Vicoustic, and XLO Electric. In addition to selling hi-fi, they host weekly—yes, weekly—live music events of all genres, where startups like Groupmuse and Sofar Sounds use their space for performances, with 100% of proceeds going to the musicians. They also host events in collaboration with the nearby World of McIntosh Townhouse.

It's not very often—actually, it's almost never—that you hear about a new hifi shop opening, so I sat down with co-founder/CEO Alex Roy, president Ron Kain, and co-founder Chris Petranis to hear their take on where the industry's going, how they plan to attract millennials, and why they're starting a new venture in a market so deeply set on discussing its own decline.

Aside from all having extensively worked as hi-fi salesmen in New York, Alex is the editor-at-large for The Drive, co-host of the show Drive on NBC Sports, and has set eight Cannonball Run Driving records in the USA, Sweden, and Spain; Ron has origins in pro-audio and was consistently the top salesman at NYC hi-fi retail giant Stereo Exchange; and Chris is a restaurateur, real-estate developer, and film producer. With a crew like this, it's no surprise that NoHo Sound has already been mentioned in Billboard despite only having been officially open for a few months.

Alex Roy: I worked at Stereo Exchange in college because I was obsessed with high-end audio but I couldn't afford anything. By working there, I could afford to pay for the gear and get the discount. I bought a pair of [B&W] DM602s . . . and eventually 802 Series 3s, which are sitting over there. [gestures] I always dreamt of opening an audio store, but in the 90s it didn't make a lot of sense. Then AudioGon arrived and the used business got crushed. But I always knew that sooner or later, something had to change in this sector, because high-end audio stores haven't changed at all, but the world's changed around them. AudioGon and eBay crushed the used high-end audio business for brick and mortar retailers who weren't operating online. If you look at how they operate today, the majority of stores on the ground still haven't changed. And that's why NoHo Sound exists.

I worked at Stereo Exchange then I was a customer at Stereo Exchange. I used to go there every day for 20 years. I also would go to Lyric and other stores, but they really wouldn't let me in, because they thought I was a tire kicker. I could've afforded to buy pretty much anything any store in New York ever had on display. And here I am. I'm the target customer and I'm treated like shit. So I ended up going back to Stereo Exchange, where at least there's Ron and he's fun. He tricked me into buying a Sonos I didn't need! [laughter]

Ron Kain: I sold him the Sonos, then later on an Audio Research SP20 preamp. And in the whole process, we actually built a relationship, a friendship—which I did with many other clients as well. I'm not just here to sell you a box, I'm here to build a relationship—and a long-term one at that.

Roy: And, by the way, every single store—every business in the world—has some asshole writing the copy on their website, which is probably not a guy who works at the store, which says "we're here to build relationships. Customer service is number one. We believe in resolution, fidelity, honesty, and presentation of soundstage." It's all fucking bullshit. Because the reality is: all of high-end audio retail deserves to die. It buried itself. And it buried itself because, if I'm the target customer and I don't want to buy anywhere in New York City—the most important market in the Eastern half of the United States—then the whole model is broken. And online cannot replace it, because there are some products like sports cars and luxury watches where price isn't everything. And the product itself isn't everything. It's an experience. You want to feel like you're a part of something, and the people you're paying are not fucking assholes moving boxes.

I come from the car-racing world. I host a television show about sports cars on NBC and I own a fashion line. The relationship is everything. The presentation is everything. There are many expensive, good products. There's no shortage. But the hourglass, the conduit of how they get to people has to be excellent. That's the missing piece.

The stores we have in New York today worked at one time, but that ended in about 1995. And the Internet buried it, but the Internet's not the end. It's just part of it. People thought the Internet was going to replace brick and mortar—not at all. It's the hinge upon which brick and mortar swings. Luxury brick and mortar has its place, but no one's doing it.

NoHo Sound is a total reboot of what high-end audio retail can be on the ground. And it requires the reverse approach: you don't have necessarily a storefront, you can't wait for people to walk in, and every day you have to sell the idea that coming to the store is fun. People need to be educated, so if they come in and are treated badly, then you've lost them forever, and they're walking over to Best Buy across the street, and they're buying the best thing Best Buy has. Or they're buying a Devialet. Devialet, in my opinion, isn't really a high-end sound, but it is very much a high-end brand. They completely understand how to package, market, and use social media and modern methods to get to people. This is something most audio manufacturers and retailers don't understand. A Devialet store looks like an Apple store. Is Apple better than PC or Chromebook? It's different, but it's packaged perfectly. It's a completely seamless, holistic experience.

If you want to disrupt something, you've got to give customers something they've never seen before. That's not a lower price. It isn't necessarily even a different product. It's something fun, and better than what they can get anywhere at any price.

Put all these pieces together. These stores have had 50 years to build an audience and community. Go on Facebook and Instagram and look at the size of their audiences. They're somewhere between zero and a few hundred. If they've got more than a couple thousand, they bought them. They have no connection to the next generation of audiophiles. In fact, they've completely given up attempting to attract younger people to become audiophiles, because they've given them nothing. They haven't given them a home to see the equipment, to learn about the equipment, the salespeople don't care, they don't even have the patience! If they can't sell something in the first five minutes—or even the first minute—they won't take the time to invest in the person.

Dagdagan: Who's your target customer?

Roy: 5% old audiophiles who'd like a place to have a place to go to in three years, when most of the stores in New York are closed. And 95% people who've never heard good audio ever in their lives. The first customers like that have already purchased from us.

Based on our organic social-media growth, we will surpass every New York City area dealer. (We already surpassed most of them in social media presence in the first three days.) We'll surpass all of them combined within two weeks, and I wouldn't be surprised if we surpassed all of them in the country combined within six months—and that's for organic, unpaid likes. Eventually, this will convert into more sales and this will snowball. You cannot buy this audience. They have to believe that you're doing something cool; they have to want to come to you. If you have to be paying for them to want to come to you every single time, you're going to go out of business.

If you want to build a brand that people love, they have to love it from day one. You have to give them a reason to love it. Give them something fun; give them something they haven't seen before. It's not a box or a price tag.

Dagdagan: Do you think there's anything existing high-end dealers can do to survive?

Roy: [laughs] No.

Kain: It's a culture change.

Roy: They have to do what we're doing or something like what we're doing. I don't know what the alternative is. You cannot have a store paying $50,000 or $100,000 a month in rent unless you're monetizing that location in a real way—maybe through events. And if you're making money from [custom install], you should become a CI business.

Today, we are very clear that we are not a CI business. We can do CI if someone wants to have it, but that's not our primary focus, because where's the opportunity in New York City? Every culture's different. In New York, the majority of young people with money do not own their homes. If you're an attorney or banker under the age of 35, you do not own your home, which means you're not a CI customer. But you are a customer for some very cool wireless integration. And who's targeting those people? No one. In fact, most people with money in NYC don't own their homes at all. In Manhattan they never will. If they're going to invest in a home, it'll be outside the city. That's a different customer; that's not our store. Our customer is somewhere between 25–50, they've never heard of good audio, and the younger the better, because that means they don't need CI. You can't sell it to them. They're buying network Naim systems; maybe some cool Mac. It's a piece of art.

Kain: Regular retailers just turn on their lights in the hopes that they're open and that's it—that's their thing. The main reason I always felt that I was the top salesman in the North Eastern region is because I sold to everyone my constituents wouldn't sell to. They saw a young kid walking in, they thought nothing of him; I sold him a 20k stack. It was literally that simple: basic customer service. No other dealer is doing that. Bottom line.

Roy: Look at what Tesla and Uber have done to transportation, electric cars, and autonomy. You don't have to like Tesla or Uber to see; the entire taxi industry saw and knew that it was inefficient and shitty. All the carmakers in the world knew that electric vehicles were possible, but they did nothing. Tesla had to arrive. Even if Tesla goes out of business tomorrow, electric cars are inevitable and they're going to get here a lot sooner because Tesla existed. So the lessons of disruption are: you've got to reinvent the model but also accept the realities of the math. You can't be too ambitious or you'll disappear and everyone else will take the lessons from you. So what have we learned here? All these other stores doing used business ignored Audiogon and eBay. And Facebook is 7, 8 years old? Instagram is 4 years old? Go on to their sites and look at the social media presence of pretty much all the big retailers in the country. The way we got all these lines is: we walked in the door of all the biggest companies in the sector and we pulled out a spreadsheet we created ourselves—we didn't have to hire a consulting company or some schmuck thief consultant.

Think about all the snake oil and horseshit being fed to people. At best, I've been a C-minus celebrity in my life, but I'll go into stores and ask questions about cables, bi-wiring, Shakti stones . . . do you know what a Shakti stone is? It's a $400 magnet surrounded by rubber that was sold years ago. I sold them. Things we don't even know if they work or what they do. But the point is: when a customer asks me about Shakti stones or about any of these things, I could be talking to an electrical engineer, so I'm not going to bullshit them. And yet I got bullshitted to so many times!


Spotted in NoHo Sound. For all my fellow Tolkienites.

Chris Petranis: We're trying to incorporate the lifestyle component into it. We want to grow this into something unique where we marry the high-end purchasing experience with the experiential part. Those are words that are typically overused, but no one has ever, ever even come close to using them in this business. People just have air-conditioned, pretty cheesy spaces with a bunch of expensive boxes, and people walk in, and they try to sell you them, and then there's no follow-up whatsoever.

When we announced ourselves, people said, "Oh my god, thank god, we hated dealing with x, y, and z." So this has been a "product" that this market desperately needs to migrate and grow into, and we're having a blast doing it. We do music, film, people, artists, wine—and it's a lot of fun! I think that's the other component: no other dealers actually have fun. Really, they're selling you boxes. No one cares about music.

Roy: When's the last time a dealer held a Formula One viewing party at four in the morning on a Sunday? We do. Have you ever heard a Formula One racecar through a Focal Sopra No.3? It's awesome.

Dagdagan: What are you optimistic about in this industry?

Roy: The automotive sector's a great example because so many of our customers are into luxury automotive. A Toyota Camry today will out accelerate, out break, and out handle a Ferrari 308 from Magnum P.I. It's a better car . . . but it looks like a Toyota Camry. But Ferrari still exists, and people still buy fast cars. You can get a Subaru WRX for $30,000, and it's better, faster—as fast as many sports cars from sports car companies.

Performance in all parts of society is becoming commoditized. In theory, Sonos or everything at Best Buy should win, and there's no reason this sector should exist. People aren't buying numbers. They're buying flavors of sound, they're buying character, they're buying an idea that the box doesn't need to be hidden behind a wall; the box is art. It's art, replicating art. "If only I had that, I'd be a little closer to real life." That's part of the human condition, and that will never change. As long as someone is giving customers a place to learn and see what the absolute best is at the intersection of art, science, and engineering, the high-end will always exist.

So I'm more optimistic than ever because the more digitized, virtualized, and synthetic the entertainment that Hollywood is trying to foist on us—virtual reality, augmented reality, self-driving cars, lower-quality bit rate files—the more that the mass of people believe that that's all there is, the more likely it is that there's going to be a 180-degree turn—that people are going to place value on tangible, organic, real things. Why are record players making a comeback? Even shitty record players. Even shitty records sold at Urban Outfitters. Why? Because they believe in the idea of authenticity, and authenticity is best delivered by the highest quality engineering. (If only the software were better, we'd be closer to the real thing.)

I'm totally an optimist. What I'm a pessimist about is the way it's being sold. Stores suck. They do. If stores were great, we wouldn't exist.

Kain: We're truly passionate about what we do. What I look forward to is sitting down with a prospect and enjoying the reproduction of a performance—really allowing myself to decompress. It's meditation. Whether it's a glass of scotch, a cigar—I'm there and I'm engulfed in the experience. That's what I look forward to. I want to transcend that experience to the next person, because I feel that it's a part of people's lives that is missing significantly. And at the core of it, that's why we do this. Aside from filling the void in the industry, what I hold true is the passion. I'm not here to sell you a box; I'm trying to sell you the lifestyle behind it. I'm trying to make sure that when you get home, you're enjoying this stuff.

What I don't want to get lost in translation within this story is that we're mad at anyone else. As consumers, we're frustrated, and the result will be this [NoHo Sound]. But at the core of it is what we're talking about right now, which is us having fun—translating and transcending that to our customers. We want to broaden the awareness of our industry. We're disappointed at what others haven't done.

Roy: And if we don't do this, where are we going to buy gear in New York City? Who's going to sell it to us?

COMMENTS
tonykaz's picture

I can recall paying $2,000 per month for 2,000 square ft of retail space for my Esoteric Audio. ( early 1980s )

I wish them all the best and recommend they install a Full-Wall of accessories. ( accessories alone will pay the rent and be their most profitable line )

Annnnnd I imagine that Stereophile will install a Magazine "POP Spot" where hopefuls can buy a bit of useful reading material. I sold HFN&RR, The Absolute Sound as well as all the other available Audio Publications. Customers would come in regularly to purchase the latest Monthly Publications. Audio people are readers.

Well, I guess that I like their style ( I hope it's not a "Curse")

Gooooood Luck

Tony in Michigan

ps. those front wall horizontal slats are a clever idea

ps. 2 it's nice that these guys don't scatter gear all over the dirty floor like so many manufacturers do at Shows.

jimtavegia's picture

Too many are so into "self" these days that it is hard to break through if it does not have a phone attached to it. Hard to imagine our culture where $800 for a phone seems sane, but that same money on a nice stereo is ridiculed.

This is made even more depressing when you look at the innerfidelity.com website and a pair of Audio Technica 50X cans and a portable CD player ( if you can find one these days as I still own 3) can make music fun again, outside of MP3 land. I own a pair of those ATs for my studio and 2-Sony 7506's, AKG K701's and 2-K271's (my favorite sealed cans), Sennheiser HD-280's and a pair of Shure SE 215's for out and about for all of $89, yet even this seem crazy money to my students. Kids in my after school digital audio recording club are coming around when they hear better.

Sad where we are today with new music coming from everywhere like water over Niagara Falls, all of which deserves more than MP3 quality to be appreciated. Your effort is to be applauded.

Alex Roy's picture

Thanks so much. Totally agree with you.

Best,

Alex

Ortofan's picture

... by some to be a ridiculous sum, that was approximately as much as I spent on my first system (receiver, speakers and turntable) while still in my early teens back in the last century. Adjusted for inflation, that $800 would now be equivalent to about $4,500.

jimtavegia's picture

For the same money that I spent in 1971 on a Fisher 500TX, and Dual 1209 with a Pickering XV-750 cartridge, and a pair of Dynaco A-25's I have better sounding system than that in a 4th system in my classroom for slightly less money today with a CD/DVD player that has nothing to do with inflation, but where products are chosen to be manufactured. There are great economies to be had in the way companies choose to make their wares. To compare a $500 TV in my parents time to what we can buy today for the same money in LED/HD is ridiculous.

Ortofan's picture

...today for $800 with that which was available several decades ago. Rather it was simply to imagine what would be the reaction of those who today consider $800 to be too much to spend on an audio system to a expenditure of more than five times that amount.

doxycc's picture

It will be fun to observe(I assume through social media) how this retailer evolves. We've had a couple of experiments in the SF Bay Area with one retailer including an espresso bar in the store, hosting on-going events, a more "modern" approach to retail etc... Not sure it's been entirely successful. That said, retailers such as Colette in Paris (just closed after 20 years and only because the owner decided she was done) transformed the retail model and attracted customers of all ages. What cannot be answered yet is whether the approach is sustainable and profitable. Here's hoping.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

For multiple reasons, Michael Woods has shifted Elite Audio/Video to his former sales space in his San Francisco Victorian. Business is doing very well, despite the lack of the coffee bar.

doxycc's picture

Thanks. Not knowing the "reasons" I decided to not mention the dealer by name. What I find interesting in context of the article is that Michael's success is probably due to a number of factors including great products, great service, etc... a "traditional" business model.

dalethorn's picture

By appointment only. In an apartment. Gasp! That's not retail by a light-year stretch of the imagination. Retail, as in audio in the "old days", is where I can walk in and see and hear quality gear and then decide whether I want to come back and make an investment. People have been complaining here at length about how this publication and its closest vendors have been moving steadily toward another dimension where ordinary people can't go, and this - the appointment-only place, is a perfect example.

Alex Roy's picture

Between our weekly live music events, listening parties and movie nights, I think we've had more people walk through the doors of our two locations than any of the stores in NYC I've worked in or visited.

Our twin 3000+ square foot soundproofed showrooms in downtown NYC are totally unique. Where else have an office or a showroom for such business? Ground floor space is prohibitively expensive.

The market is changing. Dealers need to change with it.

Best,

Alex

audiohigh's picture

"And, by the way, every single store—every business in the world—has some asshole writing the copy on their website, which is probably not a guy who works at the store..."

This article is an insult to many great stores that still exist around the country. I know for us, our web site (both copy and the site itself) and other marketing materials were created by one of our employees. But why does it matter if a small company hires an outside firm to help with marketing? We're lucky that we're big enough to employ someone who can do this (and she does a great job at it, by the way, and she's not an asshole).

There are a number of good stores around still who are passionate about what they do and who care about their customers and go out of their way for them. This in not universally true, unfortunately, but a company that has to put down others to promote themselves is maybe a little too young and not as hip as they think they are. If you guys think you're the only ones who are passionate and who care about your clients, you need to do a bit more research before you insult a lot of dedicated people in our industry.

It's getting harder and harder for retail stores to survive. Let's be thankful for the ones who are still giving it their all. If you think you have some new insights into how to run a business that you want to share with the rest of the industry, I think you can find a way to say, "this is working for us" without self-aggrandizing at the expense of others.

Alex Roy's picture

Sounds like you've nailed it.

Come to NYC some time. Lunch on us.

Best,

Alex

Elevon's picture

As a college student in New York and longtime Stereophile reader, I was pretty excited when I saw this article. However, that optimism faded the longer I read. Appointment only? There is nothing young people abhor more than making appointments for retail.

If high-end audio wants to expand to the younger generation, it needs to convince young people that there are better alternatives to Beats headphones (which sound good compared to crappy earbuds, look slick, and don't cost an arm and a leg). The way you go about that is not trying to sell them loudspeaker setups which cost more than their year's rent but with slick stores carrying reasonably-expensive gear that they can walk in and hear for themselves. What I see here, beneath the marketing hype, is an establishment that will end up selling expensive gear by appointment to wealthy thirty-year-old-plus New Yorkers, not one that will actually bring younger millennials into the audio scene. However, I'll try and check out the store for myself; I hope everything I said will be proven wrong.

The companies which really bridging the generation gap are headphone gear manufacturers such as Sennheiser and Schiit. I know zero people under 30 (other than myself) who own audiophile-grade floorstanding speakers, but quite a few with mid-fi headphone setups -- those headphone enthusiasts will probably graduate to loudspeaker systems as they save money and buy houses. From my standpoint, that is the real path to the industry's salvation, but I'd be happy to hear from anyone else who disagrees.

Alex Roy's picture

Dear Elevon:

We totally agree with you.

We're only starting by going one generation below where the market is, which means 30-40 somethings who've never seen or heard serious audio, and have nowhere to go.

Phase 2? Exactly what you're talking about.

Why appointment only? To discourage volume of non-customers. People drop by all the time. But you can't run such a business with 3-4 systems each in two different 3500 sq foot open lofts with groups of people walking around.

You CAN, however, throw a party two nights a week, with 100 people each time, and have an absolute blast, and show them live music and hi-end in one night.

The average age of our attendees? 25 years old.

If you're in NYC, please come by. Or join our mailing list for invites to our weekly events. We have people come by — often with groups of friends — at one of our two locations for drinks and listening late into the night.

Best,

Alex
Noho Sound
www.nohosound.com

Decibel's picture

"Absence of youth" "By appointment only". I had to read that three times to make sure I read that right. You know what I like about all those other retailers and especially Best Buy and Magnolia? I can walk in whenever I want and enjoy myself. Wish em luck and I hope they're smarter than me.

Alex Roy's picture

You don't need an appointment to come to our parties! Sign up for our mailing list and come over. We do 1-2 a week. The average age is 25.

We look forward to seeing you.

Best,

Alex

Decibel's picture

Thanks for the invite and prompt reply. And if it wasn’t for the fact that I live in ShenZhen, China I would take you up on it. Once again, best wishes.

Decibel's picture

Thanks for the invite and prompt reply. And if it wasn’t for the fact that I live in ShenZhen, China I would take you up on it. Once again, best wishes.

Stino's picture

The founders seem to know something about marketing. Being active on social media and organizing events are good ideas.

But it reads now and then to be a bit like overselling to me. Having a large audience on social media does not necessarily mean you sell more and, at least as important for the world of hi-fi, does not mean that you will attract a younger customer base across all social classes.

The founders seem to understand this as they indicate that their story will be one of evolution based on feedback and reflection. I would propose them anyways to offer home installation. If you care about the products you sell and you want your client to have the same sound quality than in the studio you need to visit the client's place and advice on room acoustics as well. You want to offer an experience, right?

Stino's picture

... and do Devialet. You say it is not high-end audio. Yet you sell Naim Uniti Nova which has a similar idea but worse sound quality.

Many will say that a Devialet 220 Expert Pro is on par with the naim nac 272 and nap 250 dr when it conerns power and PRAT. Yet, the devialet is more neutral. Just an idea (of a Devialet owner :-)

These all-in-one solutions accessible to a lot of devices are 'lifestyle' and should attract many eyes on your events!

Alex Roy's picture

My partner owns a Devialet amp and loves it.

When Devialet makes an integrated at the same price point as the Naim Uniti Atom, we can talk. Our first customers all bought Unitis and love them.

Phantoms are another story.

Best,

Alex

audiodoctornj's picture

I have to congratulate the great guys of Noho Hifi for having a vision which differs from the rest of the stores by combining an event space with an audio store is a novel and brilliant idea.

We too are a private by appointment boutique with 2,000 sq feet of display space we have been in business for 14 years and we run our store out of a 1880's Victorion Mansion in Jersey City, NJ.

Many of the area's audiophiles have heard of our company, Audio Doctor we have participated at many of the New York area shows.

Our model is a bit different than Nohos, our approach is to take the grand New York Audio store/shopping experience and add all the elements that modern customers are seeking, streaming music, music servers etc. We have four different brands of high end surround receivers, and seven major brands of loudspeakers, plus we have a dedicated home theater room and we excel at custom as well.

We have four soundrooms and eight listening areas. we have probably the largest collection of gear on display in the NY City area with over 60 lines on display.

The reason for stating the above is to point out that a private by appointment retailor can offer as much or more of a selection that a regular walk in store.

A private shopping experience guarantees you time to have a guided experience and demo, by appointment means that you are given the time and attention that you deserve, it doesnt mean that you are forced to purchase anything we like Noho hope that our time and facilities will be a benefit and you will want to purchase from us.

By appointment also means that you may be able to come at a time that works for you for your schedule. Our hours can be from early in the morning to very late at night. Will a regular brick and mortar store allow you to come in at 9:00 and stay till midnight?

Retail is hurting with high rents and impersonal service. Give us by appointment guys a break you may be more than pleasently surprised.

Dave Lalin, Audio Doctor,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NPIn3pEmI4

https://www.facebook.com/Audio-Doctor-High-End-Audio-Boutique-1224993044...

Ortofan's picture

... the variety of brands of products a dealer can offer for sale and whether or not they operate on an appointment-only versus walk-in basis?

Tangram's picture

Despite the way I was treated by salesmen in hifi stores in my youth (early 80’s), I have been an audiophile my entire adult life. I love what these guys are doing. The retail audio model IS broken. Using the store for regular events is fantastic. With insane Manhattan rents, they should think of using the place even more hours of the day.

Audio is a HOBBY. It is supposed to be FUN! And NoHo is making it fun. I can see a lot of marketing parallels with the luxury car sector. We have a Premier Porsche dealership (the best of the best Porsche dealer designation) that turns itself into a quasi nightclub to host evening events. There are track days, fun runs, partnerships with other luxury goods purveyors etc. They create a lifestyle that attracts brand loyalty. It also helps that they have outstanding products on offer. And it isn’t just cars. It’s clothing, luggage, kids’ toys, jewellery etc. I can see Alex’s automotive roots in much of what NoHo are doing.

A couple of things though. It wasn’t clear if they are dealing in used gear but they SHOULD offer trade-ins on equipment they’ve sold to customers. Also, having to pay the big rent and running an appt. only shop puts them at a disadvantage to the guys with a similar model but run out of their homes. Look at Audio by Mark Jones. He seems to have it figured out. Finally, I am not sure how many Manhattanites are in the market for Sopra 3s. I agree with one of the other posters - headphone setups should be a focus.

Anyway, all the best to NoHo. Brash New Yorkers? Sure. But that’s the attitude it takes in one of the most competitive markets in the world to be successful.

Alex Roy's picture

Dear Tangram:

Sounds like your dealership is where I should being my Porsche Targa for service!

Please send me an email at help @ noho sound dot com and let's talk.

Best,

Alex

Allen Fant's picture

Bravo! Jana-

another outstanding effort and article. I do want to read about these guys (NoHo Sound) revolutionizng the bricks-and-mortars industry. New blood and minds that possess a "thinking outside of the box" disposition is sorely welcomed. I will visit this operation on my next trip to NYC.

Allen Fant's picture

Second Note,

as above, I concur with, jimtavegia.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Gig Harbor Audio, on the West coast, is a traditional retailer that holds music listening parties and also hosts local band concerts in store, complete with local beer. It doesn't offer the "luxury retailer" veneer that Alex Roy champions, but then again, I'm not clear how being a luxury retailer is revolutionary.

What I do see is that NoHo Sound champions audio as essential to a satisfying lifestyle. It might be doing something like this [https://www.stereophile.com/content/enough-hobby-already], which I proposed in an editorial six months ago.

Patrick Mattucci's picture

What this industry needs is an enema!

I loved the article and I love what NoHo is doing. Yeah, they're brash and ballsy, and this is NYC we're talking about after all. But, more importantly, they get it. As a Systems Designer for a CI (who also focuses on 2 Channel and hosting music events), NoHo's approach is not, according to my observations, without merit. Understanding their market, their utilization of Social Media and guerilla marketing are some of the tools needed to accomplish what they want to accomplish, and it seems obvious to me that that's nothing short of changing the culture AND changing "with" the culture. Coffee Bars, Whiskey Tastings, partnerships with industries that parallel High End Audio, yeah...these are only trappings of the Millennials and attempts to tempt them will eventually be exposed, and that can't be good, right? But, if you keep it sincere, focus on musicians making great live music locally (and if you can't find that in NYC, where else can you find it?), and show why High End Audio can bring that experience to their own homes will most likely translate to an experience and culture that is being cultivated, as a brand. Now that's very cool and very much what our industry needs.

Alex Roy's picture

Dear Patrick Mattucci:

I'll be hitting you up on Facebook.

Best,

Alex

David Hyman's picture

to say they're going to take everyone over and are kicking everyone's ass and that the rest suck is trying to win through negativity. this approach doesn't work for me. i prefer folks who can win without having to dis others and be negative. a better idea would be to try to educate and support others retailers to float all boats and float the industry. you catch more flies with sugar, as they say.

kjartanb's picture

Its good that you are trying a new approach. You are correct in that you need to show what a great system can do and if you really want to involve the younger people don't try to sell, most can't afford it. This is a long term investment. They might not buy expensive high-end audio products for the next 10years but many might gradually build a system that gets them closer to that earlier experience. When I was a student in Copenhagen in the early eighties there were some stores/venues that made us feel welcome and enabled us to spend some hours, discussing and auditioning systems, components and music, without any sales pressure. There you could hear good sound even if you could not afford it. I had one particular experience, at that time, that I dreamt of for the next 30 years or so. It was via a Beweridge system Qvortrup (later of Audio Note) had in his store. I walked in one day. He didn't try to sell me anything, just put on a good 50s Opera LP and I was immediately transformed into an audiophile apprentice with an unclear path in front of me but a with a clear goal. I have strayed of the path several times over the years, and even forgotten the goal for short periods. I'm not there yet, but now in my late 50s im still getting closer to my dream systems of the 80s. :)

steverman's picture

It clearly reads like a paid for press release. That being said, their points about SOME dealers is spot on, especially in New York (I've visited a few on various trips over the years). But I would preface their comments with saying 'some' and not all.

I still think this is a press release about calling out all dealers and making them worry and making themselves known. I don't like it. And as I said above, I certainly wouldn't lump all dealers in with their offensive, vulgar language comments. Must be a New York thing.

I've visited many top dealers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Dallas Texas, etc. So, if you're trying to solve a New York dealer problem, don't lump the others across the country into it. Many I've visited, don't have the "New York attitude". Quite the contrary.

John Atkinson's picture
No. We do not publish, what is called, in the buzzword of the day, "sponsored content." It is an interview, just as described.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

blang11's picture

Credit to Jana for covering NoHo Sound. This was a very interesting interview. I could quibble with some aspects of the pitch, but I applaud the effort and wish NoHo Sound all the best. It takes courage and vision to attempt to revitalize this retail industry, especially by trying to understand and lure a younger generation. I’m not sure the appointment-only approach is the best mechanism for attracting younger customers, but I can see why it makes sense for the health of the business. However, the live events and “parties” are an excellent idea and I’d personally love to check that out the next time I make the trip to NYC from D.C. Not to veer into a tangent, but I urgently recommend this article to better understand the economic state of (gulp) MILLENNIALS: http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/poor-millennials/. It’s a great read.

Captain Stereo's picture

It's fine to be confident in your approach and blaze new trails. A bird with a little wisdom might caution that declaring everyone who doesn't follow your methodology as dinosaurs doomed to failure is practically begging for some karmic justice at some point down the line. So you know how to leverage social media to get followers who are "into" what you do. That's great. Now all you need to do is turn them into customers who will buy expensive things from you and return again and again and insist that all their friends buy their hi-fi from you too. Good luck with that. And good luck building up an actual customer base based off of a model that has you only seeing people by appointment while paying NYC rent. I think it's great that you host music events. That will bring people into your place and expose them to what you do. Though I'm not sure you've said exactly what it is you do other than NOT installing anything that might be deemed CI. So you're going to live and die by individual customers buying a stereo. Are you anticipating that once they buy a system from you that they're pretty well set for a decade or more? Do you have a plan for how to get them back into your store other than returning with a component in need of repair? Speaking of, do you repair what you sell? That's kind of important to people. It doesn't make for good copy and give you an avenue to rag on all of your oldie olderson peers in the industry that you clearly have such a disdain for. That same wise bird might also caution that some of these dinosaurs you rip to shreds in your interview have been doing business for decades and are part of a dealer network that lean on each other for ideas and support and feedback on what kind of things have traction and what things are more 'flavor of the month'. You see Skippy, can I call you Skippy?....you see Skipper, there are boring, grown-up things like inventory management, merchandising, accounting practices and so forth that are what ultimately keep a good business above water and running over time. And while it is imperative in this day and age to have a social media presence, having a bunch of millennials 'like' you does not also mean that they all are committed in a real, tangible way to keeping your business afloat by coming back to you time and time again. That requires a level of service and repeatable dependability that must be proven. So yea for you, you come off like young, hipster, New York attitude-brimming innovators sticking it to older established businesses that have a more traditional model. Let's see if you have the stamina to weather the storms of changing economies and stick it out over a period of time. If you do, then in ten or fifteen years, us dinosaurs will give you your due. But I suspect you're like a million other businesses run by arrogant young kids with no business savvy and that when times get tough, you will leave the hi-fi industry and go towards something more secure and safe. But rest assured, we will still let you into our showrooms and dream about all the cool things a person can do with ever improving technology. We will even pretend not to notice when you snicker about how we're still doing things the old-fashioned way. I guess we'll have to take being in business going on decade number five as consolation.
#DontMakeFunOfYourElders
#SlowAndSteadyWinsTheRace
#ThatFakeHashtagsAreATiredRetortIsProofThatSlowAndSteadyWinsTheRace

ronkain's picture

Dear Stereophile community,
I wrote this message to follow up with all of the FB comments but felt I should also share it with you guys.

First and foremost I would like to thank all whom have taken the time to read our interview! Reactions have been mixed and that is to be expected.
For those whom have been and are supportive of our direction I sincerely thank you all very much. For those whom are skeptical of our approach I welcome you to visit our shop.
We have strategically designed our environment to be inviting to all (even by being appointment only) We have weekly events to actively bring people closer to live music, which is really the ultimate goal of what we do.
It may have been lost in context but we do have offerings in the more affordable price points to introduce the hi-fi experience on a attainable price point level.
If anyone wishes to learn more about us feel free to reach out.
Have a wonderful evening and Happy New Years to ALL!
Much Love
- Ron Kain President of NoHo Sound

dc_bruce's picture

Being over the target age of the identified customer base, perhaps my opinion is worth little. Nevertheless, the first hurdle for anyone trying to get a customer to spend thousands of dollars on sound reproduction equipment is to instill in them the idea that listening is an activity worth doing. People have no trouble with the concept that watching a football game or whatever is something worth doing, but the advent of "personal stereo" (Walkman and its successors) has given people the idea that music is an accompaniment to whatever else they happen to be doing, and that listening to recorded music (as opposed to a live concert) while doing nothing else is a little weird. If music is just a descant to your life -- supplying a nice sound track for running, driving the car or whatever -- you're going to favor convenience (IPods, MP3, etc.)over fidelity and you're not going to be inclined to invest gobs if money in playback equipment.

While lots of people are amazed at how lifelike a good system can sound, it will remain a curiosity unless they're convinced that listening to a recording deserves their undivided attention.

I have certainly experienced dismal hi-fi shops, including very recently; but there are people who do it the right way. That said, I'm not sure "the right way" includes promoting high-end audio as part of a lifestyle ("the cool people all have killer stereos"). That is redolent of Playboy magazine in the 1960s.

It seems to me that "the right way" is nurturing a shared appreciation for music -- of whatever genre -- which naturally leads to an appreciation for equipment that delivers a good simulacrum of the real thing from recordings.

If I knew how to do this, I'd open a hifi shop and make gobs of money!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Remember that one, girls and boys? It was the mantra many of us repeated over and over in the 1960s, during the birth of the New Left and the Summer of Love. Then we got older, and, all of a sudden, we resent younger people (as if everyone involved with NoHo Sound were under 30, which cannot be the case for someone who was a customer at Stereo Exchange for 20 years) acting like we did.

Oh, and we also hated anyone who drove fancy cars, e.g. Porsches.

Okay, so the NoHo Trio comes across as arrogant as hell. Hey, weren't a lot of us arrogant as hell? Weren't many of the young soldiers who went off to fight and die in Vietnam, or return scarred for life, arrogant as hell in their absolute surety of themselves? Aren't any number of us still arrogant as hell?

One thing's for certain: we sure as hell don't like our arrogance reflected back at us.

The NoHo boys seem to have been determined to get our attention, and get it they have. Attitude aside, regularly staging live concerts seems a great way to bring people into your space (provided you've ensured that all your phono cartridges and everything else can't be spirited away in echt New York fashion). Nor is there any reason why those concerts have to be limited to rock and pop. It's a great concept.

Let's see where it goes.

Joe8423's picture

I don't think it worked out all that well for them.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/thiel-launch-live-streaming-studio

VeryFineSolutions's picture

Last year I bought a house in Antwerp with exactly the same purpose.

Our goal is to facilitate student housing for 3 students of the nearby conservatory of Antwerp, having a dedicated room for them to practice their instruments,
We'll be organizing house concerts with them, combined with art expositions.

Next to that purpose of education and providing a future for students it is our house and showroom of veryfinesolutions.com

We don't have many brands but selected some great ones.

Love that it is about the experience and getting back to music, not just a sales pitch and yes I too need to survive by making money from what I sell, so yes it is a business, but this idea is exactly the way I love to work.

If I make it to NY one day...I'll make an appointment...

And if you guy's make it to Europe for whatever trip...you're welcome (after appointment :-) ...

Cheers and all the best for 2018 and the following years.

Frank

Alex Roy's picture

That sounds amazing!

Come visit us in NYC. Dinner and drinks on us!

Best,

Alex Roy
Noho Sound

wade's picture

Disparaging NYC dealers has been a favorite pastime of a number of audiophiles. I have been to dealers around the country and find that NYC dealers are no different than most. First, in my experience, most owners and salespeople of NYC audio shops, contrary to anecdotal commentary, are music lovers first. That goes for Innovative Audio, Lyric HiFi, Stereo Exchange, Rhapsody Audio, High Water Sound, In Living Stereo, Audioarts and others. But they do have to sell gear to pay the rent--just like NoHo will have to do. Yes--all dealers do not appreciate tire kickers who will not buy now or ever--but this is true virtually everywhere. I wish NoHo success, but to distinguish themselves, they need not disparage other dealers as box sellers. Dave Lalin of AudioDoctor does this on Audiogon and even took advantage of NoHo's time in the spotlight to promote himself in the comments above. But promotion is possible without denigration of others.
Any out of state audiophile who reads how difficult NYC dealers can be and decides not to visit any or all of the above dealers will forego an opportunity to hear an unusually wide variety of brands and the experience and expertise that these fine dealerships have to offer.

audiodoctornj's picture

Wade your comments are untrue about us. We don't denegrate other stores, there have been illustrations made, and you can search Audiogon for entire threads critising certain New York City stores which we didn't start, but mentioned as other people have grumbed about those same stores and yes New York is a tough retail enviornment.

As per metioning ourselves in this article, we did that to prove a point about by appointment stores. Many people feel that by appoitment stores or stores like ours are hobbist venues and are not "real brick and motar stores."

Wade we are run out of a private home, but unlike some dealers in the country, we are a real brick and motar store, which is just run out of a home. Our setup has four showrooms with real furniture and it does sound more like what people actually have in their homes, it also saves money which we can then invest in having the latest gear.

Audio Doctor has one of the largest collections of high end audio gear in NY and have been beging people in the press for yearsto come over and take notice of what we are doing.

If you think it is just self promotion it is and it isn't.

Please tell me where in New York can you listen to Kef, Dali, PSB, Pardigm, Legacy audio and many other afordable reference lines?

Where in New York can you hear a wide variety of $1,000.00 starter, streaming amps, from Numprime, Rega, and NAD?

Where else can you hear four different streaming amplifers or amplifiers with dacs from Anthem, Micromega, Naim, and NAD or four different surround sound receivers?

Are you seeing my point? We cater to everyone from the starter audiophile to the reference buyer.

We have been in business 14 years as well as doing numerous New York City shows. Put yourself in our shoes, boom all of a sudden a new store opens up and they get a nice article in Stereophile.

What would you think? This is a great read, and believe it or not we totally love and respect what Noho is doing.

If the purpose of the article is to highlight a store that is doing things a bit differently why isn't a store like our also being profiled?

We have four sound rooms and where in the New York metro dealer can you hear the wide range of gear that we on display as well as having inwalls, onwalls, four differnt streaming speaker lines as well as a true movie theater room?

Our point is there are other dealers in the area that people should be going to and paying attention to and there are other great NJ dealers such as the Audio Connection in Versona.

Don't you think that other dealers in the area also deserve to be promoted by Stereophile Wade in the sake of both fairness as well as drawing attention to dealers such as our company who offers a lot of choices not seen elsewhere in this market?

Wade if you are in the area why don't you come in for a visit to our shop and see for yourself?

Dave Lalin
Audio Doctor NJ

Doctor Fine's picture

I wonder if you sell "dyno tuning" to squeeze the performance out of all that expensive gear.
You and I know it runs like crap out of the box.
Only an expert with good test equipment and years of room tuning experience should be allowed to work on expensive stereo systems.
Why buy expensive golf clubs if you have no idea how to hit the ball?
In my 50 years of selling and setting up gear I have never met a civilian stereo buff that could get what he paid for without help.
In most cases the setup is worth more than the equipment.
How do we in the industry EVER get that through the thick heads of folks that think that buying an expensive set of golf clubs will suddenly turn them into Gary Player?

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