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/charmer—interested in the ladies he was—told me in a matter– of–Fact, everybody–knows–this–to–be–true 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 Blu–Ray 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.”

jrmandude's picture

Gear is fun and music is better, but if they can be used to score points with the ladies, then you got something. That the latins understand this better than some others is a far greater legacy than the walls in which they entertain.

tonyE's picture

Amongst Catalans, being a Don Juan is NOT a good thing. Catalans, may be of latin background, but like the Romans, they tend to steamroll anyone who does not respect matrimony.Catalans, you see, we are into business. Adultery, mistresses and waltzing through the young ladies is not good for business unless you're an attorney. Pissed off people won't deal with your business.I wonder, though, to make the review useful. Did the equipment reflect the smaller rooms that Europeans live in? Over here in the US, no one frowns too much at my "small" Maggie 12s but I can imagine that in a Barcelona flat my Acoustic Energy AE1s would fit much better.

Donna Kay Wilkinson's picture

oops - it's public, sorry!

Carl H's picture

As a Werner customer, I can confirm all the nice things said above about the store - a haven for audiophiles in Spain.However, To say that Alta Fidelidad and On/Off are "Stereophile knock-offs" is just wrong, I'm afraid, and too flattering to those mags. Their equipment reviews are basically promo pieces: short, invariably positive, no measurements, and written in a homogeneous style. I only WISH they would try to imitate Stereophile!